Why do some Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns skyrocket, earning millions? A generous percentage of campaigns at least meet their initial goals (according to TechCrunch, 44% of Kickstarter campaigns do, and 34% of those on Indiegogo), and if the initial goal is met, it is likely to be far-surpassed, as backers think it must be a good thing, and hop onboard. But what separates the campaigns that make their goals but do not shoot off into the stratosphere, those that do, and those that go nowhere at all?
I would not have any special insight into this, but for two things. I researched for an article on the differences between Indiegogo and Kickstarter, and stumbled across a project for a new wearable device that has since launched on Indiegogo—a headband called ELF emmit that uses electromagnetic stimulation to encourage your brain to behave in a way you’d prefer it to. Full disclosure: I was since recruited to help out on the ELF emmit campaign, primarily writing the text for it. But the fact that I suddenly was catapulted behind the scenes in a campaign is what allowed me to write this article, to introduce some of the tricks that high-end crowd-funding PR firms use to make their projects a success.
ELF emmit hired the most renowned and successful of all crowd-funding agencies (which is a new and growing specialty, given that crowd-funding is worth some $30 billion per year, according to Forbes), the California-based Agency 2.0 (which raised $17 million for their clients in 2015 alone). So rather than trial and error, the ELF emmit campaign was put through a rigorous, tried-and-true, 200-step recipe for crowd-funding success. These tips, then, come from personal experience and from riding shotgun with the best in the business.
Start Far Ahead of Time, and Start Prepared
Agency 2.0 likes to start working on a campaign at least six weeks before it launches, and this is time well-spent. You’ll want to have done research on your anticipated target market, have in mind key influencers and members of the media who might be interested in your product and perhaps writing about it, and also have as much research as possible proving its efficacy, all before you go public. This isn’t always possible—after all, crowd-funding is primarily used by startups with little funds themselves and possibly only a prototype or two, so it is not feasible to expect lots of reviews and extensive published testing before the campaign starts. Most campaigners need the crowd-sourced funds to progress anywhere from the prototype. But the more you have early on, the better.
Tailor Your Campaign to Your Target Audience
Know your target audience, or at least take an educated guess. For tech and gadgetry, some 80% of backers tend to be men in their 20s and 30s, but ELF emmit found that 80% of those interested were women in their 30s and 40s. The way you approach a campaign, what media you hope to have cover your project, and the all-important campaign video (which is the only thing backers are almost certain to study, with many forgoing the text on the campaign page altogether), will vary depending on who you think your audience is.
Email Lists are better than Social Media
I hate email lists. I get far too many emails each day, and sorting through them feels like work. The last thing I want is more email, so I never sign up for newsletters. Turns out I’m in the minority (and vastly un-hip, but I already knew that). I had thought that people only wanted info, news and ads via social media, like me. And they did, not long ago. But the problem is super-saturation. There is so much traffic in a social media feed, that messages can get lost. It turns out that people are more likely to sit and read all of an email than a social media post and, most importantly, to act on it and go support a campaign. So collecting email addresses is gold to crowd-funding.
Invest in Facebook Ads
That said, the vast majority of marketing funds for successful campaigns go into Facebook ads—they are the most cost-effective thing you can pay for. These ads seem to work better at rallying an audience than ads in other social media. By “liking” a Facebook page, you are essentially saying, “Yes, you are welcome to advertise directly to me,” so ads for page likes is key. Followers can be sent updates, videos, and links, and you can engage with your followers through Comments. Analytics also allow you to see who your audience is and how they are responding, and you can alter your ad in subtle ways to shift targets easily. Any marketing funds you have should be funneled into Facebook ads and, as your campaign goes live and earns money, you should dedicate a percentage of that money to reinvest in more ads, to keep things cooking.
If you Can, Hire a Crowdfunding Agency
PR firms and specialized crowdfunding agencies, like Agency 2.0, usually require a retainer fee plus a percentage of campaign profits, so they are not cheap. But they take a huge amount of work off the shoulders of the campaign, and they only take on a project if they feel they can guarantee its success. (In 2015, for example, Agency 2.0 had a 100% success rate on campaigns they worked on). So if you can get the advance capital to hire one, it’s all but guaranteed to be returned after the campaign. The campaigns that make five figures or more almost all hire specialized firms. But keep in mind that you still need to do a lot of the work: preparing the video, photos, text, additional PR outreach, and most importantly, responding to your backers and commenters in a professional, courteous way. Crowd-funding only succeeds through the good will of backers, who should be your best friends, spreading the good word on your behalf.
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