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Crowdfunding & The Value of Preparedness

Kickstarter reports 327,800+ projects have been posted on their platform, and about 117,000 of them have been funded. Yet, the difference between crowdfunding success and failure isn’t just about getting funded—it is in exploring and implementing the steps that go into a campaign—and the value that comes out of that experience for a small business or entrepreneur is priceless.

A carefully thought out and well-executed crowdfunding plan – a “marketing plan” — can mean all the difference. There have been a few notable examples of crazy, spontaneous things that got funded – remember the potato salad Kickstarter? Supporters really gave $55,492 for one man to make potato salad! But that is a rarity. Most campaigns that raise any significant money do so because a lot of time, effort and creativity went into the plan, and then a lot of time and effort went into the execution of that plan.

The “magic” that comes with crowdfunding is like any other magic… it is in the work and practice that make something seem like a “flash in the pan.” But even with all that is required, there is no guarantee that crowdfunding will raise the tens-of-thousands of dollars you are looking for. Crowdfunding could draw thousands of new people to your product or cause – or not. You could have the best idea, or product, and still not make it big. That said, if you are able to find the right team, and put together a comprehensive, and creative plan, you will not only increase your chances of funding dramatically, you will undoubtedly gain something great–the roadmap for marketing your product in any type of campaign.  How?  Because the skills gained from running a crowdfunding campaign are in large part entirely transferable and scalable!

A typical crowdfunding marketing plan entails many key elements which are outlined below. Before getting started, you need to take the time prepare for it.  This includes understanding of the level of effort to expect you will have to put in throughout the campaign.

Preparing to Launch

Any good marketing campaign is planned in advance and that is true of crowdfunding campaigns too! Getting all of the right resources in place and on a timeline will help organize the tactics into manageable tasks.

There are a few things you must do ahead of time (at least 6 months if you have it) to be well-prepared for your campaign:

Practice the Art of Casual Self-Promotion.  Practice telling your closest friends/fans/followers/family about your project. Casual self-promotion (not bragging, not selling) ahead of time with serve a couple of purposes, 1) it will help you develop your story, which will be used through the campaign and 2) it will introduce the project/product to these people—your closest contacts prior to when you will need them.

Early Media Outreach.  The media is swamped with pitches and pseudo-news, and so it will take a while to get their attention – so it is best to start early. Start with local, (and easier to connect with) media. PR is like snowballs, starting small and growing big, and the more you can get, the better.

Grow your Sphere.  As with almost any business endeavor, your success is directly related to your ability to motivate your network. With crowdfunding, a large (huge) part of your success is tied to the network you build – everything from social media to email marketing. Grow your network ahead of your launch by adding friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, and connections on LinkedIn.

Early Commitments.  Right at your campaign launch you will want to immediately jump 25-30% funded, as this shows momentum and will boost your visibility and credibility on the crowdfunding platforms. You will need to do this by getting early commitments from your early backers (friends and family, fans and followers) who will back the project the moment you launch.

None of these steps are difficult, but they are important to do well ahead of your launch date.  When you do launch, you will want to be able to focus all of your attention on getting the second and third rings interested and excited, and having your first ring supporters in place will make this a lot easier.

Develop your Crowdfunding Marketing Plan

Just like any other campaign, a successful crowdfunding marketing plan utilizes simultaneous parallel tactics to get the product or service in front of the right people at the right time.

Evaluating Your Network

Crowdfunding is all about marketing to your spheres of influence – starting with the closest and moving outward. Your goal is to approach your plan as a way to gain access and support from each successive tier:

Inner Circle.  Your Inner Circle are close friends and family. These are the people that will support you because they genuinely like you and really want to see you succeed, and they will be most receptive to your message. But your job is not done just by sending them a brief email, you have to truly convince them that your idea is a winner, get their backing and request that they promote your idea to their own circles.

2nd Ring.  These are the friends of your friends. You may not know these people personally but they trust the same people you trust, so you automatically have a connection. This could include your existing customers and your neighbors.

3rd Ring.  Your 3rd Ring connections are the ones who will find you through social media, word-of-mouth, PPC or other advertising. These will be the hardest to capture, but very important for reaching the finish line.

Your Tool Box

Your contact rings will require different ways to reach them in order to get them to convert into supporters. Your crowdfunding marketing plan should include tactics targeted toward each ring, which will run simultaneously in some cases.

Your Personal Email. A personal email written to your closest friends and family is always going to be more effective than a group blast from a third-party. In the months ahead of the campaign start, make an effort to capture the email addresses of the people you send to and receive email from and put them into your email marketing lists, segmented by relationship.

Newsletters – Eblast. You can use the email addresses from your contact lists. People who sign up for information on your site, social media, or events to send out newsletters to build support, send regular campaign updates, and build a sense of community.

Social Media. Social media is probably the most powerful tool you have for reaching the masses. With social media, it is more than talking to your immediate contacts, it is about giving them something they want to share with their friends. Even if you don’t have thousands of followers on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, you can have your posts shared with thousands if they are compelling enough!

Social News.  Social news sites such as Reddit have tens of millions of visitors interested in almost every topic imaginable. This is a great place to start discussions about your product—just remember to avoid pitching it too hard! Social news is most successful when interest is organic, and non-forced.

Media Outreach (PR). Media can be a quick way to get a lot of momentum in your campaign, however there are no tried-and-true ways to attract media attention. Press releases and sites such as HARO.com are certainly a great place to start, as is connecting with media outlets through their social pages.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC).  Targeted pay-per-click advertising campaigns can help you reach large numbers of people outside of your networks. PPC is easy to set up, test, and modify as you get the results you are looking for.

Campaign Time Investment

The time investment for your crowdfunding campaign (pre-campaign especially!) is indirectly proportional to the size of your network AND directly proportional to how much you want to raise. If you are fortunate to have a large established network and existing customer contacts and/ or social media followers, your job is significantly easier and you will be able to reach out to these people throughout the campaign to push the numbers up. However, most of us have a relatively small following and will need to work harder, and invest more time and resources to market our crowdfunding campaign to the Third Ring prospects.

Start Today

A successful crowdfunding campaign can mean great success for your product. By putting in the time and effort before, during and after the campaign, you may not only have a great chance at being funded, but also have laid the important groundwork for your product success moving forward. Crowdfunding marketing will teach you a lot about the market, and how to hone your message to your growing list of prospects, AND it will give you something rather unique to talk about! Being “on Kickstarter” is a marketing feat in and of itself! The results are worth the work, whether you are a success or not. Sufficient preparation, commitment and follow-through will not only get you the best chance for Crowdfunding success, but for product success long-term!

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