STEP ONE — RESEARCH FAILED AND SUCCESSFUL LAUNCHES
Your first step is to research projects similar to yours. It is referred to as “Reverse Crowdfund- gineering,” which is defined as the deconstruction of crowdfunding factors—the campaign characteristics, owners, tools, tactics and results—to understand why they contribute to positive outcomes.
Your goal isn’t to rip ideas, but to to figure out what they did right and apply it to your own campaign. We think it’s important to research both successful and failed projects, so that in addition to what they got right you’ll identify what they could’ve done better and learn from those mistakes.
To begin, go to the various crowdfunding platforms (Indiegogo, Kickstarter and others) and browse successfully funded projects. You can also use services like Kicktraq.com, which aggregates information about Kickstarter projects. As you do your research, look for projects that are similar to yours, and then compare. Shoot for finding ten projects across these platforms so you’ll have sufficient material for comparison.
Create a spreadsheet with columns in which you note quantitative characteristics, like:
- duration of campaign
- funding goal
- was funding goal met? exceeded? by how much?You wil also want to note more qualitive information, such as:
- what is the product page like? note both character length as well as the tone/vibe that comes across (ie: fun, professional, heartwarming, etc.)
- is there a promotional video?
- if so, what is the quality?
- is it in keeping with the rest of the page as far as tone is concerned?
- what kind of social campaigns did they use?
- what kind of rewards system is set up for backers?
- what do you think is working and what seems hokey, unprofessional, unclear, etc?
- find out whatever you can about these projects’ backers, including age, occupation,location, and which demographics pledged the most money (more on this info later)
- note absolutely anything else that seems importantOnce you’ve done this you’ll be able to identify some trends. Look for characteristics that successful campaigns have in common. How do failed campaigns compare when it comes to these same characteristics? Bold, highlight, underline, or otherwise note anything that seems to correlate with success.
Much will depend on what kind of project you’re launching. What works for startup projects might not be right for documentaries, and vice versa. Still, there are a few essential takeaways from any campaign. Regardless of your project, remember…It takes time. — We’ve already discussed it, but it bears repeating because it’s that important. If you want your campaign to succeed, be prepared to work long and hard to make it happen.
STEP TWO — RESEARCH AUDIENCES AND HOW TO REACH THEM
Finding people who will love and rave about your product is critical to your success. Sadly, many crowdfunding campaigns fail. Fewer than 50% of Kickstarter projects reach their funding goals, and less than 10% succeed on Indiegogo. Even worse, many projects never receive a single pledge. An awesome, innovative project with no traffic is no better than one that’s cheap and poorly-thought out. Getting your campaign in front of as many potential backers as possible is key.
Triple SEO recommends you begin looking for and building up your target audience at least three to four months before launching your actual campaign. Your first step is to figure out the who—as in, who is your ideal backer?
Refer back to the information you collected in Step One about people who backed projects like yours. You may notice one demographic in particular, several overlapping ones, or two or three distinct groups. Whatever you discover, you’ll want to build a profile for each distinct type of person you plan to target. Your profiles should include the following information:
- What matters to them, and what are they motivated by? (Saving time, looking cool, making the world a better place, or something else?)
- What are their needs?
- What or who are they influenced by? With the answers to these questions in mind, move on to perhaps the most important question. Ask yourself…What does my product offer them?The answer will influence the how—as in, how you position yourself and your product when you present it to your who (or target market). Create a document with several potential pitch angles, including who you’re pitching to and what motivates them. But where do you find them? This next set of questions will help you figure that out.
- Where do they spend their time online? If they read blogs, which ones? If they’re on social media, which sites, online communities, or pages?
- If they subscribe to email lists, which ones?
- Which search terms do they use?What other kinds of information do they engage with? Infographics? Videos? Detailed Reports?Create another spreadsheet for keeping track of your ideal user profiles as well as what your product offers them and where you can find them. You’ll refer back to this information again and again.
STEP THREE — ESTABLISH AN ONLINE PRESENCE
You should also go ahead and begin establishing a credible, consistent online presence. We’ll talk more about building and maintaining an engaged community of backers, but you should go ahead and get the ball rolling on the following items. Once people start hearing about you, they need to be able to find you via a simple search.
- Begin with a simple, optimized landing page. You need a place to funnel visitors who find you via search, social media, and blogs. It doesn’t need much (less is more in this case, actually), but be sure to provide a way for people to stay in touch, like an email newsletter subscription form, options to like, follow, and share via social media, and links to other relevant information (like the stuff below). Later we will provide more detailed tips and tricks for crafting a killer landing page.
- Establish a social media presence. Your options are pretty much limitless, but at the very least be sure they can find you via the major ones like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+, as well as any niche communities associated with your product. You’ll use these platforms to connect with potential backers and influencers.
- Start blogging. You’re trying to get people to trust you and take you seriously. The more professional you seem, the better, so skip the urge to save money by using a free service. We recognize that not everyone can afford a custom website, but sites like Tumblr, WordPress and SquareSpace offer clean, professional themes that won’t break the bank.Your blog is a great way to provide useful, relevant content that appeals to your target audience, so refer back to the who and how above when creating blog content. Provide articles that appeal to their needs, motivations, and problems.
STEP FOUR — CONSTRUCT A TIMELINE
An interesting fact to note is that crowdfunding campaigns that last 30 days have a 35% chance of getting fully funded, while those that last 60 days have just a 29% chance. More time isn’t necessarily better. In fact, it seems that people are motivated to act by a shorter, more constrained timeline—if you’ve ever made a purchase because you had a discount code that was about to expire, then you’re already aware of this. Urgency is also a powerful motivator in crowdfunding—both in encouraging people to pledge funds and prompting them to spread the word.
But the duration of your campaign isn’t all that matters. When creating your own timeline, you’ll need to consider the following:
- Pre-Launch Timeline — How long do you need to get everything in order from the pre- launch side? Think about how long it’s going to take you to build up a sufficient online presence, generate buzz, and attract an engaged group of followers. Give yourself enough time to do this before launching your campaign.
- Campaign Length — How long will the campaign itself be? This will be somewhat determined by the platform you choose, but as we’ve already pointed out, too much time can give people the impression that they can donate any time, while too little time can make your goal unreachable. Strike a balance between the two.
- Fulfillment — If you’re successful, how long will it take to deliver on your backer rewards? Note that the more elaborate and complex they are, they more time they’ll take. Many a campaign has struggled to deliver rewards on time and at scale, especially when the funding target is exceeded. Be sure to take all this into consideration when planning your fulfillment timeline, and reach out to experts for advice if necessary.It’s a good idea to return to your spreadsheet in step one, and look at campaign duration, length of time from end of campaign until shipment of products (if applicable), and other relevant numbers for projects that were successfully funded.
STEP FIVE — SET A CONSERVATIVE BUDGET AND FUNDING TARGET
Set a conservative budget first. Account for not only how much it will cost to build, manufacture, or otherwise pull off your product, but also how much your rewards and incentives will cost you. Note that you should resist the urge to make elaborate, expensive promises that will be hard to make good on and will take your attention and money away from your actual product once the campaign is over.
Next, set your funding target. How much money you ask for will certainly be determined by how much your budget dictates you need, but be realistic and reasonable when considering how much you really need. Look at the budget you’ve created, and refer back to your spreadsheet of similar projects from earlier. What was the average donation amount? Can you make any connections between the funding target and whether a project was fully funded?
Consider these three things when setting your funding goal:
- Production Costs — It’s indisputable that some projects simply cost more to make than others. For example, a new piece of technology will probably cost more to produce than a folk music album, and unanticipated costs just happen sometimes. It’s a good idea to connect with people who have built projects similar to yours to get an idea of how much it actually costs to produce whatever it is you’re making.
- Marketing Expenses — In addition to the cost of whatever you’re producing, another item you should budget for is marketing. While word of mouth will play an important role in your campaign, you can (and should!) spend some money to get the ball rolling. To figure out what’s right for your campaign, create another spreadsheet for marketing expenses, or refer to the one we’ve provided. Use it to compare costs for advertising on social media and search channels. Depending on your product and market, Facebook ads, Twitter ads, Google Search, and Reddit ads are all viable options, and they’ll show you the cost per click or cost per 1,000 impressions (CPM) before you buy. You can also do keyword research on Google to get an understanding of cost per click.
- Perks — Yet another factor to consider is the cost of your perks, or backer rewards. For example, if you’re giving away tangible awards like t-shirts and other premium items, how much will they cost to make? And if you’re giving away beta release products, it’s important to understand how much they will actually cost to manufacture. This will determine which reward tier they belong in.It’s impossible to set a realistic funding goal without looking very closely at these numbers. It’s also worth noting that few crowdfunding projects with funding goals over $50k have been successful, OneArmenia is a perfect example. Obviously, asking for more money than necessary just because you can is unwise. Still, not asking for enough money will also really hurt you, because you’ll be unable to deliver on the promises you’ve made. That’s why it’s critical you understand how much things cost before you take anyone’s money.