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How I Ran a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign (and you can too)!

This month’s post will help set you up for success with regard to running a crowdfunding campaign. I will offer my helpful hints and tips that I used to run mine, and you can use them for yours. My medium was music and making an album, but this information can be used in so many other fields as well. It is based less on the music I created, but more on the planning, preparation and attention to detail. This would fall under the blanket of marketing. Knowing that the research into this topic can get extensive, and people can get a degree in this field, I will try to keep my information concise and this blog as short as possible, without skipping any steps.

The first thing I had to do was choose the right platform. Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Gofundme, Pledgemusic or another one altogether. For me, Pledgemusic was the way to go. It primarily focused on music so my detailed needs could be met. Also, I had other friends who were successful in their campaigns who raved about how this particular company understood the needs of a musician and could cater to them. This post will have a slight tilt towards musicians as that is who my main target audience is, but the information here can be for anyone in any field of business. Before I launched my campaign there was some planning to be done. I had a professor tell me that the more time spent in the planning and preparation stages, the journey to the outcome will be much smoother and easier.  Just as it would take me time to write and then record the songs before I could perform a concert live, I would have to do the same thing before I launched my campaign. I started with who I wanted on my “team”. I picked musicians I trusted and have known for about 10 years or longer. Then I picked my “All-Star” teammates. People that would fit the project, but also draw attention from fans. My plan was to build the best team I could and then if someone wasn’t available I could explore other options for possible musicians.

In the music world, when preparing an album, you need to find a great producer. They are like the quarterback helping to make the smart decisions and keeping the album vision consistent while helping you create the best product possible. I was lucky in that the person I wanted to produce my album was available and willing. It was an added bonus that he is also my friend. On top of that, he LOVES producing. It means a lot to me when picking people, that they actually enjoy and want to be doing what they are hired to do. So now I had the producer and the musicians in mind. The album vision had been determined and now it was on to choosing a studio and recording engineer. When making a great recording, the order of what you need is a great performance of the material (the musicians), a great microphone/preamp (the studio and gear) and a great recording engineer (to get the right sounds and save you time in editing). After the album is recorded, you need to find someone to mix, someone to master and then a photographer/graphic designer to make the artwork and photos match the vision of the music. I also needed my project manager. This was the “coach” I had over at Pledgemusic. He would end up keeping me honest with regard to timelines, fundraising goals, updating fans, and engaging on social media (among other tasks). Now that I have “drafted” my team, I could start to figure out how much money I would need to raise. This is still before I launched my campaign.

Pledgemusic and my coach worked with me to figure out a goal number that I needed to successfully create the project I wanted to do, as well as how much they thought I could actually raise. They looked at my email list, and social media numbers to see how many people I could reach.  We came up with a budget (that would shift a bit based on how the recording was progressing), but we pretty much stayed on track. We decided on a charity to donate part of the proceeds to (extra incentive for people to want to support the project, and a way for me to give back), and figured out the story (VERY IMPORTANT) to accompany the project. With your story, you are telling the consumer what you are doing, why you are doing it, and most importantly, what is in it for them. Your story should encompass all of those things in a creative way. I did it with a video. We decided on a launch day and crafted some emails/posts/videos/teasers in advance of the launch.

PRO-TIP: Coming up with teasers, video clips, emails, and posts in advance was a tactic used throughout the campaign. This way we could just hit send on the day of. It also enabled us to navigate other scheduling conflicts like holidays and such.

Before I launched, I studied the AIDA sales funnel created in 1898 by E. St. Elmo Lewis. It is a funnel because of the law of averages. You won’t have the same number of people you start with purchasing at the end. So, you try to reach as many people as possible to increase your odds of conversion.

comsumerpurchasefunnel

The first part of the funnel is to create awareness. That means the more people that know about your project, the higher percentage of people wanting to support it. This is where you use social media to drive traffic. Since you are just “renting” space from the social media platforms, you don’t want people to land there, because the owners of those pages can change the layout and terms and conditions whenever they wish. You want people to see the information you have posted and follow whatever link to your website, where you own the content and can control what happens on that page. Your website (or in this case the crowdfunding website) will end up being your “storefront”. The more social media networks you are a part of, the more people you may be able to reach. This is not just limited to the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram type profiles. You can also use videos (YouTube/Periscope), as well as blog posts or personal emails (statistically the best conversion rate of all the aforementioned mediums). Again, coming up with the content/link you want to use in advance is a lifesaver. Side note, I actually used my website to drive traffic to my “storefront” as well. Don’t forget to add backlinks on your website to your social media pages and such. This helps raise your SEO (search engine optimization).

PRO-TIP: Facebook and Twitter currently have their algorithms set to feature video posts at the top of their newsfeeds and photos next. Of course, this could change by the time I post this blog, but it is good to think about when you are trying to reach people with your content. Media rich posts are the way to go when choosing content to share.

The next part of the funnel is Interest. This is where you start to develop a relationship with your customer. This can be outlined in detail in the book Permission Marketing by Seth Godin. Short version, there are two types of basic marketing. Interruption marketing and permission marketing. Interruption marketing interrupts your day, such as commercials, billboards, internet ads and the like. Permission marketing is a polite invitation from someone you gave access to contact you. A recommendation from a friend, a newsletter from a band you like, or even this blog post you signed up for (basically someone who has already earned your trust). Usually there is some sort of exchange. “If you give me your email, I’ll let you know when I’m playing in your area” or “If you sign up for this blog, I’ll send you a free song”. The details are usually laid out as to what each party is to expect. I have also learned by watching the statistics on my sites, that nothing tops funny or cute animals. So if your pitch to the public is comical, with lots of kittens, and gives away free content, there’s no way you can lose!

Once you create a relationship with your potential consumer, you need to create a desire for them to take action. This can be called an upsell. They may be able to get your music, but you can also add different price points for other things added on. This is where your creative merch sales come into play. T-shirts, vinyl records, keychains, phone chargers, coffee mugs/nalgene bottles, and the list goes on and on. Some can get even crazy like acoustic house concerts, recording studio visits, or personalized video chats/tours. Getting $10 for your album is nice, but if you are able to turn that into $20 somehow, that is nicer.

Finally the last step of the funnel is Action. This is where your consumer can make their purchase. You need to make clear how to accept payment and make the purchase easy to execute. I suggest using a squeeze page on your website as well to aid in the process. The squeeze page is designed to look bland with limited options for maximum conversion and minimal distraction. Here is an example of one:

squeeze-1-screenshot

It has a bold headline, some quotes from prominent people (press or celebrity types if possible), some bullet points and then a transaction location. This can be an email or a button to take them to a secure checkout. You’ll also notice an LTO at the top of the squeeze page to get you to act quickly. An LTO is a limited time offer. Some people actually put countdown clocks on their page to help urge people to act fast. You can come up with a few LTOs during your campaign to up the ante. Maybe you set a time limit that if people pledge their support in the next hour, they get a free song or webcam concert by you?

Once you have all of your pages set up (social media, website, crowdfunding site, squeeze and/or splash page), and you have come up with a video introduction and a few preliminary emails, you are ready to launch. The goal of the launch is to get a huge surge on day one. Campaigns launched that have a significant percentage of attainment towards the goal on day one attract more attention. My suggestion is to launch in the early morning. At night, most people are away from their computers. Early mornings people are starting their day, checking posts and seeing what they need to address via email and other messages. I have found that people are pretty active in the mornings, and then again around lunchtime, and finally in the early evenings when people are getting home from work before the major sitcoms start (also be aware of time zones). I have also found that there are too many distractions on the weekends, so stay away from launching/posting then. On Mondays people are just getting back into their routines. For my purposes, Tuesday and Thursday were the best days for interaction yielding the best results. This not only goes for the launch but also for any updates or posts you have throughout your campaign. These updates and posts don’t have to be huge. Maybe a video from a rehearsal, or a teaser of the artwork/photos, or an unfinished song. Anything to keep people engaged and excited about the project and then continue that energy throughout the duration of your campaign. It will be lots of work on your part, but if you truly believe in the product, then it will all be worth it. You also want to give a hint to the public, but also only reveal the entire post/update to the people who pre-order or support your project. Similar to an all access/behind the scenes pass. It will create a buzz if something is going on and people are left out. They want to know how they can be down and part of the “inner circle”. You should strive to have captivating content, that is targeted to specific audience that solves a problem or creates a reason to participate in the conversation. The release day for music and DVDs used to be on Tuesday in the USA, but it has recently shifted to Friday to align with the rest of the world as well as the movie industry. So now, Friday is the international release day for music and movies.

Other things to think about as you manage your campaign over time is when you are reaching out to people, realize not everyone is going to be in the financial situation to donate. That doesn’t mean they should be looked over. They can help in different ways. Maybe they can help spread the word to their friends and family via social networks or otherwise. Maybe they write a blog and can feature you in it, or somehow get the press involved. Maybe they can even do some of the leg work for you in running the campaign. If they support you, then they are on your team and can help you succeed.

Lastly, I want to mention other tools and resources that came in handy for me that may work for you too. I mentioned Seth Godin earlier and his book Permission Marketing. Another book I would suggest is The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout. As far as my email list, I use MailChimp. If you have the funds, you can use Zirtual to hire assistants to help you delegate tasks. And because I am a nerd, I found this book about the science behind marketing extremely interesting called Brainfluence by Roger Dooley.

I hope that helps you and gives you some insight as to the work that goes on behind the scenes. Next month, I will talk about what happens AFTER you have a successful campaign.