Launching and managing a crowdfunding campaign is serious work. In addition to actually building whatever your amazing new actual project is, you now also have to be a full time expert in marketing, PR, and community building. It’s a lot to do.
Fortunately there are some campaign planning tools out there to help you structure some of the biggest types of day-to-day work marketing a crowdfunding campaign – I reviewed a few of the bigger ones to help you choose.
First of all:
Krowdster is probably the best-known tool on this list. There are many tools on offer in this software package. From in-depth analytics where you can look at everything from how much your campaign should make, to looking at ideal reward levels for backers. The Krowdster team really like to focus on service as well as tools and it’s for this reason, that it has a few pretty stand-out features that I think are interesting and worth drawing attention to in particular.
As the name implies, you can prepare a lot for the launch of your campaign ahead of time. Krowdster offer pre-launch pages and you can design several, where you can offer information about your campaign before you actually launch it. These ‘teaser’ pages can be used to offer some basic information about your upcoming campaign. From there you can collect mailing lists of those who sign-up for notifications when the campaign launches. This is a great way of ensuring that your campaign gets a good start right out of the gate.
You can easily see which pages are drawing the most interest, so you can always try a few different layouts and change up the information to see what draws people in. You may also want to try different advertising spaces with the same design, and see which channel brings in the most interest and concentrate your efforts there instead. The breakdowns provided in Krowdster are very simple and while the sample data I’ve used is very small, you can clearly extrapolate which page is better for converting visits into actual email contacts I could use later on:
While not a full service, the platform does make it easy to manage your pre-launch organisation. The easy and user-friendly tools make it easy to see where and how to focus your efforts.
What about the campaign itself though?
That brings me to my next feature:
Press Release Service
Krowdster is one of the few crowdfunding tools out there with its own dedicated press release service. This is a fully comprehensive service with some really good benefits to it, with the aim of promoting your campaign and getting it seen by as many people as possible. There are numerous parts to this service but I’ve broken this down further, to cover those that I think really stand out below.
Scheduling and Advice: Not only will they schedule a release date and time to suit you and your campaign, but also write the bulk of it for you. They have professional PR writers on hand, so you’ll be dealing with an experienced team who go through your campaign. You provide them with your own ideas and materials from your campaign, and they write you up a press release draft. It’s a collaborative process from draft onwards, so you get to sign-off on what finally gets published. You can make changes and edits with advice from their team so it’s good for making sure you get a professional release, even if you’re new to the idea.
As you can see, the actual platform also contains ways for you to promote the campaign yourself, so with the materials the press release service helps create, you can apply this to other parts of the platform like Campaign Promotion.
Social Media Promotions and Search Engines: As part of the service Krowdster will set up twitter promotions, allowing you to reach more potential backers across social media. They also handle search engine submissions for you, something that can really help a campaign. Though they don’t offer SEO explicitly, it’s still handy to have your campaign posted to major and new search engines as they emerge.
Reporting: It may seem an obvious thing but you will want to know whether your press release has paid off. One of the nice things about the Krowdster PR service is that they’ll offer you an excel report, containing information about where your press released has been published so you can see exactly what work has been done and where it’s gone.
Overall it’s an affordable service and takes care of a lot of things that would take a lot of time, and given its advertising, could possibly miss the mark. With a team focused on this for you, it can offer campaigns a good start.
Viral contests are something of a lesser-known tool in a crowdfunder’s arsenal and something really interesting to look at. What better way to generate extra interest, than by rewarding backers for referring yet more backers to the cause? Sounds pretty logical when you think about it.
By rewarding backers with a prize for drawing in larger crowds, you can really maximise the connections your initial backers have and pull in much bigger numbers. Krowdster allows this to be built into your campaign toolset and even provides guidance on how to set this up.
They have templates to help you get started if you’re not sure what to go for, and useful tools like leader boards and automated reporting so you can easily see the difference it’s making.
As I’ve already mentioned, if you’re utilising Krowdster, you’ll already have access to their analytics tools as well. Coupled with a viral contest, you can use the two to help plan your rewards and even use it to help facilitate meeting the next milestone. It takes a lot of the hassle out of setting up and tracking this sort of competition, as it can be planned within the platform itself.
Krowdster understand the power of information, and to help get this across to their crowdfunders they provide access to the Crowdfunding Backer Directory. This lists backers and super backers from not only their own members and known backers, but also from other sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
It’s actually a great resource if you’re trying to work out where you try to drum up more interest. This can also be used to create things like Facebook ads, custom twitter messaging and allow you to connect with previous backers on most social media platforms. As you can see above, the directory is easy to use, allowing you to filter and search so you can find those ideal backers you’d like to try and reach out to for your campaign. Not only that but their social media links make taking that first-contact step incredibly easy, allowing you to tweet or contact them directly.
Overall Krowdster is great for helping get campaigns up and running. It has a lot of tools available, so it’s definitely worth having a look through them and seeing what else might help with your particular campaign. The tools above to me, are what make this platform stand out from the rest. Many have things like analytics, but few offer some of the more bespoke services that Krowdster do. These can take away a lot of the time and hassle of running a campaign and are part of what makes this tool-set so popular.
Krowdster isn’t the only platform out there though so here are a few more I’ve taken a look at.
The Main Contender:
Also fairly well known, this site also offers a pretty comprehensive set of marketing tools to help increase the odds of success with a campaign. They cater to small one-off projects, right up to big businesses.
There are a few different levels to the services they offer, including a free trial, if you just want to preview what they offer. If you’re looking to invest in the tool-set though, their Premium service is almost certainly going to be enough. It has some of the usual tools, like the titular backer database, and analytics tools as well as one or two other additional features.
Just one of their many campaign tools, Media List puts you in touch with bloggers and journalists who can be contacted to help promote crowdfunding campaigns. While things like Twitter advertising etc. can be great, actually having some hands-on reviews from well-respected bloggers and journalists can go a long way to boosting a campaign. People often respond better to a personally written review, rather than just an ad they’ve seen on a screen.
As you can see, the information is presented in a very user friendly way, and you can even filter down to writers in certain areas or locations if you want to target a particular region or even city.
BackerDatabase is packed with analytical tools that will help you get your campaign off to the best start and monitor just how well things are going too.
As you can probably imagine, it’s possible to be a little overwhelmed with all of these but I want to highlight a few key ones that most people will find useful, though of course users of the service will probably find all of them helpful at some point.
Platform analysis: This one is great for looking at a comparison between Kickstarter and Indiegogo, taking your personal campaign category and working out which would be the best one to host on. It will even analyse how well you’re likely to do on each, and how you can improve on your chances of success on either platform. This one is great for checking out where to begin your campaign before you get too invested with a particular platform.
Goal Analysis: Before launching your campaign this section offers data on various goal levels offered by category, you can even drill into average goal levels reached for your particular category so again this can be useful when you want to set your overall goals and plan in things like milestones.
Pledge Analysis: The data offered here is pretty in-depth, allowing for analysis of pledge levels reached, averages over recent campaigns etc. This will allow you to look at, along with your milestone planning, what sort of pledge and reward levels you want to add to your campaign.
As you can see, the data is presented in easy-to-read format and takes the headache away from a lot of number crunching and research. If you’re looking to plan and manage your campaign yourself and really want to get into the details before you get started, the analytics pack is pretty good.
For a tool-set, BackerDatabase is not bad. As the name implies though, the focus really is on data sets and analysis. There are few full-service packages with this host, but the tools are still useful if your main focus is on data crunching.
A few other, more specialized tools you might also want to look at:
Kicktraq is primarily an advertising platform for crowdfunding projects. It offers little else in the way of services related to crowdfunding, but highlights popular campaigns across a range of platforms (Kickstarter, Indiegogo etc.). For the most part, it would be used to get a campaign highlighted. You can browse popular projects and details, it’ll even show some basic tracking information for a project but that’s where it stops.
While there is no extra external advertising offered (like the Krowdster press release, or BackerDatabase marketing tools), Kicktraq does offer low-cost advertising on the site itself to highlight campaigns for those that want to pay for some extra exposure so you can try to draw a little more interest that way too.
In a similar vein as Kicktraq, Gadgetflow acts as another advertising platform. While they offer a few actual crowdfunding tools; they mainly provide a good platform for getting people interested in your campaign. Presented with easy to visit and share links, this can be a great way to generate extra interest in your product or idea.
Their dashboard is fairly basic, primarily useful for comparing your own submissions; but offers a few nice features such as being able to track your traffic sources to the Gadgetflow page for your campaign and see click-traffic to it as well.
Gadgetflow will prepare a page for your project upon submission of materials, and then post up your submission once a finalised schedule has been agreed. It’s pretty good if you don’t want to get too bogged down into the nuts and bolts of campaigning, and just want a good platform to advertise on with some basic analytics.
Overall there are quite a few crowdfunding tool-sets out there, each giving you access to unique features to help generate interest and convert that into project backing. It’s important to be aware of all of the features many of these tool-sets offers, as you can see here they all differ from each other quite a bit. To my mind, I’d want to go invest in a tool-set that gives me access to everything I need to manage with my campaign, in one place. An advertising platform is great for example, but what if I want to look at the potential success before I start? What about digging deep into the datasets around my campaign and understanding where my interest and potential revenue is really coming from? I’d like to be have all of that information at my fingertips. A package that handles multiple features well, is where I and I think others, are most likely to put their time.
—-[ Previous version of this article, published November 2015 ]—-
I’m currently advising a startup that is designing and crowdfunding an innovative new LED desk lamp called HEAVN.
I figured I would use the opportunity to test out a real-world example with some of the 3rd party crowdfunding campaign planning tools available: TMinus10 vs. Crowdster vs. KickTraq vs. CrowdLogs vs. KickSpy.
TMinus10 is an easy to use crowdfunding campaign planner tool with three very practical tool sets. Here are the results of using it for our campaign planning for the HEAVN lamp.;
- Xray searches for similar campaigns on kickstarter and indiegogo and shows aggregate statistics on how much they’ve raised, what their rewards sizes were, how much people on average donated.This is useful in two ways: First, these averages help you to figure out how to best set your fundraising expectations and your reward levels. Secondly, having a good list of comparable campaigns is an important starting point for building out your media list and PR efforts.I told it to look for other lamp-related crowdfunding campaigns and these are the results:
This shows how for many lamp campaigns, $95 was the sweet spot for donations, and we should keep that in mind when setting up our own reward tiers.
- Calculate figures out how many twitter, facebook, email, and blog reach you will need to reach your funding goal. This is useful for goal setting, but also often as a much needed reality check. People need to see that without a crowd, they’re not realistically going to be able to succeed with crowdfunding.By showing the results of your often unspoken audience, view rate, clickthrough rate, conversion rate, and average donation expectations, it forces you to really confront the scope of the marketing effort you will need to succeed:For HEAVN, we’ve only just started building out our audience, so it was interesting to see just how little we could expect to raise from our modest early facebook, twitter, and email followers:
- Grow lets you search for twitter users that have promoted similar campaigns to make friends with. A paid account or free trial includes buttons to directly follow or message from within the TMinus10 console, making the workflow much easier.The best way to grow your crowd is by reaching out and building relationships with key journalists and influencers in your space that can validate what you’re doing, and share it with their audience. The first step is to identify and create a list, then to follow and message them to get things started. This tool streamlines the process. Tminus10 is basically a simpler version of some of the much more expensive tools used by marketing agencies to expand media reach, though currently it is just focused on twitter.
Most of the functionality of TMinus10 is free, but if you want to use the integrated follow and tweet features in the grow panel, or the calculate tool, it costs $50 for one month or $100 for three months. Well worth it for the time you’ll save.
Krowster also offers a set of analytics and campaign optimization tools, plus the paid feature, CrowdBuilder, which lets you target twitter followers, and you can buy media lists of journalists in specific niches.
- Social Capital Gauge: Similar to the calculate tool in TMinus10, the social capital gauge allows you to enter your twitter and facebook followers, and estimate how much you can expect to raise. You also set what category you are funding in, so I assume it uses average conversion rates from similar campaigns, which is a good approach.According to Krowdster, with our modest early following in the design category we can expect to raise about $1,500, less than TMinus10 estimated, as that calculation also included email list and blog readers. Again, the lesson is the same, how much you can expect to raise will ultimately rely on the size of your audience times a realistic conversion rate. This tool is most useful as a reality-check.
The tool also shows the success and failure rate on Kickstarter vs. Indiegogo, and shows you success rate of campaigns based on how many twitter and facebook followers you have. They don’t give us good odds.
- Campaign Optimizer: Because our campaign isn’t live yet, I plugged a comparable campaign into Kicktraq’s Campaign Optimizer tool:
It looks at your campaign and makes a bunch of helpful suggestions of how you stack up to successful campaigns. For the example it suggested updating the title, description, adding a website link, adding a facebook link, and adding more perks. It also shows some statistics about average successful campaigns in your category.
- Crowdfunding Analytics provides tons of aggregate statistics on platforms, campaign categories, campaigns, rewards, creators, and supporters.
Another note, the category selections also include popular categories in languages besides english, you’ll see a good smattering of spanish, french, german etc. useful if you’re campaign has a focus outside of the US, which actually helps with our HEAVN lamp campaign example, as the team is based in Germany.
- CrowdBuilder requires some serious integration with twitter to get set up. You have to go into the app developer console in your twitter settings and set it all up, this requires you to have an phone number associated with your twitter account, and to spend some time getting various API keys from your twitter settings and entering them into Krowdster.Once you go through the authentication process your get a dashboard that lets you add hashtags, and then the app will automatically follow people that post with them, with the option to unfollow if they don’t follow you back within two days, to automatically like anything posted with those hashtags, and to automatically retweet anything posted with those hashtags. Basically it puts your twitter on autopilot. Pretty cool.
It even suggests popular hashtags correlated to the ones you enter and keeps track of how many reciprocal likes and followers you’ve accumulated from each active term you’re tracking. If you’re goal is to grow your twitter following, this tool seems well worth the cost.[UPDATE] I’ve been running the twitter tool for about a week on autopilot and it’s been doing a pretty good job of getting me more followers:
- Media Lists are very exciting. One of the most important and most time consuming parts of running a crowdfunding marketing campaign is creating the list of journalists you want to contact, and to just be able to buy a pre-made list is very tempting. Krowdster has created lists of about 200-550 journalists in various common rewards-crowdfunding categories. $50 gets you 3 lists, which download as simple well organized csv spreadsheets. For HEAVN I found lists of journalists covering the subjects of: Product Design, Gadgets, and Architecture. Though I have to admit I am curious about the 510 journalists covering taxidermy.
Here’s what the downloaded file looks like:
On the other hand I’m also skeptical about the media lists. There’s no way to know how old these contacts are, or how many people this list has been sold to. The site says it’s to be used for one-on-one contact, but I wouldn’t be surprised if people regularly BCC the whole list, causing the journalists on it to automatically ignore any unsolicited emails regarding crowdfunding.I emailed Krowdster to ask about this concern and they said that the “lists are licensed from the leading media data provider in the US and contain valuable contacts. They are proven to have supported Crowdfunding campaigns in their categories.”
Kicktraq & Crowdlogs:
Kicktraq and Crowdlogs track current live top kickstarter and indiegogo projects, and shows statistics and analytics about them. They don’t offer many tools for project founders.
There also used to be a program called Kickspy, but it decided to shut down after getting some negative feedback from Kickstarter.
Does anyone know if any tools I’m missing? If so please leave a comment in the LinkedIn discussion thread here: https://www.linkedin.com/grp/post/6568366-6072700048242724867?trk=groups-post-b-title