Troubleshooting Your Campaign: Weak Tagline

It’s very hard to boil a project down to a good tweet, but that’s exactly what you have to do.

Most crowdfunding platforms prominently feature taglines. They show up in two ways: at the top of the campaign, and as an element of a campaign’s “snapshot” in the platform’s search function. Along with your key campaign image and the funding meter, the tagline is part of your first impression to potential backers, so it’s important to get it right.

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It is difficult for our clients to distill what is often years of work down to one sentence (hardly surprising!). Here are a few common pitfalls, and how to fix them:

  1. Ambiguous tagline. Something along the lines of “A thrilling story continues” is a common early tagline contender. But this tells us nothing about the project. It’s important to be specific – details sell. “Armed guards return Zack to the troubled teen compound” tells the visitor what the project is actually about.
  2. Dry tagline. Sometimes, in the effort to distill down the project, the artist is left with just the facts and not the heart of the work. An example was “Charlotte Salomon, a young Jewish woman in exile, makes the choice to use art as her weapon against racial violence, the family illness and time itself – Water or Glass is a multi-media play that follows one family’s women through 3 generations and 2 world wars.” After lots of revisions, this became: “A multimedia play about Charlotte Salomon, the painter who found her voice amid the Nazi nightmare.”
  3. Complicated tagline. Pruning down to the central message of the project is hard. In the example above, the early blurb lacks focus. It took months to pare away everything unnecessary. Writing a good tagline cannot be done in a day. Leave yourself lots of time, and try the Rule of 10 – start by writing the first thing that comes to your mind, and then write 9 more taglines without reusing any words. Sleep on it. Come back the next day, pick the best elements, and do it again. Simplify, and be ruthless.
  4. Pleading tagline. It’s a trap to avoid anywhere in a crowdfunding campaign: sounding desperate. This chases backers away. It’s especially important to avoid taglines like “Help! I need money!” That is NOT what your project is about. You are funding an amazing work. That is what the tagline is about.

Because the tagline is only a few words, it seems like writing it will be easy and fast, but it is not. Start early and revise often. Get lots of feedback. Remember to be specific, and pick one or two key details that reveal the heart of the work. This will strike the emotional chord that will help to get prospective backers on board.

tagline

Above to the left is the Crowdfunding for Authors campaign homepage, and to the right is the “snapshot” that comes up when “crowdfunding for authors” is entered into the Indiegogo search function. The tagline, “A step-by-step guide to crowdfunding your book”, appears prominently in both (along with the book cover, and the funding meter).

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.

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Troubleshooting Your Campaign: You’re Not Going To Hit Your Target

Even with advance planning, it’s possible that your campaign won’t fund. Commitments may not materialize, the goal may have been too ambitious, and your campaign deadline may pass without the target being reached.

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What to do? Part of the answer depends on the funding mechanism of your platform. Some, like Kickstarter, are “all-or-nothing” – either you hit your target, or you receive $0. Others, like Indiegogo, have a “flexible funding” option*, whereby you keep any funds raised, even if your target is not hit.

*It’s important to note that many platforms that have a flexible funding option, like Indiegogo, require you select it before launch – meaning you can’t switch to flexible funding at the last minute if it looks like you are not going to hit your target.

All-Or-Nothing Platform (e.g., Kickstarter)

Clearly, it would be highly disappointing to do all the work of preparing for a campaign and then end up with nothing. There are a few options in this case:

  • If you are close to your target, you may want to self-fund. This is a little tricky, because Kickstarter and some other platforms don’t let you pledge to your own campaign. But, you could have a trusted person – a spouse, sibling, friend – pledge on your behalf, and then refund them.
  • If you aren’t close to your target , you may wish to relaunch your campaign with a lower target immediately after your first campaign closes. You’ll need clear messages here: what the revised project is with a lower budget, when and where to find the new campaign, a way to get reenergized. You also need to recognize that not everyone who pledged the first time around will come back. They may be discouraged or lose interest.
  • Or, you may wish to go back to the drawing board, enlist new backers, and run the campaign again – with an exciting new message – another 3-12 months down the road.

Flexible Funding Option (e.g., Indiegogo)

  • If it’s an available option, you may want to extend your deadline. Some platforms, like Indiegogo, may offer you a one-time deadline extension. If it looks like you need it, take it. Then get excited about it. Share how thrilled you are that the campaign has done so well, and that you’re so glad to continue for another month. The temptation here is to apologize or whine. Don’t do that. Repeat: DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR EXTENDING THE DEADLINE. Be proud and excited. Whiners don’t get backers.
  • If you are close to your target, you may want to self-fund. Although you’ll get the money anyway, there are some features, like Indiegogo’s “InDemand”, that only switch on if you reach your target before the deadline. There’s also a crowd psychology boost that happens at 100% funded that may help you to attract the additional outside funds you need.
  • If you aren’t close, update the campaign message to a lower target. Visitors to your campaign will be discouraged by the fact that the deadline is close and you’re not at 100% – help overcome this by explaining what funds to a smaller target will go towards. Make sure this is right at the top of the page – don’t expect visitors to read all the way down to the bottom.

In either case, you’ll also want to review the campaign experience after it is over to examine exactly why it didn’t reach its target. Crowdfunding is marketing, and this intel will help you market your project when it is released.

  • Did the VIP Soft Launch not get the campaign to 40%+ funded before it went public? If so, why?
  • Did Benefactors not honor their commitments, or were the amounts smaller than expected? If so, why?
  • Was the Rule of 7 not applied well prior to launch, and/or prior to deadline? If so, what prevented excellent execution?
  • Was the campaign poorly timed? Were your potential backers distracted? If so, what would have been a better time of year? Does this influence your project launch in any way?
  • Did your prospective buyers not understand how to shop online on a crowdfunding platform? If so, how will you sell your project?
  • Were your perks and rewards overpriced, or otherwise unattractive? If so, how can you improve your perks?
  • Did your campaign not have the right “look”? If so, how can you improve your brand to attract your audience?
  • Did your email / social media response rates not match your projections? If so, why? How can engagement be improved?
  • Were other projections not realistic? If so, what would have been realistic figures to use?
  • Did your attitude about the crowdfunding process sour at a certain point? If so, why? What could be done to keep a positive attitude when marketing your project?

Remember, crowdfunding is just one potential step to producing your project, and hitting your target is not a requirement for your project’s success. We have had clients whose campaigns did not fund, but who went on to great success because of the valuable lessons learned. We have also talked to many prospects who realized crowdfunding was not for them, and they went on to find other creative ways to produce their projects. So, if you run a campaign that doesn’t fund, acknowledge that it hurts – and then move forward.

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: Funding Gap

It’s the second most common challenge* our clients face: the analysis shows their likely funds raised is less than their budget. So, what to do if you need $10,000 to produce your project, but the projections only indicate you have the capacity to raise $5,000?

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  1. Set a target you can hit. The biggest mistake our clients make is setting a target higher than they project they can hit.  It may be counterintuitive, but The Bandwagon Effect means that setting a low target and then building with Stretch Goals is enormously more effective than setting a high target and struggling to get there.
  2. Adjust your project to match a target you can hit. If you’re publishing a book, start with the eBook. If you’re recording an album, start with the “unplugged” version. If you’re shooting a film, simplify your shooting schedule and locations. Whatever your project, get creative about finding ways you can produce a simpler, more cost-effective version of it. Then parse out the costs between the pared-down and full versions. These become your Stretch Goals.
  3. Or give yourself time to build the relationships that can get you to your full budget. If there’s no way to cut your budget and still match your vision, then what you need is time. Time to court Benefactors, time to grow your email list and social media following, and time to develop Influencer relationships. Don’t set your launch date until you know you can get to at least 40% funded during your VIP Soft Launch, and you know where the rest of the funds will be coming from during the month of your campaign.
  4. Don’t forget Stretch Goals. We’re not sure why our clients resist the idea so strongly, but Stretch Goals are much more effective at raising more money than setting a high initial target. You can always raise more money than your target, and in fact, once your campaign is perceived as a “winner”, that is usually exactly what happens. Develop clear Stretch Goals messages well in advance of your campaign. As we like to say, ‘it’s easier to climb stairs than a cliff’.

*The most common – almost universal – challenge our clients face is that they do not realize how much time they need to adequately prepare, typically 6-12 months.

So, if you find yourself with a funding gap, don’t despair. Just find ways to improve your projections, reduce your budget, or meet halfway.

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.

 

Troubleshooting Your Campaign: Platform Glitches

About half of our clients’ campaigns experience some sort of platform glitch.

technical-difficulties

Sometimes these arise prior to launch, and sometimes during or even after the campaign. It can be pretty stressful. Some examples include:

  1. A required form in the “Payments” section that wouldn’t save the correct campaign owner birthdate, which interfered with funding
  2. Accidentally putting the wrong checking account information in, and then not being able to change it, which led to a delay in payments after the campaign
  3. Accidentally launching the campaign several days too early, and then being unable to “un-launch” it
  4. Delays in the platform’s campaign review process, which led to a delay in launch
  5. Being unable to reconcile the reports from the platform and the payments processor until two weeks after campaign close
  6. An erroneously generated platform email that bombarded the campaign owner’s inbox every time a pledge was made

Adding to the stress is the fact that neither major platform (Kickstarter nor Indiegogo) have a phone or chat help line. Problems are addressed via email. Our observation is that getting a problem resolved typically takes 24-72 hours, M-F. The pattern is:

  • Client submits help request through online form
  • Platform immediately sends autoresponse email with help ticket number
  • Platform sends generic response email within 24 hours, with the same information that is in the “help” section on their website, which invariably is not helpful
  • Client replies to that email, saying thank you, but that does not solve my problem, which is [x]
  • Finally, platform actually solves problem within another 24-48 hours and an actual person sends email to Client to that effect.

In over three years we have so far not had a problem come up that was not ultimately solved. But the solution has never been instantaneous. Both Indiegogo and Kickstarter update their interfaces regularly, meaning there is a constant source of new glitches. It can be pretty harrowing. It’s tough advice to follow, but if you are in the midst of a glitch, don’t panic.

Finally, here are a few pointers to avoid some common glitch issues altogether:

  • Some core information, like payment and identity information, is locked once submitted. Enter this information early, when you are clear-headed, not in a rush, and have a level-headed person with you to doublecheck your entries before you hit “submit”.
  • Be very careful any time your mouse approaches the “launch” button. Don’t click through dialogue windows on autopilot. Don’t launch when you mean to “save draft”.
  • Remember that Kickstarter and some other platforms will need to approve your campaign before it is eligible for launch. Submit your campaign for review 3+ days before you plan to launch so there is time to get their approval or correct any issues.
  • Generally speaking, enter core information early so that if there are issues, you have plenty of time to resolve them.

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: Stalling Out Midway

Crowdfunding is a marathon, and most of our clients hit the wall halfway through.

Actually, crowdfunding is more like two back-to-back marathons, one leading to launch, and one leading up to the deadline. Executing a sustained 7-step marketing strategy is very hard work, and halfway through, it can feel exhausting – even futile.

This is exacerbated during marathon two – the month of the campaign – because backer behavior makes the middle of the month feel like even more of a slump. This data from Kickstarter shows that most pledges are made at launch and deadline, leaving an anxiety-inducing doldrums in the middle.

pledge pattern graph

There is no fighting human behavior. So our advice to our clients if they hit the mid-campaign stall-out is simple:

Go ahead and take a vacation from your campaign when few people are likely to be pledging to it anyway.

Stop the incessant hitting of the refresh button on the browser window showing your campaign. Turn off social media. Log out of your email. Put all electronic devices down, and go do something that fills your heart up. Two or three days away is not going to sink your campaign. In fact, your buoyed spirits are far more likely to propel your campaign forward than frantic, exhausted tweeting ever could. Walk away and come back refreshed – and potentially, with some fresh ideas.

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.

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.

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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.