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.

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