When you’re preparing to host a crowdfunding campaign, think about it as if you were preparing to pitch your business to investors. Only, those investors are regular people like you or me, and they want to know they’re investing in something that will work. Crowdfunding platforms make it easy to display your project attractively and completely, like an online shop where your customers don’t mind that shipping could take up to a year. But the difference between opening an online store and a crowdfunding campaign is that your customers’ purchases are often what makes the products possible, so planning for production, among many other things, ahead of your launch is crucial.
I want to see your project not just meet, but surpass it’s goal. Utilize this list of steps to take, garnered from a number of successful and unsuccessful crowdfunding experiences, to plan your campaign far ahead of its launch date.
Start with a business plan.
Traditional business plans are stuffy and can be quite redundant. My favorite alternative is the Business Model Canvas, which can be drawn and completed on one big piece of paper. I know this may seem like a lot to determine, but the more thorough you are at the start of your campaign, the easier your road to success will be.
These are the key sections you should define:
Key Partners: The people and businesses who you’ll work with during and after your crowdfunding campaign.
Key Activities: What you’ll be doing in order to make your product/service/business successful.
Key Resources: Actual resources, proprietary information, etc., that you’ll need.
Cost Structure: Basically, a super thorough budget.
Value Propositions: The value you bring and the problems you’ll solve for your customers with what you’re producing and selling.
Customer Segments: More often than not, more than one “type” of customer is engaging with your campaign or project. List them out and get to know them!
Channels: How and where you’ll reach your customers.
Revenue Streams: How the results of your campaign funding will earn revenue to support your project through delivery and beyond.
Plan for pitfalls.
Blind spots, pitfalls, and problems are inevitable. When I ran my first unsuccessful crowdfunding campaign for a self-published magazine, I couldn’t have perceived that I’d be traveling in Brazil during the biggest, most spontaneous opportunity for marketing, or that my printer would deliver 50 books whose bindings broke immediately upon opening the product, claiming it wasn’t their problem.
To fully understand all possible points of failure, list each moving part in your organization, your supply chain, and accountable partners.
Know how each element functions and how they could break down. Prepare your team for inevitable hiccups and briefly outline the top 3-5 that would impact your customers. Possible issues you may encounter could include not meeting your budget goal, errors being made by your supplier during production that you have to pay to reproduce, or shipments getting lost during delivery.
Understand your complete financial needs before setting your funding goal.
Whether your aim is to sell self-published comic books or launch a high end clothing line, understanding your financial landscape before you launch is key. Work backwards into the final amount you’ll need, accounting for expenses like these:
Salary: Outline the income needed for yourself and your team that lasts through the funding campaign, production, delivery, and into development of your next product. I wouldn’t suggest running your campaign for free. The best teams are the ones that are completely focused on their business, and setting yourself up for post-funding success is key.
Business Expenses: This includes the cost of production, marketing collateral creation, social media advertising, returns, and production gaps. More importantly is the timeline on which you budget.
Taxes: These vary in rate by location, but are completely necessary to prepare for with any crowdfunding platform. Your campaign earnings are taxable, so be sure you’re utilizing the money appropriately with a business bank account, accounting software, and keep your receipts for end-of-year filing ease.
Once you’ve budgeted an approximate funding goal value that will empower you to accomplish your goals, add 10 - 15% more for unforeseen challenges.
Create rewards your community will love.
Your community is the group of early-adopters who will see your campaign, know who you or your brand are already, and be the first to support you. They are your inner circle. Brainstorm a long, far-reaching list of what this inner circle would value from you.
In addition to multi-tier discounted prices for your core offerings, like products or services, developing rewards that allow a low-cost entry point that will help generate buzz about your campaign. A few examples:
- Stickers that represent your brand, your products, or most effectively, your mission.
- Graphically-branded swag such as tee shirts and tote bags. Choose items that are useful and worth enjoying over time.
- A personal mention printed in a brochure, book, or on the sponsors page of your website.
Craft content that tells your story.
You’ll be able to upload videos, media, quotes, and various engaging pieces of content to drive home the message of your brand on your campaign page.
Create your content once and repurpose it extensively.
Share it across your social media pages, through email communication, and on your website. Go through past campaigns that have reached their goal, and take notes on project page elements you find impactful. (Boulder Denim did this stupendously with their video, photos, graphic design, and layout of their project page.) Focus on picture collages, graphics, paragraph styles, lists, and storytelling flow. You’re designing a user experience, so create something people will fall in love with.
Strategize authentic cross-platform engagement in the main places your community gathers.
First of all, make sure your website complements your campaign and redirects visitors to your funding page at every available opportunity. Then, work on reaching the majority of your community with the fewest variable touchpoints. If your market lives on Twitter and Snapchat, focus only on those platforms. If your community engages with email newsletters and gathers on Instagram – you get the point. When strategizing cross-platform marketing, establish pathways that lead visitors to your rewards. Each platform should work together, sharing like information on a complementary schedule and maintaining the same brand image.
Generate buzz with ambassadors, articles, and word-of-mouth marketing.
Just like a brick-and-mortar business, you want a line at the door on opening day. By pre-planning everything above, you’ve set the stage for a successful launch. What will bring your launch to life are the voices who already believe in your project sharing their passion with their personal networks.
A great way to do this is by bringing 10 - 15 “ambassadors” into your marketing mix to amplify your message. Diversify your ambassador pool with bloggers, social media influencers, friends, family, and platforms who can speak plainly, knowledgeably, and personally about your project. This may involve sending out samples, leveraging connections for interviews, and taking a leap of faith into someone’s inbox. If you believe in your project, express your passion through your communication. People will surprise you with their generosity and support.
Review the plan with your team and a trusted advisor.
Measure twice, cut once. Once you have your business plan, operating budget, reward pool, compelling media, curated project page, cross-platform marketing strategy, and a confirmed list of campaign ambassadors, have your team and/or a mentor double check everything before you take the plunge.
Remember, crowdfunding is first and foremost a place of community support. Thank your community. Praise your community. And celebrate with them the success of each project milestone!