The following interview that Kyle Moran (webmaster at capitalist.io) conducted of David Edward Garber (Director of Communications at Funded Today) about the Funded Today story was originally published in 2020 on January 9th at capitalist.io. Although this website has since disbanded, this webpage is still viewable through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. If you’d like to publish your own copy of this blog entry, or if you’d like to engage our CEO Zach Smith to convey these tips to your audience, then please contact us.
This is an interview with David Edward Garber, Liaison Specialist at Funded Today. David shares the story of how Funded Today was started, how it grew to reach the Inc. 5000 list and eventually raise over $250,000,000 (and counting) for crowdfunding campaigns. He also shares some fantastic Kickstarter campaign advice and touches on the seven factors that make up the marketing matrix. It’s a must read for anyone who is getting ready to launch a Kickstarter campaign!
Zach Smith & Thomas Alvord were serial entrepreneurs who enjoyed a serendipitous partnership in mid-2014 helping RooSport to crowdfund an upgraded magnetic sports pocket with great success. This triumph earned them great word-of-mouth, which led to more clients, more successes, and growing demand for their services. Such demand proved so abundant that, by the end of that year, they decided to commit themselves to provide crowdfunding marketing services as a full-time business, which they chartered as Funded Today LLC.
While incorporating, Zach & Thomas also created a website to help sell their services, and then began to draw prospective clients to that site through word-of-mouth (which they captured in great testimonial videos), banners placed on our clients’ pages, and a slowly-expanding collection of business profiles, news reports, affiliates, partners, and social-media ads. Within a few months, they hired their first full-time salesperson to handle leads submitted to this website, plus outreach. And, as sales increased, they began to occasionally hire full-time marketing specialists to whom they could delegate their growing workload. Our client flow rapidly multiplied from only 15 in 2014 to about 273 in 2015 to about 699 in 2016.
During these first few years, the most powerful factor in our success was that we were the first agency to offer crowdfunding campaigners skilled social-media advertisements, while other agencies were still focusing primarily on conducting public relations. News coverage enjoys great credibility and longevity, we understand, but it lacks urgency, which renders it (statistically) a better tool for boosting long-term sales than for raising short-term funds. But ads have all of the opposite qualities and, although they are not necessarily easy to run well, effective ads can be excellent at drawing a steady stream of pledging traffic to campaign pages. This is ideal for helping crowdfunding campaigns to maintain steady momentum after their initial spike in organic attention dwindles, as it normally does within a few days. So, advertising proved to be a powerful competitive advantage for us for a few years, although this advantage didn’t last as our competitors slowly learned to provide comparable services.
These great advertising benefits were costly, though, and over ⅔ of all crowdfunding projects normally fail, which is why we found that it helped us to mitigate our risks by charging our clients an upfront fee for ads-testing. This “due-diligence fee” rendered us rather unaffordable for many prospective clients, sadly, as did the standard cut that we charged for bringing pledges to their campaigns. We would have gladly charged less per pledge, but even the best campaigns proved unprofitable to advertise for cuts that were too low, while too many prospective clients couldn’t afford any cuts that were too high—so, we found the right balance by charging a 35ish-percent cut of all funds that we raised for sure, plus an additional cut for organic pledges. One reason why we normally charge for organic pledges is because we’ve observed that crowdfunding marketing is highly synergistic, as more pledges from one source naturally encourage more pledges from ALL sources, sometimes rather dramatically.
This marketing synergy is one reason why we found it advantageous to provide our most profitable campaigns a full range of post-launch marketing services, including cross-promotions, affiliate marketing, and public relations, for which we painstakingly developed teams throughout 2015 and 2016. Also during 2016, in an effort to attract clients earlier, we expanded to offer a full range of professional pre-launch services, including video production, product photography, page design, e-mail lead-generation, social-media community-building, and more public relations. On the other end of the crowdfunding process, we continued with some of our best clients into e-commerce. And, all along the way, we’ve offered some consulting services, as well, and created a growing variety of self-help resources for use in content marketing, such as recordings of public presentations, a popular podcast, a blog, downloadable e-guides, and even a forthcoming book. This expansion of our consulting, creative, and marketing services helped us to enjoy a phenomenal year in 2017, and even to appear in 2018 among the Inc. 5000.
All of our successes helped our startup to grow larger than any competitor—in fact, at our peak, we employed over 50 independent contractors, all of whom work remotely. Remote work provides many benefits, including both reduced overhead and greater employee satisfaction, although it also increases the need for efforts to build company unity, such as regular company events. Planning such events has become part of my ever-increasing list of regular responsibilities since I was hired in late 2015, along with helping Zach to oversee our internal operations, coordinating our personnel, orienting our newest clients, serving our customers, managing our company’s many social-media profiles, running social-media ads to promote our services, assisting with our podcast, writing content (like this blog entry), handling various special projects, and keeping our records. While hiring skilled personnel, we’ve also cultivated profitable partnerships. Some partners helped us temporarily to serve clients until we developed comparable in-house teams, while other lasting partners like CrowdOx provide services that we’re still not interested in providing, but serve the same market segment that we do and, therefore, are valuable for cross-promoting our services.
Both our full range of services and our wealth of experience have proven among our best selling-points after our advertising edge diminished, as we’ve now worked with 3,000+ crowdfunding campaigners worldwide, created media for 200+ projects, and helped 1,000+ campaigns to raise $250,000,000+ altogether, which (with the possible exception of our creative work) remains more than any other agency. Our marketing even helped 50+ projects (especially BAUBAX travel jackets) to raise $1,000,000+ each, and has sometimes transformed failing projects like SpineGym into smashing successes. We can’t salvage every failing project, for reasons that we’ll discuss in greater detail below, but we love to do so as often as we can. Our best clients tend to have popular projects, plus both figuratively-deep pockets and ample profit margins, want our full range of services, and maintain reasonable expectations about their prospects of success with us—but, unlike some agencies, we’re willing to work with anyone who’s willing-and-able to hire us.
As for general advice to crowdfunding campaigners, we’ve got far more than will fit into this brief blog entry, but we’ll gladly share a few choice tidbits. To start… When hiring a marketing agency, it helps to understand that marketing isn’t a magic cure-all. If done right, marketing can engage the best audiences and efficiently draw crowds from them to visit campaign pages—but, if those newly-arrived viewers don’t like what they see, then they’ll “bounce,” regardless of what drew them there. So, marketing is therefore less important than media. Moreover, an honest presentation can’t be any better than what’s being presented. So, ultimately, crowdfunding success derives from the core benefits-and-costs being offered. This means that, for those who try to offer the world a figurative Edsel, even the best marketing on Earth won’t be able to save it, as we’ve observed all-too-often—but, for the best projects, effective media will normally enhance their success, while effective marketing will normally multiply it even more. These three concentric factors constitute part of what’s called a “marketing matrix,” which arguably includes product, price, personnel, timing, platform, presentation, and promotion. We’ve already elaborated extensively on these seven factors in our podcast and blog and other free resources, but we’ll gladly share some highlights about each of them below.
As for products, we’ve noticed that crowdfunding projects tend to struggle more than average if they offer services, apps (except for computer learning courses), or any products that are overly-niche, overly-localized, business-to-business, and/or primarily charitable. On the other hand, the best projects tend to provide substantial innovations to commonplace consumer products in a global marketplace. It helps to remember that, as a business owner, you never actually work for yourself but for the market generally (or for the customer specifically), and its needs/wants should help determine what you offer to the world. Effective market testing can help you to determine rather early if there’s sufficient demand for your product, and to refine your idea into a well-named attractive working prototype. Your product’s features provide various benefits, and those benefits are the primary reason why people will buy it, but only if your costs are acceptable. Which is why products are intimately connected with prices.
As for prices, you’ll need to start by assembling your products into rewards packages. It’s generally best to omit any rewardless options, and to include costlier options (such as bulk-discounted multi-packs or experiences like factory tours) to help your cheaper options to sell better. It also helps to keep options simpler by combining same-priced rewards for different colors or styles (while asking backers to specify these later), as well as to instill urgency by offering early-bird discounts. And it helps to accurately estimate all of your costs, which may include platform usage (5%), hired marketing (perhaps 35%), third-party payment-collection (3%-5%), wire transfers, post-campaign pledge-management, packaging, shipping (which is best offered “free”), lenient return policies, and taxes (for which you should consult a tax advisor). Your prices will often sell best if they end in 9. And it’s better to err high because, after launching, it’s easier to lower costs than to raise them. If you don’t get both your price and your product sufficiently right, then the rest ultimately won’t matter much.
Although benefits-and-costs are paramount, your personnel play a contributing role in people’s purchasing decisions. Customers are likelier to enter into relationships with businesspeople who are genuine, likable, trustworthy, competent, and guided by good values. People won’t necessarily care about your personnel unless they find your benefits sufficiently-desirable and your costs sufficiently-acceptable—but people who like what you’re offering may harbor some concerns about your team that you’ll need to resolve before they’re willing to entrust you with their money. This is especially relevant in crowdfunding because most backers are serial backers who already pledged to at least one project that ultimately disappointed them and, as such, want to avoid doing so again. So, it helps to become your best self, build a good team, and then accurately show-and-tell prospective backers that you’ve got everything that you need (except for funds) to make your project a reality.
As for launch timing, we recommend allowing at least 4-6 weeks before launching to create campaign media and engage in pre-launch marketing. We also recommend launching seasonal projects whenever they’re most in-season, and non-seasonal projects as soon as they’re ready, with the possible exceptions of both July-August (due to intense competition) and Christmastime (due to costlier marketing). We normally recommend starting between Monday and Wednesday (except for major US holidays) while it’s still morning in the USA, campaigning for 30-45 days (because shorter campaigns may lack sufficient time to raise funds while longer campaigns lose their sense of urgency that encourages pledges), and ending between Wednesday and Friday before it’s evening in the USA. It’s best to keep launch dates flexible because unexpected delays are normal. Delays may include getting campaign pages approved by Kickstarter, after which you can launch anytime, although extensive revisions may trigger a second review.
As for launch platforms, it helps to campaign on a website that’s already well-trafficked by the crowdfunding community, which means either Kickstarter or Indiegogo—but not both simultaneously because this may confuse backers and divide funding. Although Indiegogo normally treats creators much better, we always recommend Kickstarter instead because, in our experience working with dozens of identical projects on both platforms, we’ve noticed that Kickstarter always results in better click-through rates, better conversion rates, and higher fundraising totals. Kickstarter is also seemingly better-known, more-reputable, and better-trafficked. Those who successfully finish a campaign on Kickstarter can transition afterward to Indiegogo InDemand to glean some additional pledges while orchestrating fulfillment. Before ever launching your own project, though, it’s good to back other people’s relevant projects, not only to learn firsthand how these platforms work, but also to establish yourself as part of the global crowdfunding community. It’s also good to familiarize yourself thoroughly with these platforms’ rules in order to avoid any needless suspensions. Platforms provide the framework for presentation, which we’ll overview next in greater detail.
Presentation should involve more than making your media look attractive, because this can be done in many different ways, but some ways will encourage sales far better than other ways. So, in order to maximize the effectiveness of your campaign media, it helps to understand the principles of sales psychology, including conversion rate optimization (CRO), especially as it relates to crowdfunding. Again, this blog entry is too short for an exhaustive course on e-salesmanship, but we will still provide some basic tips that you may build upon.
Your project’s title-and-subtitle should generally introduce your project and establish its relevance, usually by stating what it does better than anything else in the world, while including good keywords to help the right searchers to find it. Relatedly, your project’s primary image should generally draw attention to itself, show your product in its best possible light while presenting its benefits at-a-glance, and arouse viewers’ curiosity to know more. These elements together will function somewhat like an ad to help draw the right people to your campaign page to view more.
Your project’s media’s most vital element is its video. Such videos often work well when they captivate attention within their first 5 seconds, introduce your project within about 10-20 seconds, clearly show-and-tell viewers at an even pace (without either wasting their time or distracting them with poor videography) about your project’s benefits plus your personnel, and end with a rousing call-to-action to pledge, all within about 1-3 minutes.
Your project page’s story section should generally start with a good brief “hook” to assure viewers that it’s worth their time to continue. Campaigners often hook viewers by presenting their entire sales pitch condensed into a single power-packed paragraph and/or simple infographic, accompanied by supportive social proof in the form of praise by reporters, experts, celebrities, and/or “ordinary” people like your prospective backers. Viewers will typically skim down the rest of your page, pausing to read only whatever catches their interest, which is why your page should accommodate such behavior with elements like clear section headers.
After your page’s “hook,” it’s generally best to lead with benefits, follow with costs, and resolve concerns about your team, in that order.
As for benefits, it’s usually best to present them in descending order of potency, and to derive them from your product’s features. As for costs, it helps to show viewers their range of options for rewards, plus their range of prices for each reward package, in such a way that’s both instantaneous and effortless for viewers to both comprehend and compare them.
As for your team, for the reasons stated above, it’s generally good to include items like: (a) photographs with both names and titles, which demonstrate openness, which facilitates trust; (b) well-told true product creation and/or development stories, which may show virtuous character (including laudable values) while building rapport; (c) both budgets and schedules, which provide evidence of competence; and (d) relevant past successes, which can encourage confidence in future success.
Throughout your page, you should compose its text in plain simple conversational English, free from either excessive hype or industry jargon, and then proofread it to perfection by a native English-speaker who understands proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. And, whenever you tell people something, it’s good to show it to them also. Images help break up boring walls of text while illustrating complex concepts; however, you should use GIFs sparingly so that pages will load quickly. Your campaign page should show-and-tell everything exhaustively (unlike your video) without wasting any words, and with minimal links to external sites where you risk losing your audience. Although reason plays a vital supporting role, it’s ultimately emotion that sells. Anytime you believe that you may have sold people (such as within your costs section), it’s good to explicitly ask for the sale through bold call-to-action buttons linked to your rewards checkout page.
If creating campaign media seems like a task that you’d prefer to outsource to experts, so that you can spend more time doing what you do best, then we’d be happy to do it for you. Although prices vary from project to project, we typically charge thousands of dollars for our creative work, and we usually require about 4-6 weeks to complete all of it, which we can do simultaneously with our pre-launch marketing.
Promotion is great after you’ve gotten those other six factors sufficiently right. Some creators rely upon backers to find their own way to project pages, but they often get disappointed because, although word-of-mouth marketing is powerful, it usually requires time—so, it’s both quickened and magnified by your own efforts, especially when you don’t market blindly but use effective analytics. Because crowdfunding marketing is synergistic, it’s best to use every form of marketing, while focusing the majority of your efforts on those forms that are most likely to yield pledges.
Before launching, it helps to prepare leads to synergize with the spike in organic attention that most campaigns receive during their first few days. Failing to do so won’t automatically kill your campaign, but it certainly helps tremendously. Arranging at least 30% of your funds in advance is a good benchmark, but more is always better for those who can afford it. The most costly form of pre-launch marketing is running social-media ads to generate e-mail leads, but it’s also the most effective means in our experience. An alternative is to build a social-media community of fans, although they’re generally harder to mobilize than e-mail subscribers. Pre-launch PR can also arrange reviews from influencers, while helping to steadily nurture relationships with reporters that may eventually lead to news coverage. And mobilizing personal contacts, even if they only pledge $1 each, can help boost your project’s popularity rankings, which will raise its visibility to organic traffic.
After launching, it helps to use additional techniques to maintain (or even increase) your campaign’s momentum after organic interest wanes. For post-launch marketing, we’ve enjoyed the most success (in descending order) with social-media advertisements, cross-promotions, affiliate marketing, public relations, and social media posts. Although well-placed posts on Facebook and/or Reddit can potentially “go viral,” you shouldn’t normally expect much from posts unless you pay to boost them as ads. Ads are ideal for yielding a steady stream of pledging traffic (as explained above), but they can be both complicated and costly, whereas both news and cross-promotions are normally free. Cross-promotions may benefit almost any pair of campaigns, but they usually fare best between similarly-sized projects that either offer complimentary (not competing) products or appeal best to similar demographics. Affiliate marketing typically involves hiring third-party agencies like Kickbooster and/or Funded Today’s Cashback Network, which have already recruited a ready supply of affiliates.
As for advertisements specifically, they can be very hard to optimize, but hopefully this paragraph will help some. We’ve found less success from Google Ads (which are great for targeting intent) than from Facebook Ads, partly because most backers are serial backers who aren’t necessarily seeking to buy what you’re offering until it’s presented to them. Our best audiences to target are often either lists of past backers or lookalikes of past backers of similar campaigns—but, sometimes, targeting either behaviors or even interests can also work well enough, especially when further limited to people who have shown an interest in rewards-based crowdfunding. It’s also good to restrict targeting to English-speakers in countries where backers are most concentrated. And to segment all basic targeting according to world region, gender, and/or age-range. We normally only work with audiences larger than 10,000 people. For each audience, it’s good to test multiple image-and-text combinations to attract clicks to your page, and to eliminate the combinations that don’t perform well. Ad content should consist of a great image with supporting text that doesn’t look too obviously like an ad, but that draws attention to itself and then arouses curiosity to click. It’s ideal to attract click-through rates of at least 5% if possible, and the higher the better. You should ideally spend minimally on each audience (perhaps $25/day) until it proves sufficiently profitable or not, and then either abandon it or else gradually scale it up until your campaign ends. Facebook ads will never reach their entire audience, but will increasingly target the same people as they slowly lose their profitability.
Again, if campaign marketing seems like a task that you’d prefer to outsource to professionals, so that you can spend more time doing what you do best, then we’d be happy to do it for you. We offer every one of these services, except for mobilizing personal contacts. As stated above, we normally charge thousands of dollars for testing, plus 35% of pledges that we bring for sure, plus a cut of the organic pledges that we normally increase. We also usually require about 4-6 weeks for pre-launch marketing, and we can start post-launch marketing within 24 hours after confirming receipt of payment. We’ve sometimes started marketing campaigns during their final week and still managed to raise plenty for them.
As we look to the future, we do so with a great range of well-seasoned expertise in consulting, media-creation, and marketing, plus a wealth of experience supporting startups in general, but also some rather intense competition. We’ve been trying to figure out how to increase our current share of our current crowded market, as well as to expand into new markets like Amazon seller support, which is far more sizable. In the meantime, though, we’re staying focused primarily on helping rewards-based crowdfunding campaigners to succeed.
You’re welcome to visit our official Funded Today website to learn more about us, to study our free resources about crowdfunding success, and to consider both our creative services and our marketing services. You may also want to visit Funded Today Reviews (among other sites) to examine testimonials from dozens of our past clients.
You may also find us on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and follow our regular posts about crowdfunding success (among other relevant topics) on Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and/or LinkedIn.
If you’d like to discuss partnering with us, then please either submit your project through our website or else e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, which will connect you with one of our experts about the services that we provide!