Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have risen so much in popularity that even established businesses and entrepreneurs see them as legitimate ways to launch products, services or campaigns. Witness the recent launch of the Pebble smartwatch, a project that raised over $10 million by close to 70,000 people, providing not just funding for a new product, but a huge buzz-building PR boost and instant community of fans who have “invested” in the product.
With popularity comes competition, though: getting a crowdfunded product or service noticed on these sites is becoming more difficult and savvy marketing of your project is now essential. Pebble community manager Joseph Kristoffer shares some tips from their launch that can help you position your crowdfunding marketing campaign for success.
Be clear, concise and state the value of your product
“[Pebble founder] Eric [Migicovsky] was very good and very specific in concisely and very directly outlining very specific use cases for our project, the pain point we were solving and the benefits we were bringing to the table,” Kristoffer explains.
The best crowdfunded projects are those where the product solves a specific problem that a particular group has.“Pebble was very much the watch that we wanted to have ourselves, so it was easy for us to speak concisely, directly and honestly about the benefits and what we thought was going to be cool about our project,” he adds.
Make a crisp, short video
“It’s important to have a really great video that is brief and to the point,” Kristoffer says. In fact, he recommends the product or service be explained within the first 30 to 60 seconds of the video. Although it’s tempting to expand or get creative, it can be self-defeating. “I’ve seen a few crowdfunding videos that get a little too heavy on being funny or entertaining, and I sit there and realize it’s already been a minute and a half and I don’t even know what the project is for yet,” he says. Attention spans are at a premium on Kickstarter and others, so getting to the point quickly is crucial.
The rewards being offered to backers should be clear and concise as well, so people know exactly what they’re getting if they support the project at different funding levels.
Build buzz ahead of time
Crowdfunding shouldn’t be used to validate a business idea, Kristoffer says. It’s best to have a soft launch, first. Create a beta list of people who have shown interest in the project, so that when launch day comes, you can contact people who have made soft commitments to see if they’d be interested in supporting the project.
Drum up good press
Pebble’s Kickstarter launch received massive media exposure, and that wasn’t a coincidence. “What we did before launching was reach out to press outlets we read ourselves that we thought were a good fit, and we also reached out to writers at those outlets who’d been writing about things similar to our projects,” Kristoffer said.
“It’s important to reach out to press in a way that shows you’ve read what they’ve been writing about and that you can concisely—in an email that fits into someone’s preview window—show that you’ve read some of the things they’ve written before, how your project connects with some of what they’ve been writing about, why your own project is cool and why it should be written about,” Krisotffer says. Again, being concise is key. “Every single thing you say in that message to press should be free of fluff. Just get to the point, [explaining] how it fits in with the person you’re pitching and what they’ve been writing about and what it is you bring to the table,” he says.
Another key aspect of media relations is keeping track of any coverage you do get. This could be as simple as creating a spreadsheet of headlines, dates, authors and contact information. Although Pebble didn’t have a full-scale PR team, they were cognizant of being organized in relationship management and being able to pull a contact from a list when necessary.
Pick a platform—or make your own
Kickstarter and Indiegogo aren’t the only game in town. A dizzying array of crowdfunding options is available, and each platform has its own unique benefits.
How to choose? “Look at projects that you would’ve supported yourself that are similar, and try to get in similar platforms,” Kristoffer recommends. Crowdtilt is a good option for nonprofit organizations, or anyone who wants to pool together even small amounts of money for a project or event.
“There’s also some really great platforms now that are roll-your-own platforms,” Kristoffer explains. And if none of them fit the bill, there’s the do-it-yourself approach as well. “Look at Lockitron. They were actually rejected from Kickstarter, so instead of throwing in the towel they built their own self-hosted roll-your-own crowdfunding campaign tool called Selfstarter.” The platform is online and open source though it does require some coding to process payments. Lockitron has raised $2,278,891 through the platform.
Let your passion shine
Beyond the strategies and tips that have worked for Pebble and other successful crowdfunding marketing campaigns, Kristoffer thinks having a passion for the project is crucial. “In the successful projects I’ve seen, the project leaders have done something that they wanted for themselves; either they solved a problem for themselves, or [worked on something that] was important for them. “
If you’re just looking for money but aren’t invested in the project yourself on a deep level, core level, close to your own heart, you’re going to have a much harder time,” he adds.
This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yaelwrites.com.
© 2014, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.