Tag Archives: the artist’s partner

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?

man-with-an-empty-piggybank_1133-68

  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.

 

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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.

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.