Here at MLP we’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in several crowdfunding campaigns over the years. As that’s started to become a niche we specialize in, we’ve been researching successful campaigns to figure out what works and what doesn’t. The last thing you want is to put all this effort into your campaign launch to just hear crickets. To get funded you need an invested audience, and to get an invested audience you need to market. So here’s some of the best information we’ve found on how to successfully market your crowdfunding campaign.
1. First, Why Crowdfund?
There are a lot of different reasons why people turn to crowdfunding platforms instead of seeking investors. With a crowdfunding campaign you can engage the community you’re targeting. Bringing in supporters can make your product feel like a public effort – which makes your backers feel more invested in your success. A crowdfunding campaign, by design, has very transparent goals and outcomes, so backers know exactly where their money will go and what they’ll get in return. The companies running campaigns get benefits as well (beyond the money); they get to test their ideas inexpensively, gauge public interest, get support and advice from the community, and get to operate on their own timeline. Whatever your reason for crowdfunding, be transparent about it. People don’t like being lied to, so be open about what you’re hoping to accomplish.
2. Understand Why People Part With Their Money – and Cater to That
People give money for all sorts of reasons. Investors give money with the expectation of future financial return. Shoppers give money in exchange for goods and services. Donors give money to nonprofits to build the future they want. And friends give money to support their friends. So figure out the heart-or-purse-string you’re going to pull, and tailor your campaign message to that.
3. Convert People to Brand Ambassadors – Before You Launch
Marketers know that the best way to get new customers is to make your current customers brand ambassadors; people who love your company (product or service) so much that they will eagerly and wholeheartedly refer you to anyone and everyone they know. That kind of word-of-mouth is invaluable! So how do you convert before you launch? Off the top of my head here are a few easy ways to get people excited about your brand: use potential customers as beta testers and implement their feedback; give your loyal followers swag like t-shirts, stickers, etc; share behind-the-scenes photos and information with your followers; attend conferences and events and offer demos of your product. When you launch, these brand ambassadors will be there cheering you on and raving about how your product is the best. Instant credibility boost!
4. Develop a Marketing Plan
Yes, you need to have a plan! A lot of crowdfunding campaigns fail for one simple reason: zero marketing. It’s not enough to get your campaign online; you have to actively market it! So, before you launch you need to develop a plan for the day-to-day responsibilities, like who is going to write updates, and who is going to answer questions from the backers. You also need to tell your story; and no, posting once to Facebook and Twitter doesn’t count. You need to talk about your story like it’s the most interesting and important thing in the world, because if you don’t think like that why should anyone else? Basically, expect to work hard during your campaign. A few studies I’ve read suggest that the most successful crowdfunding campaigns have a team working 8 hours a day on the campaign for the duration. So get ready to spend 30-60 days focusing all your energy on this campaign. You’re asking for people to invest their money with you, so you’d better be willing to put in the sweat equity.
5. Get Strategic Funders
When it comes to a successful campaign, the best piece I’ve heard is to plan out strategic backers before you launch. What does that mean? It means that you need to line up your first donors before your campaign goes live. Whether these are the brand ambassadors you’ve developed, or friends and family who are willing to contribute, ask them to plan to contribute the day the campaign goes live. Having backers right away will make your campaign look reputable, and encourage other potential backers to join in. Groupthink is a powerful mechanism; use it to your advantage. Another potential benefit? Campaigns that earn a lot of money quickly often get featured on the platform’s home page – where they’ll get even more attention! After you line those first donors up, get another group organized and have them contribute in the middle of the campaign. Most campaigns are one long descent after the initial boom. Having a group join in the middle of the campaign will disrupt that descent and breathe some new life into your campaign, helping you finish strong.
6. Offer Good Rewards
You know what I hate more than anything? (Well, more than anything else in crowdfunding.) A backer tier whose reward is just “Thank you”. Seriously? Thank you? I can get a thank you from holding a door open for someone or giving a compliment – why would I give money for something I can get for free? That’s not to say that your rewards have to be huge or super expensive; but they do have to have some kind of value, even if it’s not monetary. Maybe backers at a certain level can come to your launch event. Maybe you can offer buttons, stickers, t-shirts, or other branded swag. Maybe you can offer up in-home concerts, screenings, demos, or classes. The options are pretty endless. The key is to offer unique rewards that are valuable to your community of backers. As you plan your rewards, make sure to consider the cost to you, and factor that in to your fundraising goals. The campaigns I’ve seen fail AFTER being funded all promised more than they could deliver, and that ruined them.
7. Create a Video
You knew I’d get to video eventually! Videos are crucial to the success of a crowdfunding campaign. Campaigns with video have a 30%-50% higher success rate than those without. So make a video! Backers like seeing the person or team they’re supporting; so don’t be shy, show your face. Authenticity (along with a cool project) is what matters most on Kickstarter. Take the opportunity to introduce your team and showcase your project to the best of your ability. We’ve worked with tech companies that tend to be more product focused, but I’ve seen some amazing videos for movies, albums, even card games! Be genuine and have a good call to action, and your video will do more for your campaign than just words on a page. And (hint, hint) high-end production quality doesn’t hurt!
Like any venture, there are no guarantees of success with crowdfunding. But I can guarantee that a campaign that’s launched without any of the work above won’t do nearly as well as its founders hope. Maybe your product will change the world, if you can only get funded – but you have to convince the world of that too.