There are many freelancers, consultants, and agencies that offer PR, SEO, and web design services online, so you might think it would be equally easy to hire someone to help run your crowdfunding campaign. Doing a simple Google search on the topic shows that many others have the same question, and that there is no easy answer. Some of the confusion may stem from understanding what exactly crowdfunding consultants do and why you should hire them. We’ve talked to crowdfunders and some professional crowdfunding consultants and campaign managers to find out why the concept of hiring one is still relatively unknown. Here’s what’s going on:
“One of the biggest problems is that we talk about crowdfunding as if it is one animal, but the consulting and support that a campaign needs is widely different depending on the type of crowdfunding, the funding goal, and type of business. As a consultant, I specialize in rewards crowdfunding, and even among rewards campaigns, the approaches to effective marketing are different for different niches. What will work for a tech start-up is completely different from what will work for a local craft brewery.
But the biggest barrier is that most of the population doesn’t really know what crowdfunding is. We live in our crowdfunding silos thinking that everybody knows crowdfunding, but outside the tech, gaming, and film genres, most people have no firsthand knowledge of crowdfunding. I know because these are my clients. In particular, small businesses and the PR & marketing experts, accountants, and lawyers that support them are really at a loss as to how this new funding tool works. Why does this matter? Because the best source for a credible and experienced consultant is word-of-mouth. And there just aren’t enough mouths in the greater ecosystem that understand crowdfunding to make these referrals.”
– Kathleen Minogue Crowdfunding Consultant
Most people who have successfully run a crowdfunding campaign are now managing the company or project they originally raised money for. Successful crowdfunders are often successful because of the gifts, signups and products that they promise to their backers. Once the crowdfunding campaign ends, successful crowdfunders are busy producing products, fulfilling campaign promises and generating new business to maintain momentum now that the product has successfully launched.
Customers can be very frustrating as they are very emotionally invested in their projects and have little marketing experience and unreasonable expectations. Try as one may, it’s not possible for even the most successful of crowdfunding agencies to predict the success of a campaign. But that won’t stop a customer from demanding a guarantee. Entrepreneurs have spent many hours building and growing a product and perhaps their last few dollars on a successful crowdfunding campaign. Given that they are banking on everything to work, they will naturally be very demanding and emotional and perhaps expect a huge return on their crowdfunding campaign.
Entrepreneurs should be doing it themselves. If you’re an entrepreneur you have to run every part of your business, sales, customer service, product development, you name it, until you can find someone to do it for you. Some would say that rule also applies to crowdfunding campaigns. Crowdfunding was created to allow individuals, rather than companies, to reach the masses. One might argue that if an entrepreneur can’t reach his audience they may not have what it takes to run the project.
“Unfortunately most folks thinking about crowdfunding or starting a campaign are bombarded by chancers who add no real value and most do it from the standpoint of being “marketing experts” who offer guaranteed PR or to “run your campaign for a success fee”. to accept these offers is the biggest mistake a crowdfunder can make. The reasons are various but here are a few: If you believe that crowdfunding is just a marketing exercise then you are missing most of its value. Secondly authenticity is the key currency in a CF environment and third parties cannot bring that. Thirdly crowdfunding is incredibly hard work and a 24/7 exercise – you will not get that sort of input for a success fee. Fourthly – would you hire someone to go and speak to the bank, angel or VC group on your behalf and expect to get a positive result?”
– Tim Wright Director at Twintangibles
It makes sense to bring in help with the day to day work of working on the crowdfunding platform, managing social media, sending out PR communications, answering questions, and all the other work that goes into running a crowdfunding campaign. But if it’s your product, your baby, your project, your passion, your dream, that you’re selling, it should be your face on the video, and your personal voice showing through in all communications. Crowdfunding is very personal. People go to Amazon.com to buy a product, they go to Kickstarter to participate in a dream.
General online marketing and PR skills more important than specific Crowdfunding experience. When it comes to the most successful crowdfunding campaigns, they all had a common ingredient. Each campaign went viral, well beyond their intended audience and reach. The elements of a viral campaign include engaging content, videos and a story that captivates prospective funders that come across your campaign. Online marketers and PR professionals could easily help with this. Is creating content for a crowdfunding campaign any different than any other form of online marketing or advertising? Many traditional PR and Marketing agencies are starting to add crowdfunding specific services to their offerings.
Existing providers are viewed as scams. There are quite a few stories on review sites of crowdfunding campaigns gone wrong. Maybe an individual purchased a DIY crowdfunding package from a site and is disappointed at the results or hired a crowdfunding consultant and shelled out a lot of money only to not meet the desired result. Though most crowdfunding consultants and agencies don’t make any promises, customers expect the campaign to deliver the desired result or else. These reviews and scams have decreased confidence in what is a very new and unexplored field, which will in turn discourage others from taking a chance on a crowdfunding consultant.
Industry is not old enough. PR has been around since Mad Men era, and the Internet is celebrating its quarter life crisis this year. Professionals in the PR, online marketing and SEO industries have had plenty of time to develop their expertise and thus have earned the rights to claim they are experts. Not so for crowdfunding, a relatively new phenomenon. The oldest and most popular crowdfunding platforms aren’t even 10 years old yet. Even if a consultant started their business simultaneous with the launch of the first crowdfunding platform in 2007, they’d have less than 10 years of experience. Someone with less than 10 years of experience in anything can hardly call themselves an expert.
And with that said it turns out that quite a few crowdfunding consultants do exist in various shapes and forms, some that have been established for some time. Most successful crowdfunding consultants and agencies have a background in marketing and PR and crowdfunding is an extension of the services they already provide. Here are a few different types of crowdfunding consultants:
- The Guru – The guru is an experienced crowdfunder that teaches you how to run your own successful crowdfunding campaign. They believe you should do the actual crowdfunding yourself, but teach you and equip you with all the tools necessary to turn your cause into a successful crowdfunded project.
- The Campaign Manager – The campaign manager works with you to manage various parts of your campaign whether social media or drafting campaign documentation. You hire them as part of your team.
- The Agency – The agency offers a more comprehensive set of services offering management of everything from social media and campaign set-up to videography and fulfilling requests. Individuals who hire agencies often do not have a team, the agency is their team.
And along with these types of crowdfunders, some entrepreneurs find themselves hiring videographics, graphic designers and wordsmiths to help in crafting specific parts of their campaign.
CrowdExpert.com talked to a couple crowdfunding consultants to learn their thoughts on the industry and why crowdfunding managers and services aren’t more popular and widely used in the crowdfunding space.
Rose Spinelli operates The CrowdFundamentals and is a crowdfunding consultant with roots in journalism and storytelling. Rose draws on this experience to teach individuals how to launch successful crowdfunding campaigns. Rose agrees that there aren’t more successful crowdfunding campaign managers and services because “entrepreneurs should be doing the work themselves” and also “crowdfunding is young.”
Alexandria Embleton works at a crowdfunding agency by day and is an independent campaign manager as well. She sees how all the reasons listed above factor into why crowdfunding campaign managers and services aren’t more popular. She believes that “a crowdfunding campaign requires 24/7 attention.”
While some crowdfunding consultants see themselves as campaign guides, others see themselves as hands-on managers. Rose adopts the former approach. She states “Crowdfunding is about you and your crowd. It would be best if entrepreneurs do as much of the relational work themselves. It becomes a problem when someone is your mouthpiece, when a third party manages your campaign.” Rose employs a mentoring approach, giving campaign managers the tools they need to build their brand and convey an engaging message. It becomes a problem when someone is your mouthpiece, when a third party manages your campaign.” Rose employs a mentoring approach, giving campaign managers the tools they need to build their brand and convey an engaging message.
Alexandria believes that successful campaigns have an engaged audience which is why she says, “I do not recommend launching a campaign at all if at least 500 do not already know about it before it begins.” Alexandria elaborates that “A campaign’s success is contingent on eager followers, first movers and audiences that respond to digital campaigns and social media…The first 48 hours will determine success or failure.”
Keeping these philosophies in mind, it’s important to have questions and ideas prepared beforehand when you meet a crowdfunding consultant. Crowdfunding campaigns are often very personal born from an entrepreneur’s need or personal experience. It’s imperative to work with a consultant that shares your passion, philosophy and approach to working on your project. The following are a few questions that should ask:
- Philosophy. What is the crowdfunding consultant’s philosophy and criteria? Do they believe “entrepreneurs should do it themselves.” If so, they’re not the person to ask to manage your campaign. Do they have certain requirements of aspiring crowdfunders before they engage in a campaign? If so, do you meet those requirements? Before contacting a potential crowdfunder, get to know them and their philosophy about crowdfunding on their website, blog and social media. Keep this in mind when soliciting help and ask if they provide the type of help you seek.
- Approach. If you and your crowdfunding consultant are on the same page, next find out their approach. Are you paying for a simple online course? Are you able to contact them for advice via email? Will they be scheduling tweets and writing copy for your campaign or simply telling you how to do so? Create clear expectations and outline roles before paying for a contract to avoid disappointment.
- Successful Campaigns. A successful crowdfunding consultant should be able to tell you about past successful campaigns. If you are hiring them to be your guru, ask about a previous client they’ve coached to success. If they are managing your campaign, ask about numbers and metrics for a campaign they’d consider successful.
Finally, if you are hiring or interviewing a crowdfunding consultant, manager or service, here are a few red flags to watch out for:
- Lack of questions. So you’ve gone to your meeting prepared with questions for your crowdfunding consultant, but when it’s all said and done, what have they asked you? If your crowdfunding consultant isn’t asking about you and your cause, you should question their motives.
- Reviews. A successful crowdfunding consultant should be able to provide reviews and references from other clients. If they don’t have testimonials or reviews published on their site, consider asking for references.
- Inexperience. The point of hiring a crowdfunding consultant is to benefit from someone with more experience than you. If your crowdfunding consultant can’t provide examples of successful campaigns, you should question if their assistance is worth the fee.
There are many reasons that there aren’t a lot of crowdfunding campaigns and services, namely that the industry is still young and a lot of entrepreneurs are doing it themselves. However, there are different types of crowdfunding consultants from mentors to managers and entire teams that provide assistance at various levels. Whether you are seeking guidance or someone to take on the campaign, be sure to do your due diligence when hiring a crowdfunding consultant manager.
Also, if you’re hiring someone to help with your crowdfunding campaign, be realistic about what you expect. Marketing a crowdfunding campaign is a huge challenge! You need to introduce a new brand, and a new product, build an audience from scratch, and convince them to give their money now for something that doesn’t even exist yet. With traditional companies these different marketing activities take place over a much longer time, and usually with a significant up-front budget. Don’t expect someone to do magically do all of this for you quickly and cheaply, and at the end of the day, remember, the success of your campaign will ultimately rest on the appeal of your product or project. You have to make something people want, and you have to convince them that you are the best one to do it.
Once we start to see some good agencies and campaign managers with a history of success in this space, we’ll create a guide of recommended crowdfunding campaign managers here at CrowdExpert.com. Until then, good luck!
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