Tag Archives: how to succeed at crowdfunding

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.

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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: Market Research

Crowdfunding is marketing. And it’s the best kind – you get paid for it, rather than vice versa!

“Marketing” can be a word that gives artists hives. But all it is is stepping way back from your project and looking at it through the eyes of your audience. What will entice them before they’ve had the chance to read your book / hear your album / see your film?

Most marketing works on the paradox of “similar but unique”. You’ll want to be well-versed in what is familiar to your audience, and after that identify the element of your work that will uniquely grab their attention. The first step is knowing your audience as precisely as possible.

blog images - market research

Think of a handful of people you know who will enjoy your work the most. Then answer these questions:

  1. What is their age?
  2. Gender?
  3. Relevant characteristics? (This could be geographic location, race, socioeconomic status, religion, shared experiences, shared passions, etc.)

This gives you a good profile of to whom you’re talking when you’re sharing your message. Many artists think they’ll sell more if they explain why really their book / album / film / project is for everybody – but it won’t. Get specific. This helps to set the right tone.

Step Two is another one that artists often dislike: classify your work. You may think your project transcends genre – and maybe it does – but that will not help sell your work. Pick the genre that is the best fit. Which (online) shelf does your work match? This helps to set the right layout for your cover or preview.

Step Three is to research bestsellers to your audience in your genre. Fortunately, online retailers like Amazon and iTunes make it easy to research bestsellers in just about any digital media. If your project does not fit these two websites, find some that do sell your craft. If all else fails, you can browse through your category on Kickstarter and Indiegogo to see what kinds of messages work and don’t work for projects like yours. You’ll want to keep an eye out for things like:

  1. Color scheme
  2. Font
  3. Layout
  4. Design elements / icons
  5. Voice / word choice
  6. Price
  7. For video: soundtrack, voice over, timing, cuts, captions

Pick 3-5 examples that stand out to you as great. What are the common components they share? Borrow these in your own marketing. This helps you to meet your audience’s expectations.

Step Four is the fun part: identify the one unique element of your work that will be of special interest to your audience. Artists often want to select the sixteen elements of their work that are unique and amazing. And your audience will love them all -eventually. But you need to pick the strongest, most appealing one to sell your work first. A confused observer does not become a buyer. A strong unique element in a familiar layout will help you to surpass your audience’s expectations.

Step Five is to work with a designer, writer, videographer, or others to actually turn this research into the pitch for your project. With the above information and successful projects that have gone before you, you have what you need to be on the same page and craft a pitch your audience can’t resist.

 

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: Perks & Rewards

Successful campaigns have great stuff for backers to buy. Kickstarter calls them “rewards“, Indiegogo calls them “perks“. Whatever you call them, do this: offer stuff that people want, at a price they’re willing to pay. Crowdfunding is not money-for-nothing, it’s money-for-something, and you’ll want to offer a variety of somethings that people find valuable at four key price points.

blog images - reward categories

<$20 Rewards

Campaigns that don’t have an enticing reward under $20 fail 72% of the time. Your book or album, or tickets to your film or show, are the perfect perk at this price. Some people are willing to pay above market value to help you out – but many are not. You’ll want to make the basic, no-frills version of your project available at market price.

$20-$100 Rewards

Approximately three quarters of the people who back your campaign are likely to back at $100 or below. All kinds of things can fall into this category! Here are a few typical rewards our clients have offered:

  1. Autographed version of the project. If the book goes for $15, the signed copy goes for $25.
  2. Give one, get one. One for you, one for a friend! If the signed copy goes for $25, two go for $40.
  3. Artist catalog. Signed copies of not just the new book or album, but the prior two, too.
  4. Swag. Put your album cover or show poster on a t-shirt, tote, or mug. (Read on below for what not to do.)
  5. Something commemorative. A signed, limited edition art print of the book cover, show poster, or illustration makes a nice option at the higher end. Plus a signed copy of your book, album, or playbill!
  6. Earmarked funds. Some people want to support you financially but don’t want anything physical in return. So, $25 for a costume hat, $50 for a set piece, or $75 for an illustration can help give your backers direct influence on the success of your project. Offer to give these backers credit on your webpage or in the liner notes.

pledge breakdown by backer count

$100-$500 Rewards

Approximately 20% of the people who back your campaign are likely to back at the $100-$500 level – but this is also likely to be about a third of your funds raised. It’s important to start being thoughtful at this level about who, specifically, is likely to pledge – and what they will want. These are almost always limited-edition items (more on this below) that you’ll be looking to sell out. Some typical rewards at this level include:

  1. VIP Events. Host a brunch, dinner or cocktail party. VIP tickets to the premiere. A private concert or screening. A lecture and reading at a related organization.
  2. One-on-one consulting. A voice lesson, a manuscript review, photography clinic, or other consultation in your area of expertise that can be delivered in-person or via Skype.
  3. One-of-a-kind items. The original art from your book or album cover. A signed version of the script. A key set piece from the production.

$500+ Rewards

Only about 5% of your backers will go the extra mile and pledge $500+ (we call them Benefactors). But this handful of VIPs will likely account for 40% of your funds raised, so their rewards require special, individualized attention. Some examples of good rewards at this level include:

  1. Producer credit. Backers at this level should receive thanks on the title page, liner notes, or playbill. Offer them space to commemorate a person or organization, promote their own project, or say a few other words.
  2. VIP treatment. Automatic red carpet entrance to premieres, parties, and events. Backstage passes and set visits. Signed copies of your project. Thanks on your webpage.
  3. Personalized rewards. A special, one-of-a-kind recording or video, or limited edition of your book.
  4. Project participation. Invite them on set or onstage. Offer a background part. Name a character after them. Get creative incorporating them into your work!

pledge breakdown by money raised

Featured Rewards

Most campaigns have 10-20 reward options. For some people, that’s just too much to read. There are a couple ways to help your campaign visitors pick a reward:

  1. On Indiegogo, you can select a “Featured Perk“. Typically, the perks go in numerical order by price. But you can pick any reward to be highlighted at the top! It’s usually a good idea to pick one over $20 and below $100 – perhaps the autographed version of your project.
  2. On both Indiegogo and Kickstarter, you should pick 1-3 rewards at varying price points that you highlight in the body of the campaign with pictures and descriptions. Check out RED’s Custom Jewelry for a great example of this.

Early Bird Rewards

Anything that can help drive early momentum in your campaign is a big plus. Consider offering a limited number of “final drafts” of your project at an attractive price as an Early Bird reward. Rough cuts, test screenings, ARCs, and dress rehearsals make great rewards for Early Birds. Since the goal here is early momentum, not necessarily profit, these Early Birds should also get the finished version of your project as well.

This is a great reward to feature early in your campaign – and also to feature as Sold Out when they’re gone! This helps to create the urgency for potential backers to “act now”, not put off pledging until the last day of the campaign.

sold out reward

Limited Edition Rewards

At the basic, no-frills level, you’ll probably not want to set a limit on the number of backers. But, it always looks great for a few rewards to sell out over the course of the campaign. Early Bird rewards (above) are a good example of this. Larger ticket items should almost always be limited edition, as that gives them the air of exclusivity. On both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, you can set quantity limits on any of your perks or rewards.

You may also want to consider limiting the number of autographed versions of your project – how many of your books do you actually want to sit down and sign? If you are offering swag, what quantities are reasonable to manufacture and ship? Anything that will be a pain to fulfill in large quantities should have a cap.

Multiple Rewards

Neither Kickstarter nor Indiegogo offer a “shopping cart” for backers to easily purchase multiple items. It is set up for backers to pick just one. However, there are a few ways around this to make it possible for your backers to buy as much as they want.

  1. Bundled rewards. Offering a book at $15 and a t-shirt at $35? Make a book + t-shirt reward priced at $45 or $50.
  2. Show them how to do the math and message you. Both Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow a backer to pledge any amount and then pick the reward they want. So, give instructions on your campaign along the lines of: “Want both the $15 book and the $35 t-shirt? Just pledge $50 and shoot me a message letting me know – I’ll be happy to send you both!”

Stretch Goal Bonus Rewards & Fulfillment Treats

It’s always a good idea to have a little something up your sleeve to over-deliver to your backers. If you surpass your original target and start reaching for stretch goals (a link on this subject to come) consider offering an easy-to-produce-and-ship bonus to the people who helped get you there, such as:

  1. A bonus track for the album
  2. A well-formatted short story
  3. Digital photo gallery or video
  4. Digital version of the project that may be emailed or Dropboxed easily

It’s also a good idea to have a little treat to include when you fulfill the rewards. Printer services can easily make up a magnet, pen, or stickers with your project images. For rewards you are fulfilling digitally, a set of computer wallpapers, photo gallery, or a little video or audio link can make a nice surprise thank-you. It’s always best to give your backers positive surprises along the way when you can!

Fulfillment Costs

You can’t add in fulfillment costs after the fact, and you can’t change anything – price, description, delivery date – about perks or rewards after someone has pledged towards it. So it’s very important to make sure your price points cover manufacture, packaging, and shipping. Crowdfunding campaigns have gone broke because of poor planning in this regard.

This probably goes without saying, but you need to know your per-unit cost on your book, album, show seat, or good. If you are offering swag, you need to know your bulk costs and per-unit costs on those as well. While swag is fun, we generally dissuade our clients from overdoing it, as you typically need to order in bulk and will need high turnover to cover your costs.

  • Kickstarter offers the option to add shipping costs by country. If you are shipping anything larger than a letter, it’s a good idea to take samples to the post office and get firm figures on shipping costs to countries where your backers are likely to reside.
  • Indiegogo does NOT offer the option for customized shipping costs. You’ll still want to visit the post office, but then you’ll need to back those costs into the price of the perk.

Fulfillment Dates

Kickstarter and Indiegogo ask you to input your estimated delivery date. We usually advise our clients to give themselves an extra month or two. There are often delays in production. And fulfillment itself can take longer than expected – you’ll have to collect all your backers’ shipping information – so it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver.

What’s Not Allowed

  • Kickstarter has the strictest rules. Investments, charities, contests, coupons, raffles, lotteries, alcohol, and other prohibited items may not be offered as rewards.
  • Indiegogo has laxer rules (please see our post on Kickstarter vs. Indiegogo for more). In particular, in contrast to Kickstarter, charities and non-profits are welcome. However, investments, contests, raffles, lotteries, alcohol, and other items are prohibited.

What Not To Do

Because you are committed to deliver exactly what you offered, at the price you offered it, and on the timeline you advertised, it’s very important to think your rewards and perks all the way through to fulfillment well before you launch. Once someone has pledged towards a perk, you can’t change anything about it – the price, description, or estimated delivery date. So writing up your rewards is not a last-minute activity. Do not:

  • Offer rewards for less than the cost of manufacture, packaging, and shipping (in particular, beware of swag).
  • Offer unlimited quantities of rewards for which realistically there is only a limited number you can fulfill.
  • Back yourself into a corner on your timeline for delivery.
  • Leave out key price points. Have something great at <$20, $20-$100, $100-$500, and $500+.
  • Assume everyone will be willing to pay over market value to support your project.
  • Assume no one will be willing to pay over market value to support your project.
  • Offer rewards that distract from your campaign.
  • Violate Kickstarter or Indiegogo policies on what can be offered.

If you would like a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing from you!

How to succeed at crowdfunding: Pitch Video

The first thing that people see when they visit your crowdfunding campaign is your pitch video. It’s important to make a good first impression!

Both Kickstarter and Indiegogo have helpful pages on how to a create a video, so no need to duplicate the wheel here. We highly recommend checking out what they have to say. In summary, they recommend that crowdfunders make a 1-2 minute video that:

  1. Introduces the artist
  2. Introduces the project
  3. Explains what the money will go toward
  4. Shows off a few perks
  5. Spells out the deadline (create urgency to back now!)
  6. Thanks the audience for watching

Clients of The Artist’s Partner have taken these suggestions and gone about creating their pitch videos in different ways.

1. Smartphone video

For many of our clients, it’s cost effective and pretty easy to shoot the pitch video with a smart phone and edit it with the free software that came with their computer or laptop (something like iMovie). This is an example of a video made in just that way, for a successful audiobook campaign from October 2014.

A simple tripod with a smartphone holder, and a small microphone that plugs into the phone’s earphones outlet were used to stabilize the shots and improve the sound quality. This video has a DIY feel, but it is easy to see and hear what is going on. The book takes place on horseback in the mountains of Virginia, so it was shot with a horse in the beautiful Blue Ridge. For less than $100, this video helped propel the campaign to success! This video followed the recommended components (1-6 above) to a T.

2. Lyric music video

For one of our musician clients, a great way to promote the album many months before their Kickstarter campaign even launched was to create a lyric music video. Slides were created on Powerpoint and edited in iMovie to sync the words with the images.

Since this was using software already owned, the cost of producing this effective promotional video was free! This video showcased the music and functioned as a preview months before the campaign. You may see the final pitch video, which more closely followed components 1-6 above, here.

3. Professional pitch video

Many of our clients enjoy having a professional video. This is a bigger commitment, taking several rounds to develop a script, choose a location, hire a crew, and do post-production. However, the results can be amazing, like this video for a children’s picture book.

This video took a month of planning. This included working out the concept, writing the script, securing a location, selecting props, planning wardrobe, and picking music. Additionally, we needed a director, two crew members for the shoot, two cameras, microphone, lights, a rig for the moving shots, an animator, and an editor. To make a roughly 2-minute video, we needed 6 hours to shoot. With some creativity, we were able to make this video for $500. This means spending money before it was made on the video, but for this client, it was worth the expense to really make the campaign pop. This video focused on the product – the book – and incorporated the other components into the text of the campaign, which may be viewed here.

Your campaign pitch is limited only by your imagination (and your budget, and video best practices!). Within these constraints, be sure to put your best foot forward with your crowdfunding pitch video.

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: Creating a Team

You’ll want to line up the following 8 people on your crowdfunding team to propel your campaign to success. One of the reasons clients of The Artist’s Partner succeed 97% of the time – compared to the industry average of 38% – is that they don’t do it alone.

blog images - team

  1. Videographer. Your 1-2 minute pitch video is your first impression – so make a good one! The video is so important, it has its own post (link to follow!).
  2. Photographer. You’ll need great pictures of your smiling face while you’re in action, doing what you do. This is particularly important for social media, and campaign updates. Selfies work, but not exclusively.
  3. Designer. Your campaign is going to need a balance of text and images – and it all needs to work together to create a cohesive brand. Colors, font, illustrations, pictures, and video all need to look like they belong together and communicate a cohesive message.
  4. Writer. Brevity is the soul of success – and it’s hard to write well and informatively without boring people. Your video script, project title, short blurb, reward descriptions, and “story” – the meat of your campaign – need to pop, entice people, and call them to action.
  5. Event host. Successful campaigns extend out of the ephemeral realm of the internet into the real world. You’re going to be way too busy to plan a concert or book reading – so an event host is essential.
  6. Rewards brainstormer. Beyond the $10-$20 copy of your book or album, or ticket to your show or film, what unique items can you offer at higher price points to entice your backers? The benefit of a group brainstorm session will lead to better answers to this important question.
  7. IT. Even though Kickstarter and Indiegogo have raised over $2Bn for creative projects, a LOT of people don’t know what they are or how to use them. It’s a good idea to have a techie person lined up to help walk your less tech-savvy backers through how to pledge.
  8. Cheerleader. The month of the campaign feels looooong. For many, it’s exhausting. Who’s going to provide unconditional moral support to you when the going gets tough?

Most of our clients can fill one or two of these roles themselves, and have skilled friends, family, and partners who can fill a few more. The videographer is the most frequent paid position, with a professional 1-2 minute video costing $200-$500.

If you would like a free analysis of your crowdfunding plans, 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: Pre-launch Communication

If you wait until launch day to start telling people about your crowdfunding campaign, it’s too late. On average, a person needs to hear a message 7 times to act on it (what’s known in marketing as “effective frequency” or “the rule of 7”). That’s why advance communication makes or breaks a campaign – there’s not enough time to get your message in 7 times once it’s launched.

blog images- effective frequency

We typically work with our artists for a minimum of three months prior to campaign launch on their communication strategy, which contains the following elements:

  1. Key project visual. Your album or book cover, play or film poster, or another key image coupled with your campaign dates and Kickstarter or Indiegogo logo is something you will use time and again. A picture truly is worth a thousand words. If there is one area that I encourage my clients to spend money prior to their campaign, it’s on a designer. A small amount spent on a professional draft is an investment that pays off. (More on this on our post on Campaign Design.)
  2. Elevator pitch. You only have 135 characters – about a dozen words – to hook someone’s attention. You will use this pitch again and again – including as the headline of your crowdfunding campaign – so this is a bedrock of your project’s success. Writing a blurb is hard. Get help. Brainstorm. Write. Rewrite. Distill your project down to its irresistible essence.
  3. Day 1 Backers. We craft a 1-2-3 script for your Day 1 Backers: 1. Inform. 2. Engage. 3. Ask. Your Day 1 Backers are VIPs. They don’t get a mass email that starts “Dear Friend…”. They get invited to coffee, a Skype, or a phone call. In the first meeting, you share your key project visual and your elevator pitch. This is a good practice audience because they are already cheerleaders of you and your work. The next meeting, you request their feedback, advice, ideas, and input, and you consider it seriously. The third meeting, you ask them to be a Day 1 Backer. With an exchange of texts, messages, and emails in between, you’ve racked up your “7,” so your D1B’s are ready to roll come launch day.
  4. Influencers. We craft a 1-2-3 script for your Influencers, as well. Just like your D1B’s, these are VIPs who require individual communication. These folks have a large platform for communication – and almost certainly a schedule. You’ll want plenty of time to get them images, interviews, samples, descriptions, and whatever else they will need to support your project launch.
  5. Benefactors. And, we craft a 1-2-3 script for your Benefactors. These are the quintessential VIPs. They’re helping produce your project at the $500+ level, so they, too, will require individual attention.
  6. Email list. People open almost 100% of their emails. Facebook and Twitter may be sexier, and they’re helpful for awareness, but social media generally does not prompt action. People only see approximately 5% of what is in their feed – and they are typically just scrolling through, commenting, and “liking.” Email prompts action. Most of our clients start out with their email address book scattered across multiple accounts, written on scraps of paper, in a stack of business cards stuffed in a desk drawer. For fast, effective group communication, this needs to be organized. It can take a while. Getting all email addresses correct, correctly labeled, and all in one account – or on a service like Mail Chimp – is a big undertaking. Start early.
  7. Social media. This comes into play closer to launch. Social media is blurb and image driven – and it’s called Facebook for a reason. People respond to faces! So in the months leading up to your campaign, get plenty of pictures of your smiling face doing your project, and craft catchy captions. T/W/Th before breakfast/during lunch/before bed are peak times. It’s easy to burn out your audience on social media, so plan out 2-3 posts per week. We’ll be doing a separate post dedicated to social media.

Realistically, how much time does this take? If you have twelve weeks between now and launch, you have 30 VIPs, and they each get three hours of your time, one for each 1-2-3 meeting, that’s 30 x 3 / 12= 7.5 hours per week. Add to that, time to work with your designer, time to work on your elevator pitch, and time to draft mass email and social media materials, and you’re realistically looking at a 10-hour per week commitment for the three months leading up to your campaign. Sound like a part-time job? It is! That’s how you make money.

A note on how effective communication feels while it is happening: Most of our clients feel message fatigue several times leading up to, and during, their campaigns. Many of them express that this is the hardest part of the crowdfunding process. They feel self-conscious promoting their own work. They feel like they’re shouting into the wind, saying the same thing over and over again, and meanwhile, nothing is happening. It is very hard to trust the cumulative effect of sharing your message 7 times. It is very hard not to take it personally when it feels like no one is listening. It is very easy to give up. When our clients are burnt out, we encourage them to take a day off, go do something fun, and forget about their project for a day or a week–to regain the perspective that life is, of course, about far more than a crowdfunding campaign. The artist can then come back to their tasks with renewed energy,  with more focused attention to the process and not the outcome, and the ability to keep up the good work.

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!