Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dawn Weathersbee writes Three Steps to Leveraging Your Network for a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

Many companies launching a crowdfunding campaign believe that signing up on a crowdfunding platform will bring supporters flocking to their project. Simply post, and they will come. But the reality is that only 2% of funds raised come from outside of a company’s own network. This was the experience of Diana Mitchell, Founder and Designer at DDCC, a fashion company in San Francisco. As a client and a friend, Diana graciously agreed to meet with me to discuss the promotion of her successful Kickstarter campaign, where she exceeded her $17,000 goal for funding the manufacture of her spring line. She shared with me her ideas for activating and expanding one’s network in order to get project backers.  As Diana found, the majority of her supporters were friends and friends of friends, showing that word of mouth is still the most effective method of advertising for crowdfunding.
Our talk led me to develop a list of three necessary networking steps for any crowdfunding campaign. These three steps should happen months BEFORE the campaign launch.
Step One: Prepare Your Network
  • Talk with Everyone, Early On
Diana is one to err on the side of building trust with her customers through brand familiarity. Two months before she launched her campaign, she made an effort to discuss her plans with her friends, family, networks, and just about anyone at any event she attended. She didn’t want to appear to be just asking for money all of a sudden, and felt that putting the campaign on people’s radar ahead of time would encourage them to support her project and spread the word.
  • Ask People for the Right Connections
Looking back on this time period, she wished she had also considered asking people point blank if they knew anyone with extended reach in the media, or held prominence in communities associated with her fitness products. After her campaign was over, people told her they knew so-and-so at this specific media outlet with so much reach. She says people don’t always just think of it, and you should be brave enough to ask.
Step Two: Identify Your Numbers 
  • The 10% Rule
It is said that in sales one out of ten people you approach will buy. In the online world, you probably need more than ten impressions to gain one sale. Based on her backer rewards list and financial goal, Diana realized she would need to have a minimum of 250 backers. She decided that she must try to reach 10,000 people, and set about finding ways to meet that number of potential backers. She looked at the membership numbers of organizations she was involved with, and also looked at the follower numbers of organizations, blogs, and businesses likely to want to support her product and its values.
Step Three: Extend Your Network
  • Be Active in Your Own Communities
You should already have established your own social media platforms and developed your own audiences long before you launch. From there, ask your supporters to spread the word for you. Diana did these things and also extended her reach by recruiting her loyal customers to be the stars of her pitch video, and asked them to promote her campaign, too.
  • Join and Be Active in Your Targeted Communities
Based on her goal of reaching 10,000 people, Diana did research on the top 20 blogs associated with her product and her brand values. She emphasized that it is important to become a member of any online community before you ask them to support your project, otherwise, why would they care? When I asked her about her positioning in each of her online and personal event outreach efforts, she said to be authentic, but speak to the audience at hand. Think about what your product and your brand values have in common with the audience on any given platform and engage on those topics.
  • Gather Emails
Email marketing is still cited as being the number one online sales tool. Build your list whenever you can. Diana used online sign-ups for events, in-person sign-ups at trunk shows, industry events, etc. to build her list. Other ways to grow your list can be found here on Hootsuite’s blog. When approaching friends, family, or loyal customers, always make your email appeals personal. Always offer something of value when you send your emails, and people will keep opening them.

Running a crowdfunding campaign means reaching, interesting, and activating a crowd of people. The most successful way to do this is to build your network ahead of time, and keep building throughout your campaign cycle. No one said it would be easy, but the right type of prep work will make it run more smoothly for you and help you reach the backers you need.

You can reach Dawn Weathersbee at her site here

Best regards,
Hall T.