Based upon our experience working with thousands of crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter and/or Indiegogo, here are some basic tips for running crowdfunding marketing so that it profitably draws the right crowds to view your media…
In our understanding, the most vital factors in any crowdfunding campaign’s success (or failure) are always the benefits-and-costs that it’s offering, influenced by the team behind it. Secondly is when and where and how those primary factors are presented to the public. And thirdly is how crowds get drawn to see what’s being presented, which is the purpose of crowdfunding marketing. Some campaigners place excessive faith in marketing, but they should remember that drawing traffic won’t do much good if those viewers aren’t converted by what they encounter, and also that an honest presentation can never be any better than what it’s presenting. So, if you offer the world a figurative Edsel, then even some of the best marketing on Earth won’t save it—but, if your product is already selling well without any marketing, then it’ll normally sell far better with effective marketing.
The best marketing is always word-of-mouth, which is powerful but also slow, so it pays to both hasten and amplify its power with your own efforts. Crowdfunding marketing is also very synergistic, we’ve noticed, as more pledges from one source typically encourage more pledges from ALL sources—so, it’s best to use every possible method that fits your budget. But it’s also best to prioritize your resources so that you’re spending the most time and/or money on what’s most likely to yield the most results. To help evaluate such results, it’s good to involve effective analytics (such as Google Analytics) so that you can make decisions based upon knowledge rather than speculation. We’ll say more about Google Analytics setup in another blog entry.
Crowdfunding marketing can be divided into two categories, which are pre-launch and post-launch, and we’ll now overview each of those two phases in turn.
Crowdfunding campaigns typically enjoy a spike in organic attention during their first few days, and it’s good for campaigners to engage in pre-launch marketing to synergize with this natural spike. Such synergy helps crowdfunding campaigns to get fully funded as quickly as possible, and such success helps to attract even more success. This is because, while some backers will pledge in any case, other backers require varying degrees of “social proof” before they’ll do likewise—and, so, they love to support campaigns that are making rapid progress toward (or, better yet, beyond) minimal goals. Campaigns that skip pre-launch marketing won’t automatically fail, we’ve noticed, but they’ll generally fare worse without it than with it.
Pre-launch marketing techniques typically include mobilizing personal contacts, e-mail lead-generation, social-media community-building, and public relations, and we’ll now review each of these four techniques in turn.
Mobilizing your personal contacts to pledge is a good method to start with. It costs you nothing and, even if your contacts only pledge $1 each, those pledges will affect Kickstarter’s popularity rankings about as much as if were $100 each, which will help your project to stay as visible as possible so that it may attract more pledges from strangers. You might feel tempted to join your family and friends and acquaintances in pledging, but Kickstarter opposes self-funding and uses sophisticated techniques to catch it—so, don’t fund yourself! By the way, this is the only technique that you can’t outsource easily.
It’s good to build social-media profiles and/or groups, which help your business to seem more reputable. And having a Facebook business page is necessary to run Facebook ads, whether for lead-generation or for post-launch advertising. Facebook pages can be grown more quickly through simple page-like ad campaigns, although ads can be costly whereas posts are always free. As you build your various social-media communities, they can provide useful feedback about your product, media, and/or marketing as you prepare to launch. And, after you’ve already launched, social-media posts can mobilize followers to pledge, although not as effectively as e-mailing lists can mobilize subscribers to pledge—but, in either case, it’s far easier to get people to either like or subscribe to something than to commit money to it. E-mailing lists may prove less effective than instant-message marketing in the long run but, for now, the latter is still developing. Speaking of the long run, social media can assist with your company’s branding long after your campaign has ended, especially because (despite its name) it’s less about socializing than about identity-construction.
E-mail lead-generation is relatively costly but, for those who can afford it, it has proven to be our single most effective pre-launch marketing technique. It normally involves social-media advertising (as described in greater detail below) for 4-6 weeks to draw crowds to a landing page on which you overview your project. This landing page should ideally look professional, “hook” viewers with a captivating tagline, overview all of your project’s key benefits plus perhaps your team (although with less detail than your live campaign page will do), and maybe incorporate a launch date countdown. It should also invite viewers to subscribe for updates with a promise to notify them about your launch so that they can easily get early-bird discounts. This landing page’s conversion rate can be maximized through steady A/B testing. As you gradually convert viewers into subscribers, you can then “nurture” them (while ideally never “spamming” them with irrelevant content), solicit feedback from them, and notify them at key moments during your campaign. Beyond your campaign, e-mailing lists are great for cheaply building long-term relationships with a personal touch. For our clients, we normally spend a few dollars per lead, we usually generate thousands of leads, and we typically observe conversion rates of only a few percent. By the way, those audiences that work well for lead-generation don’t always work as well for post-launch advertising.
Public relations enjoys greater credibility and longevity than other techniques, but it also lacks urgency, which renders it better-suited in general for boosting long-term sales than for raising short-term funds—but it’s still both popular and powerful and (unlike ads) it normally costs time rather than money. It also involves both reporters and influencers.
One way to find suitable influencers to promote your campaign is through searching the Internet for images of projects that closely resemble yours and then identifying who posted them. You should ideally target influences who have large followings of the sort of people who are most likely to pledge to your project. It’s best to contact such influencers well before you launch your campaign to arrange with them to review your product, which you should usually ship to them with a pre-paid return label. They might want a simple upfront fee for featuring your project, but it’s better to negotiate a reduced fee in exchange for an affiliate cut (see affiliate marketing below) in order to incentivize results, and also to obtain their permission to use their review as part of your marketing.
As for reporters, impersonal news releases are fine, but personalized communication with niche news sources is better. It may help to consider sources that reported about projects similar to yours, along with product directories that enjoy fewer visitors but higher conversion rates. It’s good to build a list of news sources that cater to the sort of audiences that you’re trying to target and then, for each source, to start regularly e-mailing only one reporter to steadily build a relationship that may eventually lead to news coverage. E-mails should normally include captivating honest subject lines that lead to “snappy” informative entertaining content customized to its recipient’s style and audience—and, if your project has any naturally-newsworthy elements, then you should emphasize those. Reporters who decide to feature your project will generally request a thorough press kit that may include your news release, company logos with branding guidelines, personnel facts, high-resolution product photographs plus your campaign video, any reviews or awards, et cetera, all organized as conveniently as possible for them to find whatever they need. After you’ve persuaded one source to report about you, it’ll become easier to persuade other sources to join them. Earning news will also become easier after your campaign launches, and especially after it’s been fully funded.
A crowdfunding campaign’s initial spike in organic attention will typically start to dwindle after a few days, and it will usually never recover on its own—but post-launch marketing can help it to maintain that momentum and sometimes even escalate that momentum to a dramatic finish. And we love to produce our signature “spike-at-the-end” as often as we can for our clients.
Post-launch marketing techniques typically include (listed in their usual descending order of effectiveness) social-media advertisements, cross-promotions, affiliate marketing, more public relations (see above), backer newsletters, and social-media posts, and we’ll now review each of these techniques in turn.
Social-media advertisements are the only post-launch marketing technique that can potentially produce a steady stream of pledging traffic, but they’re also relatively costly and much harder to get right. So, to help you get them right, we’ll overview some basic advertising tips below regarding platforms, targeting, composition, and budgeting.
As for platforms, we’ve found that Google Ads are great for targeting intent, but that most backers won’t be actively seeking what you’re offering—so, we’ve found the most success with Facebook Ads, which are excellent at targeting characteristics. If your ads work unusually well on Facebook, then you might try advertising on Google Search, YouTube, or even Reddit for supplementary pledges. But we recommend that you always start with Facebook.
As for targeting ads, we’ve found the most success with either lists of past backers or lookalikes of similar campaigns’ backers, although you might struggle to access such audiences without hiring a professional crowdfunding marketing agency like ours. But behavioral targeting and even interest targeting can sometimes work about as well. After choosing such basic targeting, it often helps to narrow it further to those who have previously shown an interest in rewards-based crowdfunding, plus to English-speakers who live in countries where backers are most concentrated (especially “the Anglosphere” and Europe and east Asia). And, after narrowing those audiences, it usually helps to segment them even further according to world region, gender, and age-range. All of these additional parameters will usually shrink your audiences considerably, but hopefully not excessively; we normally only advertise to Facebook audiences larger than 10,000 people.
As for composing ads, their most important element is their image, and it helps to test a variety of good images (lifestyle, product, team, etc.) to determine which one achieves the best click-through rates. For some ideas about what may work well, you’re welcome to view our My Top Kickstarter Page for posts that were derived from some of our most effective ads. On Facebook, such ad images should avoid looking too obviously like an attempt to advertise something, but more like something that a friend might post. These images should also avoid including too much text (because Facebook penalizes this), and should perhaps use color to attract attention. And their accompanying text should play a supporting role by explaining the image while inviting clicks. Their overall purpose is to firstly draw attention to themselves and then arouse curiosity to click, so that you can cost-effectively draw crowds from your targeted audience to view your campaign media. After viewers have perused both your video and your page, some may pledge immediately, while others may return on another occasion to pledge. If your media doesn’t convert them, then you may need to test different ad audiences, but the problem is more likely with either your media or your core offer.
As for budgeting, it helps to start with a minimal budget (like $25/day) to see how your ads perform before deciding whether-or-not to continue them. As benchmarks, average Facebook click-through rates are about 1%-2%, but we try to achieve at least 5%; we’ve sometimes achieved 20% or more, but this is exceptionally rare. After you’ve drawn at least 100 clicks, you can start to develop a clearer idea about conversion rates and ROI, so that you can judge whether-or-not they’re acceptable. If your ads perform well enough, then you can continue them to the end of your campaign and perhaps even scale them up to a dramatic finish. It helps to note that, the more you run ads, the more their ROI will decline, and also that they’ll become entirely unprofitable long before they reach the entire audience size.
Cross promotions require no money but only time. They normally produce higher conversion rates than any other technique, but they’re arguably both underrated and underused at present. They involve arrangements between two campaigners to promote each other’s campaigns through updates to their respective backers. These cross-promotions normally work best between similarly-sized campaigns that either offer complimentary (but not competing) products or else appeal best to similar demographic segments—but they’ll still work alright between most pairs of campaigns.
Affiliate marketing is performance-based, which means that you pay only for results. It involves recruiting your backers (or others) to engage in independent marketing efforts for your project, while rewarding them with a cut of whatever they bring. Keeping track of these payments can be messy, which is why many creators prefer to outsource their affiliate marketing to an agency like either Kickbooster or our own Cashback Network, which agencies enjoy the added advantage of having an existing mass of affiliates.
We’ve already covered public relations above but, in close relation to news coverage, it can help to get your campaign featured in various newsletters targeted to backers. Both Kickstarter and Indiegogo maintain such newsletters. Indiegogo’s version is highly popular and its featured projects normally receive a deluge of pledges, while Kickstarter’s requirements are more subjective and its featured campaigns receive more-modest amounts—but every bit helps. Some third parties like BackerLand also host e-newsletters that feature live crowdfunding projects to backers.
We haven’t enjoyed much success with social-media posts unless we pay to show them as ads. For example, on our popular My Top Kickstarter Projects page, an unboosted post may get about 10,000 views, draw a few thousand clicks, and yield 1-3 pledges on average, even if we share it in various groups. But posts are free and (again) every bit helps. Plus, sometimes, a well-placed well-composed post on either Facebook or Reddit might “go viral” and yield a surprising wealth of funds.
Speaking of posts, is there anything that we omitted above that you’d like to learn more about for running your own campaign marketing? If so, then please tell us in the comments below…
You can also find all of these same tips (and more) in our comprehensive Ultimate Crowdfunding Success Guide, along with plenty more advice for running a successful crowdfunding campaign from conceptualization to fulfillment. Please download your copy today!