In Fall 2014, I am launching an online boat course for the state of Florida, which is accredited by the local government. What are good tips to successfully use Kickstarter or Indiegogo to pre-sell the service/raise money and raise awareness of my new company?
For reference, our website is BoatTests101.com and our beta site is Beta.BoatTests101.com.
First thing to do is to research other crowdfunding sites other than the big two as neither was really meant to raise funds for startup businesses. I would suggest something in the nature of www.crowdfunder.com or www.seedinvest.com might better suit your needs.
Completely understand the need to raise funds in order to move forward with the vision of your business, but I'm not convinced kickstarter or indiegogo (or any other donation-based platform) is your best route.
Do some research on ways to conduct pre-sales, which is essentially what you need. I believe there are some nice wordpress themes + plugins that would allow you to start collecting leads and converting them to paying customers on a waitlist until you hit a specific number. That might be a good option. I believe bigcommerce and shopify also have apps that make that possible as well, if you want to go a more traditional ecommerce route.
Have you thought about just moving forward in a grassroots way-- signing people up one at a time face-to-face, until you have enough paying customers to get going?
Crowdfunding is a great method to build a customer base, get feedback on the product and provides a targeted marketing channel. In your case, it appears the product is already available so I do not see the appeal/anticipation of the crowd in this case. I agree with the earlier experts here that this may not be your best avenue and you may end up expending more resources for limited gain.
You require a great pitch video/message for your audience that is simple, engaging and would ignite interest. Throughout the effort you will have to constantly maintain contact and update your supporters and backers. You will need a dedicated, pre-seeded general and social media strategy and have prizes or specials through the campaign to keep interest going. Not all campaigns strike gold from day one and others have an ebb and flow as interest wanes and returns so you will need a dedicated marketing team setup months ahead of time working prior to the launch.