Due to a recent relaxation in regulations, crowdfunding is becoming an increasingly popular method for startups and entrepreneurs to get the ball rolling on their projects. In 2017 alone, $17.2 billion in funds were raised in the United States alone for crowdfunding projects.
While there is massive opportunity in the crowdfunding realm, the truth of the matter still remains that less than one-third of crowdfunding campaigns actually reach their goal. It’s not as simple as throwing up a page and hoping for the best. Crowdfunding takes time, planning, organization and massive outreach. So, if you’re interested in learning more about crowdfunding and how you can ensure your campaign is successful, look no further than these next few lines.
What is Crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is the process of raising capital for a project or business venture by raising small amounts of money from a group of individual donors. Crowdfunding has been an increasingly more popular method used by startups and entrepreneurs due to recent updates in federal legislation making it easier for businesses to finance projects.
In 2016, an extension of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, called Regulation Crowdfunding was put in place in order to help companies “seek the financial backing of the general public without the red tape that usually accompanies the issuing of securities.” Ever since then, growth in the sector has skyrocketed, with experts projecting the industry to reach $300 billion by 2025.
Types of Crowdfunding
There are four main types of crowdfunding that you should consider when planning your campaign. They are:
Rewards-based crowdfunding is the most popular approach taken to crowdfunding and is when small amounts of money are invested from various individuals in exchange for some incentive or reward such as a product, service, perk or even just recognition.
Equity-based crowdfunding involves the cultivation of investors who generally lend larger amounts of money towards a project or venture in exchange for equity in the company, such as a share or percentage. This leads to these investors becoming stakeholders in the company. Equity-based crowdfunding is extremely popular with startup ventures and is generally used for funding much larger amounts ($100,000 or more) as opposed to rewards-based crowdfunding.
Donation-based crowdfunding involves a pool of individuals donating small amounts of money towards a project or venture. This is a popular method especially for nonprofits, charities and social causes as the incentive is generally based on nothing more than a strong passion and interest in the particular business, cause or project being financed.
Lending-Based crowdfunding, much like its name implies, is similar to getting a loan from a bank in that individuals investing in the business venture or project do so with the expectation that they will be paid the principal in addition to interest. A passion or general interest in the project as well as the interest payments serve as the primary motivators for contributors.
Deciding on the best crowdfunding method for your business, project or cause is going to be essential to your success. So, consider the options carefully to ensure you’re choosing the best one for your particular situation.
Planning Your Campaign
Taking the steps to properly plan your campaign strategy is going to be vital to its success.One factor you’ll want to consider is the fact that you’re much more likely to meet and/or exceed your funding goals if you’re able to build momentum very quickly within the first 1-2 days of your campaign launch.
The key number is 30%.
You should ideally be able to meet 30% of your funding goal within the first two days of your launch.
If possible, try to cultivate a group of loyal supporters from friends and family to help achieve this goal.
Campaigns that build momentum quickly not only give others an incentive to join in, but they also often garner support from their crowdfunding platforms, which often boost or highlight successful campaigns in order to help them achieve their goals.
Think in stages.
Many campaigns have generated success by generating funding in various stages. Many $1 million campaigns took the steps to get funding and grow their audience base by first running smaller campaigns to help spread awareness. For example, when the company TrackR decided to launch TrackBravo, a “coin-sized device for tracking lost valuables”, they ran multiple crowdfunding campaigns that collectively helped them get over $1.7million in funding on the platform Indiegogo.
Deadlines and schedule.
Generally speaking, you want to set aside a minimum of 2 months to plan your campaign and 1 month to manage it post-launch. Your campaign itself should run for 30 to 45 days. Anything longer tends to result in a significant drop off and is difficult to maintain excitement around. Anything less isn’t going to give you the proper time you’ll need to manage your campaign, run it and achieve your goals
.Set deadlines for planning, prep, pre-launch, launch, post launch and various milestones to keep yourself on track. Keep in mind you’ll have to factor in times for funds disbursement, manufacturing, production, delivery and shipments, as well as include buffer times in the event of potential delays. Proper planning and preparation isn’t just essential in order for you to fulfill your responsibilities, it gives potential investors confidence in your project.
Growing Your Community
Another essential element factoring into the success of your campaign is your ability to grow your community. The best projects in the world will fail without a community to rally behind them.
Invite friends, family members and colleagues to be a part of your host committee.
This is a small team of perhaps 10-15 highly valuable and supportive individuals who are designated to help spread the word about your project within their own networks to build momentum. Be strategic with your choices and consider searching for influencers to help spread the message to their vast audiences.
Budget for social media advertising.
This is a great way to cut through the noise and get the word out about your campaign. What’s great about advertising is you can target your ads to reach the specific audiences you’re interested in cultivating. Advertise right before, during and even after your campaign launch to make the most of your marketing dollars.
Make use of crowdfunding resources
There are also several resources for those looking for help in building their community. UpViral is an extremely popular tool that companies use to help generate awareness and build their email lists. If you’re planning on running a campaign through Kickstarter or Indiegogo, then Krowdster is a great resource to help you find backers, assist with influencer marketing and get detailed analytics into your campaigns. JustReachOut and HARO on the other hand are awesome PR resources for startups looking to gain media attention and connect with journalists to help spread the word.
Build an email list.
As you grow your community, don’t forget the importance of building an email list. This is one of the most efficient and cost-effective methods to gain followers, remain in touch with your audience and get individuals pumped about jumping on board as a contributor.
There are several resources available that can help you build an email campaign to keep in touch with your community about updates and information on a regular basis – which is absolutely essential to your success.
MailChimp is perhaps one of the most popular and cost-effective options out there. Think about creating a weekly newsletter to mail out to your list that keeps them in the loop. Your current backers will not only appreciate it, but it can also help garner additional contributors from parties that have signed-up to get more information about your project before fully investing in it.
Run a campaign or giveaway.
There’s nothing like a little incentive to throw in to urge individuals to contribute or spread the word. Platforms such as Gleam can help you go viral by offering rewards for specific actions. One company by the name of Linier saw a massive boost in their email list from 424 to 1,000 subscribers as the result of a contest they ran on the platform. This was critical to their campaign success down the road.
Setting Up Your Campaign
Choose the right platform.
When it comes to setting up your campaign, choosing the best platform for your particular project, venture or business is going to be critical to your success. To date there are hundreds of crowdfunding platforms out there with the most popular being Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe.
Kickstarter is easily the most popular of them all and is geared towards creative ventures but has stricter demands for campaign set-up and is an “all or nothing” platform – which means if you don’t meet your designated funding goal, then you lose out on any contributions that have been made.
Indiegogo has more lax demands and also supports a wider array of projects in 24 categories, versus Kickstarter’s 15. GoFundMe is another great solution geared towards individuals and causes, however it has a smaller community than other larger brands.
Choosing the right platform and being aware of various factors such as fees, deadlines, regulations, integration capabilities and traffic is going to be key to your success.
Create a pitch video.
Did you know that projects with videos have a 20% higher success rate than those without? On Indiegogo, campaigns that made use of a pitch video raise on average 115% more than those that just use an image. Suggested video lengths should be no longer than 3 minutes and really work to reel in the audience within the first 15-30 seconds. Include a call-to-action and ensure your pitch video has quality visuals and sound and showcases your project while getting viewers amped about participating.
Be extremely detailed when setting up your campaign page.
Pain-staking detail to your campaign listing is vital to gaining support. Your title and tagline are going to be the first thing the audience sees – make sure they’re engaging, snappy and attention-grabbing. When it comes to your campaign page’s content – be as detailed as possible. Showcase the product including any relevant information such as storyboards, concepts or prototypes.
Make it personal and give people insight into your team while drafting a compelling story behind your venture. Be sure to include your timeline and budget to instill confidence in the project and when it comes to perks, don’t overwhelm visitors with a never-ending list. Start small.
The most popular perk level is between $25 and $30, but according to research, campaigns generate the most funding from perks at around $100.
Include information about your expenses, operating costs and prior funding you’ve received that has been invested in the project and how it has been used. Include detailed information about how you plan to use the funding you’ll receive as well and what specific milestones the funding will help you receive.
Don’t forget to add an FAQ section as well. This is a great way to show you’re involved with your contributors and instill a sense of trust in the company.
Spare no expense when it comes to detail and give your potential investors as much knowledge they need to have peace of mind about their investment.
Nailing the Launch
There are various stages to a campaign that you’ll have to plan for in order to achieve success. Organize your methods and tactics around these milestones in order to optimize your efforts.
The goal of a soft launch is to engage your inner network of your biggest supporters. It’s essential to rally the troops prior to the launch in order to help build momentum for your campaign. One week prior to your hard launch, send an email out to your inner circle and remind everyone that the launch is coming up. This is a chance to drive motivation, give thanks, provide incentive for early contributions and show everyone how much you care about their support and the project.
Three days prior to your hard launch you’ll want to send another email out to everyone giving specifics surrounding your campaign launch such as the day and time. Share any other pertinent or new information, notify them of any additional incentives for early contribution and be sure to encourage your community to spread the word and give thanks for their support. Also, be sure to let them know about the statistics surrounding building momentum on the first 1-2 days of your campaign and encourage them to help you meet and exceed 30% of your funding goal.
Now that you’ve engaged your inner circle, you’ll need to cast your nets wider in order to gain the attention of more individuals and continue to help spread awareness about your campaign. This is a great time for media outreach and social media advertising. The goal here is to get the word out to as many people as you can and drive this traffic back to your campaign page and email list. Once the momentum is generated, others will be more likely to want to contribute and help you achieve your goal.
After your campaign has launched you’ll want to focus on customer service and keeping in touch with your community. It’s quite common for companies to create a dedicated email support address in order to streamline the customer support process. This is also a great time for media outreach, running campaigns and giveaways and throwing in additional perks to help grab attention and recapture potential backers.
You’ve already put in a ton of work to build your community and get them engaged, don’t give up just yet. Use this time to continue to connect with your base, get them excited about meeting your goal and ramp up efforts to drive traffic to your campaign and generate as much awareness as possible.
There’s no denying the rising popularity in using crowdfunding as a method to jumpstart financing for new business ventures and projects. However, there is a ton of planning and preparation that is needed in order for businesses to beat the odds stacked against them for success. Use this guide as a resource for planning your next crowdfunding campaign so you can start off with a strong foundation in order to ensure the best results.
Have you ever implemented a crowdfunding campaign? What are some lessons you learned from the process? We’d love for you to share your insight!