Update 1: This post is now available as a downloadable PDF! Get it here for free.
So you’ve decided to crowdfund your business. Or yourself. Or anything, really. You’re not alone. Crowdfunding has skyrocketed in popularity, and for good reason.
The problem is, you’ve never done it before. Signing up for a crowdfunding platform is simple enough, but after you fill out your information, then what?
How do you get your project in front of people? How do you market it?
Despair no more; here’s your comprehensive guide to marketing your crowdfunding campaign.
+ Choosing the Right Crowdfunding Platform
+ Building a Runway
+ Fleshing Out Your Profile
+ One-Shot Marketing Strategies
+ Ongoing Marketing Strategies
+ Follow-Up and Final Considerations
+ Examples of Successful Kickstarter Campaigns: What They Did Right
Crowdfunding is more popular than ever. By enabling large masses of people to contribute small sums, you can quickly generate tons of capital without ever making a significant ask.
It’s easy to look at some of the businesses that have generated millions—or even tens of millions—of dollars in a single campaign and think to yourself, “that’s what I want to achieve,” but the reality is that crowdfunding isn’t for everyone. It takes a brilliant concept, good timing, and most importantly, a ton of hard work to pull off a campaign like that.
(Image Source: Fundable/Forbes)
The secret to generating more donations isn’t really a secret—in fact, it comes down to marketing. With the right branding, the right message, and the right strategies to achieve more visibility, you can give your crowdfunding campaign the chance to meet all your goals.
This guide is broken down into the following sections:
1. The Introduction. If you’re this far, you’re already in the midst of it. I’ll introduce the concept of crowdfunding, and some general advantages, disadvantages, and angles to keep in mind.
2. Choosing the Right Platform. Here, we’ll explore the many choices of platforms you have, and the pros and cons of each.
3. Building a Runway. How to start marketing a campaign before it even goes live.
4. Fleshing Out Your Profile. How to build the crowdfunding page of your dreams.
5. One-Time Strategies. One-and-done strategies to promote visibility.
6. Ongoing Strategies. Long-term marketing campaigns to drive more traffic and donations.
7. Follow-Up and Final Considerations. How to follow up with your contributors and put the finishing touches on your campaign.
8. Examples of Successful Kickstarter Campaigns: What They Did Right. An exploration and analysis of some of Kickstarter’s best success stories.
Not every business can (or should) opt for crowdfunding. Thanks to the popularity of the channel and the vast diversity of options available for participants, there are dozens of possibilities for crowd-based participation. For example:
Of the three, non-equity crowdfunding is by far the most popular, due to its attraction of capital and ease of entry (not to mention fewer regulations to worry about). It’s usually what people refer to with the general term “crowdfunding,” and will be the primary focus of this guide (though most of the principles here will apply to any form of crowdsourcing or crowdfunding).
Generally, you’ll want to crowdfund if you need additional capital to create a product or develop something valuable, like a creative piece or a public asset. Only crowdfund if you already have a clear idea, a clear plan for execution, and a detailed idea of how much money you’ll need (not to mention how you’re going to spend it). This isn’t a mad grab for cash; it’s a means of achieving a precise goal.
You should also know that crowdfunding isn’t a magic solution to all your business problems. There are some key advantages, which you probably already know about if you’re considering crowdfunding in the first place:
But there are also some important disadvantages you need to be aware of too. I’ll touch on these more when I delve into individual crowdfunding platforms, and will detail some ways to compensate for those disadvantages when I dig into the strategy section:
We’ll dig into some specific strategies and tactics shortly, but for now, I want to brief you on some of the general principles that will make your crowdfunding campaign a success:
Throughout your campaign, you’ll also have to be discerning about what audience you target, and how you go about targeting it. Some users will be naturally predisposed to contribute to your idea more than others. Narrowing your focus to these optimized users will help you manage your resources more effectively, achieve greater efficiency, and ultimately get better results. For example, as you might expect, people are more likely to donate to a charity if they know someone whom the charity may benefit. You’ll have to perform ample market research in advance, after you develop your initial idea, to get started on the right path.
The meteoric rise in popularity of crowdfunding means you have choices when it comes to crowdfunding platforms. Choosing the right crowdfunding platform for your idea, your brand, and your target audience is crucial for your campaign to get started effectively. Each platform offers distinct advantages and disadvantages, and you’ll generally want to base your options around only one source, so do your research and choose carefully.
Kickstarter is the top name in the crowdfunding industry for a reason. Hosting more than 13 million active visitors every month, Kickstarter is by far the most popular crowdfunding platform, and it’s fairly easy to get started with a campaign. Over 80,000 projects have been funded using Kickstarter so far, with more funded every day. However, in order to be accepted, you have to have some tangible creation, like a product or an event—social causes and personal endeavors aren’t allowed. Kickstarter also has an all-or-nothing model, so if you don’t hit your goal, you’ll forfeit all your donations.
(Image Source: Kickstarter)
(Image Source: Kickstarter)
IndieGoGo is another major player worth considering. It’s host to about 9 million monthly visitors, making it slightly less popular than Kickstarter. However, it has better support for international funders, and has a slightly higher track record of successfully funded projects (for what that’s worth). IndieGoGo also allows any legal project, cause, or idea to be funded—including personal needs and charitable donations.
(Image Source: IndieGoGo)
Fundable is a differentiated platform because it offers both equity and non-equity crowdfunding options. It has a much lower user base and is less well-known, but it doesn’t charge any percentage-based fees, making it an attractive platform for brands looking to raise large amounts of capital. Participants keep any and all funds raised.
GoFundMe is a popular platform, almost as visible as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, but its main focus is individual initiatives, such as funding trips, medical bills, or personal creative goals. Accordingly, it’s not an appropriate platform for most companies, organizations, or brands. Like Kickstarter, it offers an all-or-nothing model.
WeFunder is an exclusive platform for equity crowdfunding. As per current regulations, you must be an accredited investor to use WeFunder as a contributor, but almost any entrepreneur or startup can use it to gather equity capital.
AngelList isn’t quite a crowdfunding platform, but if you’re considering equity crowdfunding, or if you’re looking to fund a business from scratch, it’s an important site to note. Here, you’ll be able to network with potential angel investors, as well as find potential incubators and accelerators in your area. You can also network with other entrepreneurs.
Fees aren’t applicable to entrepreneurs or startups, making this platform appealing for equity fundraisers. However, angel investors pay a substantial referral fee for the opportunity to invest.
Ultimately, your two best bets are going to be Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, unless you have specialty needs. This is due to their high visibility, flexibility, success rate, and ease of entry. This article will mostly focus on campaigns created using one of these two platforms, with most examples coming from Kickstarter.
At this point, I’m going to assume you’ve chosen an ideal platform for your crowdfunding campaign. But don’t get ahead of yourself by starting to flesh out your campaign page. If you want to be successful, it’s better if you start by what I call “building a runway,” or working your campaign before it goes live. You don’t have to do this, especially if you already have an established brand, but it’s going to pay off for you in most cases.
IMPORTANT NOTE: From this point on, the guide will assume you already have a solid concept for your crowdfunding campaign (an idea for a product, project, etc.). The concepting stage is highly significant for your overall success, but it doesn’t have to do with the marketing of your project, so I’ve decided not to explore it here.
Why start early? Well, there are actually a number of reasons:
How early should you start? That depends on a number of factors. If you’re planning on running a short campaign, on the order of 30 days, you may want to consider starting at least a few months in advance to give your users enough time to become aware of your project. If you already have a brand and/or company established, you may need less time to “ramp up,” as you’ll already have brand loyalists to support your early efforts. The size of your project and amount of your ask should also be considered. Generally, three months is plenty of time to give yourself a good foundation, but trust your instincts here.
Before you start anything, take the time to do your market research. This step is unskippable.
Even if you think you know your audience, and even if your brand already has a dedicated audience, you need to learn more about the people you’re about to ask to give you money. You already have the concept, and hopefully you’ve already figured out the general market interest for it, but let’s dig a little bit deeper here by asking some of the following questions of your audience:
These are just a handful of the questions you need to be asking here.
You aren’t the first person to come up with your idea.
Okay, maybe you are, but there are probably people who have done something like it in the past. Take a thorough look at your competitive environment, and use that information to fuel your campaign direction before it even takes off:
You’ll be creating a crowdfunding campaign page as the central “hub” of your efforts. However, it’s worth your time to create a website—or at least a landing page—before you create a campaign page on your channel of choice. Why do this?
First, your website will serve as your central hub of operations before your campaign page goes live. You’ll be able to test headlines and taglines for your brand, and funnel web traffic from everywhere—search engines, social media platforms, etc.—to it, to great effect.
Second, you’ll be able to compile information about your product, your company, and everything else about your project in this off-campaign location. This will allow you to be as minimalistic or directive as you want with your campaign page, while still giving you the opportunity to link out so users can acquire more information.
Finally, you’ll have a basis for expansion when your crowdfunding campaign is over. You can then flesh out your website with an eCommerce platform (if appropriate), or use it as the central hub for more marketing campaigns in the future. This is exactly what Pebble has done:
(Image Source: Pebble)
As part of your website, I highly encourage you to start a blog, even if you’re only posting occasionally. This will serve a number of purposes early on in your campaign:
You’ll also want to claim as many social media profiles as possible, and start fleshing them out. Social media is going to be integral to your success, so starting your fundraising efforts with a few hundred (or ideally, a few thousand) followers can give you a huge leg-up. For help planning and launching a social media marketing campaign, grab my eBook, The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing.
In a nutshell, you’ll need to start by making sure your profile is filled out thoroughly on every social platform—give users detailed information about who you are, what your product is, and when you expect to start raising funds. From there, post often—daily at a minimum—and syndicate your blog posts right when they’re published. Engage with new people, participate in conversations, and respond to your commenters, and eventually you’ll start attracting an initial audience.
I’ll be getting more in-depth on social media strategy when it comes to post-launch tactics, but this should be a foundation for your campaign before you even start.
Much of your goal here will be raising brand awareness and visibility, but at the same time, it’s good to encourage formal user actions when you can. Participating makes users feel like a stronger part of your brand community, and more importantly, it can give you valuable information. For example, you might include a signup form on your landing page that puts users on an email list with updates about the development of your product. This gives you a working list of all users interested in your brand, and a fantastic basis for your future marketing efforts.
Once you’ve had your initial campaign efforts running for a while, attracting new readers and followers, you should find yourself in a position to formally launch your campaign. The first thing you’ll need to do is create your campaign page, on your crowdfunding platform of choice, and fill that campaign page with everything you’ll need to convince users to donate.
This will be the focal point of your campaign. Not only is it going to serve as the destination hub for all your outbound and inbound marketing strategies, it’s going to be the final (and in many cases, first) opportunity users have to actively contribute money to your campaign.
First, understand that there should be an underlying principle of minimalism in your crowdfunding campaign. That doesn’t mean you should withhold details—on the contrary, you should provide lots of information to your potential donors. Instead, it means you should strive for conciseness in your work.
Your end goal here is to get a visitor to donate. As an acceptable alternative, you could encourage a visitor to take a measurable social action, such as sharing your campaign, or telling a friend about it. If you don’t achieve one of those goals, your visitor has become essentially valueless. Being concise helps you stay on point, providing only the information that will contribute to one of these potential scenarios.
Including too much fluff, or information that isn’t relevant or necessary, may turn visitors away, or complicate their understanding of your project. This doesn’t mean that your content has to be short, but it does have to offer value and description with every word or piece of multimedia content; in other words, it needs to be dense. Be discerning across every section of your campaign page, and don’t hesitate to go back and make edits to ensure your piece is polished. This needs to be a work of art.
Next, make everything as shareable as possible. Crowdfunding campaigns live or die by community—the amount of people talking about them, sharing them, and engaging with them in a social context. There are many options and applications for this, but let’s start with the basic one: make all of your social media icons present and visible. Most crowdfunding campaigns offer convenient social media integrations, so all you have to do is connect your profiles to make your entire campaign page shareable, but you still have to take that step. Moreover, you need to encourage your users to share your material.
Rather than posting “share this page with your friends!” or something equally gaudy, the best approach is to include shareable bits that people will naturally want to share. Videos tend to be very shareable, especially if they’re funny. Exploding Kittens nailed it with their video, which received over 400,000 views on Youtube.
Making your campaign “fun” or “cool” will increase its shareability, as will offering a kick-ass lineup of rewards for your users (more on this shortly). The two big keys for shareability here are originality and emotion—if you can show users something they’ve never seen before, and encourage some powerful emotion (like sympathy, humor, or excitement), people will share your material without much prompting on your part.
Throughout your campaign page, you’ll want to show off your personality, both as a person and as a brand. If your page reads like it was written by a corporate bureaucrat or someone writing for a government grant, nobody’s going to contribute to your project. Though some crowdfunding campaigns are logical—you’ll get a product in exchange for a certain sum of money—they’re still based on human relationships and interactions on a fundamental level. When your campaign seems personal, people will be far more likely to donate.
The best way to do this is to stop thinking about it. You may need to make some adjustments if you’re striving for a certain image—for example, if you’re targeting younger visitors, you may need to be more casual and use more colloquialisms—but for the most part, you should write and post in your actual voice. Show your face in your images and video, and write like you’d write a letter to a close friend—or how you’d write in a journal. Open the door and let people get to know you through your campaign.
The headlines and taglines of your campaign page will be workhorses for the rest of your material. Visitors who happen upon your page for the first time will often only glance at your image, glance at your headline, then scroll and read only the most prominent text on your page (your taglines and sub-headlines). If, and only if they’re impressed, they’ll continue reading the rest of your material, where you’ll (hopefully) convince them to contribute.
Your first step, then, is creating powerful, memorable headlines. Conciseness can’t be overstated in importance here, as you only get a few words to describe your product (or subsection) accurately while simultaneously engaging the user in some meaningful way. “Coolest cooler” does an excellent job of this with its main headline:
(Image Source: Kickstarter)
Note how the headline simultaneously describes the product in accurate and relatable terms, and offers a coy play on words to engage visitors in humor.
You’ll also want to give users a high-level overview of your entire campaign through your headlines, as these are the bits of information that users are most likely to read and remember. For example, you might call out some of the main benefits of your idea or some of your most important takeaways. Keep your subsections logically organized, and give your readers a comfortable flow of information.
The bulk of your campaign page is going to be written content. Here, you’ll explain to users exactly what your product (or project) is, why you’re asking for money, and what you’re going to do once you get it. There are several key factors you’ll need to hit here:
You’re definitely going to want images and video embedded in your campaign as well. Most users find visual content to be more accessible, which will give you higher levels of engagement in your campaign, and of course, visual content is more shareable.
For both images and video, you’ll want to accomplish one of three main goals:
1. Illustrate the value of your project. You can do this either by showing off a prototype in a real situation, or by using statistics in an infographic or videographic format. Take Scanadu Scout as an example:
(Image Source: IndieGoGo)
2. Spark something shareable. You’ll do this primarily to increase visibility and traffic for your campaign. Think along the lines of Exploding Kittens earlier—you can show off your product if you want, but you could also use a funny video, meme, or joke to get your brand name out there (just be sure it falls in line with your brand voice).
3. Make a personal appeal. This is mostly useful for video content, but images can be used as well. Here, you’ll use the visual platform to show yourself in a natural context. You might pitch your product, or explain to users why you want them to donate. When you do, don’t read from a script, and look directly into the camera—it will make you seem more sincere and likeable.
Be sure to add lots of images, especially ones that highlight your project or product in action.
The rewards section of your crowdfunding campaign is arguably the most important. Here, you’ll offer various “rewards” packages for different user donation levels. The goal is to incentivize more donations and reward the users who do donate. Note that this is exclusively for non-equity crowdfunding.
The actual rewards are up to you. You might give out the product in question (and some other trinkets as part of a package deal), or you might opt for something less tangible, like having lunch with your CEO or getting to be on-site for part of the creative process.
You have a lot of flexibility here, but these are some general rules to follow when creating and describing your rewards:
(Image Source: ConversionXL)
I mentioned this already, but it bears repeating. No matter what campaign platform you use or how you use it on an ongoing basis, keep it integrated with your other platforms. Call your social media profiles to mind, at multiple instances and in multiple sections if you can. I’ll be explaining the social media marketing side of things a little later on, but for now, simply make your social platforms visible on your campaign page.
(Image Source: IndieGoGo)
If you have an existing website or landing page, make sure it’s visible here, too.
Over the course of your campaign page, you’ll also need to imply a sense of urgency. Is it an emergency that people donate to your campaign? No, but you’re fighting two uphill battles here:
Accordingly, you want visitors to donate the first time they see your campaign. How can you do this?
The first step is to let users know you’re on the clock. Make your timeline visible, and remind users that there’s a hard limit to how much time you have to raise funds. You can even provoke a little fear—if you’re tactful about it—by explaining that the entire project will cease to be if you don’t hit your goals by a certain time. The second step, as I mentioned above, is to create scarcity value. This puts more pressure on visitors to donate as quickly as possible.
Beyond those basics, you’ll need to imply urgency in the course of your writing. You could use powerful action-related phrases to build energy, or you could use social angles like, “be the first of your friends to contribute” to inspire action.
Finally, you’ll need to remain as transparent as possible throughout your campaign page. By this, I don’t mean “simulate the appearance of transparency,” I mean for you to lay everything out on the table.
Start with the basics: who are you? Take a look at the amount of crowdfunding donations given based on the amount of information given by the person running the campaign:
(Image Source: ConversionXL)
Next, give as many details about your project as possible—and link out if you have to. Potential donors may not care about the details, or they may want to know everything. Making the information available will increase trust in both sectors.
Finally, you’ll want to address some of the hard topics—the risks and challenges you’re going to face along the way. You may not have a 100 percent chance at succeeding in your product development. Your finished product may not look like the prototype. You need to acknowledge these deviations. In the long term, this will help you set more realistic expectations for your execution, but in the short term, this will make users trust you more, which will lead to more conversions.
I want to close this section by talking about some of the biggest mistakes to avoid. These aren’t inherently related to any one talking point above, but they’re important in their own right:
With the avoidance of these mistakes and close adherence to the tactics I explained above, your campaign page should be more or less ready to go. However, it’s important not to adopt a “if you build it, they will come” mentality. A good campaign page alone isn’t going to be enough to encourage donations. If left alone, only a small trickle of users will ever see it. You need to open the floodgates with external marketing.
There are two ways you’re going to market your crowdfunding the campaign. The first is through one-time tactics; these are finishing touches, boosts, and other one-shot strategies that can help you build early momentum, get you through a tough spot in the middle of your campaign, or give you the final push you need to make it through the end. The second, which warrants a section of its own, is ongoing strategies, which you’ll execute and adjust throughout the entire course of your campaign.
Let’s explore some one-time strategies you can use, most of which you’ll adopt after your crowdfunding campaign page is finished, and when you’re ready to go live.
Some crowdfunding platforms, including Kickstarter, offer a professional service to get feedback on your campaign.
(Image Source: Kickstarter)
If you’ve followed the steps I’ve listed above on how to optimize your campaign page, and you’ve followed all of your crowdfunding platform’s rules, you should be theoretically in the clear to start earning donations. However, it never hurts to get another pair of eyes on your work. The professionals at Kickstarter may be able to make recommendations for how to change your layout, whether you need to include more risk and challenges, and how well your product is represented.
It’s worth noting that your campaign page is never going to be perfect. Even when taking professional advice, or double and triple checking your campaign, it’s impossible to predict all the variables for user donations. Eventually, you’ll have to be satisfied with what you have and move forward, with the knowledge that you can always change things later. In fact, ongoing adjustment is a big part of being successful in crowdfunding; I’ll dig into this in a later section.
Next, you’ll need to consider carefully when to launch. If you’re in desperate need of capital or if you’re in a hurry to launch your campaign for other reasons, you can certainly launch it now. However, there may be some advantages in scheduling your campaign for launch in the near future.
For example, you may be able to have your launch coincide with some specific event. If you’re developing a weight loss tool, launching on January 1st could give you tons of visibility with the “New Year’s Resolution” crowd. Alternatively, you could time the launch of your campaign to close on a certain day; for example, if you’re selling a product that might be a popular holiday gift, you could close the campaign on Cyber Monday, possibly giving you one last chance to boost sales.
Other than shooting for a specific date, you can use general seasonal time periods to assist your campaign, or make your rewards more valuable to your donors. For example, if you’ve developed a new high-tech kind of swimsuit, you’ll want to make sure you can complete and ship the product so your donors can enjoy it by summer.
When you first launch your campaign, accompany it with a press release. There are many online services for this, including my personal favorite—PRWeb—but the advantages of press releases are undeniable.
(Image Source: PRWeb)
The process is relatively simple; you’ll create a press release, following modern formatting guidelines, and submit it to your service provider of choice. They’ll submit it to thousands of news sites, with specifications and restrictions set by you, and a percentage of them will pick up your news for syndication. Just be sure you aren’t coming across as overly self-promotional; instead, objectively describe your business and your campaign.
If your business belongs to a certain industry, or a certain niche (like a geographic location), you can also work with these sites to get your crowdfunding campaign listed in some way. I’m using ambiguous language here intentionally, because there are a number of ways this can manifest. Here are a few examples:
These can help you generate some visibility and momentum early on.
Once you’ve set up your campaign, launched it, and supported it with a handful of one-off marketing strategies, it’s time to implement ongoing marketing efforts. Which of these strategies you choose are up to you—you may find that some work better than others for your niche or target demographics—but generally, the more you’re able to afford, the better results you’re going to see.
The bottom lines for all these strategies are driving more traffic to your campaign page and encouraging more conversions once they get there.
The FAQ section of your campaign page is going to start out inherently underdeveloped. You might think of a handful of potential questions your users might ask, but until you start getting some visibility and engagement, it will be hard for you to truly step into your users’ minds to anticipate their questions.
Your FAQ section is valuable for a number of reasons:
There’s no right or wrong way to develop your FAQ page, but you should include images whenever possible, and always be detailed and specific in the answers you give. If you can, post every reasonable user question you receive; users who submit them will appreciate this level of acknowledgment, and the more robust you are, the more users you’ll be able to please.
(Image Source: Kickstarter)
If you’re not getting a lot of questions, try drumming up discussions in your comments area, or ask your users what their concerns are directly on social media (or through a survey).
On your main website, your content is going to be huge factor for both user acquisition and potential conversions. I won’t be able to dig into the gritty details of content marketing here, but I’ll leave you with the high-level basics:
Why do this?
I covered The Top 10 Benefits of Blogging On Your Website in my Forbes column, but below are a few of the main benefits:
Guest content is much like on-site content, and you’ll follow most of the same rules to see the benefits. The only additional consideration when it comes to your content topics and writing style is your audience consideration—with each publisher, you’ll be writing for a different target audience, and one that isn’t your own.
So what are the benefits?
(Image Source: Kickstarter)
As a general trajectory, you should start with some lower-level authority sources, such as niche sites and local news outlets, and then gradually work your way up to national-level publishers. I’ve outlined a process for doing so in The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.
Guest content is a great way to get media coverage, but if you find the process overwhelming or too time-consuming, you can outsource the tasks of finding and developing relationships with publications, journalists, and editors.
PR agencies are the usual option for doing this, but generally all they do is build email lists of journalists and send them story “ideas” or “interview opportunities” via email. These emails often become annoying after a while; as a journalist myself, I sometimes receive dozens of them per day. This is called the “spray and pray” approach. If they send enough emails, maybe a journalist will bite; it becomes a numbers game for the PR agency. Unfortunately, they generally have no idea how many journalists will respond, or from which publications.
Here at AudienceBloom, we take a different approach. We build relationships with journalists and then provide elite support for them, assisting with writing, editing, obligations, and quotas. If they need a story, or a source for a story, we work with them directly to write and edit the perfect story, or identify the perfect source for a story they’re working on. Within these stories, we identify opportunities to reference our clients’ content, in order to highlight our clients as experts or authority sources within each story. Using this approach, we bridge the gap between our clients’ content and journalists at major media publications, and we’re able to include our clients in the content writing and approval process.
This approach results in a much more clearly-defined deliverable than what PR agencies offer. Rather than guessing at the number of placements you’ll get, or on which publishers they’ll appear, we’re able to tell our clients exactly which publishers will be publishing each story, and allow our clients pre-approval of each story before publication.
So, if you need media coverage, don’t hesitate to reach out!
Influencer marketing is a bit like guest posting, but it mostly occurs between personal brands, and in the landscape of social media. The idea is to leverage the authority of an existing “influencer” in your field to generate visibility and traffic for your brand. There are tons of options here, so try not to pigeonhole yourself into one approach.
First, identify your influencers. These are social media players with regular content feeds and huge followings—usually in the hundreds of thousands of users. Imagine getting your brand mentioned in front of those hundreds of thousands of users—you can see how valuable this would be, right?
Then, engage with them. “Engage” here can mean any number of things—you might comment on their posts, respond to their discussion threads, or offer them a free product as a show of appreciation for their work. Eventually, a handful of your target influencers will take notice, and they’ll start to build a relationship with you.
When they do, you can collaborate with them to create mutually beneficial content, exchange guest posts, or even just continue talking to each other on social media—any time your brand is referenced, you’ll probably get new visibility and traffic.
This is a bit of an oversimplification of influencer marketing, but it gives you the high-level view. I covered influencer marketing a bit more in-depth in my article at Forbes, How to Use Influencer Marketing to Boost Traffic and Sales.
I’ll also be stuck giving you the high-level concept of SEO, as it’s a ridiculously complicated topic (but as you’ll soon see, I’ve written in-depth guides on that, too!). So here’s the bird’s-eye view: through SEO, you’ll be making changes to your site, producing content, and managing off-site connections to increase your organic search rankings for relevant terms in search engines like Google and Bing.
The good news? Some of the strategies above and below work together to support your SEO campaign.
There are two main factors Google considers when ranking sites: a page’s relevance to a user’s query, and the page’s level of “authority.” For relevance, you’ll need to optimize your website for specific target keywords, keyword phrases, and topics that users might search for. For starters, you’ll include these in title tags, meta descriptions, and on-site content, as well as your inbound links.
Authority is far more complicated, and dependent on hundreds of independent factors. There are on-site factors like your site’s mobile friendliness and navigation, there are content factors (like how high-quality your on-site content is), and there are off-site factors, like the quality and quantity of inbound links pointing to your domain and individual pages. You can see why on-site and off-site content are so important now.
There are some big advantages to SEO for crowdfunding campaigns—SEO generates compounding returns, works nicely with complementary strategies, and lets you build traffic within a specific target market. It’s also inexpensive. The big drawback is how long it takes to set up a campaign—it’s usually months before you start to see results (hence why you need to build a runway).
You can find more information on the latest SEO standards and how to optimize your site on the AudienceBloom blog. I’ve also written pretty in-depth on SEO in the following guide: The Definitive Guide to Marketing Your Business Online.
I’ve already mentioned a number of times how important the “social” aspect of your campaign is. Hopefully by the time you launch, you’ll already have a decent following here. If not, you’ll have your work cut out for you.
(Image Source: Twitter)
Mainly, you’ll use your social media feeds to:
Social media ties into most of your other campaigns, and it’s free if you stick to organic posts. There’s no reason not to be on social media regularly.
Because social media is such a huge element of online marketing, it warrants its own eBook. And yes, I’ve written that definitive guide, too. Here it is: The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing.
In the modern realm of social media-dominated online engagements, you might scoff at email as a relic of an older digital age. But the reality is, email has one of the highest ROIs (return on investments) of any marketing strategy.
So, how do you use email marketing? Mostly the same way you use social media. You can promote your content, make announcements, and offer special deals or incentives for subscribers. It’s also wise to make big pushes when you’re coming up on major milestones, such as the last few days of your campaign.
Much of the success of your email campaign depends on the content you provide and the lists you’re using. The size and quality of your lists will determine how effective your messaging is (provided you’re starting with good messaging to start with). You have a few options here, the first and most time consuming being building a list on your own. This can lead you to some high-quality subscribers, and high volumes if you start before your campaign formally launches, but also has a finite limit.
As an alternative, you can “rent” email lists to support your campaign, reaching out to new potentially interested donors. Don’t rely on blindly buying an email list; you’ll probably get junk-quality leads and you’ll lose focus on what’s important—your content and audience targeting.
Paid advertising is another option to promote your campaign, but it’s going to cost a lot more than the organic strategies I’ve detailed above. Also, it doesn’t carry any compounding value; you’ll pay for each click or each conversion you get, but you won’t build any lasting value. In content marketing, SEO, and social media marketing, you’ll be creating permanent fixtures of value, generating higher long-term returns. Still, paid advertising is useful for short-term boosts and last-minute drives, so keep it in your wheelhouse as a potential tool for visibility.
Google and Facebook are the top options here. Why? Because they give you the greatest amount of user data (allowing you to target your audience with pinpoint accuracy), and the best analytical tools to measure your success.
I already mentioned press releases in my “one-time” strategy section, so I won’t repeat myself. However, press releases also deserve a spot as a potentially ongoing strategy. If you have enough newsworthy events—such as your product development, or hitting major funding milestones, you can submit multiple press releases to cover those events.
Every person who contributes to your campaign matters. If you can, list your contributors by name, and send out a personal thank-you however you can, even if it’s just by calling users out on social media. This “spotlighting” effect does a couple of things for you; first, it cements the loyalty of the contributor in question and makes them feel good about their decision to contribute. They might help push you over the line if your deadline comes up and you’re a few donations shy of making it, or they might just become a long-term customer. Second, it makes the concept of donating more appealing to others—especially to that user’s friends and family.
It’s sometimes possible to extend your project deadline (depending on the platform), but in most cases, the pressure will increase as you get closer to your deadline. Accordingly, you should step up your marketing efforts, especially if you’re far from your goal. You can offer more incentives at different levels, make more social media pushes, or opt for one-time boosts like paid advertising runs or new press releases. In any case, if there’s any period harder to get through than the initial “warm-up” phase, it’s the final stretch. Plan your resources accordingly.
A quick note on how to angle these efforts: popularity drives popularity. The more popular something seems, the more people will want to engage in it. This is why and how certain pieces of content “go viral.” When you’re stepping up your efforts, don’t make it a plea of desperation; instead, make it a boast of pride. Angle your efforts by emphasizing how many people have already funded your project, and how visible it’s become.
You optimized your campaign page before your campaign even started, but that doesn’t mean you should leave it alone for the rest of your campaign duration. Instead, update your page regularly, with new information regarding your products or any developments you’ve encountered.
Anything in the realm of “we’re getting closer to our goal” or “we’ve made a breakthrough” is good here, especially if you’re developing something while the campaign is rolling:
(Image Source: Kickstarter)
Try to update your users at least once a week in this way.
Of course, you’ll also want to update the rewards, FAQs, risks, and other sections as you gather more information about your users, and establish patterns of user behavior. For example, if you learn that users really respond to a certain aspect of your product—like its water resistance, for example—you can play up that factor in the rest of your content sections.
Kickstarter actually offers a built-in function for you to email your active backers. This is great, because these users may or may not be on your other existing email lists, and it allows you to keep in contact with them throughout the important developments of your campaign.
(Image Source: Dummies)
There are a ton of options here, so consider your formatting carefully. You’ll want to email your backers in any of the following situations:
This helps keep your backers a close part of your community, which will lead to more brand loyalty and more opportunities for them to share your content with their friends and family members.
As your campaign draws to a close, I want to mention a handful of final considerations for your marketing approach, as well as your standards as a brand.
Your marketing strategy shouldn’t be like a recipe, to be followed precisely with no deviation. Instead, it should be liquid, evolving gradually as you implement your tactics in a live environment. You have tons of variables you can’t possibly account for, including user behavior and changes as your campaign continues to grow.
Because of this, it’s in your best interest to change your strategy as you go on. If something doesn’t appear to be working, get rid of it. If something’s working phenomenally, increase your budget in it. Learn from how your users interact with these experiences, and apply those lessons to other areas of your campaign. The more you learn and adjust, the better you’ll fare.
Throughout your campaign, and especially at the end of it, show your appreciation for your backers. Yes, your rewards and even your product are ways to thank your users, but it’s important to go the extra mile. Write your backers a personal message, or throw in extra rewards they hadn’t anticipated:
(Image Source: Kickstarter)
Your backers will appreciate this, and your brand reputation will improve. Beyond that, it’s just good karma—these people made sacrifices to help your idea become a reality. Show them what it means to you.
This should go without saying, but the reason your campaign was successful at all was because you made a series of promises. You promised a certain product, a certain timeline for development, and certain rewards. You have to deliver on those promises, or you could have a revolt on your hands. By some reports, about 9 percent of successfully funded Kickstarter projects fail to fully deliver—and you can bet those brands are still suffering from the repercussions (some of them are even being sued). You can offer a refund in the event you aren’t able to make good on your promises, but at that point, the damage may already be done.
Enough about theory. Let’s take a look at some examples of highly successful projects, and the factors that led to their success.
Divinity: Original Sin is a video game taking place in the fictional Divinity universe. Larian Studios, its developers, turned to Kickstarter to give them the funds necessary to make the game they really wanted to make. They ran the campaign on Kickstarter, and the funding period lasted 30 days, from March 27th, 2013 to April 26th, 2013. The end result was $944,282 in pledges from 19,541 backers, and a game that received nearly universal acclaim. I’ve actually played through the 40-hour campaign twice – it’s really good!
It gets even more interesting—a year later, the same developers turned to Kickstarter for a sequel, Divinity: Original Sin 2, and they received more than twice the number of pledges and funding, with 42,713 backers and $2,032,434 in funding.
What made these campaigns so exceptional?
I won’t break out the checklist, but these campaigns got everything right in their campaign pages—developers were transparent about their goals, vision, and timelines, and offered tons of material (including sneak previews) throughout their campaign to keep users interested. A well-put-together video featuring the founder of Larian Studios showed early footage, discussed exciting features of the game, and explored what awesome new features could be added with funding from Kickstarter. A dash of marketing incentives—often through social media—fueled even more participation.
But there are two main factors that led to even higher funding for these particular campaigns. First was a unique rewards system that offered gamers special in-game features in exchange for reaching a collective total of pledges. For example, they planned to add new functionality and backstories for companions upon hitting $800,000—this encouraged more social sharing and collective contributions to hit this goal.
(Image Source: Kickstarter)
The second was the sheer diversity of different rewards packages, covering dozens of different donation levels on up to the tens-of-thousands of dollars mark. Each one featured a unique assortment of items, some tangible and some intangible, related to the Divinity game series.
(Image Source: Kickstarter)
(Image Source: Kickstarter)
Exploding Kittens isn’t as brutal as it sounds. In fact, it’s just a simple card game. It features humorous artwork related to cats, created in part by online personality The Oatmeal, but at its core, it’s just a simple and entertaining party game. So how did it end up raising $8,782,571 from 219,382 backers?
Again, the campaign hit a lot of fundamentals on the head, but let’s dig into its unique execution factors.
First, it featured a ton of images and videos explaining to users exactly what they were getting. The video itself is funny and encourages sharing, which led to heavy social syndication. The creators also had a great deal of transparency, releasing old “failed” versions of their artwork and explaining exactly what they intended to do.
(Image Source: Kickstarter)
The enormous existing popularity of The Oatmeal was also a major factor for success. In a sense, the creators had built-in influencer marketing working for them the whole time.
Pebble Time is a smart watch, which instantly gave it a “cool” factor that’s indispensable for getting a campaign started on the right track. Ultimately, it became one of the highest-funded Kickstarter projects of all time, gaining more than $20.3 million in funding from 78,471 backers.
As a branch of Pebble Technology, users already had an idea of what they could expect from the developers. Pebble built a long runway, teasing the creation of a smart watch before ever starting the formal campaign, which helped them gain early momentum.
Pebble also integrated its campaign heavily with its website, and relied on the power of off-site posts and press releases to generate more visibility for the campaign and brand.
(Image Source: Kickstarter)
Pebble Time also made exceptional use of infographics and other shareable bits of content, facilitating users to get their friends and followers involved as well.
(Image Source: Kickstarter)
Zano is a unique example on this list, because its final product ended up being a disaster—just a few months after vastly exceeding its originally modest goals, the company filed for the equivalent of bankruptcy and left thousands of backers with nothing to show for it.
Still, we’re looking at how a campaign becomes successful, not necessarily what happens afterward. Why was Zano successful?
For starters, the idea was amazing. It was an inexpensive, yet technologically advanced drone that could take pictures and video. What’s not to like?
Zano thrilled followers and backers with tons of images, videos, and promises of functionality. Users appreciated the in-depth explanations and transparency, and loved the reward packages enough to pay up.
(Image Source: Kickstarter)
Unfortunately, this success story also comes with a lesson: don’t over-promise anything to your customers. Zano’s failure is the result of a number of shipment and development problems, some of which were beyond prediction or control, but it pays to estimate conservatively and know your own limitations.
I’ve covered a lot of ground here, but hopefully you’ve been able to walk away with a more in-depth understanding of what crowdfunding is, when it can work, what factors are responsible for success, and how to support your campaign in both short-term and long-term ways.
There’s no magic formula for success here. Instead, a handful of factors, applied with the right marketing pushes and the right follow-up (and a bit of luck), are what you need achieve your funding goals. As a reminder, these factors are concept, value, options, personality, emotion, community, and trust. Keep these values consistently and strongly in the heart of your campaign, and if your idea is strong enough, you should have no trouble achieving your goals.