Growing Pains: How to kick start your Crowdfunding Campaign
By Jamie Cook –
Introduction: What is Crowdfunding
In 2013, crowdfunding established itself as a true rival to traditional sources of funding, and since its inception just a few short years before, the now $5.1 billion industry shows no signs of stunted growth as we look forward into 2014.
However that rapid expansion was only made possible through not just the belief of the crowd, but by a dedicated campaign growth strategy from those seeking funding.
Reward based crowdfunding is still by far the dominant model, and also tends to house a far higher percentage of creative projects than equity or loan crowdfunding. More often than not however, these projects are run by individuals and small teams who, due to the demands of product or project development, can struggle to lift their campaign off the ground.
Thankfully, there are an array of great ways that those seeking funding can promote and market their campaigns without breaking the bank, grow their crowd, and ultimately, fund their project.
Kicking Off Your Campaign
Almost all of the major crowdfunding platforms make it clear from the off that promoting your campaign is your responsibility. Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the two largest platforms make it clear that they offer an amplification opportunity, but don’t guarantee anyone a funded campaign, or even a crowd. Crowdfunding platforms can help amplify your message to a wider audience, but just posting a campaign and letting it run will rarely be enough to succeed.
Before you even launch your campaign, you have to be certain you’re presenting the best possible version of your project. You can campaign tirelessly, but if it is poorly presented, the crowd will never gather. Look at some of these great examples of funded campaigns (here, here and here), and notice how well apportioned their pages are. Every detail, from the tone and language used, to the supporting image and video content makes the whole campaign pop.
A crucial element to any successful campaign is initial momentum. Before your campaign goes live, ensuring you have some initial funding guaranteed dramatically improves your chances of success. Crowdfunding is as much an endeavour in psychology as it is finance – if your potential audience sees some momentum to your project, they are far more likely to get involved, and help you reach your goal.
“You need to start by finding the first 1/3 of the money for your campaign [through your network], often the next third comes from friends of your network, and Indiegogo will, on average, get you that last third.”
– Slava Rubin, Indiegogo Ceo
Social media is perhaps the most powerful tool in a creator’s arsenal when campaigning. All the major platforms are free to use, and can connect you with a worldwide audience.
But as always, there’s a catch.
You need to be savvy, ruthless, and invest yourself in your social media strategy. Just as your pitch itself must be carefully crafted and presented to appeal to your audience, so too should your social media strategy.
Here are a few great tips and techniques for getting the most out of your social channels:
- Utilise your personal network
Tailor your message for each of your channels, and remember who you’re talking to. They way you present your campaign to friends and family will be different than with casual acquaintances and business associates.
Identify influencers in your networks who could really help push your message out, even if they’re unlikely to be a funder. Contact them before you even start your campaign and be ready to use them when the time comes.
- Be Pre-Social
What do we mean here? Simply put, you need to start growing your crowd well in advance of your campaign going live. A good rule of thumb is to assume that at most, around 1 in 5 of your connections will donate. If you think you might need 1,000 people donating, you better make sure you have at least 5,000 followers/friends/connections online.
To hit these kinds of levels you need to be active many months before you begin funding. Having a blog or website for your project is a great way to share your idea, and get people interested. Becoming active in forums and LinkedIn groups related to your industry is another great way to grow your crowd.
Using your blog or website can also be a great way to capture some email addresses for the future. Designing a killer landing page can help you build and capture your crowd, to be called into action at a later date.
- Hashtag And Follow Like A Pro
On Twitter, follow accounts of influencers in your industry, and use hashtags effectively to bring attention to your campaign. There are lots of great articles on how to use these techniques correctly online, so there’s no excuse for any lack of nous.
- Engage, Engage, Engage
Get involved in conversations. Retweet interesting material related to your project and respond to any trends or questions from your followers. This should be done from the pre-marketing stage, right the way through to the conclusion of your campaign.
- Expanding Your Social Toolkit
Use tools such as Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule posts and updates so that you’re always active, even when you can’t be. Sign up for services like Klout to help track influencers in your space, and reach out to them. This is especially important in the pre-marketing stage as well.
While you can hire a professional PR or marketing company (we’ll talk more about that further on), there are a few great services that crowdfunders can use to push out their story. Websites like PR Fire, PR Web, or Newswire Today receive consistently good feedback for their press release distribution, and are worth looking into if you have a little money to spend.
Professional Marketing Services
Marketing and PR agencies around the globe have begun to adapt to the advent of crowdfunding. Many larger agencies now offer bespoke crowdfunding packages and services, designed to help grow your audience and promote your campaign, and there are even specialist agencies beginning to pop up which present themselves as dedicated crowdfunding specialists. It’s worth noting that with a track record of usually less than a year or two by 2014, it remains to be seen whether these niche agencies can truly deliver.
As you’d expect, professional marketing services don’t come cheap. A fully customised solution can easily run into the thousands of dollars. However if you don’t have the expertise or time to give your campaign the attention it deserves, a professional solution may be a great way for you to focus more on developing your product, project or business.
So what’s The Secret to Growing a First Class Crowd?
I hate to say it, but there isn’t any one way to grow your crowd, or guarantee crowdfunding success. However, using some of the advive above will certainly help to improve your chances. Preparation and planning your strategy will give you the best possible chance of succeeding.
If you don’t have the time or ability to immerse yourself in promoting your campaign, it’s important that you get the right type of support. There’s no sense in paying over the odds for a first rate marketing company if they don’t understand your project, and can’t promote it effectively. When it comes to reward based crowdfunding, the crowd will also respond to sincerity, passion and true creative innovation.
If you can engage with your target audience and let your great idea rub off on them, you’ll encourage and excite them into helping you grow your crowd.
Having a great idea is only half the battle, growing your crowd is the other. But with the right tools and expertise in place, it’s one you can give yourself every chance of winning.
 Rewards based crowdfunding requires the crowd to donate money to a project, usually in return for a unique reward of some sort. The equity crowdfunding model offers investors shares in a venture, whereas loan funded projects allow investors to offer a loan at a set rate, to be accepted or rejected by the creator.