Thinking about launching a KickStarter or IndieGogo campaign to raise funds for your business or project? Our goal is to help you avoid the crowdfunding mistakes we’re seeing everywhere in 2021.
First a little background about today’s audio lesson brought to you by Gusto. Malcolm Bedell successfully launched one of the biggest food truck campaigns in KickStarter history back in 2015 raising $29,457. You can check out the KickStarter campaign here to watch the video, see campaign perks, and learn the entire story.
Malcolm and I have held classes together teaching the mechanics of launching a successful campaign from recording a video pitch, writing good ad copy, adding photos, and creating perks. But what we’ve learned is the mechanical steps aren’t the issue in the graveyard of failed crowdfunding campaigns.
In fact, most of the KickStarter videos and ad copy we’ve seen are pretty darn good. The basic pieces of a crowdfunding campaigns aren’t the main point of failure. Bottom line, the basic tips you’ll find on hundreds of articles published on the subject of recording a good crowdfunding video isn’t what will actually make or break the campaign.
Our goal with this post is to give you direction on where to focus most of your time and effort in addition to revealing where most of your time should be spent. Let’s dig into each of these crowdfunding campaign killers and explain how to avoid them:
- The things you do before the launch is what’s most important.
- All or nothing.
- No status updates.
- Hard to fulfill / bottom line killing perks.
The things you do before the launch is what’s most important.
Last week I got an email from Dave. I knew Dave had been working toward opening a food truck business for a couple years and sent me a link to his campaign on IndieGoGo. I clicked the link to check it out and support the cause.
Here’s what I discovered. The campaign had actually started 10 days prior and was scheduled to end in about a week. To date there had been a couple hundred dollars raised for a goal of $15,000. It was clear to me that Dave’s campaign would not be fully funded from the second I hit the page. There was no excitement, activity, and the campaign was about to end.
Unfortunately, this is a problem I’ve seen with campaigns before. The entrepreneur invests weeks recording a video, creating bonuses, writing a story for the campaign page, but because don’t take any time to notify people in advance of the campaign open. Since there’s no promotion in advance of the campaign opening, the fundraiser doesn’t go anywhere. There’s crickets on launch day and the entrepreneur is left wondering what when wrong.
It doesn’t matter how great your video is if people don’t know about the launch. If your entire plan to promote your crowdfunding campaign is posting two updates on Facebook and telling your best friend about it, I’m sorry to say your fundraising effort is destined to fail.
Fortunately, you’re reading this so you can avoid this crippling mistake. Instead of notifying people about your campaign after it’s already open, start the contact people the campaign a full 30 days in advance of your campaign open date. This is exactly what Malcolm did to raise nearly $30,000 for a food trailer. Here’s the basic 30 day pre-launch plan that you can follow too.
30-Day Pre-Launch Outreach Sample Plan:
- Direct message all of your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or other social media friends to let them know you have a campaign launching in 30 days.
- Email all your friends, co-workers, and family members about the crowdfunding campaign 30 days in advance.
- Compile a list of websites, blogs, and local newspapers / writers and contact them about your campaign. Be open to conducting interviews for these people of the press.
You should spend the time writing a personalize message to each person you contact. Explain your campaigns goals, when you plan to launch and the importance of “Day 1” donations in the message. Yes… This will take a very long time.
Reader Note: The most successful campaigns overall have a “first 24 hour” rush of donations. This helps build social proof and momentum for the campaign. A big first day is critical because it gets people excited. You can parlay this excitement into more press and more donations. This is an important step to get people emotionally invested in the campaign. If you don’t have a big first couple days, you’re unlikely to secure funding.
All or Nothing.
If you don’t hit your campaign goals, the business doesn’t open. Without your donation, the dream ends. It sounds harsh and it is. But this is a point you need to hammer home in your campaign marketing.
When Malcolm clicked published on his crowdfunding campaign there were no backup plans. Malcolm didn’t have enough money or good enough credit for bank loan. Either he raised the money or got another desk job. Those were the two outcomes. How much harder to you would work toward something if the stakes were this high?
Another campaign I supported made this critical mistake. On social media, the owner promoted their crowdfunding campaign. This is good. But they also stated that they were going to get the money to start the business even if the campaign failed with a loan, dipping into retirement savings or whatever. These sorts backup plans make it less likely to conjure the emotional response required to get a donation.
People get behind all or nothing causes. Make sure everyone understands how critical their investment is in your business. No donation. No business. Period.
No On-Going Updates
The most successful crowdfunding campaigns are on-going events. The best campaigns have landmarks or mini goals that are hit. You want to notify your subscribers, fans, followers, friends and family about each goal you cross off the list. Here are a few updates you’ll want to make sure to share with your campaign followers:
- Pre-launch message about a month before campaign kicks off.
- Campaign is starting soon! Notify everyone about your campaign and send a link to your KickStarter page a 4 – 7 days in advance of the opening.
- Night before. Notifying everyone again about the campaign and stress the importance of day one donations.
- Campaign is live! Announce to everyone when campaign is live so they can donate. Call people and do anything you can to get people to take out their credit cards and donate right away. Ask them to share this campaign link with everyone.
- Plan to post campaign update videos 12, 24, and 48 hours after your campaign launches, thanking supporters for their backing and letting them know that their donations are bringing your dream to life. Record these with your iPhone. No editing required.
- Announcement of first income marker hit. Ideally at this point you’ll hit some donation threshold, maybe that’s $1,000, $2,000 or $5,000. When you hit a big round number that looks impressive, make sure to notify everyone. This helps generate excitement that this campaign could actually work out.
- Other update options. There are other landmarks you might hit like getting interviewed by a blogger, getting press in your local paper. Share some other examples of momentum for the campaign. Express how thankful you are to everyone who already donated. Announce an exciting perk that supporters can get.
- The Final Hours of the Campaign. In the last 24 hours of a campaign, you really need to get aggressive by letting people know this is the last chance to contribute and support this incredible cause.
- Post campaign wrap up. Let people know how you did. Let folks know when the bonuses are coming.
As you can see there’s plenty to update people on about any campaign. It’s critical to provide on-going updates because some you know people might have forgotten about your campaign. They may not have opened the first email from you. They might have gotten an urgent call at the exact moment they planned to contribute.
Following this process ensures your message is heard through all the noise. Remember, while this campaign is a big deal to you, it’s just another status update or email to someone else. Do everything you can to stay top of mind.
Hard to Fulfill / Bottom Line Killing Perks
One of the most popular tips for launching a successful crowdfunding campaign is to give away really amazing rewards to run a successful campaign. This advice is fine and well, but be careful promising too much when it comes to campaign rewards.
Related Reading: How Fat Leaf Water Raised $30k+ for a Cactus Water Sports Beverage
After all you’re getting into the food business, not the t-shirt fulfillment business. The last thing you want to do after hitting your crowdfunding goal is to spend the next month of your life fulfilling rewards instead of getting a funded business off the ground. This happens more than you might think.
Another mistake we advise against is investing in perks that eat away at your campaign profits. One of the campaign mistakes Malcolm regrets is offering tin lunch boxes to supporters of a certain level. The tin lunch box with an engraved logo was cool, but a pain to fulfill and expensive. Not only did Malcolm need to wait for a few lunch boxes to be shipped to his home that cost around $30 with shipping. Malcolm then needed to individually mail every lunch box the supporters address too.
Instead of offering high-cost packages for backers, try keep fulfillment of rewards simple and affordable. Twitter shoutouts, a digital book, an exclusive cooking class held on Zoom, a tour of your restaurant kitchen after it opens, a 30-minute consulting phone call, naming a sandwich after someone on the menu, or even sending bumper stickers. None of these perks require much fulfillment effort.
Don’t think reward fulfillment is an issue? There’s an entire industry of reward fulfillment services you can work with after your campaign ends to manage getting rewards shipped. Working with one of these companies will eat into the profitability of a campaign, but they also allow you to get on with running your business.
So there you have it. The most common mistakes we see with campaigns that didn’t gain traction over the past year. If you want to get more inspiration on other ways that entrepreneurs have launched their own crowdfunding campaign, check out our case studies below.
- How Bissy Energy Founded a Plant-Based Kolanut Energy Powder and Coffee Alternative (Raised $33,300 on KickStarter)
- How Two Moms Launched Keto Cracker Company Defy Foods (Raised More than $47,000 with Crowdfunding)
- How NoSpike Pre-sold $10,000 of Diabetic Friendly Shakes on KickStarter