Category Archives: how to succeed at crowdfunding

How to succeed at crowdfunding: Rallying Your Backers After The Campaign

There’s a bigger benefit to crowdfunding than the money: a core group of fans. Most people are joiners, not pioneers, so this core group of fans will be tremendously valuable for attracting other people to your project once it is realized. Here are a few ideas on how to both thank your fans and boost your project.

  1. Circle back to your Influencers. The organizations and people who helped spread the word about your crowdfunding campaign may be very willing to help spread the word about your project now that it has been realized. Be sure to get them your marketing materials, press releases, offer interviews – make their job easy to help you.
  2. Invite your backers to the project premier. Whether it’s your album launch party, first book signing, or opening night – make your backers VIP guests, and tell them to bring their friends. They’ve been on this journey with you now for months or even years. They’ll bring the enthusiasm that only that kind of anticipation can generate.
  3. Invite your backers to rate and review your project. Just about any kind of project has a place where people can write their own reviews and give a project a rating. Synchronize watches to boost your project on Amazon, iTunes, Rotten Tomatoes, or the relevant platform. Offer raffles or prizes to incentivize participation early. A visited project will attract more visitors that one that looks abandoned.
  4. Invite your backers to join the conversation about your project online. Whether it’s on your blog, website, social media, or elsewhere, somewhere online there’s a conversation you should be starting about your project. Make sure your backers know that their comments, likes, photos, and other participation is welcome.

For a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!

How to succeed at crowdfunding: Fulfillment

Your crowdfunding campaign is over! But the work has just begun. It’s time to get your backers all the creative perks and rewards they ordered.

Our mantra is “under-promise and over-deliver”. It’s easy to be overly optimistic on both how long it is going to take to produce your project, and then how long it will take to actually get it into your backers’ hands. Be sure to include in your timeline calculations the following considerations:

  1. You may not see your money until a month after your campaign closes. It can take up to 14 days on Kickstarter and 15 days on Indiegogo for funds to be sent. Depending on your bank, it can take up to 7 days or more for funds to clear. To be on the safe side, you should consider having money in hand by a month after your campaign closes.
  2. Budget for delays in production. Most creative projects are sequential and involve a team, so there are many points along the way where a delay on one task may mean a delay in completion. A rule of thumb for a home remodel is to expect it to go 25% over time – that’s a good expectation for your project, too.
  3. If you’re producing something physical, leave time for proofs and shipping. If you are producing something digital, leave time for beta testing. If you are producing a book, album, or other physical good, it can take a good month or more to order proofs, wait for them to arrive, review them, make tweaks (which may mean looping people like your designer back into the process), place your order, manufacture, and wait for the goods to arrive. It’s not safe to assume the proof will be perfect – it almost never is. If you are producing something digital, there are almost always bugs. Your backers make great beta testers! Be careful not to give them the impression that they’ll be receiving the polished final product at a certain date when it is more realistic that’s when you’ll be asking them to test it out.
  4. Leave time to collect your backers’ information. Before you ship, you’ll want to confirm your backers’ shipping information. This can take a few weeks of surveys, reminder emails, and some back-and-forth communications. If any of your rewards include collecting additional information – T-shirt sizes, for example – you’ll need even more time.
  5. Remember to block off days for packing and shipping. The more successful your campaign is, the bigger the undertaking of actually packing, labeling, and posting all of the items your backers have ordered.

Taken together, this usually means that a safe estimated delivery is somewhere between 6-12 months from the close of your campaign. Your backers will be happier to receive their rewards on time rather than promised up front a date that you later have to explain was overly optimistic.

For a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!

How to succeed at crowdfunding: Closing Day

Sprint across your crowdfunding campaign’s finish line (even though you’ll be tired!). Campaign funding tends to be U-shaped, with the greatest amount of activity on the first and last days, as illustrated by this data from Kickstarter.

pledge pattern graph

You’ll want to maximize that final day and gather up as many of the procrastinators in your crowd as you can. Our recommendations mirror those for Launch Day:

  1. Dedicated “Last Chance!” email. This email should be short and sweet. Your network has by now heard from you many times, so this is a short, fun reminder with images and most importantly the link to your campaign, with one simple message: the campaign closes at midnight tomorrow, and this is their last chance for special pre-order opportunities. (As a reminder – email and social media are not created equal. Social media is not useless, but email prompts action. Don’t neglect your email list!)
  2. Deadline phone campaign. Especially for those people you’ve expected to get on board and have yet to show up, it’s worthwhile giving them a ring and talking to them in person. They may have questions on how to pledge, what the money is going towards, or how else they can get involved. Be upbeat and remind them that this is their last chance to get in early on your exciting new project.
  3. Influencer synchronization. Your Influencers deserve a little one-on-one time, too. Ask them to repost or resend what they’ve already sent to their networks, with the “Last Chance!” message.
  4. Deadline event. Just think of the ball dropping in Times Square – people love a count-down. Have a little party and make sure to have your laptop connected to your TV screen so that partygoers can watch the %-funded tick up live. Have samples of your rewards and invite people to pledge, auction style. Food, beverages, and music get folks in a festive mood.
  5. Social Media blasts. Update your profile picture with your key campaign image and the “Last Chance!” message. It’s a good idea to hit your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and/or other feeds multiple times during the final 24 hours.
  6. “Last Chance!” campaign update. And, don’t forget your backers! Publish a campaign update (like the blog on your campaign), thanking your faithful backers and reminding them this is their last chance to invite their friends and family before time runs out. This is a good time to hype any special rewards, stretch goals, or other last-minute news.

For a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!

How to succeed at crowdfunding: Live Events

Moving your crowdfunding campaign from the intangible internet into the real world encourages backers to get on board. Even though the average person spends 23 hours a week online, there’s still no substitute for meeting up face to face. Our clients have used live events in a variety of ways to boost their campaigns’ success.

  1. VIP Launch Party. What better way to announce to everyone you know that your project is getting real than to invite them all to a party? This can be a free or paid event (with ticket sales through your campaign), a way to preview your work, and a chance to show off some of your perks/rewards.
  2. Mid-campaign doldrums event. Campaign pledges tend to be U-shaped – major activity on the first and last days, with an anxiety-inducing dead zone in the middle. As one Artist’s Partner client lamented, “The hardest part of our crowdfunding campaign was the two weeks in the middle, when donations just dried up.” Inject some life into your campaign with a concert, party, or other activity to re-energize your crowd.
  3. Rehearsal invite. People love to see the artist at work. So why not invite them to your studio, to a dress rehearsal, a sound check, private screening of a rough cut, or other venue to showcase your work? Ideally, the best salesperson for your work is the work itself. Give your crowd the chance to see it come together.
  4. Conference piggyback. This isn’t always possible, but sometimes you happen to be writing eco-fiction and running your campaign during April – when there are Earth Day events galore. It’s worth checking to see if the audience for your work already happens to be conveniently clustering and receptive to your message – and then getting involved.
  5. Countdown Party. Whether it’s a trip to the moon or dropping the ball on New Year’s Eve, people love a countdown. Have a party on the last evening of your campaign, have a meter showing pledges going up, and take advantage of auction psychology to give your campaign an 11th hour boost.

It’s also worth noting that several clients have used Skype, Google Hangout, or another video service to invite out-of-towners to the live event. They pick a designated 20 minutes or so where those far away can tune in and say hi and participate in the fun.

For a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!

How to succeed at crowdfunding: Stretch Goals

You can always raise more money than your target. Set your public crowdfunding $ goal as low as reasonably possible to increase your chances of success, but aim high behind the scenes. It’s a good idea to have some preplanned ideas to keep up the momentum if/when your campaign surpasses the 100% mark.

But first, a note on why we generally recommend our clients start with a conservative $ goal. When we do the network analysis, the likely fundraising range is wide. Let’s say it comes out at $5,000-$20,000. We set the initial public target at the low end – in this case, $5,000. This is for a few important reasons:

  1. On Kickstarter, you can always raise more money than your target, but you can’t raise less. If you fail to hit your target (and you CANNOT change the target after the campaign is launched), your backers’ credit cards don’t get charged, you don’t get any money, and no-one gets any rewards. Game over.
  2. The same does not apply to Indiegogo (which has an option called “flexible funding” for campaigns that fail to hit their targets), but it might as well. Let’s say you need at least $5,000 to produce your project, but you don’t raise that much. Now you’ve committed to sending your backers copies of your book or album, but you don’t have sufficient funds to actually create it. This is not a quandary you want to find yourself in post-campaign.
  3. There’s a psychological positive to the %-funded bar (which is prominently displayed at the top of every campaign) sprinting rather than moseying towards 100%. The lower the $ target, the faster you approach 100%. Speed excites people.
  4. There are more joiners than pioneers in the world. In other words, the more success your campaign is perceived as having, the more positively it will be received, and the more likely people – especially prior strangers to you – will be willing to put their credit card information on the internet for you. Success breeds success. Campaign momentum is typically boosted, not halted, by surpassing the 100% funded mark.

So, we’re aiming to have your campaign surpass 100% funded as quickly as possible. Sometimes this happens in the first week – or even on the first day. We also want to keep up the momentum post-100% and keep aiming for the high end of the range. Enter: Stretch Goals!

Sample Project: Princesses Only Wear Putta Puttas

Princesses Only Wear Putta Puttas is a children’s picture book by Charlottesville chef and author Priya Mahadevan. We ran her campaign in May of 2015 to fund the professional production of her book. Priya wanted to raise $12,500 to cover the costs of publishing ebook, paperback, and hard cover versions of her manuscript, and cover book promotion. When we did her network analysis, $8,500 came in at the low end, so that is where the public target was set.

This $8,500 goal was surpassed in only two days of campaign launch! So, we updated her campaign with the following image. An additional $2,000 would cover doing a full color hard cover print run of the book. As an added incentive to keep up the momentum, we promised those who pledged early to the campaign the opportunity to upgrade to the hardback if the target were passed.

ks image - stretch goal 1

In fact, the first stretch goal was reached! So we updated the campaign again. This time, another additional $2,000 would be used to promote the book in Priya’s home country, India. Again, we created an additional incentive: ALL backers would receive the ebook version in addition to the other rewards.

ks image - stretch goal 2

This second Stretch Goal was also surpassed before the end of the campaign!

There are a few important lessons here, in addition to the central message that Stretch Goals work.

  1. Add Stretch Goals in bite-size chunks. A realistic objective is more exciting and enticing than an implausible one.
  2. Thank your early backers. It’s important to recognize those people who helped you in the beginning, before you met your original target. They were the believers before others jumped on the bandwagon.
  3. But make your thank-you’s doable. In this sample project, we already knew how many people had pledged to the paperback version of the book, so we were not opening a black hole of expensive hard covers to deliver at the end of the campaign by allowing this limited number of people the option of an upgrade. And, once the ebook version of the book is created, it’s easy to email or Dropbox to backers. Creating a whole new perk – say, a t-shirt customized in each backer’s size – is not efficient; in a worst-case scenario, a poorly thought-out thank-you could even bankrupt your campaign.
  4. Let people know what the additional money is for. Transparency is key to trust. Trust is key to getting people to enter their credit card information onto the internet for you. Being clear about why you are raising the additional money, and what it will go towards, is essential.

For a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!

 

How to succeed at crowdfunding: Communication During Your Campaign

Regular communication with your prospective backers is the difference between success and failure for your crowdfunding campaign. Follow up on your pre-launch communiques with a fun, consistent communication program during your campaign to maximize your chances of success.

Many of our clients find it hard to share their message more than once – or even just once. But it’s important to stick to the discipline. It’s based on one of the central tenets of marketing: effective frequency, or “the rule of seven.” Most people need to hear a message 7 times to act on it.

blog images- effective frequency

The typical communication program during a client’s crowdfunding campaign looks like this:

  1. 6 Weeks of Monday Drafts. Starting the Monday before launch, and continuing each Monday through the week after the campaign closes, we craft the draft communiques for the week. These include:
  2. 6 Weeks of Tuesday Social Media Posts. People respond to images – and especially faces. We usually do a combination of the key campaign image, and photos of the artist at work and on location. We consider milestones (e.g., “Already half funded!”) and relevant events. All posts contain a caption of 100 words or less (tweetable, with room for the retweeter to add comments), and ALWAYS contain the link to the crowdfunding campaign. We aim for at least one and up to three posts per week. The best times to post are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, at breakfast, lunch, and bedtime. Here’s an example from a children’s book campaign by Marc Boston:
  3. 6 Weeks of Wednesday Email Newsletters. It’s easy to write a long email, and hard to write a short one. But we try to keep emails short enough that they can be read without scrolling. These are often expanded versions of the Social Media Posts, complete with images, event invitations, and fun milestones. We include the campaign link at least three times: at the top, in the middle, and at the close. The newsletters also contain two additional pieces of information:
    1. How else to help the campaign. We invite readers to share the link on social media, forward the email to friends, and send us good luck wishes.
    2. What crowdfunding is, and how it works. Lots of people know what Kickstarter and Indiegogo are – but lots don’t. We provide a short sentence of background (these platforms have been around for years and have raised over a billion dollars), and then step-by-step instructions on how to pledge, complete with images.
  4. 6 Weeks of Thursday Campaign Updates and Social Media Posts. Both Indiegogo and Kickstarter have a blog function, where you can periodically post new information and other fun tidbits for your backers and visitors to your campaign. This is usually a remixed version of the Wednesday email. Updates get their own unique web address, so we usually post the update to social media as well.
  5. 6 Weeks of Friday Phone Calls. Each week we identify a key group of people to contact. These can be your Day 1 Backers, Influencers, and Benefactors; but we also reach out to the less tech-savvy people in your network to see if they need help navigating the pledging process, and we try to get in at least one phone call to everyone in your network.

Every campaign is different, but there is a fairly reliable pattern to what we are communicating by week.

  1. Week 1: Countdown, LIVE!, and 24-Hour Thank Yous! Launch Day is the most important day of the campaign. We remind your Day 1 Backers and Benefactors that they are invited to the exclusive VIP Soft Launch the day before the official launch, we do a public social media countdown for launch day, and after the first 0fficial 24 hours, we do a big Thank You message (which doubles as a nudge to anyone who planned to pledge on launch day, but didn’t get around to it). We craft a special series of images to use on social media, in emails, and in the campaign update. blog images - launch countdown
  2. Week 2: Event Invitation. We shouldn’t just say the same thing over and over, so this is a great time to focus on a mid-campaign event in the real world (dedicated post coming soon).
  3. Week 3: Event Recap. And, one of the great things about an event is that it gives all kinds of great new photos and video to share.
  4. Week 4: Milestones, Previews, and Stretch Goals. This can be an ideal time to share progress, and preview what’s coming next. Often, this is a good time to share a sneak preview of another chapter, a new song, a film scene, or anything else that makes it feel like this campaign is propelling your project to success. If the campaign is fortunate enough to have surpassed its initial target, this is also a perfect opportunity to show off stretch goals (dedicated post coming soon).
  5. Week 5: LAST CHANCE! We mirror the Week 1 countdown to launch with a countdown to the deadline. Campaign funding tends to be U-shaped, with most pledges coming in on the first day and the last day (deadlines motivate people!). This is another opportunity for serial social media posts that remind prospective backers of the approaching last chance to participate.  blog images - deadline countdown
  6. Week 6: Thank You! and What’s Next? Finally, we follow up after the campaign is closed to thank backers profusely, let people who didn’t get on board in time know what they can still do to get involved, and let everyone know what to expect next from the project – further steps until completion, when to expect the finished product, and when their perks will be delivered.

It bears repeating: our clients find this hard. The key to making it work is picking a discipline, and sticking with it. You know your prospective backers need to hear your message 7 times to act on it. Use all the tools at your disposal and when the going gets tough – and it almost certainly will – dig deep, hang in there, and keep up the good work. Your campaign depends on it.

For a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!

How to succeed at crowdfunding: Launch Day

You want to make a big splash on your crowdfunding campaign’s Launch Day – it’s the biggest day for pledges. Here is some data from Kickstarter, showing the typical U-shaped pledge pattern for a campaign:

pledge pattern graph
Pledge pattern data from Kickstarter.com

Backers do pledge throughout, but most activity happens right at the beginning and the very end. Early birds and procrastinators!

Because success breeds success, we recommend our clients take every measure to maximize Day 1 of their campaign. In fact, we have an entire post dedicated to one group of your campaign VIPs, Day 1 Backers. These are approximately a dozen people you’ve been having one-on-one communication with in the months leading up to Launch Day, so they are primed to jump right in as soon as your campaign goes live.

However, we want to encourage people beyond this privileged dozen to take the plunge on Launch Day. Here is how we do it:

  1. Dedicated Launch Day email*. We craft a short email with an irresistible subject line that communicates one topic: an invitation to visit Kickstarter (or Indiegogo) and pre-order a copy of [project] today! While pre-launch communication has focused on VIPs for months, this email goes to everyone on the project’s mailing list. We typically include at least three links to the campaign sprinkled throughout the email, the key project image, and suggestions on how else to help (forward the email, share the campaign on social media, and wish us luck). In the post-script, we include detailed instructions on what crowdfunding is and how to do it – not everyone is familiar with Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Yet.
  2. Launch Day phone campaign. Plain and simple, people respond to individual attention. Follow up on the email with as many phone calls as you can muster on Launch Day.
  3. Influencer synchronization. Your Influencers are people with an audience and a mechanism to communicate – we have an entire post dedicated to them. Ideally, your conversations with them over the months leading up to Launch Day mean their article, podcast, radio interview, or other press hits near the beginning of your campaign. (But not before – potential backers give up easily if they try to find your campaign and can’t because it is not yet public. They won’t come back.)
  4. Limited edition Early Bird rewards. Anything that creates urgency and prevents a potential backer from putting off pledging is a plus. Having a great deal on special rewards for a limited number of backers can prompt visitors to your campaign to pledge on Day 1.
  5. Social media blasts. Normally more than 2 or 3 social media posts a week is overkill – but not today! Have great images ready to roll for breakfast, lunch, and bedtime posts. Give updates like “wow! already 10% funded!” throughout the day. Ask people to like, comment, and share. And always, always, always, include the link to your campaign – and check to make sure it’s working.
  6. Launch Day event. It’s a lot of extra work, but several of our clients have had success planning a party on launch day. It could be cocktails, a concert, a picnic, an art opening, a murder mystery dinner, a house party, or any other kind of soiree – what matters most is that you have the chance to announce several times at the event that this is the launch party for the crowdfunding campaign, hand out postcards with enticements and instructions on how to pledge, and celebrate passing funding milestones. Bringing the campaign from the intangible world of the internet to the real world can be very effective in boosting participation.
  7. First 24 hours Thank Yous. Once the first official 24 hours are up, it’s a great time to post a “Thank You” campaign update and share it on social media, contact your early backers individually with a thank you, and spread thank yous around on social media. Not only is this good manners, it’s a good way to encourage backers to continue supporting you, and in the case of email and social media, a gentle way to remind people who have yet to back to come on and join in!

*Many of our clients start under the misconception that social media and email are interchangeable. This is not the case. Exact numbers vary, but you can safely assume that, if you have a mailing list of people who want to be on it, a double-digit percentage of them will read the email, and a significant number of those will click through to your campaign. Only a single-digit percentage will see a Facebook post, and only a small number of those will click through. You may get 25 pledges from an email to 100 people, but only 1 pledge from 100 Facebook followers. This is why email comes first.

For a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!