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“If you really want to know about business, you should refer to Scott Steinberg.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

10 Rules for Creating Successful Crowdfunding Campaigns

No one ever said crowdfunding is easy but if you follow certain time-honored rules, it also doesn’t have to be difficult. Want to succeed with your latest creative campaign, or bring more attention to your crowd-funded business or brand? By following these expert guidelines, you can maximize your chances of getting ahead, and standing out.

1.   Thou Shalt Know Thy Audience & Market. Understand before starting who your target audience is, where they live online, how to reach them and preferred forms of contact. Prepare all supporting tools and vehicles (Facebook/Twitter accounts, homepages on crowdfunding services, a dedicated project website, email newsletters, etc.) needed to facilitate outreach efforts in advance. Launching a campaign is incredibly demanding and stressful, and creating running dialogue with backers crucial – you’ll save yourself a world of hurt by taking a more focused approach to audience targeting, and not having to scramble at the last minute.

2. Thou Shalt Do Thy Research. Study successful and failed campaigns to see which projects, marketing strategies and rewards connected with fans, why, and to what extent. Consider the breakdown of rewards they offer (i.e. physical goods vs. exclusive experiences), cost structure, and promotional vehicles used to spread the word about these projects (social vs. traditional media, video endorsements by noted personalities, etc.). Likewise, budget conservatively up-front, including factoring in all costs for reward fulfillment, leaving yourself a 20-30% cushion for hidden expenses – then ask for the minimum funds needed to complete your project to make goals seem more attainable to backers.

3. Thou Shalt Be Singular and Arresting. Creating a running dialogue with backers, fans and media is vital – to succeed with crowdfunding, you need to stay top of mind. Social media services like Twitter can be even more effective than articles and interviews here, as can staying in running contact with backers (your most ardent evangelists) through ongoing updates. A mix of promotional activities should be used to generate chatter, and on a consistent basis – remember, crowdfunding is a marathon, not a sprint.

4. Thou Shalt Communicate Value Clearly. Presentation is everything, so keep pitches as short and sweet as possible. Don’t skimp on production values, and quickly convey what your project is, why it matters, what qualifies you to make it happen, and how it benefits readers/viewers. With a picture worth a thousand words, use video and screens to communicate where possible, and focus on one to three unique sales points, which should be reinforced in all messaging.

5. Thou Shalt Honor Thy Investors. Use a combination of merchandise, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and personalized gifts (e.g. giving backers a bit part in your next film or novel) to generate cash and awareness. Offer attention-getting gifts at all reward levels, including impulse-buy levels, and don’t leave too many gaps between pricing tiers, so everyone has a chance to contribute regardless of personal budget.

6. Thou Shalt Be Conservative With Funding Targets. Ask for a reasonable minimum. The lower the amount requested, the more achievable fans will feel the goal is, and likelier they are to contribute Concentrating only on core project components helps cut costs, and provides greater focus. If it’s not a must-have feature or benefit, save it for stretch goals (funding targets that exceed initial requested levels).

7. Thou Shalt Allocate Adequate Resources. Crowdfunding is a long and drawn-out process – throughout the duration of a campaign, you’ll be beyond busy providing project updates, answering emails, manning social media channels, and making ongoing outreach to the general public, backers and media outlets. To save yourself some pain, and increase chances of generating awareness, plot a running range of marketing and promotional activities in advance, and secure as many supporting materials (videos, screenshots, commitments from notable personalities to help you promote via social media channels, etc.) as possible before starting your campaign.

8. Thou Shalt Not Overpromise. If you have given your word online that a product or project will be completed and available in 45 days, make it so. If you say it will have X, Y or Z features and components, ensure that they’re there. The bigger the crowd of interested observers and higher the visibility and stakes involved with any given campaign, the more important it is that you deliver what you’ve promised.

9. Thou Shalt Not Underestimate Thy Commitment. It’s true that a successful crowdfunding campaign can take off within 30 days – but it doesn’t just take off and stay in the limelight. The persistent buzz needed to draw and keep audiences’ attention will require a mixture of elements, including both real-world and online activities, and social media and offline components. All will involve a daily mix of activities that will become your first priority, and ensure that your campaign stays on others’ minds. Afterward, once your funding goals have been met, don’t forget to fulfill your obligations and follow through on your promises to backers, no matter what.

10. Thou Shalt Not Manage Campaigns Ineffectively. Ensure that your campaign is adequately managed and staff. Before beginning, delegate authority, assign responsibilities and clearly delineate who will oversee various aspects of operations, from shipping to community management. Nothing puts a bad taste in a backer’s mouth faster than knowing that you want their support, but won’t support them adequately in return. Preparation can make sure that campaigns go off without a hitch, and that transitions are smooth and seamless.

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