A successful crowdfunding campaign is not only extremely gratifying, but it can be the launch you need to propel your business and idea forward. It’s a fantastic avenue for raising the capital you need to complete a particular project, and it can be, if done correctly, a great marketing tool. However, as with anything, you get out of it what you put into it. But we’re not entrepreneurs because we wanted an easy life. We’re entrepreneurs because we are passionate about our ideas. So put the work into it, be smart about it, and make the most out of the opportunity. After exceeding my goal on Kickstarter to start an underwear line, here are my words of advice for those wanting to go the crowdfunding route:
1. Start early and develop a strategy.
With many of the crowdfunding platforms, there isn’t a time limit from when you sign up and for an account and start working on your project to the time you launch. So start as far ahead as you can. Figure out which crowdfunding site you want to use and give yourself plenty of time to plan what it is you want to accomplish and why. Be really true to yourself, your business and the project in what you think you can accomplish. Some questions you will want to ask yourself:
-How much money do you want to raise?
-For what will it be used?
-How are you going to tell the story?
-Who is your audience?
-Who are you going to have involved?
-What rewards will you offer?
-When do you want to launch?
Talk to others. Reach out to people who you may or may not know who have completed a successful campaign. Ask for their advice and feedback. Look at other projects similar to yours – what do you notice about their campaign that might help you? Don’t copy, that’s not cool. Just research as much as you can.
3. Put your best into the presentation.
Many people are doing crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for their business; which means they don’t have a lot of extra cash to put into video and production. But the earlier you start, the more you can reach out to others for help. Maybe a friend is willing to trade product for doing the video? Maybe someone wants to build their portfolio and will agree to put together a video and then take a percentage of the profits raised after your goal? Maybe you can build the cost into the goal? All these are just creative suggestions – ways of thinking outside the norm of paying up-front for services. I highly recommend a video and not just a photo, and keep it under three minutes. It doesn’t have to be the highest quality, it just has to be well thought out and tell your story effectively. Be genuine. People are investing in you almost as much as they are investing in the product. And also put time into the page itself, below the video portion. Don’t just repeat what you say in the video, but elaborate on things you mention in the video but don’t have the time to fully explain.
4. Don’t be greedy.
Really take the time to evaluate what the goal is and what the costs associated with it will be and ask for that amount (with a small percentage to go towards errors). Make sure to take into account things such as shipping costs: both for materials to your factory and finished goods to backers, credit card fees and any fees associated with the particular crowdfunding platform you are using. Remember, a lot of platforms are all or nothing, meaning that if you don’t reach your set dollar goal, you don’t get anything at all.
5. Let everyone know ahead of time – way ahead of time.
Don’t go with the thought, “If I build it, they will come.” You’re project may be the most amazing solution to a common problem, but you are not going to get anyone to pledge towards your goal if you don’t let them know about it. The crowdfunding platforms do not reach out to others for you, at least not until you have already gained significant traction (because they take a percentage of your total and when they see you are doing well, they want to see that number multiply).
As familiar as you are with crowdfunding, there are A LOT of people who still have no idea what it is and how it works. Starting to tell people early gives you time to explain the concept. Don’t wait until everything is perfect–people like the developing story, so tell them as you work along. They feel part of something and you are building up followers. Bottom line: to get to your funding goal, you have to tell others about it.
6. Use social media and recruit others.
Social media is a fantastic way to reach a lot of people you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach. However, you don’t have to be on every social media platform. It’s best to rock on a few, rather than be just OK on all of them. Pick those where you:
-Can recruit your friends for support
-Can reach your audience
-Where you already have followers. If you don’t, starting early will help you gain followers.)
These are the people that will back you because they are already interested in what you are doing and they will tell others. You can’t do this alone. Have them spread the word on their networks. The more people you have involved and excited, the more likely you are to reach your goal.
7. Reach out to as much media as you can, but develop a story.
At first, I wasn’t connected with anyone in the media outside of my local area. But if you start networking and develop a relationship with media outlets that are fitting for your project, you may have luck in being featured. This is where you can incorporate social media. But don’t just pitch your product, pitch your story. Research media personnel you want to target. This doesn’t have to be a list of hundreds of people. Maybe it’s just fifteen quality people who can reach your audience to whom you are offering your story first.
8. Have a launch party.
Plan a party where you can gather friends and family to explain what you are doing and let them get excited about it. Plan it for the day you launch, if you can. Set up ways for them to give directly at the event. This not only helps create a buzz around you and your products, but it creates a jumpstart at the very beginning towards your goal.
9. Keep it short and make it a full-time endeavor.
With many platforms you can choose how long you want the campaign to last. Typical amounts are thirty, forty-five and sixty days, but having longer campaign doesn’t necessarily mean more backers. Having a shorter campaign creates a sense of urgency, that people have to back you now, not put it off until later. I recommend thirty days. Make it a full-time endeavor. Of course you are going to have other responsibilities during this time, but devote as much time as you can to the campaign (remember the strategy part?). It’s a thirty day sprint, but you can do it!
10. Stay in touch with your backers.
Keep people engaged in the process. Thank your backers regularly. They are awesome! They are helping you accomplish your dream! Let them know both the ups and the downs. You are creating a community that people want to be a part of, so keep them in the loop.
AND HAVE FUN! Sure, it’s really hard work, but if you don’t believe in what you are doing and you’re not having fun overall, then maybe you should rethink this. Work hard and believe in yourself. You can do it!
Check out Sairey’s campaign here.
For more crowdfunding advice check out: Crowdfunding for Fashion Entrepreneurs