16 Crowdfunding Experts Share Their Top Tips and Advice on How to Crush Your Next Crowdfunding Campaign

 ·  21 Nov  ·  5 Comments
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It wasn’t that long ago that, if you were one of the people crazy enough to start your own business, trying to secure funding from an investor was like squeezing blood from a stone. But also, you didn’t have a stone and had no idea where to find one.

Unless you happened to have a particularly wealthy relative, or were willing to go into dozens upon dozens of soul-crushing meetings with VCs, or were ready to subsist on a diet of rice and ramen while bootstrapping, your idea wasn’t going anywhere.

But a little under 20 years ago, the world changed.

Investing became democratized. Suddenly, instead of turning to investors, startups could directly ask their customers to fund their ideas. Ten years ago, platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo started becoming increasingly popular. It’s since gone from a craze, to a fundamental shift in the way businesses obtain funding.

Foundr has even jumped aboard the crowdfunding train, turning to Kickstarter to fund our latest project, a beautifully designed coffee table book containing all the best lessons, tips and, advice we’ve rounded up so far from some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs.

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If, like us, you weren’t sure where to even begin with crowdfunding, don’t worry, because we’ve reached out to 16 crowdfunding experts to answer your questions for you. From well known crowdfunding consultants to the founders of startups that got their start on crowdfunding platforms, we asked participants to answer these three questions:

  • What’s the best way to get the word out about your campaign?
  • What was the biggest unexpected problem you faced?
  • What did you do really well with your campaign?
  • What’s your number one piece of advice for anyone wanting to run a Kickstarter?

Everyone shared a ton of gold and incredibly valuable advice that has helped us so much with our own Kickstarter campaign, and you’re bound to find some amazing pearls of wisdom in there for you too.

Khierstyn Ross, Crowdfunding Product Launch Strategist

khierstyn-ross-crowdfunding-experts

The best way to get the word out about your Kickstarter campaign is to have an audience to launch to. Generally, Kickstarter creators need to spend six months or more building up an audience online prior to their launch.

You do this by building an email list and by “getting on the radar” of key influencers in your area. It’s not only about having an audience to launch to, but you also need to treat the crowdfunding campaign like an event. Get people excited about your project and launch.

When you first launch, you will be spreading the word through your current audience (email list, social media, network, and any press you’ve lined up in advance). Once your campaign is live, you can turn to other strategies to keep momentum going (podcasts, influencer marketing, retargeting, etc).

You also need to understand how the platform works. Just because Indiegogo and Kickstarter have their own audiences, doesn’t mean you don’t need your own. In fact, this is the worst assumption you can make.

You need your own audience and here’s why: Indiegogo and Kickstarter take a 5% commission from every dollar raised on their platform. They are in the business of making money. So, would it not make sense for them to help the campaigns that are proving to be winners?

If you don’t start strong, Indiegogo or Kickstarter’s algorithm will never pick you up and your campaign will die.

But if you have an audience to launch to, and you use them to get a lot of backers and transactions on your campaign page, the site will notice your campaign is *hot* and boost you on site. If your campaign is easier to see on site, it will be easy for other people in the crowdfunding community to find you and support you.

So, you create an audience prior to launch to make sure you can get the boost from them you need to become discoverable on these platforms. That audience creates a snowball effect, which in turns creates a funded campaign.

Andrew Beltran, Co-Founder of Original Grain

andrew-beltran-crowdfunding-experts

To start getting the word out about our Kickstarter campaign we used our internal network and base.

That meant reaching out to every person I knew on Facebook with a personal message asking for them to support our campaign, and if they couldn’t we asked them to share our link. This helped a ton with our first few days to get our project trending.

We also teed up 20 influencers to post reviews of our product, directing their audiences to our page. This helped get our product out and it was up to us to continue to incentive people to share the campaign.

With our initial campaign we wanted to make everyone happy, almost to a flaw. If people would ask for upgrades or different options, we tried our best to make them happy. At the end, when it was all said and done we had over 20 variations and upgrades people ended up getting. It became a nightmare for shipping when there were over 2,000 backers. It’s an awesome trait to have as a company, but at some point you have to stay focused on the core product and what you’re trying to bring to market.

The number one thing I’d say to anyone looking to do a Kickstarter campaign is: Do your homework.

See what others have done to be successful in your space. See where they promoted heavily, look at analytics on Kicktraq and compare stats. And always have patience, this is a start up. Take the time now—you will thank yourself later when you’re five years down the road and still humming.

Roy Morejon, President and Founder at Command Partners

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Start building a tribe months before the launch even starts. Grow an email database and keep them engaged and ready for launch day to show as much success early in the campaign. This leads to a groundswell of backers.

Analytics and lead tracking is still an issue with crowdfunding platforms. Proper attribution of referral tracking is something that many crowdfunders drop the ball on.

Remember to do your research. Start early. Hire an expert if you need one.

Salvador Briggman, Crowdfunding Expert

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The absolute best way to get the word out is through an email list of interested subscribers. There’s no question about it. These are potential backers who have SUBSCRIBED for more information about YOUR product and story. Just make sure to tease the product as you’re gearing up for the launch. Show them prototypes. Celebrate victories leading up to the launch of the campaign!

I’ve uncovered a lot of the tricks that get the media buzzing about you. You must understand their agenda and what their goal is with their blog, publication, or story.

You must understand what gets people to take action online and a firm understanding of where backers come from with Kickstarter campaigns.

Of course, you should start with a great product that has demand in the marketplace, but you also need to market it effectively. You need to craft a story that will get backers jazzed up about your campaign. You need to incite the emotions that will make a visitor say, “I need this!!!”

All too often, Kickstarter campaigners focus on the logic side of the equation, but they don’t think about the emotions that are going to make someone want to check out the campaign, learn more, and become a backer.

That emotional trigger could be:

  • Surprise
  • Awe
  • A feeling of similarity towards the creator
  • Happiness

There are many more. You should think carefully about how the creator and the product will be emotionally perceived by the campaign’s visitors.

Paul Farago, Founder of Ace Marks

paul-farago-crowdfunding-experts

Since it was our first Kickstarter campaign, we tried a lot of different marketing approaches and then went heavier with what was working. For us, it was working emails together with social media. Even within these strategies, a highly targeted approach was much more successful than casting a wide net.

Even post campaign, handling communications from thousands of backers is very time consuming, especially when you are trying to work out logistics and production at the same time. We try to address FAQs in our updates to reduce the message volume, which is somewhat helpful. Understandably, backers prefer personal attention and we try to accommodate that as best we can.

Something we did fantastically was conveying the quality of our product. I think that our video and images did a good job of showing backers that they were going to receive an exceptional product and at the same time back a company motivated to change the luxury footwear business.

Start from scratch as many times as needed, because you will only get one shot at it. It took us a year to create our campaign. We completely reshot the video at least three times and rewrote the script many times until I was happy with the results. There is a lot of hard work and long hours behind a successful campaign.

Want To Get Your Hands On The Best Coffee Table Book With Actionable Startup Advice?

Get your copy of Foundr Version 1.0 here!

Peter Dering, CEO of Peak Design

peter-dering-crowdfunding-experts

The metric for “getting the word out” about your kickstarter campaign is the number of sessions you have. There are all sorts of ways to drive traffic to your page. Social media, podcasts, friends and family, PR and traditional news agencies, bloggers doing product reviews, and paid digital advertising. All of these are the main contributors to getting people to be driven to your page.

The biggest caution I’ll give is that these should all be done with positive return on investment in mind. Your ability to create positive ROI is directly correlated to the margins of your business. If you don’t have a lot of margin, then you shouldn’t be spending much on driving traffic.

Throughout the years, the problems have been many. Shipping and logistics are aided by Shipstation, Shipwire, and Backerkit. Stretch goals are not something we’ve ever done, nor something I’d necessarily recommend.

An unexpected problem occurred when we ran out of our “early bird” rewards. Though they were only an additional 5% off of our discount, we saw conversion drop to 1/3 of its previous rate. So, we had to continually open up early birds in order to maintain a high conversion rate.

We go to great lengths to create and justify our designs. We deliver ahead of schedule, we offer lifetime warranties, we create engaging campaigns that make people want to associate with our brand. We have a higher sense of purpose, and we reveal it whenever we can.

Narek Vardanyan, Founder of The Crowdfunding Formula

narek-vardanyan-crowdfunding-experts

Getting a large amount of publicity is highly campaign specific, but usually it works best when you mobilize all your personal contacts and collect subscribers beforehand.

Creating a referral contest using something like Untorch and asking them to bring more subscribers in return for a gift might double your list size, hence the chances to raise the desired amount.

Then deliver the same people your campaign story from at least three different sources. Keep the communication going with them using email services, import their emails into Facebook custom audience tool and show the same people ads. Include a link in your emails to your Facebook group and ask them to join the discussions.

Plan 2-3 month before the launch. Clearly define your target audience and make sure there is enough audience on Kickstarter. Research similar projects using Kicktraq and Backerkit to see whether campaigns experienced steady growths or not. If yes—then there is enough audience on the platform, if not—it means campaigners brought the traffic themselves.

Copy the campaign images and do image search on Google. It will bring up all the sources that covered the campaign story. Compare the high funding dates with covered articles/blog posts to see which one brought the highest results. Save the sources in a list and find ways to approach them.

Michael Raven, Founder and Managing Director at Blazon PR

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Getting the word out about your campaign requires a full campaign plan, with a strong media strategy being of utmost importance. Seeking out and identifying key publications that fit your vertical is crucial, and furthermore identifying the journalists within those publications is key to gaining the coverage that could make or break your campaign.

Articles in respectable publications promote your brand in a way that nothing else can.

Robert Hoskins, Director of Crowdfunding Campaigns

robert-hoskins-crowdfunding-experts

In our four years of working with founders on their crowdfunding campaigns, we have seen a trend that is worth pointing out:

The single best strategy to prepare for any type of crowdfunding campaign is to perform an in-depth competitive analysis on as many competitors as possible.

This means researching a minimum of 100 campaigns on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The same is true for equity crowdfunding campaigns.

How are their crowdfunding pitch videos shot? How are their crowdfunding profiles written?  What perks sold the best/worst and how were they worded and priced? What was their original crowdfunding goal?

Even better is to search for companies that failed on their first campaigns and then raised millions of dollars on their second campaigns, such as the “Coolest Cooler,” and then examine what changed between the first and second tries.

The second-most important thing that successful crowdfunding campaigns need to have is enough support from family and friends to raise the first 30% of the crowdfunding goal. Nothing is worse than a campaign that only raises $100 during the first several days. This is why smart founders will set their goal as low as possible so that they can raise 50% of the goal on the first day. A low goal doesn’t mean they can’t raise a million dollars!

Nikolaj Hviid, Founder of BRAGI

nikolaj-hviid-crowdfunding-experts

Use every imaginable channel available to you and build a storyline behind your campaign.

The biggest challenge we faced was a significant delay to the development process. Be transparent and honest. Present the challenge, why it came, how you are going to manage it and what the consequences are.

I think we were very good at responding rapidly to questions and concerns in the early stage. We were able to convince a group of people fast that we knew what we were doing with qualified answers.

Make sure that your story is told and that the benefit of the product is clear.

Chris Hawker, CEO of Trident Design

chris-hawker-crowdfunding-experts

By far, the most effective way to generate revenue in a crowdfunding campaign is through email marketing. Of course, this includes your (and your team’s) personal network.

However, before we launch a campaign, we also spend a couple of months advertising on Facebook to grow our list, and use this period to refine our target market and the marketing angle that gets the best response. We know that the list will convert to sales, and we blast them on launch day, leading to a strong start. A strong start is key to overall success.

Social media is much harder to track, and there is so much noise these days it is hard to get results with it. PR is valuable for establishing credibility, but traffic from blogs and podcasts, etc. tends to convert at a low rate. Even during a campaign, we actually find it more efficient to drive people first to squeeze pages to gather their emails, rather than driving them to the actual crowdfunding campaign page. That way, if we get someone’s email, we can repeatedly market to them, increasing the likelihood they will eventually back the campaign.

We have conducted over a dozen campaigns.

Later, when it came time to fulfill, the many variations proved very difficult to manage and sort out and keep organized. Today we have learned to keep it simple with our perks. This makes it easier for the backers to decide, as well as easier to fulfill after the campaign.

Another challenge has been managing backer expectations. Despite the fact that it is crowdfunding, many backers still expect that product will ship just like from a store. When delays occur, which is quite common in the world of getting products manufactured, some backers become very vocally upset. We have learned to be very transparent with all our ups and downs in the development process, and respond quickly and positively to all complaints. If anyone asks, we issue refunds. The vast majority of the backers are actually very supportive and understanding.

We consistently do a great job of connecting with our intended market and hitting or crushing our campaign goals. We have learned how to really use list building to launch powerfully and then leverage that early momentum into a strong campaign.

There is not much you can do after the launch to change your trajectory, so we really make sure we do our prep work.

Want To Get Your Hands On The Best Coffee Table Book With Actionable Startup Advice?

Get your copy of Foundr Version 1.0 here!

Clay Hebert, Founder of Crowdfunding Hacks and Creator of Fund Your Dream

clay-herbert-crowdfunding-experts

Honestly, if by the time you launch, you’re worrying about how to “get the word out,” you’re going about it wrong. The biggest and most quickly funded Kickstarter campaigns are from creators who built permission over time and launched their campaign to a known and specific tribe who was ready and waiting.

Seth Godin and Amanda Palmer built their tribes for years and even Minaal and Kittyo used a landing page to validate their interest and build their tribe before they launched. When building a tribe, emails are 100 times more valuable than social media fans and followers. Ignore the masses and focus deeply on the specific sub-tribes who care about your project.

Minaal’s story was one of better travel, told to a group of digital nomads. Kittyo’s story was, “Now you can play with your cat, even when you’re not home,” told to cat lovers. You have to know the story you’re telling and then find the right group of people to tell it to.

Find, communicate, and build permission with your tribe BEFORE you launch. Crowdfunding campaigns get funded before they launch, not while they’re live. Use your landing page to validate interest in your project and gather emails before you launch.

Mihail Klenov, Co-Founder of Halfbikes

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The number one thing we did right with our campaign was our preparation and keeping open and honest communication with backers.

Chris Muscarella, Founder of Field Company

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A Kickstarter campaign is somewhat similar to launching any new product or service.

In practice, that means that you’re much better off creating a conversation among a small group of fans that are really interested and working from there than you are trying to blast the entire internet at once with your message. But what does that really look like?

That means reaching out to friends, people who have an audience that you think might appreciate your product, journalists that cover similar industries or products—all with the goal of trying to learn from them and show them what you’re up to. Most of the time, there will be quite a bit of overlap in audiences with these folks, and that’s actually exactly what you want.

Do your homework. Trying to throw together a campaign in a few days and thinking that you will shoot the moon is highly unlikely.

The first step is having a goal of the number of people that you’re going to have to drive to your Kickstarter page to make it happen. If you assume that somewhere between 1-3% of the unique visitors that hit your Kickstarter campaign will pledge, you can back into your distribution goal by saying:

goal to raise = .01 * number of unique visitors

Once you have that range, you understand what’s actually required to get there.

The Soma Water folks did a nice write up of how to create a basic media plan so that you can add up your expected outcomes to achieve your goals. This is the the growth / acquisition minded side of the house.

The other side of the house is brand/authenticity, which is hard to fake. The only advice is that the more work you’re willing to put in, the better storytelling material you’ll have. So start photo and video documenting everything you do very early—it will be extremely helpful later on.

Eli Regalado, Chief of Madness at Mad Hatter Agency

eli-regalado-crowdfunding-expertsThe best way I’ve found to get traction for a Kickstarter campaign is a mixture of PR and Facebook ads. Social does very little for conversions unless you are launching a unicorn. I like using mainstream media and bloggers because it’s super easy for people to click a link.

I’m really good at cutting through the founder talk and getting to the root of what the product does and WHY someone should buy it. Doing that in one sentence takes practice. But workshop it as much as you need to in order to get the essence of your campaign into one sentence.

Ronjini Joshua, Principle of The Silver Telegram

ronijini-joshua-crowdfunding-expertsA combined approach in many places is the best way to get the word out. Start with your cultivated email list, definitely post social media, and get media attention for the campaign if/when it makes sense. Don’t forget friends and family. If they aren’t going to support you, why should anyone else?

Remember that you are going to have to deal with shipping and manufacturing (buffer in a few extra weeks for delivery), you’ll have to pay for taxes (factor that into your rewards), and most of all keep an open and clean line of communication with your backers.

I’ve worked on many campaigns and where we excel is the media outreach and getting attention from the media. Crowdfunding has a special rule of thirds. The first third is from your crowd, second from PR/social media and marketing, and lastly from that special “crowd” of people you’ve never met before but are hopping onto the bandwagon.

Make sure to build your email list and communicate with it often. The bigger your email list before your campaign starts, the fewer hurdles you will have to jump over during your campaign.

Want To Get Your Hands On The Best Coffee Table Book With Actionable Startup Advice?

Get your copy of Foundr Version 1.0 here!

Conclusion

As I read through the responses from these crowdfunding pros, I’m struck by the variety of great advice. Some, for example, drill down on their own crowds, laser-focused on meeting their needs and perfecting the pitch that will grab them. Others recommend a near-scientific approach of closely studying the field of past campaigns.

That’s one of the great things about crowdfunding, and entrepreneurship for that matter. There’s no one right way to get it done.

Still, there are some near-universal themes, the biggest being the importance of preparation. Just as “build it and they will come” almost never works, flinging a crowdfunding campaign into the void will rarely accomplish anything. So crowdfunders and aspiring crowdfunders out there, take heed. Do you homework and go in firing on all cylinders!

Now you tell us: What are these guys missing? Or, do you have any questions for us as you consider or embark on a crowdfunding campaign of your own? Hit us up in the comments.

Jonathan Chan
jonathan@foundrmag.com

Jonathan is the Content Crafter and Marketer for Foundr. You can often find me happily writing about anything to do with entrepreneurship and the startup scene. Or spending way too much time pretending to be the next MMA star at the gym.

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  • TheCoveredWoman

    This is fantastic, thanks for the insight. I’ve been thinking about crowdfunding for a specific project. I realise I’ve got a lot of work to do.

    • http://foundrmag.com Jonathan Chan

      A ton of credit goes to the amazing experts here who all gave their time to give such amazing responses. Great to hear you got a ton of value out of this article.

  • http://www.andelyons.com/ Ande Lyons

    Terrific post Jonathan @Foundr! May I suggest an awe*mazing expert for a future post? He’s from my hometown (Boston!) – Will Brierly. A craftsman when it comes to crowdfunding campaign marketing, PR and highest raises. Cheers! ♥

    • http://foundrmag.com Jonathan Chan

      Great to hear you enjoyed the article @andelyons:disqus, thanks for the suggestion, I’ll be sure to get in touch with Will for our next roundup.

      • http://www.andelyons.com/ Ande Lyons

        Thank you Jonathan – you’ll love Will!! Wishing you a delicious day and thank you for your kind response. ♥