With the introduction of crowdfunding platforms, everyone’s ability to bring their idea to market got a massive boost of assistance. In many ways, Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms such as IndieGoGo and GoFundMe, are the ultimate muse testing platforms.
This post will focus specifically on Kickstarter – arguably the largest crowdfunding platform with over 10 million people having supported over 100,000 projects, totaling over $2 billion pledged towards ideas created by people like you & me!
However, even though this post is written with Kickstarter in mind, the principles and action plans are equally effective when used on any of the other crowdfunding platforms (i.e. IndieGoGo, GoFundMe, etc.)
What does it take to test your idea on Kickstarter and potentially launch your project? For starters, a great idea; a ton of hard work; and a massive network of supporters. You have to supply the first two items, and Kickstarter will help you gain the third.
In this 3-Part series, we’ll cover all the aspects of a successful Kickstarter campaign – and have a ton of great downloadables to help you along the way.
In this post (Part 1 of 3), we review:
- The pros and cons of crowdfunding;
- Developing your “pitch”;
- Using video for storytelling; and
- Identifying your Backers and targeting your Evangelists.
The Pros and Cons of Crowdfunding
As evidenced by countless 4-Hour Workweek success stories, and the how-to examples we cover in Testing the Muse, anyone can test their ideas and validate a project. However, crowdfunding has added a whole level of effectiveness to this process – actual upfront funding and buzz.
However, crowdfunding platforms are not for the faint of heart. If done correctly, these campaigns are intensive and a very public way of testing and validating your business idea or product.
The amount of effort you put into it will dictate your results. This is not something you want to go into half-hearted; this will be intensive, so you need to strategize your campaign as a well-oiled product launch.
There are many reasons you may wish to use crowdfunding, but as it relates to product and business validation, it could be viewed as one of two means to the same end:
- Either as a hyper-version of Testing the Muse idea validation; or
- A method of seeking funding and exposure (buzz) after already validating the potential of your idea or product.
The pros of using crowdfunding are that you get instant feedback on your idea, create a list of real people committed to buying your product, as well as the funding to move forward with development.
Positive side effects include exposing your idea to a broader audience and/or creating buzz, and the motivating factor of having people wanting and waiting for you to execute your idea.
The cons of crowdfunding revolve around your personal characteristics related to communications and effort. If you are uncomfortable reaching out to people for help, or asking for support, even from friends and family – this is not for you.
I’m not saying you have to be outgoing to succeed with crowdfunding, but you will need to be comfortable with the process of putting yourself (and your ideas) “out there”. As I describe later in the post, often campaigns are supported based on the creator’s passion and drive, as much or more than the perceived value of their idea.
Developing your Pitch
A “pitch” is essentially your sales call. It’s your opportunity to explain your story, your product/service, and what it can do for the end user. For a good primer on how to develop your project’s features and benefits, refer to my previous post on Distinguishing Product Benefits from Features.
Your pitch is aimed at potential “backers” – the people who will support your campaign by investing in your project. As much as your pitch is trying to entice backers to invest in your project, understand that the majority of people supporting campaigns are not there to make an investment with the expectation of financial gain.
Backers are looking for cool or creative ideas to support, and to engage with other interesting or like-minded people who are involved in projects that add value. In this respect, people aren’t so much getting behind the idea, as much as they are getting behind your passion to produce it – whether product, business, service, book, film, event, etc.
With this context in mind, don’t simply focus on your project’s benefits to the end user; rather emphasize the “story” behind the idea.
Allow the backers to invest in you – your passion and drive to make something happen. That’s really what people are putting their support behind – the person and their ability to execute.
Tell Your Story with Video
Apart from live in-person, what’s the best way to communicate passion? Yep, you guessed it – video!
I know some people dread this medium, for fear of being on camera (although being directly on camera is not 100% necessary). I, for one, have avoided video because I don’t have adequate video equipment and am intimidated by the thought of editing film, with graphics and music, etc. But with basic iPhone and iPad cameras, and resources like Fiverr and UpWork, even with several close friends skilled in the TV industry, these excuses are admittedly wearing thin.
Think of it like this – in the same way that you’re unlikely to buy something from eBay without a picture, or more likely to view and share a Tweet with an image, a Kickstarter campaign is more likely to get noticed and funded if it has a pitch video. It’s almost mandatory at this point.
When planning your video, consider the following tips:
- Be clear and concise – aim for 1-2 minutes, but no more than 4 minutes;
- Direct person-to-camera is still very effective;
- Combining graphics, images and/or other clips can be included with direct to camera, but don’t rely solely on whiteboard or image slideshows;
- Quality of production is less important than clarity of message. However, if the quality is poor, it may negatively affect the impact of your message. It can also be viewed as a reflection on you and/or your ability to deliver on your campaign;
- Be yourself – assuming you’re compelling, honest and humble 😉 But seriously, you are asking others to believe in you and your idea, so some humility is required. But be sure to maintain your own personal touch, whether it be funny or clever or straight-forward; just avoid being arrogant;
- Remember, you want people to not only “back” your project, you want them to attract other supporters, by sharing your pitch with others. There is no magic formula for making a video viral, but be creative to enhance the chances of making it “shareable”;
Naturally, you’re going to have to write everything down first – your story, details about the product, the benefits, etc. This material is essentially your sales sheet. However, you need to be able to craft a script or video to communicate all of these highlights. The pitch video is your chance to really “sell” yourself and your ability to deliver on your project.
Identifying your Backers
Before you begin trying to solicit funding from strangers, make a list of your own personal support system. The people you already know – from family and friends, to teachers and co-workers. These people care about you and what you’re up to, so consider this group your primary backers.
Start to make a list of names and email addresses in Excel or Google Docs. Don’t just stop at your relatives – put some thought into this step.
Try the following brainstorming exercise to help you consider the broad spectrum of people within your personal network, focusing on people you actually know in-person:
- If you were writing (or re-writing) your wedding invitation list with no limitations on capacity – who would you invite?; or,
- Imagine you’re viewing your funeral, from up above – who’s in attendance?
In other words, in terms of sales, if you were to call them for a favor, it wouldn’t be a “cold call”.
These people are your personal network, and they should represent your [potential] primary backers. Plan to email this list approximately 4 times during your entire fundraising campaign, as we’ll detail in the next post (Part 2 of 3).
Given this level of interaction, and the nature of “fundraising”, it’s probably an appropriate time to examine and edit your list by identifying people who might be annoyed or put off by this type of request. Don’t eliminate them entirely, but you may wish to alter the following communications plans by only reaching out to them at the beginning of your campaign and before wrapping up (beginning and end).
Using your list of primary backers, identify several people who could potentially be your “evangelists” – your personal “champions”.
Evangelists are personalities who may be predisposed to aggressively promoting your project to new audiences.
The intent here is not to highlight which of these people love you the most… Yes, you’re Mom thinks you’re the best-looking and most talented ever (and obviously she’s right), but perhaps she’s biased?
The purpose is actually to look beyond your closest contacts to people who may have a circle of influence outside of your own, preferably a group that you’d otherwise have difficultly or little hope of reaching.
Your networks should be sufficiently different, so that there is relatively little overlap in your professional and social networks.
A few examples of potential Evangelists, who may already be on your primary list, but that could also be conduits to new networks include:
- A colleague who, although you spend time with at work, you don’t socialize with regularly outside of the workplace;
- A close friend that you keep in contact with, but who now lives in a different city or country, with an established group of new friends and colleagues;
- An older or younger distant family member, who have their own group of friends within another generation/age group;
- Someone else who is like-minded in their entrepreneurial pursuit, and would like to live vicariously through your campaign.
You don’t always know who is or could be an Evangelist for you and your project, but you should know your primary backers list well enough to take an educated guess at who your biggest supports are with the most robust, yet least overlapping, networks.
These people will be key to spreading your campaign beyond your immediate circle of friends and family.
Looking forward to the next post, Part 2 of 3 in this series on How to Crush it with Crowdfunding will outline how to begin:
- Connecting with your potential backers;
- Developing and implementing a Communications Action Plan, including:
- Press releases;
- Social media campaign; and
Until next time!
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