Crowd funding is all about preparation. Regardless of the efforts during a campaign, unless you have the necessary preparation in place, the hardest of work during a campaign can all mount to little. Like the army who amasses, trains, and focuses, crowd funding is more about what you do before your campaign begins rather than what you do during the funding timeframe. Whether it be the pledge model, or for equity crowd funding, if you build the crowd and engage them early, your chances of crowd funding success are greatly increased.
If you have ever watched street performers, the really good ones, they have mastered the art of building a crowd. They create a noise, then they engage the first followers to make more noise. Collectively they do all they can to attract others, and once they have critical mass, the show begins. Nothing starts until critical mass is achieved, because the performer knows there is no show without an audience.
The same can be said for crowd funding. Before any crowd funding can begin, the project creator needs to have a crowd to whom they can send their message, a crowd to engage, and the followers who will become part of the movement to spread the word. It is essential, in the modern age, to build a social media following. Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, Google Plus are amongst the leading social media platforms, and anyone contemplating a campaign needs to ensure a solid following on these. As a rule of thumb, 10% of your total networks will pledge to a robust campaign. Starting with good numbers on each of these platforms will give you the greatest chance of success.
Blogging is also a great way to engage and build a bank of followers. Starting a blog related to the theme of the project you wish to fund can build your tribe around you. Some people, however, find writing and creating a blog too hard or out of their comfort zone. In this case, joining blogs, making comments, interacting with other participants on the blog, and getting to know the creator of that blog can all be helpful to building a following and engaging other likeminded people who may help you fund your project.
Some of the more “old-school” or traditional methods of building a crowd and engaging, and bringing people on board should not be discarded. An email database, pulling together everyone with whom you have ever interacted, is a good way of “talking” directly to an audience. Given you have interacted with them before, there should already exist a degree of familiarity and trust, so it is a good base to build on, letting them know of your planned campaign, and asking them to get on board.
And if you want to go even more old-fashioned, try actually talking (yes, chatting in a verbal way) with people and letting them know what your planned campaign is all about. Get them to share your excitement early. Work mates, college friends, sporting buddies, and even neighbours – tell them all about what you are planning and get them to come along for the journey.
There are various other tools that can help you engage an audience broader than you ever imagined. “Crowd speaking platforms” such as www.thunderclap.it can amplify social reach and help get your proposed project out to thousands and even millions of people. Setting up a Thunder Clap can create a wave of attention and help your followers engage their followers, and have everything ready to go before your campaign begins, giving you a massive audience ready to join you at the starting line for your campaign. Along with Thunderclap, there are a number of other platforms that can help you reach out to a broader audience. Sites such as http://www.pitchfuse.com/, www.CF4ALL.com, http://www.crowdfundingpr.org/, and http://launchrock.co/ are all good tools for building a following prior to launch.
Part of building an audience is to have a planning session. If you are working solo, it is a quiet moment to work out who you could reach out to. If you are fortunate enough to have brought on friends or a team to assist you, this is a great think-tank session. Work with your volunteers and build them into your super-fans. Sit down and work out all of the people you can reach. It may be the people you know, are in your various circles, or people you have some form of interaction with. Your potential audience could then broaden out to suppliers, possible partners, potential customers, and likeminded groups. It is not about just who you know, but who could be interested in what you are doing, and this could come from many different areas. Make a (long) list of all of these people, and work out how best to talk with them (email, social media, phone call, etc). Then you can go about engaging them before your campaign begins.
Given that building your audience involves not just your first tier of fans, but the “friends of friends” and beyond, see if you can connect with anyone who is well known or a celebrity. We are not referring to Hollywood A-listers (although that wouldn’t hurt), but local celebrities, or those who are well known in industry circles related to the nature of your project. Ask them to say nice things about your project. As with all announcements, don’t just make it about the money, but focus on the desired outcomes and the benefits these outcomes will bring.
And in the final days prior to your project going live, invite your followers to preview the project in VIP mode, giving them a special taste of what your project will offer. Giving them a sneak peek and perhaps a special incentive for early adopters and first followers (making sure you tell them exactly when it is going live) will allow your project to fly from the moment it hits the pages of our chosen crowd funding platform.
Author, Bryan Vadas, is co-founder of iPledg as well as director of Time Masters (Australia) who are accredited capital raising sponsors with ASSOB. Contact him now if you are interested in either, or if you wish to deal with a single point of contact to take you from pledge-model through to investment crowd funding. This is the only place that can transition you through the whole process.