Cross-posted on Huffington Post and Daily Kos
My company, Spend Consciously, has just launched its second crowdfunding campaign. At the start of our first, my boss Matthew Colbert and I were fairly new to the process. But thanks to what we learned from the first campaign, the second is off to a very encouraging start. In fact we’re currently the “Hottest” campaign on StartSomeGood.com. It’s incredible how a bit of experience can manifest so significantly. We developed an idea for what communication methods were most effective. We learned about – and made – some common mistakes. But as a result, we are more battle-hardened, more effective entrepreneurs. It’s one thing to read up on crowdfunding. It’s another to go out into the field and get your hands dirty.
At Spend Consciously we’re developing an app (Eye$pend) that will let consumers scan products with their smartphones in order to learn whether or not buying that product is in line w/ their values. While this current seed round chugs along, we figured we’d experiment with crowdfunding to see if it was worth the time. After all, it’s risky business. Some ventures succeed wildly, collecting three or four times their goal. Most are not so lucky.
Overall I recommend giving it a shot, if only for the experience and the exposure. But it’s not easy. Still, others have been there, and you can learn from their mistakes. And their victories.
Top Ten Key Strategies for a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign
- The first rule of crowdfunding is: have a video. Some crowdfunding sites recommend it; some even require it. Videos are crucial for thoroughly explaining your campaign in a way that words and pictures simply can’t. They also let you advertise your campaign’s individual style. Grassroots? Polished? Professional? Light-hearted? People will read their own interpretations, intonations, deeper-hidden-meanings etc in the written word, but just like lectures can be more helpful than textbooks in learning, video significantly augments your efforts. Even if it’s just you speaking into your webcam (luckily I stumbled across an old copy of Adobe Premiere Elements 7 in the archives). Also, videos are nice and share-able. Finally, if nothing else, making a video proves that you’re putting in the elbow-grease necessary to win.
- The second rule of crowdfunding is: HAVE. A. VIDEO.
- Be aware of your platform’s strengths and weaknesses. Do users have to register an account with the site in order to contribute? Do they have to enter credit card details? Must they be registered with PayPal? What does it offer in terms of sharing options? Some of the protocols may work better than others, depending on your goals and audience.
- The site will list your backers – but YOU need to keep careful track of whoever shares, posts, tweets and retweets your material. For one thing, it’s important to express your sincere gratitude. But more importantly, it gives you an idea of who to go to first in any subsequent campaigns and it lets you compare your popularity across various platforms.
- Blogs. Blogs. Blogs. Set up a Daily Kos account if you need to. Ask any blogger friends to write about you. Seek out related news stories, blogs, and listservs. Respond to relevant stories, comments, posts and the like. Don’t spam -. make sure whatever you post is either directly relevant to that site or at least apropos of the discussion. Oh, and don’t spam.
- Prepare. Get some kindling for the fire. The internet helps those who help themselves. Don’t just expect everything to start happening. Prime the pump. Strategize. For example, set up some kind of facebook page or event (like this one), and invite every friend you have. You can reach thousands of people in minutes.
- Organize some people (family, friends) who will be ready to contribute as soon as you go live. If you direct people to a page with 0 backers and 0 dollars, it’s not very encouraging.
- Ensure ease of access. Help people get there. Generate customized short links – like bit.ly/fundeyespend for example. Link to your page whenever you’re discussing it. When other people are discussing it, make sure there’s a link there.
- Take your time. Don’t just dive in. Look around to see which site is right for you; for each has its own specific focus. Check out other campaigns on your site of choice. See who’s getting funded and who isn’t, and try to discern why. While you’re at it, check out campaigns on other sites too. Contribute to a campaign so you know what the process is like and can guide contributors through it. Read up on effective techniques and common pitfalls. Simply put, do your homework.
- Most importantly, you need people to post/share/email/tweet/blog the link to your page, as soon after it goes live as possible. You can’t just get the ball rolling on your own. But at the same time, you have to be the one rolling the ball. Other people don’t create buzz. They hear it. YOU have to generate the buzz.
As a fundraiser, Matt figured out that crowdfunding requires a very different ask than the tactics of the past. It’s not second nature by any stretch of the imagination; everything from setting up a PayPal account to the concept of getting all of your money back. It takes multiple attempts to really get to most people – and the first few will probably be more of a general tutorial.The concept is so new to people, and those who can’t understand it can’t appreciate it. But the learning curve is so high that it’s worth the effort to try and try again..
I hope this helps. In one day our new campaign has garnered more contributors and more facebook shares than our last campaign did in its first week. I look forward to hearing whether or not others have found any of these strategies more effective than others in the past.
And now for the inevitable ask.
I’d be thrilled if you’d consider contributing to our StartSomeGood campaign at bit.ly/fundeyespend, if nothing else because the video is pretty cool (says the guy who spent 24 hrs straight working on it). Contributions are obviously appreciated, but what’s more important is if you’d consider posting/sharing the link on facebook, inviting people to our promotional facebook event page, tweeting it, blogging… I’m sure you get the idea.
Hey, if I’m gonna talk the talk, I gotta walk the walk, right?