It’s all about the money. When it comes to getting a new product off the ground, raising money for a cause, exploring growth opportunities for your small business and building your brand, crowdfunding offers a nontraditional way to reach non-conventional investors.
Crowdfunding reaches a larger and more diversified pool of interest than many standard methods of raising capital. It invites investment at any level, small-dollar and big. And, it helps you do something new and important for yourself and your investors. Plain and simple, it just makes sense to explore the marketing side of crowdfunding.
I recently chatted with Mark Thimmig, chairman and CEO of the Ignite Agency, experts in Kickstarter, Indiegogo and equity crowdfunding, to learn more about the art of crowdfunding campaign marketing.
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Six Marketing Essentials
Here are six essentials culled from our conversation to keep in mind before getting a crowdfunding campaign started.
1. Straddle the fence. Crowdfunding is all about capturing the personal ethos of the campaign -- a connection between message and emotion. However professional it looks and sounds, your marketing has to separate itself from the corporate impression with something casual, humorous or sentimental. If your message is somehow too proper and perfect, the audience might wonder why it requires crowdfunding.
2. Make it worthwhile. The object of the campaign has to come across as special or unique. It should embody an element of innovation, need or scarcity in any market. Scarcity drives the demand for any product, so you have to offer some exchange for the participation. It might be a T-shirt for helping fund a charity walk, or equity participation in a startup, or even an early model of the product (if it’s a physical gadget). But, creating marketing reciprocity must have a felt quality that takes more than just convincing language.
3. Build momentum. Every campaign needs an end date. At some point, the funding has to stop. So, several tracks run in sequence:
- You need a calendar to plan your strategy for the action and implementation.
- During the period before launch, it’s the campaign owner’s job to generate as much interest as possible. Usually through collecting emails and marketing to them.
- Lastly, a specific marketing event launches the period of funding.
Your strategic thinking has to visualize this rollout. You might, for example, peg your calendars around the date for the specific marketing event. That date cannot conflict with competing events like religious holidays, seasonal distractions, equity market activities and more. It’s to your benefit to make your launch stand alone.
4. Write a narrative. Everyone involved should follow the same script. They should all know the story of how things started, where you want to go and how you intend to get there. Your story needs an explanation of why you are pursuing crowdfunding as opposed to other investment strategies and a description of how the funding will make a difference.
It’s also important to respect the needs for copywriting. That is, your team has to brainstorm the language repeatedly until you can reduce the message to one quotable phrase. Then, all parties must be able to speak and write briefly from no more than four to five talking points.
5. Make it multi-dimensional. Content copy is important. It has to convince and persuade. It needs to testify with proof and credibility. Be sure to support your pitch with facts, figures and specifics on costs, forecasts and expectations. You’ll also want to make this a media event, something that goes viral across many a platform.
That takes vivid visuals, such as photos of people interacting with the product, commitments by key principles, testimonials by end users and so on. Finally, well-educated and entertaining videos of prototypes in action, users involved, or analysts’ comments will help your campaign go viral.
6. Improve your image. You must have some evidence of a positive past, some proof that things are ongoing. That said, your initial strategy must include development or improvement of existing marketing media. You might revitalize your website to complement and support the language and visuals of your planned campaign. Brochures, logos, business cards and other collateral material should reflect the evolving pitch and maintain a consistent branded look and feel.
It’s also the right time to think about social media and which social networks make the most sense for you strategically. Demographics research will tell you which audiences crowd Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more. More serious research might interest you in networks conceived for financial advisors, realty investors and other specific markets. Bloggers and influencers are also very important to help promote your offering. Finally, you might look into the accelerator worlds available through AngelList, Gust, Indiegogo, Kickstarter and more.
Do the work and deliver.
As Tanya Prive wrote, “There is a huge misconception that creating a successful crowdfunding campaign is as simple as hitting ‘submit’ and waiting for it to go viral.” With strategy and commitment, you can reach people throughout the world bypassing banks and professional investors. You spread the risk among many contributors, building loyalty and customers among them. Ultimately, this relieves you of the major business investment burden.
While the opportunity is expansive and promising, it takes work that starts with exploring the qualitative marketing challenges of crowdfunding. In the end, perhaps one of the most important crowdfunding essentials is to deliver on your product and promise.