10 More Steps to a Successful (Equity) Crowdfunding Campaign
As a crowdfunding campaign manager at Symbid over the last few years, I see entrepreneurs making the same simple mistakes over and over again when seeking funds from the crowd. So here are 10 (more) steps to crowdfunding success, following last week’s article 10 Steps to a Successful (Equity) Crowdfunding Campaign. A must-read when considering an equity crowdfunding campaign on Symbid or elsewhere!
- Press releases and media coverage: messaging is key
Effective media relations require a delicate touch and an eye for detail – something that some entrepreneurs struggle with. Entrepreneurs want to share too much, with too many people, too early in their campaign. Working hard to get your story published when your campaign only has 9% funding is often a total waste of time. Few people without a personal connection to an entrepreneur invest at such an early stage in a campaign. Simply put, they can’t be sure it will be successful and have little motivation to invest.
This doesn’t mean you should let an opportunity pass by if it comes at the wrong time. But, if possible, speak to the journalist and try to schedule it for a more appropriate date, link it to an upcoming event, or arrange a second publishing when your campaign has made some progress.
In general, entrepreneurs seem to have a preference for larger titles and national newspapers. Often, however, aiming for a smaller but more specific target audience is far more effective because the conversion rate from reader to investor will be higher. Another common mistake is overestimating the value of your own message both for the media outlet and the reader. Try to think on behalf of the outlet and reader and adjust your message to make it as relevant as possible for them. Has your industry been in the news recently? Does your campaign link to a relevant news story? Does your product solve a problem that people might have experienced personally or read about? Don’t just tell the world about your crowdfunding campaign, but show the world why they should be interested in it.
Do it now: look around you, online and offline, in social media and in the traditional media. What is everybody talking about, why is it considered valuable, is it a hype or a (long-term) trend? Who are the people reading and spreading these messages? Think of three points that link your campaign to current or recent news stories, and begin your press release or media story with these. Greendaddy did this really well, successfully activating the environmentally-conscious community here in the Netherlands through targeted news stories and blog posts.
- Blogs: the storyline of your campaign
Crowdfunding is still a relatively new and intriguing concept for many people. This general public interest differentiates crowdfunding from traditional financing and is something you, as an entrepreneur, can exploit. Blog about your experiences and the obstacles you’ve faced – in detail. This will help you to engage your fellow entrepreneurs who, after all, are also often investors themselves while also helping you to build an online presence that boosts your legitimacy in the eyes of potential investors. Blogging about your campaign shows you have the courage and confidence to talk openly about the ups and downs of your capital raise. This will create a more personal, human connection between yourself and potential investors. Who knows, they may even empathise with your situation.
You don’t necessarily have to share sensitive information, but you should create a context in which people can connect to your story and want to share your journey with others. What’s more, with your own blog you hold the cards when it comes to showcasing your success, instead of being dependant on third parties. You can link your blog heavily to your crowdfunding campaign, thereby boosting its SEO. Trust me, blogging doesn’t have to cost a lot of time – it takes a few minutes to set up a blog and most posts can consist of around 250-300 words.
Do it now: not sure what to write about? List 10 recent events, issues or lessons relating to your campaign – however small and seemingly insignificant. Turn 5 of these moments into separate stories. Explain your emotions in detail at every stage. After all, people are interested in other people, not how much investment your campaign has received in the last week. These days, people are especially interested in entrepreneurs, and you’ll be surprised by how even the most mundane things are intriguing to those outside the entrepreneurial world. Then, every week or – even better – every day, note down your biggest lesson or insight, failure or success, and how this made you feel as an entrepreneur. Give your note an engaging title and a stock image or two, and voilà, you have a blog post.
- Don’t underestimate awards and competitions: success breeds success
Guess what? The most rewarding aspect of winning an award or competition typically isn’t the prize itself, or even the glory attached to it, it’s the communication opportunities surrounding the event. Awards are often presented by organisations with a large network of followers across several communication channels like mailings, social media and press. Participating in and/or winning such an award or competition presents you with a unique opportunity to use these channels. Whether you’re competing on behalf of your crowdfunding campaign or your company itself is irrelevant. Your campaign should be a recurring theme in any media opportunity or acceptance speech.
Don’t be afraid to push your campaign at all times, especially while networking or presenting at a related event. People will be more receptive to your campaign if you’re participating in an award or competition – consider it as a badge of quality or proof-of-concept.
Do it now: search online and ask around for any relevant competitions and awards that will take place during your campaign. Remember that many will have similar application procedures, so hopefully you’ll be able to use the same application over and over again. With this in mind, apply to as many as possible regardless of your chances of winning. You’re doing this for the exposure, not a bottle of champagne or bouquet of flowers. Getting yourself nominated should enable you to piggyback on their media channels and legitimacy for a while, let alone actually winning. Mentioning your participation is a surefire way to boost your reputation among your own networks too.
- Flyers and promotional materials still matter – seriously
Too often I see entrepreneurs focusing on preparing their capital raise digitally – a professional marketing video, first-rate SEO and an engaging online media presence – and then arriving at an event with a few 5 year-old business cards. Yes, the actual investment process may take place online, but many potential investors still need to be persuaded in an offline environment before committing. Designing, printing and handing out a set of special business cards, flyers and brochures is cheaper now than ever before and, after making contact at an event, is a great way of stimulating people to take action at a later date. You may have delivered a clear, engaging sales pitch to – or networked closely with – a room of potential investors, but all that effort means very little unless they leave with a little piece of your campaign in their pocket. On a basic level, maintaining a strong offline presence is key to building legitimacy around your campaign.
Do it now: think about all the types of tangible promotional materials you can leave behind at events that may differentiate you from others. For example, if you’re active in the food or hospitality industry, print a few personalised beer mats or napkins with a link to your campaign and a call-to-action, such as offering the chance to win a crate of beer! Active in e-commerce? Place a every delivery you send out! Customers are far more likely to invest in your campaign because they appreciate your service. If you’re serious about networking, print business cards specifically for your campaign.
- Turn existing products and service into another promotional opportunity
As alluded to above, you should think of your customers as hot investor leads. Don’t be afraid to exploit each customer contact moment for your campaign – customers often make up a big chuck of the investors in crowdfunding campaigns! Considering making special editions of your product or, if you have an online store in place, offer a free share or two in your company alongside a product (or vice versa) to really push your customers to invest.
Reward larger investments with unique products, and offer gifts for investors who refer you to another investor. The key is to be creative. If your product isn’t available on the open market yet, promise your investors they they’ll be the first receivers. Businesses have been doing this kind of advanced- or pre-selling on Kickstarter for years to great success. If your product is too expensive to be given away regularly, arrange a competition whereby the size of an investment relates to a higher chance of winning. To take a perfect example, Van.eko offer a chance to win an exclusive, special edition of their Be.e scooter, worth €6700. With a product this beautiful on offer, it’s no surprise the entrepreneur, Vaniek Colenbrander, is well on his way to crowdfunding success.
Do it now: Plan this carefully. Chart all the moments when you have customer contact: e-mails from customer support, automatic order confirmations, track-and-trace messaging, questions via social media, out of the box-experience moments. Every time you connect with a customer is another opportunity to promote your crowdfunding campaign.
- Investors are the perfect campaign ambassadors!
Networking is crucial to crowdfunding success but, soon enough, you’ll notice there’s a limit to your network. The solution? Tapping into the next best network that is available: that of your investors! They’re likely to be friends with other like-minded investors who will listen to their recommendation. What’s more, they want your campaign to succeed. To encourage this kind of action, focus on ‘recruit-a-friend’ initiatives. For example, offer extra shares to investors that haul in other investors, or hand out a unique award or prize to the investor that is most effective in promoting your campaign. The key thing here is to make your investors feel needed and special. Don’t beg, but don’t be afraid to ask for help either. Investors generally enjoy being involved with aspiring entrepreneurs and will appreciate that you’re not too stubborn to ask for their assistance. Of course, on a less formal basis, you can do the same with your friends.
Do it now: put yourself in the shoes of your target audience of investors. What is required to activate them to promote your campaign in their own network? Is it simply a forwarding e-mail? A link on social media? A unique reward, early product, or free share in your company? For high net-worth investors with considerable influence and a large, relevant network, consider arranging a personal meeting in which they can get to know you – they may offer their help without even being asked. As an extra step, try to map out the types of messages and media channels that may be required to activate the the networks of your investors. This will make it easier for them to help you.
- SEO and SEA: optimise your campaign with search engine optimisation
This is all about getting found by Google, and it applies to your business just as it applies to your campaign. If you assumed this just happened, without a strategy or any effort on your part, start by looking here. In the ultra-competitive online world, building a website and creating some social media accounts isn’t enough. You have to make it as easy as possible for people to find you and your campaign. After all, you could have a sound business model, strong ROI and effective branding but it’s all irrelevant if only your close network of family and friends see it.
Some start-up entrepreneurs looking to turn their idea into a business through crowdfunding don’t have a website. This is unfortunate, as linking your website to your campaign heavily should be SEO standard practice when it comes to crowdfunding. However, this isn’t an excuse to ignore SEO completely. Focus your SEO efforts on the campaign page itself. Set the keywords for your campaign – words which potential investors are likely to search on – and make sure you use them in your titles, subtitles, image tags, meta title and description, URL, etc. You should optimise all your online profiles for your campaign, including social media. If you do have your own company website – if not, hosting and setting up a WordPress site should be top of your list of priorities – then dedicate a page to your campaign where you explain the benefits of investing in your business and link heavily to your campaign page. In terms of content, make it similar to your campaign page so search engines can pick you up easily. However, DO NOT duplicate content. Google doesn’t like this, and will punish you for it.
Do it now: make a list of all your online profiles: website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and any other personal and company pages on the web. Are they targeted towards your campaign? Probably not, so get it fixed. Add links to your campaign in highly visible places, using a strong call-to-action. Use the (free) Google AdWords Keyword Planner to determine the relevant keywords for your campaign and optimise your pages accordingly. A basic guide to getting more traffic to your campaign, including some SEO tips, can be found here. For inspiration, check out the (Dutch) crowdfunding campaign of StoreCorporation, led by SEO expert Jaap Krijgsman. They used “StoreCorporation Crowdfunding” as the meta title of their campaign page, and created profiles on other good-for-SEO sites like CrunchBase, always linking them back to the campaign.
- Perks: not only for consumer products
Many entrepreneurs believe “perks” – exclusive deals and offers not available on the market – are only relevant if your customer is a private consumer, but we disagree. Offering investors ‘the latest news and insights from our industry via our exclusive investor mailing’ is just as perk-worthy as a free product. Likewise, consider offering things like ‘a special edition book explaining who we are and our vision as a company,’ or ‘an exclusive invite to our cool crowdfunding kick-off party.’ These are all great ways of turning extra contact moments into perks that feel exclusive and unique. Personal meetings and masterclasses are more examples of awesome perks that are more meaningful than a freebie.
Investors often appreciate perks which involve establishing a personal connection with the entrepreneur or company over a product. This helps them to feel part of something, as opposed to being just another customer.
Do it now: think of 10 perks that are generic in nature and would fit any campaign. Then target the content of the perk towards your campaign. What special knowledge do your founders or team members have? Could this be translated into an e-book, webcast or masterclass? Remember, your investors will typically be involved in a similar business or profession to your own – what insights can you share that they’ll genuinely appreciate?
- Email footers can turn any receiver into a potential investor!
Almost half of the Dutch population uses e-mail as their primary communication channel, far more than those on Facebook or Whatsapp. In other words: e-mail is an extremely valuable communication tool which can be turned into another method of attracting investors to your crowdfunding campaign.
Don’t just mention your crowdfunding campaign! Make it stand out with some unique (but not over-the-top) styling. Add a brief sentence explaining what’s in it for investors and why they should invest now as opposed to next week – maybe tie this to a perk or promotion. Also, include your recent biggest success, such as an award or a mention in a well-known media title.
Do it now: customise the following message: “Company X is crowdfunding! With already 35% of the necessary capital committed in just a couple of weeks, investments are filling up quickly, so join us now! Anyone can invest from €20 onwards, and for investments of €200 or above we’ll give you Product X for free. Check our campaign now!”
- Activating partners: 1 + 1 = 3
Most entrepreneurs simply forget to reach out to a group with a lot of activation power: their business partners! During your entrepreneurial journey you’ve probably come across companies, organisations or customer groups on whom you can rely to help you when you’re in need. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help in building attention around your campaign! Even better, think about what you can do for them in return. Clearly you can offer customers a unique extra immediately, perhaps via a referral system. With B2B contacts, considering offering your own communication channels or even some freelance work in return. In an incubator program? Call in a few favours and push your campaign within that community. If your offices are located in an entrepreneurship centre or within a business community, make friends with their marketing department and enquire about free advertising space in their mailings or elsewhere.
Do it now: get over your entrepreneurial ego! Being indebted to other people is OK, as long as you know you can return the favour in the future. Make a list of contact persons for organisations, media channels and events that might be useful for your campaign. Make another list with all your past and current business partners. Contact these people and, after asking for their help in promoting your campaign (push for a date and time), run your other list by them to see if any of those contact persons are in their network. After all, crowdfunding is networking!
Ludwine Dekker was recently named as one of the top 19 crowdfunding experts worldwide by Inc. magazine.