​Crowdfunding Experts Spill Their Secrets for a Successful Campaign

Henry Truc  |

From right to left: 's Dustin Dye

“You guys are getting stuff we charge a lot for,” said crowdfunding advisor Justin Giddings, who is also known as The Kickstarter Guy.

Giddings was speaking at a recent crowdfunding panel with fellow startup experts Adam Goyer of Blak Box Group, Dustin Dye of Expert Dojo, and panel moderator Ryan Foland. Addressing attendees at the week-long Digital Hollywood conference, the experts dissected key strategies and approaches to completing a successful crowdfunding campaign. While the focus was on rewards/donation-based crowdfunding, the principles of the strategies do carry over to the newly formed equity crowdfunding space.

“Crowdfunding gives you a potpourri of just about everything you need to do to launch a real product or concept, but it’s a platform,” Foland said, adding one major caveat. “It’s a chance for absolute public failure. It’s a crazy scarlet letter, and that’s maybe a big elephant in the room. People run into it, and then they realize it is absolutely a challenge to do this. It is a full-time job to get people [to give you money]. You feel like the little boy who cried wolf after about three days and then you don’t know what else to tweet. And then you cry. So how do you deal with that from a motivation standpoint?”

Conducting a crowdfunding campaign can be a double-edged sword. A successful campaign provides much-needed capital for a growing company, and even more importantly, it establishes market validation in a very public forum. On the flipside, a failed crowdfunding campaign could inflict irreparable damage to a fledgling brand and business before it ever gets off the ground.

“Part of business is mastering your own fears,” Goyer said. “Fundamentally, all fears are a precursor to the fear of death. So fear of business failure is the fear that if you fail enough in business you’ll eventually die. So the way to not fail is to prepare.”

To help entrepreneurs prepare, the panel laid out a strategic timeline for the most critical period of any campaign hoping to gain traction. As Giddings said, this is something they charge their clients a lot of money for.

Pre-Production and the First 48

While campaigns can run for months on end, the biggest indicator of a crowdfunding raise’s success or failure happens within the first two or three days out of the gate. Similar to A&E’s reality TV crime drama, the first 48 hours is key to successfully closing a case er…campaign. That’s why entrepreneurs should not wait until their campaign has launched to begin asking for money. In fact, the experts say that crowdfunders should begin prepping their campaigns as early as 60 to 90 days ahead of the launch.

Things to Do:

Dye emphasized that crowdfunders need to lock down about a third of their raise before the campaign launches, and make sure those commitments are honored as soon as it does launch. It’s critical to show traction, otherwise you’ll miss out on prime exposure opportunities like being featured on the homepage of the platform themselves as a trending campaign and press coverage (this applies for equity crowdfunding too!). One idea was to host a pre-launch party and sell tickets to friends and family. The proceeds of the ticket would then become their contribution to the raise.

Goyer says to find previously successful campaigns similar to your own and track down the influencers, hashtags, and major contributors. Once you do, then engage with them. Also, make sure your narrative (sales pitch, essentially) doesn’t suck. That might seem to go without saying, but you’d be surprised.

Giddings added that crowdfunders need to establish their team to each and every specific need (video person, campaign manager, social media and PR, etc.). Don’t be afraid to hire professionals when you need to. He estimates that at least 5% of your raise should be allocated to covering your advertising budget. He adds that it’s important to not rely only on your influencers to carry your campaign.

As for things not to do, crowdfunders should not make assumptions, especially assumptions that people will donate just because they love your idea so much. Also, don’t misprice your raise. The amount you’re asking for should make sense and be consistent with what you’re trying to build. Lastly, don’t be uncoachable (yes, a double negative).

Primetime: Pressing Play, Personalization, Persistence (and Pixels)

After months of preparing for the big campaign launch, the hard part is (hopefully) done. But again, the first 48-72 hours is likely the make-or-break period of the campaign. But according to the experts, this period is really used to execute and adjust your game plan.

Things to Do:

You’ve spent the past three months engaging with contributors and getting contribution commitments from all your friends and family. Well, Goyer says this is the time to hold them all accountable. Make sure your bloggers are blogging, your social media celebs are social media-ing, and your contributors are contributing. Goyer also said that Tim Ferriss' template for crowdfunding "is gold."

Meanwhile, Giddings said this is the time to go all in. Don’t rely on automation at this point. The first few days of the campaign are all about personalization. “You only have influence in the areas where you have influence. Don’t just press play and take your hands off it.” One suggestion is to make quirky personalized thank-you videos for those that donated, and then share it on their Facebook (FB) wall. This may entice those in their network to donate as well.

Most importantly, Dye said it’s important to know that the campaign won’t go 100% according to the original plan. But instead of feeling discouraged, crowdfunders should embrace it by adjusting the campaign and messaging to where the money is coming from and what’s working. A crowdfunding campaign is a living, breathing thing, and entrepreneurs should react accordingly.

Here’s a bonus tip: Use tracking pixels.

For the don’t dos, the most important advice was to not throw in the towel or get discouraged.

Crowdfunding is a No-Brainer If You Can Handle It

There are definitely a lot of benefits that come from a successful crowdfunding campaign. In addition to the funding, entrepreneurs can gain market validation, extra publicity, and expand their professional network of important contacts through the whole process.

“It pays for itself,” Goyer said. “This is free money. If you do it right, it’s a marketing campaign that’s cash flow positive. That’s awesome.”

But it’s certainly no walk in the park, either.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of equities.com. Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to: http://www.equities.com/disclaimer.


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