I posted a while ago about reactive crowd funding - an event happens and you just have to get a campaign together to react to the situation. We saw a lot of this after the Nepalese earthquake and its now a common feature of humanitarian disaster relief. That blog post is HERE if you want to catch up. The problem with reactive campaigns is they are just that - reactive. No time to plan and no time to strategically get your tools and your team together.
When planning a strategic campaign give yourself at least 3 - 6 months planning time. You need this to ensure that they key elements are in place so when you launch, every single day of the live campaign period can be fully utilised. There is a lot to say about strategic campaigns, but let me break it down into a Twitter version for this blog and note the three main categories of endeavour: 1. Supply/fulfillment 2. Communications 3. Compelling story
1. One of the most common issues i've seen over the rise and rise of crowdfunding is on the supply side. Early campaigns often raised money pre prototype being fully bedded down, resulting in diabolical delivery issues, fully blown timeframes and a general loss of trust with the consumer which can be terribly damaging to emerging brands. Rule of thumb these days is go into your campaign with a fully tested prototype, or even an early run (assuming you are funding a product). Have your supply partners locked in, and have a clear understanding of their capacity.
Many a campaign has failed because the support was unexpectedly overwhelming resulting in the original manufacturer being unable to deliver, and a new one needing to be found, tested, negotiated etc while customers were waiting to receive their orders. Plan for the biggest volume you can imagine, and work your fulfilment back from there. Crowdfunding platform research has shown that campaigns with very clear delivery timeframes that are short, and a well articulated supply chain partner and process are more successful.
2. Communications is the sword that crowdfunding lives and dies by. Comms covers the full suite from traditional media, email, social media, website landing pages, word of mouth and your grandma's rotary club, and you need to fully utilise every element. Your early investors are generally going to be people that know you, and have an inbuilt trust or reason to want you to succeed. So it makes sense to identify this group early and fully harness them, and their networks.
Your networks are critical here, which is why a 6 month lead time is optimal for planning. That's 6 months of building hype, building excitement, building email lists and social media followers ready to be engaged as soon as you hit the switch on your campaign. This is an interactive process, and you need to be strategic in your approach. Who is most clearly in your demographic, who touches your key customers, are there bloggers or thought leaders that can help you? If so, you need to reach out and form a relationship with them, get them to be evangelists for your campaign and help push the initial commitments. Its been shown that campaigns that make 30% of their total ask in the first couple of days tend to get over the line at the end, so ask for help and ask often.
Traditional media such as print, TV and radio can be well utilised to reach a wider group and demographic that may not be so engaged with social media and direct them to the campaign and the amazing change to their life that your product/service is going to bring. Unleash these tools once there is already some momentum in your campaign, and then post and cross post on social media to ensure maximum exposure. You need to tend your comms like a garden, daily updates, talk to your investors, let them all know how the campaign is going, ask them to share the love. Keep reaching out to the media with updates and follow up stories, make it easy for them to get behind you.
3. You need not only eyeballs on your campaign, you need to convert these to pledges and investment, and that means you also need a compelling story. The storytelling aspect is critical to conversion. There are millions of competing campaigns for crowdfunding dollars, and millions of consumer distractions for the investment in yours, so you have to capture the imagination of people who land on your campaign and make it impossible for them to not invest. Video, images and text are part of this success, and the more personal and personable it is, the better.
Structure your narrative with a beginning, a middle and an end, its a story right and you need to have people hanging to find out the happy ending - which for them is a product or service that saves or makes them money, and for you is a happy customer. Make it short but meaningful: what's the problem, how have you solved it, why are you the person able to deliver, when are they going to get it and what sort of value does it represent and a strong call to arms to buy buy buy. Use high quality photos on the campaign, of course you would already have your brand sorted, collateral designed etc BEFORE you get anywhere near the people, and again, this is part of the 6 month preparation for your campaign. Make sure you have every question that could possibly be asked answered, and even put a FAQ on the campaign page or your website to help remove any barriers to purchase.
Crowdfunding from the outside can often look like a licence to print money, but its a relationship between supply and demand, investor and entrepreneur, and more critically people. Like all relationships the pathway to sales needs development, consideration, respectful and thoughtful interactions. It needs a great product that is explained simply and elegantly that can be delivered on time, and it also needs a team that is united in getting over the finish line - which of course isn't the end, its only the beginning.
Dr Polly McGee is one part writer, and many parts assorted thinker, do-er, talker, eater, chef, explorer, yogi, kirtaneer and dog wrangler. She has worked in kitchens, bars and restaurants from frantic to fancy, managed multi-million dollar innovation grants programs, advised hundreds of start-ups on how to refine their business ideas and source funding, and championed causes from a variety of soapboxes, lecterns and stages. She is currently the Strategic Marketing Lead for Global Edtech Startup Prosper Education. Her new book, The Good Hustle, is coming out in February 2018