Troubleshooting Your Campaign: Low Pre-launch Enthusiasm

Ideally, the buzz about a crowdfunding campaign builds during the months leading up to launch. We recommend our clients use the “Rule of 7” to their advantage – to share their campaign in seven unique and engaging ways. If all goes according to plan, this seven-part communication strategy leads to an increasing level of enthusiasm among their prospective backers that peaks at launch.

You may read more about the “Rule of Seven”, a core marketing principle, in this post.

bored

But what to do if,  instead of feeling like a thrilling countdown, the Rule of 7 feels like a forced march? If social media posts are getting fewer and fewer responses, emails are met with “unsubscribe” clicks, and it feels like the message isn’t being heard – or worse, ignored?

  1. Check the internal enthusiasm meter. Sometimes, our clients’ natural anxiety about their crowdfunding campaign (it’s a big deal!) can spiral into dread. This is untenable, since aversion is contagious, no matter how carefully the words are chosen – the campaign owner’s feelings about their campaign will seep out and influence others.  So if you find yourself feeling afraid of your campaign, it’s time to take a time-out to love on it. Do your best to extend your warm feelings about your project to the process of funding it. (This can be hard. You can do it.)
  2. Share your message in your own voice. Sometimes our clients get very awkward when they start conversations with their networks about their upcoming crowdfunding campaign. Friendly banter is replaced by stilted pronouncements. It is off-putting. Remember, you are just working your key message – “Preorder my [genre] [title] on [platform] [date]” – into the conversation. You can say that in your voice.
  3. Don’t bury the lead. When our clients draft their first Facebook post about their campaign, it is, on average, four paragraphs long. Worse, often their key message – “Preorder my [genre] [title] on [platform] [date]” – only shows up at the end. It’s natural to want to explain, tell the whole story of the project, and attempt to cajole enthusiasm, but boredom never won any backers. Get to the point.
  4. Improve the call to action. On a related note: most communiques about the campaign should have a call to action beyond “wait for my campaign”. This could be to sign up for a newsletter, help with a campaign event, give feedback on draft cover art or a poster. Make it clear, with each communication, what you want the recipient to do. And if you make sure that it is something enjoyable and within their capacity, they are likely to actually do it.
  5. Include images – especially of faces. People respond to images nearly 10x more than text, and to faces nearly 10x more than other images. Including a picture of your face in a social media post or email means it will likely be 100x more effective than without. Our clients often reject this idea. We tell them to get over it.
  6. Get personal. No successful campaign was built on mass communications alone. No tweet or newsletter will engender enthusiasm like a one-on-one coffee date. Make time for individual conversations – via text, Skype, phone, or in person. More often than not, these people you’ve told about your campaign in person will be the people who go on to like and share your message in other ways.

Marketing your campaign is work, but it shouldn’t feel like a slog. Slow days are fine, but if the trend is toward getting stuck, back up and review the tactics above to get your message back on track.

If you would like a free  personalized diagnostic of your crowdfunding idea – a $125 value! – please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks.

Troubleshooting Your Campaign: Not Enough $500+ Backers

People willing to pledge over $500 to a crowdfunding campaign don’t grow on trees. It takes hard work for the average campaign to line up a handful of individuals, who, with $500+ pledge amounts, typically represent around 40% of the total funds raised.

"Rich Uncle Pennybags" Parker Brothers / Hasbro
“Rich Uncle Pennybags”
Parker Brothers / Hasbro

You can read more about these campaign ‘Benefactors’ in this post. An important reminder is that Benefactors are typically not strangers who show up at launch with surprise big bucks, but rather are known individuals or organizations courted during the months leading up to the campaign. 

Sometimes our clients come up empty when they reach out to affluent fans, clients, community, friends, and family, apply for grants and seek other pools funding for their kind of project. What then?

  1. Brainstorm Benefactor candidates again to expand the list. Sometimes going back to the drawing board after actually having  prospective Benefactor conversations leads to new names. Was there anyone left off who should get an invitation to be a producer of the project?
  2. Issue a second invitation to every prospective Benefactor that didn’t issue a hard “no” in the first round. Talking about money is hard. Many of our clients give up after one email or voicemail that went unanswered, assuming that no reply yet must mean a ‘no’. While it’s important not to become a pest, or harangue people who did clearly say ‘no thank you’, it is worth finding a new way to reach out to prospective Benefactors at least one more time. Sometimes, they’re just thinking it over or busy, or simply didn’t get the first invitation.
  3. Reduce the target funding amount – and draft prospective Benefactor Stretch Goal communiques for when the campaign surpasses the 100% funded mark. If suggestions #1 and #2 above are not yielding results, it may be that prospective Benefactors just do not want to stick their necks out for the project before it is funded. In this case, consider approaching them again after the campaign is funded. This removes their “reputation risk” of looking foolish for backing a campaign that doesn’t fund. To maximize time, it is best to set an initial target that can confidently be over 100% funded within the first 24-48 public hours  of the campaign. This allows a full month for ongoing Benefactor conversations about Stretch Goals – what the additional funds raised will go towards.
  4. Dedicate additional time to one-on-one conversations with smaller prospective backers. The nice thing about Benefactors with deep pockets is that only a handful of conversations can lead to the campaign being funded – it’s efficient. However, time is money, so an alternative to having a few select conversations with big money is to have a lot of conversations with smaller money, the median ($25) and average ($70) prospective backer. The math is tough – it takes 10-30 smaller backers to make up for one Benefactor – but we have seen campaigns fund with no Benefactors at all through sustained communications with smaller backers.
  5. Ramp up the VIP Soft Launch prep to encourage attendees to back the project in the $75-$150 (rather than $25-$70) range. With some good event planning and compelling perks and rewards, it’s possible to ramp up the success of your VIP Soft Launch party by bumping your early backers up to the next tier. Be sure to feature these premium rewards specifically, both as part of the party invitation, and during the event itself.

While the path to crowdfunding success often includes a handful of Benefactors who pledge $500+ to the campaign, it doesn’t have to. If you are having a hard time recruiting them, don’t give up! Change some tactics and keep up the good work.

For a diagnostic of your crowdfunding idea, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire – you’ll receive a personalized report (a $125 value, free!) within two weeks.

 

How to Succeed at Crowdfunding: Pro Design

Most of our clients don’t like the idea of spending money up front. The whole crowdfunding idea is to make money, not spend it, right? Nevertheless, we recommend a small pre-launch investment in professional design.

Whether the campaign’s central image is a play poster, an album cover, a business logo – or whatever is appropriate to the project – it is worth budgeting a few hundred dollars up front for design.  It’s hard to convince backers to pull out their credit cards for something that looks amateur, no matter how good the idea may be.

Our own book, Crowdfunding for Authors, is a good example of the importance of professional design.  We worked with BookWrights in the fall prior to our spring campaign, sending them the digital sketch on the left. They replied with some drafts, including the one on the right, which we used in the campaign.

before (shudder)
before (shudder)
cfa pink
after

It is highly doubtful Crowdfunding for Authors would have gone on to be nearly 400% funded with the feeble sketch on the left. The professional design on the right cost around $500, an amount that was easily recouped by the campaign about six months later.

So: you don’t need to spent a lot of money to make money, but you probably do need to spend some. Set aside a few hundred dollars so your key campaign image can be designed by a pro.

For a free analysis of your crowdfunding idea, please fill out our questionnaire. We send a personalized diagnostic of your idea’s strengths and weaknesses – a $125 value! – within 2 weeks.

How to Succeed at Crowdfunding: Embrace the Bandwagon Effect

The sales principle our clients resist the most is the Bandwagon Effect: the paradox that to get backers, they need backers. Most artists believe their work should sell itself. But no matter how creative or innovative, nothing sells itself. Sales and marketing, in fact, are typically the highest paid positions in most kinds of companies.

Getting the public to act, to actually pull out their wallets to purchase a product or service, is very hard work.

In crowdfunding, this difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that every campaign starts with the worst crowd psychology: zero dollars, zero backers, zero percent funded. This is the first thing visitors to a new campaign will see, right at the top of the page:

percent-funded-meter-zero

This depressing image scares prospective backers away. Instead of asking the rational questions Do I like this project? Is this a reasonable value? visitors start asking the crowd psychology questions Is this campaign a winner? Or will it make me look like a loser?

The fear of looking like an idiot for backing a “loser” is a more powerful emotion than a personal like or dislike of the project itself.

In the beginning, when a project has no backers, the Bandwagon Effect is a powerful enemy. However, there is a flip side. Later, if/when the campaign has attracted a certain level of participation, the Bandwagon Effect becomes an increasingly powerful friend. While typically only about a third of campaigns are successful, campaigns that manage to get up over 40% nearly always succeed.

Data from the Kickstarter "Stats" page
Data from the Kickstarter “Stats” page

To state it plainly: if a campaign doesn’t get to 40% funded ASAP, it will probably fail; but if it does, it will almost certainly succeed.

This is the Bandwagon Effect. Our number one piece of advice to our clients to is firmly lock down at least 40% of their target before they even announce that their campaign is live. This way the public never sees a campaign that will scare them away. Instead, they will only see a campaign that will get them excited to jump on the bandwagon.

A counter-intuitive element of the Bandwagon Effect is that once a campaign reaches 100% funded, it can actually gain momentum. This requires some forethought on the part of the campaigner to be prepared to communicate about stretch goals (what additional money will go toward), but as long as there is some reasonable message, the campaign can go on to double, triple, or more. Why? Because the campaign is already perceived as a winner.

In other words, it’s best to set a low target and surpass 100% funded quickly – this likely leads to the campaign raising more funds overall, because it is a “winner”.

So, if you think your idea will fund itself, think again. Plan ahead so you can pass 40% and then 100% quickly, and move up from there.

If you would like a free  personalized diagnostic of your crowdfunding idea – a $125 value! – please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks.

How to Succeed at Crowdfunding: Take Your Time

Fewer than 10% of those who fill out our Artist Questionnaire ultimately go on to launch a crowdfunding campaign. Potential campaigners opt out for a variety of reasons, but in most cases, it is because crowdfunding the amount of money they wish to raise will take much, much more time – and effort – than they expected.

Crowdfunding is slow, hard-earned money.

Image courtesy Shelton Interactive
Image courtesy Shelton Interactive

One of the questions we ask in our questionnaire is: When do you plan to launch your campaign? The number one answer is “next month” – usually a week or two away. In our instant-gratification online world, it’s understandable why this may feel like plenty of time to prepare.

So most people are shocked to learn that a minimum of 3 months is required, and often preparation takes 6-12 months. This is not because it takes 3 months to build the campaign – but it takes at least that long to market it.

Crowdfunding is subject to Effective Frequency, what’s known in marketing circles as “The Rule of 7”. People need to hear a message 7 times to act on it. For crowdfunding, that means prospective backers need to hear about the campaign seven times prior to launch in order to become active participants rather than remain passive observers. It’s not possible to meaningfully share a message seven times in a week or two (that’s spam). A sustained marketing plan takes time to develop, and then time to disseminate.

There is no substitute for time. So, if you are considering running a crowdfunding campaign, take a look at the calendar. Find a spring or fall month that is around 6 months away. If you get started preparing now, realistically that seemingly far-off date will be the earliest you can launch. And once you get started on the work that needs to be done to prepare, our guess is you’ll be surprised at how quickly the time flies.

If you would like a personalized analysis of your crowdfunding plan, please fill out our questionnaire. A detailed report – a $125 value! – will be delivered for free in two weeks.

 

Crowdfunding Usually Doesn’t Work for Writers – But It Can

The following is an excerpt of an article for Jane Friedman – you may view the full post here.

cfa pinkCrowdfunding can market and presell your book. Since most books fail to turn a profit, the ability to raise money and reader enthusiasm before expenses is a valuable resource.

However, authors have a poor track record doing it. Over 70 percent of author crowdfunding campaigns fail, and many authors who have tried crowdfunding have nothing to show for it.

What Is Crowdfunding?

Most people think money when they see the word crowdfunding, and that makes sense—funding is the second half of the portmanteau. But crowdfunding is much more valuable than just the funds raised.

First, crowdfunding centralizes and organizes your fan base. This is the crowd part of crowdfunding. Unlike when selling your book through brick-and-mortar or online bookstores, where buyer information is hidden from the author, you get all the contact information of everyone who preorders your book on your crowdfunding page.

If you have read even one marketing book, you know the power of having an email list of people that have bought in—in this case, literally—to your product. Instead of hoping your Facebook post appears in your reader’s feed, or paying to advertise in a periodical that may or may not be of interest to your reader, you can email your fans directly, and for free, to let them know about events and offers. You won’t have to hope that the people who care most about your messages will receive them—you will know.

This is important because later, when your book is actually published, sales are driven by rankings, and rankings are driven by algorithms. And algorithms are driven by volume and speed of reader activity. With your fans’ contact information, you can ask them to synchronize their watches to your book’s official publication date, and to go online all together to rate and review your book (and buy additional copies as gifts for family and friends). This kind of “clumped” activity is what has the potential to boost your book’s rankings in the algorithm, and create the visibility for potentially greater sales numbers.

Second, crowdfunding is book marketing boot camp and publication day training.

To read more, please visit the full post here.

Q&A About Crowdfunding for Authors – for Jane Friedman

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Jane Friedman. To read the full article, click here.

Bethany-Joy-Carlson-crowdfunding

JANE FRIEDMAN: I worry that some authors who are interested in crowdfunding don’t have the proper resources or network in place to run a successful campaign. While I don’t want to be discouraging at the start of this interview (!), are there situations where you advise authors to wait before they start a campaign—to ensure they have some essential components in place?

BETHANY JOY CARLSON: Most authors are surprised when I advise them to prep for three months to a year. Authors need well-organized reader contact information, a great draft cover design, and time for effective communication.

Crowdfunding is marketing, and that means it is subject to Effective Frequency, or The Rule of Seven: a person needs to hear a message seven times to act on it. So, authors need to communicate with their readers seven times before their book’s crowdfunding campaign launch. This means creative emails, posts, blogs, tweets, events, etc. about their campaign in the months leading up to launch.

I also remind authors that, just like with party or wedding invitations, not everyone invited will respond. In other words, not every reader invited to buy the book on a crowdfunding site will do so. If an author has an engaged email list, perhaps 10 percent will do so, and around 1 percent of their social media following will respond.

It really helps to line up a patron or two ahead of time who will take a big bite out of that figure—$500-1,000 or more—which cuts down the size of the email and social media threshold substantially.

Authors also need a good draft book cover to crowdfund their book. We hear the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” precisely because that is exactly what people do. Sometimes authors attempt to design their own book cover, but that is almost always a bad idea. Authors should hire a professional book cover designer and budget to spend that money before they begin promoting their crowdfunding campaign. Depending on the book, workable drafts may cost between $30 and $1,500 (which is a reasonable max for a book cover draft).

For an author undertaking their first crowdfunding effort, about how many hours of prep time would you budget, and then how many hours per day during a typical campaign?

To read the answers to these and other questions, visit the full article here.

Crowdfunding for Authors is available for preorder on Indiegogo.