You have spent countless weeks developing your idea, constructing a prototype, testing your product out with friends, and now you’re ready to raise some money to take it into production. Unfortunately, despite what you may read in the media about Crowdfunding raising millions of dollars on a whim, it actually takes a lot of steps in between (and skill) to make that happen. Today we’re going to look at 5 absolutely non-negotiable things that you must do to even have a hope of successfully crowdfunding your project.
Film a Pitch Video (and hire a professional to help you with it)
First impressions are everything, and a pitch video is a sure way to demonstrate that you and your project are “real” and worth backing. You have a very limited amount of time to catch a potential contributor’s attention before they click on the next campaign that catches their eye. A video, when properly done, will convey what your project is all about very quickly. It also demonstrates a certain degree of professionalism, i.e. you are serious about bringing your idea to fruition.
While including a pitch video as part of your campaign is not strictly required on the major crowdfunding platforms, over 80% do have one and the ones that don’t have a much higher failure rate (>70%).
Just as important as making the video however is quality. Hire some help! Videographers that specialize in crowdfunding campaign pitch videos can easily be found online. Elevant Productions for example will not only film your video but produce an original soundtrack for you to boot! Remember, you are asking backers to part with their hard earned money to help you with an as-yet unproven idea. Don’t lose their confidence off the bat by publishing something that looks like it was recorded on a 1987 VHS camcorder.
Enact Your Social Media Strategy Far in Advance
A typical crowdfunding campaign is just 30 days or less in duration. Your number one goal during this limited window of opportunity is to generate as much buzz and excitement about your campaign as you possibly can. A successful social media strategy and tactics are absolutely essential to making that happen, so don’t leave it until after your campaign is underway to start trying to decide how to approach it.
Your social media efforts should actually begin long before your crowdfunding campaign launch day. Generate a loyal following for your project with contests, fan-involvement, and word of mouth before ever clicking the launch button.
The ideal situation is that you have a large contingent of followers that can immediately share, retweet, and like your project to ensure it gets in front of as many eyes as possible on day one of the campaign. The key here is exponential growth: Imagine the difference between sharing your campaign with your 300 Facebook friends vs. having 1000 people on board on day one each sharing to their 300 friends. That’s 300 vs. 300,000 – an enormous difference. There are a plethora of social media marketing experts available online, and this is a strongly recommended approach if you have limited experience in this respect.
Clearly Demonstrate Your Plan
Your idea may very well rival the iPhone in terms of greatness. It may be such an earth-shattering creation that you have people buzzing about it already, long before your campaign is officially launched. But the problem is that it doesn’t exist yet, and that naturally makes people nervous. Your job as a campaign manager is to alleviate those fears and demonstrate that you have thought all aspects of your project through.
You need to demonstrate that you have the people and resources in place that will be in a position to execute flawlessly to deliver what you are promising within the timeline you’ve specified and with the hard earned funds you are asking these people to give you.
That’s not an easy undertaking and requires careful thought while preparing your written pitch. At a minimum your pitch should clearly identify the following:
A budget, exactly why you are raising money and what specifically it will be used for
Who you have on your team, their expertise, and their role on the project
A high level schedule identifying the key phases and milestones of the project
Be open about the risks and challenges you face even if they aren’t pretty. People want to see that you’ve thought things through, but make sure to highlight what mitigation strategies you are putting in place to handle those challenges.
Communication is Key
I know that’s a tired old saying but like it or not — it’s true (both during and after the campaign). The truth of the matter is that most people are not going to contribute to your cause on day 1. Many people will lurk until the final days of your campaign before pulling the trigger. Part of that is trying to get a feel for whether you are going to hit your funding target or not (counter-intuitive I know), but they also want to see how you interact with the community.
How you communicate during the campaign is a good indication for backers as to what they can expect while you are in production (and spending their money!), and backers therefore are looking for a level of confidence that you are not going to disappear off the face of the earth.
At a minimum you will want to provide updates 2 – 3 times per week to the campaign page. Share those updates across social media to increase exposure and generate more buzz. Success brings more success, so at every major milestone (and even minor ones) hit towards your goal build some excitement by sending out an update thanking everyone for support and asking them to share on social media. Add new stretch goals mid-campaign to further reward those who are supporting you. You get the idea — engage with your backers from day one.
Err on the side of Generosity when Defining Your Backer Rewards
Let’s be blunt – contributors are taking a big risk in backing your project. Whether that risk is perceived or real is beside the point. The fact of the matter is that they are buying something that hasn’t been produced yet, and that makes people nervous.
Internally, whether they realize it or not, potential backers are processing their own risk / reward analysis. They are asking themselves the question, “Is the reward I’m getting for this worth the risk of not getting anything at all?”
Help yourself by making sure you help them swing that risk reward in your favor by being generous when defining backer rewards. Under no circumstances should you offer something that is going to put your project underwater, but at the same time you shouldn’t be looking to buy a new BMW when all is said and done either.
It’s a delicate game, but your primary goal should be bringing your project to fruition successfully, and with sufficient funds that your business can finance itself going forward. You should not be looking to make a windfall profit from your crowdfunding backers.
What Do You Think?
Have I missed any key ingredients to a successful crowdfunding campaign? What would you do differently? Please let me know in the comments below!