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Entrepreneurs launching a product typically wear a lot of hats. Product development, marketing and raising capital are some of the many areas of expertise needed to successfully launch a product. Funding is understandably the most critical — and often the most challenging — part of introducing a new product to market. Having consulted for around a dozen different campaigns across many different sectors on various platforms, and having helped raise close to $5 million for my clients, my experience has helped me gain a great perspective on launching a successful campaign.
Many entrepreneurs are turning to crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter to help them showcase their innovative products with a goal of raising the funds needed to develop these products. Since launching in 2009, 20 million people have backed a project on Kickstarter, $5.7 billion has been pledged, and 200,183 projects have been successfully funded. The platform’s success rate currently stands at a little over 38%.
To stand out among thousands of projects seeking backing and reach funding goals on crowdfunding platforms, entrepreneurs need to spend time preparing for the campaign, tell a compelling story, use the power of social media and influencers and execute on strategies for rewarding and communicating with supporters.
Prepare for the campaign
The most successful campaigns start with preparation, and lots of it. This preparation should include planning for all stages of the campaign including pre-launch, launch day, campaign start and campaign end, post-launch, fulfillment and after fulfillment.
The first step in this process is to clearly define the project and set clear, measurable goals. Next, determine the length of the campaign (keep in mind that projects lasting 30 days or less have Kickstarter’s highest success rates), and map out the steps to successfully realize the vision for the project.
All successful campaigns take time, and money, to prepare. Although people back your project because they believe in your idea, vision, product, etc., you need to get your story in front of them, which is often the most difficult part. Social media and influencers help, but a well-crafted digital ad strategy is usually a make-or-break.
Preparing for the campaign should also include building an organized list of email contacts and crafting personalized messages to help build relationships with potential backers and create excitement around the Kickstarter prior to launch. This is often done by running pre-campaign ads on Facebook, Google or Instagram introducing your idea to your consumer base and having them sign up for more information, and sometimes even early-bird specials. Knowing who the target audience is and how to connect with them is an important element of any successful campaign.
Promotion planning is also important in the preparation stage and should include developing key messages and making sure communication is aligned with these messages across channels (Kickstarter landing page, company social media accounts, blog posts, etc.).
Tell a compelling story
A compelling story that explains why and how a product will make a difference is one of the hallmarks of a successful crowdfunding campaign. Will it disrupt an industry, create a completely new market, elegantly solve a problem or fill a gap in the market? Elements of this story telling should include how the idea was conceived and developed, how it solves a problem, why people need the product, the current stage of the project, and why potential backers should support the project. Be sure to tell the story with passion and enthusiasm. A bit of light humor can also work well, if used in the right way.
The Kickstarter video is an important vehicle for telling this story. Projects with videos succeed at a much higher rate than those without (50% vs. 30%). With attention spans shorter than ever (attention span has dropped to 8.2 seconds, which is shorter than the attention span of a goldfish), the length of most successful campaign videos is between two and three minutes.
Use the power of social media and influencers
Leveraging social media and influencers are effective strategies for keeping people informed and engaged and driving attention to a crowdfunding campaign.
Developing a regular cadence of posting and creating shareable content will help communicate how the campaign is progressing, highlight product or service features and attract potential backers. Shareable content such as photos, videos and important milestones can build interest and excitement for the campaign and provide an opportunity for consistently sharing the link to the Kickstarter landing page. Remember, people are backing your campaign because they believe in your idea, vision and product and as such are your biggest evangelists. Give them what to share and a reason to do so, and they can become a very effective marketing channel for you.
Bloggers and influencers are also effective channels for promoting a campaign. Influential bloggers cover everything from mainstream consumer products and services to niche products and services. Reaching out to bloggers and influencers who consistently post on a specific industry can help rapidly spread the word about a campaign through their networks.
Execute on strategies for rewarding and communicating with supporters
A well-designed rewards system is another effective strategy for engaging backers. Different reward tiers can be set for different levels of support. It is important to select rewards that will appeal to different audiences, ensure that the reward system is not too complex, plan how and when to send out rewards, and ensure there is budget to fulfill and send out the rewards. When attributing a shipping timeline to a perk, be realistic and then add a bit. Everyone backing a crowdfunding campaign knows that there is a level of risk involved; it is our job to mitigate that risk and be as straightforward and honest with our backers as possible.
Consistent, open communication is also key to any successful campaign. Entrepreneurs should respond quickly to questions coming through the crowdfunding landing page or through social media channels. It is particularly important for communication to be honest and transparent around product launch issues such as product delays. Personalizing messages to backers with regular updates on how the project is progressing will go a long way to help foster deeper connections with them and keep them interested in the campaign.
Leveling up crowdfunding campaigns involves spending time preparing for the campaign, telling a compelling story, using the power of social media, digital ads, influencers and executing strategies for rewarding and communicating with supporters. Entrepreneurs who do this will have a better chance of joining the ranks of the 38% of successful Kickstarter projects.
It may sound like a lot, and it is. But taking your dream and making it into a physical, tangible product is worth it. Trust me.