Crowdfunding is hard. To do it successfully, and to be like the high profile projects on Kickstarter, Indie Go Go and other platforms and raise thousands, hundreds of thousands, and even millions of dollars means treating the crowdfunding process like a full-time job. Here are some tips I’ve learned the last couple years, both from experimenting with crowdfunding myself and from learning from experts (in no particular order).
Personally, I wish I knew all of this before I launched my first crowdfunding campaign. I think it would have helped me a lot more successful.
1. Actively Promote
Think of your campaign as your job. But, don’t simply ask people for money–people hate that. Instead, get creative and entice people. Make them want to donate because they want to be a part of something, not because you’re begging for money. For example, I once made a video that incorporated a short dinosaur puppet skit. The project was to raise money for my book, The 13th Cycle, a story about the Maya calendar and the end of the world. So my friends and I produced a fun skit about dinosaurs and the end of their world. (See my video here.)
Which brings me to my next point: don’t be afraid to ask for help. Friends are great at helping to spread the word about a campaign. If you don’t ask, you will not receive any help.
I met author Kristen Rex, who successfully funded her campaign A Concrete Sky. She told me she reached out and wrote personalized messages to her 700+ friends on Facebook, and was surprised and touched by the response she got. She said it greatly contributed to her success.
Running a campaign is a huge marketing opportunity. Besides raising money, a successful campaign can attract a following on your blog and make people aware of your brand. So, never stop promoting. Promote before, during, and after the campaign ends. Regularly post updates and notes to show your gratitude, with links to your campaign. And keep in touch with your backers even after you’ve delivered your rewards. They are likely your target audience, and you can turn them into your fans, your support, and if you’re an author, you may be able to take them with you when you publish your next book.
2. Find Your Target Audience
These are the people who will be interested in your project–the people who will believe in you and what you’re doing. Find out who they are, what they like, what appeals to them, and then find out how to reach them. Use angles to make your project stand out. See this post on IndieWire for examples.
3. Plan Ahead
The LowLine is a campaign on Kickstarter that raised over $155,000 to fund the making of an underground park in Manhattan, NY. One of the project creators gave a talk at an entrepreneur conference, and he attributed much of their success to the fact that they planned all of their media promotions six months in advance. It takes a lot of time and effort to find, contact, and coordinate news stories and press releases. But, they managed to have a good chunk of their press come out the day they launched their campaign, which built up buzz, got them featured on Kickstarter, and ultimately made them very successful.
Many projects may benefit from a local angle. Try reaching out to local news and publicity in your city and pitch them your project. You can use services such as PR Web to release press releases, and Fiverr to find inexpensive opportunities for promotion.
Also, create a teaser to entice people ahead of the campaign launch. An example could be a funny YouTube video–something that people can share to create some buzz. (See IndieWire).
4. Be Transparent
Explain exactly how you plan to use the money you will raise. Share your company’s or your strategy, and tell people how it will ultimately benefit them. What features will help out the people backing you? In other words, why should they help you? What are your backers getting out of it?
5. Offer Good Incentives
The key is to be genuine, and offer limited amounts of certain rewards (scarcity). But, stay transparent, meaning explain why a reward is scarce. For example, an author is raising money to fund her book. She can offer a limited number of signed print copies. Also see Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception for more ideas.
The rewards/incentives should be creative and most of them should at least be somewhat related to your project. Some good examples include the campaigns for This Book Is About Travel, The Clone Business, A Beautiful Mess, The Game of Books, and Once, We Were Stolen. Another great example is A Concrete Sky. Kristen Jex offered to compose and film personalized songs to nine people who pledged $200 or more. And nine people pledged.
One popular reward is gift certificates. I’ve heard that you can get big discounts for restaurant.com. You can then offer the gift certificate as part of an incentive, and with the discount, you won’t have to pay the full amount of the gift certificate. Supposedly you can contact the incentives department of restaurants.com to buy certificates in bulk for lower than $1 each.
Not all rewards need to be expensive. You want to be as inclusive as possible, and encourage people who can’t donate to repost a link to the campaign instead. Word-of-mouth is key.
You should also offer lower-priced rewards. For example, you could offer a $1 reward where you publicly thank or acknowledge that the backer participated and was part of your project.
If and when it becomes clear that you will exceed your funding goal, then be sure to offer more rewards. The sweet spot to offer more incentives is when you’ve reached 45-65% of your goal. This helps to keep the momentum going.
Also, make sure to budget for your incentives. So, whatever money you raise, make sure it’s enough to cover the costs of printing, shipping, or whatever other expenses you’ll incur to deliver your incentives to your backers.
6. Engage Your Audience on Your Campaign Page
Videos are an absolute must. Try to keep it short, and entertaining, while also delivering your message.
Lastly, make sure your campaign is relevant and timely. According to IndieWire, in December there is an average increase of 13% in contributions on IndieGoGo. And in addition to creating a teaser, have another hook to announce at the launch of your campaign to keep people excited about your project.