It’s time to shift our attention to the “crowd” in crowdfunding. To launch and ultimately succeed with your campaign, you’ll need to rally fans—family, friends and newcomers alike—not just to fund your project but to join you on your journey. As mentioned in chapter 2, we recommend that you aim to reach 30% of your campaign goal within the first 2 days of launch, which requires some critical work on the front end to build and engage your audience. In this chapter we’ll review tips and strategies to go from 0% to 30%—and far beyond.
STEP ONE: YOUR TEAM
Build a “host committee” to help steer your project
Every campaign hinges on strong relationships. The good news is that you probably have a community ready to support your goals and help kick off the process of building a fanbase. Whether your end goal is $500 or $500,000, these friends, family members and colleagues are an essential foundation to the larger community you will need to grow. Identify 10-15 trusted supporters to join your project as a host committee. This enthusiastic team will help you spread the word within their own networks, sparking some important early momentum for your project.
STEP TWO: YOUR NETWORK
Make the most of every layer of your network
Now that you have formed a team of advocates who are committed to championing your idea from concept to market, start thinking about your collective network in layers. Each layer or group of people will support your campaign in different ways.
Layer 1: Your immediate network
These are your family members, your close friends and your colleagues. They are willing to support your idea, no matter what it is, because they trust and believe in you. Building a community is all about relationships, and you already know how to form them.
Layer 2: Your community network
Picture yourself standing in a room with everyone you know around you. If those standing closest to you are the friends and family members who know you the best, your community network is the group of people standing just behind your closest circle. They can be acquaintances from your school alumni network, colleagues from local organizations, or other professionals you met at conferences or film festivals. They can even be neighbors or friends of friends who may have a shared interest in the issues related to your project.
Layer 3: Potential backers
These are members of your target audience. To them, your project may solve a problem, engage their imagination or improve their lives. They might be early adopters of new technology or moviegoers who appreciate a specific style or fans of certain types of games. Most importantly, they are the type of people who will support your goal of bringing a new and innovative solution or creation to the world.
Thinking of your network in layers will help you plan your messaging strategy. No doubt the pitch you make to your friends will sound much different from the pitch you make to a stranger. You will need to tailor not only your message but also your communication channels (email, social media, etc.) for each of the groups identified above. Knowing your audience and what will motivate them will be critical in growing your community.
Develop your social media presence
Do not underestimate the power of social media to amplify your message and grow your audience. You can certainly run a successful crowdfunding campaign without social media, but consider the benefits of empowering your supporters to help spread your message throughout their digital spheres of influence. Social media offers an opportunity to develop your voice and learn more about what aspects of your project excite your audience.
STEP FOUR: LIST BUILDING
Grow your email list with offline and online activities
Our research suggests that email is the most cost-efficient and direct method for crowdfunding communications. Here are some best practices for building a great list:
Get out and go to events
Find local, regional and national events that are related to your product, service, social cause or creative project. Search for film festivals, tradeshows and networking events where you’re likely to meet others who share your passion for innovation. During the events be sure to network. Remember, it’s all about relationship building! Introduce yourself to attendees and tell them about your project. Swap information and follow up with your new contacts directly after the event. If you are exhibiting or presenting, hold a raffle for a chance to win a prize. Ask attendees to drop their business cards into your raffle box for a chance to win. You’ll leave the conference with a stack of new email addresses.
Make it easy to sign up for more information
A prospective backer interested in signing up for information and updates may be deterred if the process is too complicated or time-consuming. Make it easy for prospective supporters to stay in contact with you. If you’ve developed a website, incorporate a short but prominent form for visitors to sign up for email updates.
Create a newsletter
Put your email list to work by supplementing your direct email efforts with a monthly or quarterly newsletter. Newsletters are great way to reward your audience for signing up for your list by offering them engaging, useful content. Creating and sending digital newsletters is easier than ever with services such as TinyLetter, MailChimp and Constant Contact.
Run a contest
Contests can be a great way both to build an audience and to drive engagement. Free tools like Gleam make it easy to run contests that reward entrants based on their level of participation. With Gleam, entrants can earn points for sharing your tweets, liking your Facebook page or many other types of online engagement, potentially adding a powerful virality to your story. Case in point: Linjer, a boutique leather goods provider and Indiegogo success story, ran a Gleam contest that grew their email list from 424 to 1,000, helping them to raise that critical 30% of their fundraising goal within the first 2 days of their campaign.
STEP FIVE: FOLLOW THROUGH
Stay in touch with your growing audience
You’ve collected email addresses, grown your circle of community members, built up a social media army and amplified your message—now it’s time to cultivate those relationships! Be responsive to inquiries, answer questions, request feedback, take suggestions and encourage two-way dialogue with your supporters. It’s at this stage that having a great host committee will really pay off. Your campaign team can help to rapidly expand your outreach by joining the conversation as a unified group.
We can’t really say it enough: These individuals—your friends, fans and followers—will be essential to your journey from concept to market. Stay in touch. Ask your ambassadors for feedback, insight and advice. Poll them on potential features, plot lines or product uses. Your community is your greatest asset, so make a point to follow up and keep them informed at every stage of the project.
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