So, You Want to Launch a Crowdfunding Campaign
Dispelling three common myths about the fundraising technique
Thinking about launching a crowdfunding campaign? Are the curmudgeons of crowdfunding telling you that you're doomed to fail? Take a deep breath and continue reading. After launching head first into our first crowdfunding campaign, we spent countless hours consulting, researching and dispelling what makes or breaks a successful crowdfunding campaign.
To make your crowdfunding experience to be as painless as possible, let's break down the most common misconceptions about crowdfunding and get into the nitty-gritty of what will actually work.
Myth No. 1
Having a large social media following translates to a large number of pledges.
It's important to remember, quality over quantity for this myth. While social media is a critical factor in the success of a crowdfunding campaign, it is important to understand that the majority of contributions are coming from people that you already know (such as your friends or email subscribers). You might have a large number of followers on social platforms, but bots cannot pledge funds to a crowdfunding campaign.
We suggest you begin growing your community as soon as humanly possible.
While a big focus should be on connecting with the people who will become your first customers ̶ and hopefully champions of your brand ̶ you should also allocate time and resources toward networking with other startups, potential partners, industry experts, media contacts and anyone who will take notice of what you're doing. Remember, this could lead to future brand support. Ideally, you should be dedicating a minimum of 10% to 15% of your work hours each week toward connecting with your future fans and professional networks.
Pro tip: A sincere (and effective) strategy for everyone is to ask for help. Ask your early champions for ideas of creative ways to connect with more people. Ask them to test your product even if it is only for a week or two. When you choose to ask for help, you're casting away the startup bravado and trading it in for a real result.
Myth No. 2
Kickstarter is the best crowdfunding platform
This may not be the case for you. There are plenty of platforms to launch a project on, and it comes down to choosing the right one for your objectives.
It is crucial to choose a crowdfunding platform that supports projects in your particular niche, industry or category. To do so, you need to determine your project parameters and who your audience is. While Kickstarter has very broad parameters, platforms such as Fundable and Smallknot are specifically for small businesses and local independent businesses.
By the numbers, Kickstarter still reigns supreme. While it is fun to read the countless listicles outlining the, "10 reasons why you should be on Kickstarter," there is still a substantial amount of confirmation bias hidden in the message. Instead, do your homework and identify your own target audience first before you consider your crowdfunding platform. Next, you want to take a tour with the heavy hitters in the industry, the big-name crowdfunding marketing agencies and experts. They will definitely try and sell you on working with them, and often it's a lot of money. At the end of the day, you can choose to say, "yes, help me be a Rockstar on this platform" or "no thanks, I appreciate your help, but we are going to fly solo.
Pro tip: Don't be afraid to use the resources available to you. You never know when a free consult could turn into a beautiful partnership.
Myth No. 3
The "if it's a great idea, it will do great" mentality.
This one might come as a shock, but even the best ideas need a strategy.
To run a successful campaign, you need to dial in on your marketing strategy as early as possible and spend money where it counts. You need to learn who your target audience is and then cater to their needs.
Hope, confidence and especially arrogance, have no place in your strategy. Even luck, which can produce enormous results for campaigns, is not a strategy. A good strategy is to identify, as best-selling author Tim Ferriss calls them, the "lead dominoes." Select the pieces that make a significant impact with relatively less effort and time. Consistently take a step back to ensure you are focused on effective strategies and tactics that still support the primary objectives.
Pro tip(s): Find trusted and experienced allies and consult with them routinely about your strategies and tactics. The time you have before launch is extremely finite, and they will help you with focusing on the ones that offer the best opportunity for a successful campaign. And, Hire out for things like photography, videography, PR and marketing. You'll thank yourself later and be more pleased with the result.
Still thinking about launching your crowdfunding campaign? Good. Regardless of how things shake out, it will be a worthwhile experience.
Ben Dehner is the founder and CEO of the BenchSentry, a package security startup based in Colorado. The BenchSentry is a discrete and innocuous bench that lives on your doorstep, eliminating the temptation of package theft. In June, Ben and his team launched an Indiegogo campaign and hope to launch the product before the 2019 holiday season.