Crowdfunding: 29 Tips From The Trenches
This article was written by Heather Boylston + Rebecca Hutchinson, H+R PR
H+R PR is a Los Angeles-based public relations firm specializing in marketing communications and community relations with a focus on consumer product start-ups and small businesses.
THINK YOU’RE READY TO LAUNCH? FIRST DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
Backing a few campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo is a great way to gain insight into how creators do updates, engage their community, and fulfill rewards.
We contributed to one project that updated too often and drove us nuts. Another had such personal, sweet video updates that we were more inclined to help them spread the word. If you ID a company that has done done everything right, contact them! They might be willing to help guide you or offer advice.
Find the right platform.
Thoroughly research the pros and cons of all the crowdfunding platforms. What might be perfect for others might be sub-par for you. Be sure to check out the top 10 crowdfunding sites for fundraising. In addition, CrowdsUnite is a great resource for reviews on niche platforms and larger platforms. Most platforms also have free webinars, worksheets and case studies on running successful campaigns.
Set realistic campaign goals.
Two of the most important things you need as an entrepreneur are blind optimism and passion about your offering. You also need to believe in yourself and your product. However, don’t let this self-confidence become overpowering. You need to set realistic crowdfunding goals.
Do your research and look at similar campaigns. How much did they raise? Are you doing the campaign solely for the money or also for marketing purposes? Know your break even number and outline all expenses you will incur during the campaign, i.e., production and fulfillment costs, costs of promotions or advertising on your social networks, the crowdfunding platform’s fee, etc. After you’ve completed these tasks, list all the people you know who will contribute to your campaign and the amount you think they’ll contribute.
Consider your timing.
Be aware of how holidays can help or hurt you depending on the nature of your campaign Start and stop dates, days of the week and times are also important in driving traffic to your campaign at critical times. For example, you want your end date and time to be when people are at their desks ready to receive your last minute email nudge — not when they are out and about at 3:00 on a Sunday.
Create a detailed plan and timeline.
Invest effort into preparing a detailed timeline before you launch. You will need to leverage all the people in your social networks and it takes time to get a maximum number of engaged followers, fans, likes, etc.
Create a calendar of when you want to communicate with which groups, launch new contribution perks, and start purchasing shipping supplies. This will help you stay on task, especially when the inevitable, time-consuming things come up that could derail you.
Keep in mind that some platforms like Kickstarter can take several days for approval. This is especially important if you are planning a launch party for a certain date. Don’t leave the campaign upload to the last minute! Have a back-up plan in case you get rejected from one platform and need to switch to another.
CREATE A BANG UP WRITE-UP, VIDEO AND PERKS
Write a really compelling campaign summary and title.
Creating your campaign write-up is a great exercise for your whole team and brand. Have fun with it, but be really strategic about how you’re representing yourself to the world. Make it easy to understand and obvious that it’s important to bring your project to fruition now. If you aren’t a good writer, hire someone who is. Solicit feedback on your draft from trusted colleagues.
Describe in detail how you plan to spend the money raised. Contributors want to know where their money is going. Show you have a solid plan beyond just exciting contribution perks.
Make your video fantastic.
Campaigns with compelling video are more successful than those without. Be succinct: 2-3 minutes max. People want the really cool and unique product you’re offering. They want to support you because your campaign appeals to their interests or beliefs. Be crystal clear about why what you’re offering is different. You must also convey why you are so passionate about it and let your personality shine through while projecting confidence and credibility. Include facts to support the broader need for your campaign. A professionally produced, clean video that’s not too slick is ideal, but if that’s not possible, make sure you at least have good lighting and editing and don’t mumble. Post it on YouTube and your social media sites.
Ponder perfect perks.
Be aware of your chosen platform’s most popular campaign donation (usually $25) and make sure to create a good perk at that level. Add new perks mid campaign. Consider a few limited edition perks. Create a specific perk for international contributors. Introduce a new perk midway through the campaign. Make sure to include photos of your perks.
SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOP
It’s important to start strong, so make sure you rally all your supporters in the first day of your campaign. 90% of successful campaigns receive 30% of their funding within the first few days.
Host a kick-off event.
Everyone loves a party! Have a casual get-together on your launch date. Send a fun invitation, serve food and drinks, thank guests profusely for their support, ask them to pledge then and there (dedicate iPads & smartphones for pledging), and follow up asking them to spread the word to their networks, providing suggested language. Take photos and videos of the event and post it to your campaign page.
Make your campaign easy to share.
Use all opportunities you come across to spread the word. Create a bit.ly account and a campaign hashtag so you can track traffic. Put the link in your email signature block so that every email you send during campaign has a link to your campaign page. All your social media outlets should direct people to the campaign. Write periodic suggested posts and updates that include the link and hashtag so it’s easy for your network to cut and paste or forward. Ask for retweets.
Provide interesting updates.
Campaign updates are important and help show momentum. Distribute a regular campaign newsletter (we love MailChimp) and periodic milestone alerts. Feature simple, interesting content, links to your blog, good photos and video, and interviews with people you’ve met during your crowdfunding journey. Give shout-outs. Interact, but don’t overdo it. The truth is, your audience isn’t as obsessed with your campaign as you are!
Don’t forget about the offline world.
During your campaign window, participate in 1-2 events where people in your target demographic can touch and feel your product or prototype. Print small cards with your campaign link and use them at those events and for any in-person networking you do during the campaign. Give a stack to all your ambassadors and make sure they know your elevator pitch.
Maximize the branding potential of your visuals.
Always make sure your logo and/or company name is in your photos and videos. Regularly post the best ones on your socials.
IF THERE WAS EVER A TIME TO CALL ON YOUR NETWORKS…
Create a team of campaign ambassadors.
Pick friends, family, colleagues who know how to use social media and have large networks. Seek team members whose networks don’t overlap. Keep them organized and motivated and incentivize them to share your campaign with perks or a referral contest.
Pay for partners’ promoted posts.
Ask your ambassadors and a few of your larger network partners if they’ll do a promoted post/tweet about your campaign with you paying the fees. This will instantly expand your reach. Don’t wait until the last minute to make these asks as most partners with large followings will have promoted post schedules and strategies in place months in advance.
Don’t rely on group e-mail blasts.
Spend the time to reach out to your networks with individual calls/emails specifically requesting to pledge and post on socials. Group emails are too impersonal and easy to ignore. Don’t forget to gently nudge and follow up.
Enlist your customers.
Use your campaign as an opportunity to encourage past customers to come back and see what you’re up to.
Redirect traffic from your web site to your crowdfunding campaign.
Any product that you’re offering as a contribution perk should not be available for purchase on your website during the campaign. Redirect your site’s traffic to your crowdfunding campaign with a direct link to the campaign on your company’s homepage. In general, make sure your site is completely ready for new eyeballs: update copy, photos and videos and check basic functionality.
FORGE NEW PATHS
As part of your pre-launch activities, establish relationships with key media who reach your target demographic. Consider hiring a PR consultant to help you create highly targeted media lists, start relationship building and send the appropriate pitch. Be aware of current headlines and news trends and find a way to make your campaign relevant.
Leverage existing media relationships.
Solicit support from reporters, bloggers, and vloggers you already know to help you spread the word. Brainstorm ways for it to be mutually beneficial. Pitch yourself as a guest blogger (on a topic related to your campaign offering) with posts to appear during your campaign window.
Be selective when offering giveaways.
Although they often have large followings, bloggers who focus on free stuff tend to generate followers who want freebies vs. people who genuinely engage with you and help your campaign in a significant way.
Utilize resources PR firms use.
Sign up with a service like HARO, a clearinghouse for reporters seeking all kinds of info they need for stories. Some might relate to your campaign. Explore posting on content creation tools like PitchEngine and using Muckrack to find out which reporters are covering your topic.
Follow a social media relations plan.
Create and follow a content calendar for each of your social platforms and think strategically about your posting cadence. Don’t let the campaign be the only thing you talk about! Continue to provide relevant and useful content, peppered with campaign updates. Join appropriate forums on Google+ and LinkedIn and participate in a meaningful way in relevant conversations, providing a link to your campaign. Explore the various Facebook ads and promoted tweets. Use Google Analytics and all the measurement tools available to you to tweak your outreach mid-stream. Think about unique ways to share your campaign on Instagram and Pinterest.
Send a personal thanks to all media who helped your campaign and encourage an ongoing relationship. Take the time to favorite any tweet that supported your campaign.
KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING POST-CAMPAIGN
Stay the course.
Don’t let your campaign fall apart at fulfillment. Stick with what you promised and be prompt. Your campaign isn’t over until you’ve fulfilled all your perks and answered your last contributor inquiry.
Encourage continued engagement.
As you’re preparing for fulfillment, create preprinted, brief thank you notes with your logo, URL, socials, and perhaps a coupon or other incentive to return to your web site and re-engage.
Keep a log of lessons learned.
Discuss them with your team – there will always be applications for other aspects of your business and ways you can follow up on things you discovered while crowdfunding. Share them with sites like CrowdCrux!
H+R PR is a Los Angeles-based public relations firm specializing in marketing communications and community relations with a focus on consumer product start-ups and small businesses. Contact us at [email protected], [email protected] and visit us online at www.h-rpr.com, @hrprheather, @hrprrebecca Please check out the most recent crowdfunding campaign we worked on at neat-os.com.