The Soft Launch: Building a Buzz Around Your Campaign

Once you’ve made it through the research intensive pre-launch period and checked all the items off your checklist, you’re almost ready to launch your crowdfunding campaign. But first, you’ll go through something called the Soft Launch. While it might seem redundant to essentially open up your campaign before actually opening it, the purpose of the soft launch is to generate buzz before your actual launch. This way you get the best of both worlds: more time to reach out, connect, and promote your project, while retaining the benefits of a shorter, time-constrained campaign.

To reiterate the points we’ve made earlier, by this point you should already have:

  • A burgeoning web presence that includes a landing page, a blog, and profiles on the big social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.
  • Been in touch with media targets whose readership is within your target market.
  • Crafted a high-quality, shareable pitch video that distills your story and mission.

SPREADING THE WORD

We’ve already said it, but we’ll say it again—exposure (or lack thereof) will make or break your campaign. The majority of your efforts will be about getting exposure for your campaign. This is especially true of the soft launch phase, when you want to generate sufficient buzz so that your official launch makes a splash. You should be in touch with media targets and have a strategy in place for promoting your across several media platforms.
But bloggers aren’t the only ones who can help spread the word. In addition to media targets, your own network will be instrumental in your campaign’s success. One way to encourage your friends’ participation is to use segmentation of your network to ensure that you use appropriate messaging when spreading the word. Though it will definitely be time consuming, it’s an effective strategy that allows your friends to help you in the ways that make the best use of their particular strengths.
Begin by exporting your email contacts to a spreadsheet. Delete the ones you don’t have a meaningful relationship with. Divide the people you have left into three categories:

  1. Influencers — These are people followed and read by others on social media. Use Klout, a website that measures people’s online influence, to figure out which friends fall into this category. Go to www.klout.com, connect with Facebook, and view your friends’ Klout scores in descending order. Put anyone with a score of 60 or above on your list of Influencers.
  2. In-the-Know — These are the people you’ve been bouncing ideas and drafts off of for months. They know about your product and upcoming campaign and are ready to hustle.
  3. Acquaintances — These contacts will most likely make up the largest percentage. You aren’t in constant contact with them, and they have no idea about your project, meaningyou’ll have to do the most work to get them on board.

You’ll craft a separate email to be sent to each of these groups upon launch, letting them know how they can help. A mass email will work for your acquaintances (Mail Chimp is a great free option for small mail list), but use personalized emails for your influencers and in-the-know friends. After all, they’re part of the team.

CREATING A TRIBE AROUND YOUR PROJECT

Your friends will become your your most passionate supporters. The key is to make them a part of your team. If you’ve been following our guidelines thus far, then they’ve already been involved every step of the way. From giving you feedback about your product page to helping you shoot and edit your pitch video, your core group of friends should already be aware of and invested in what you’re doing.

During your soft launch, you’re just taking this to the next level.

  • Ask for advice. This one should come naturally to you by now. From theaforementioned product pages and pitch video, to design and pricing, if you’re designing a product you’d like to use, then your friends are most likely in your target market. Listen to them.
  • Use “sneak peeks” to let them know they’re insiders. !
  • Throw a launch party! Everyone loves parties, and your friends want you to succeed, so they’re going to be excited to come celebrate with you. If you’ve developed some close relationships to bloggers by this point, invite them as well. Having a large group of people in one room, all excited about your project, creates a united energy you can’t create through emails, phone calls, or one-on-one meetings. Use this gathering to show your video and give a short talk about what you’re doing and what you need from them.These measures, both small and large, will go a long way toward making your friends a part of your team. And once you get your friends on board, their excitement will help you to grow even more. After all, your tribe can and should extend farther than your personal network. You already have the online framework in place to facilitate this—an optimized landing page, a presence on the big social media sites, and an active, interesting blog.During your soft launch and increasingly as your official launch approaches, you should double up your efforts in these areas. Contribute more guest blog content, do a countdown to your launch on Facebook or Twitter, and make some “early release” promotional content like sketches and video outtakes exclusively available to early fans.