We’ve all heard the adage: if a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? But what if you applied that to crowdfunding campaigns. Can they succeed if there aren’t any visitors there to make a pledge?
Statistics show that many projects do not succeed. Only 44 percent of crowdfunding projects meet their funding goals (according to Kickstarter), and of an estimated 60,000 unsuccessful projects, nearly 40,000 only reach 20 percent or less of their goal, which leads us to wonder: Why?
This week, in part three of our four-part series on how artists and creatives can use marketing techniques to succeed in their crowdfunding endeavors, we will be looking at community-building.
Though it’s always possible an idea just wasn’t as great as originally thought to be (it happens to the best of us), there are also situations where a large enough net wasn’t cast. In such cases, the crowdfunder likely ends up wondering, “Is there just not enough demand for what I’m offering? Or would there be if more people knew about it?”
Build it, and they will come? The person that coined that phrase probably wasn’t in business very long. They won’t come if they don’t know it’s there! And, while it is possible to achieve funding by exclusively relying on your immediate social network (friends and family), your chances of success increase dramatically when you widen your net.
How exactly do you do that? Content—regularly released, brand-specific, and informative content that is tailored to your target audience. Below we’ll cover some content marketing techniques you can use to help grow a community that is enthusiastic about your brand, even before you launch your crowdfunding campaign.
Create Your Content Infrastructure.
Your infrastructure is the way the pieces of your content connect with one another and how they get released. Remember, content includes any/all written, visual, or verbal communication.
Think of your content infrastructure plan like a wheel. In the center is the ‘hub.’ The hub is the place you most want to draw traffic to, and everything else is the ‘spokes.’ All your marketing efforts serve to get eyes and ears back to the hub. In most cases, you’ll want your website to be your hub, and your mailing list and social media channels (ie. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.) to be your spokes.
But don’t spread yourself too thin! Just because there are a gazillion social media channels out there, you don’t have to use them all. Choose two or three to focus on, based on your target audience and your resources, and ignore the rest. You can always adopt others later, if/when it makes sense to.
Email newsletters are still totally a thing, and they work.
Your email newsletter will serve as a crucial point of contact with fans. It’s how you’ll routinely notify them of the content you release. Why email? Because pretty much everyone has an email address, and most people check their email fairly regularly. Compare this to social media. For example, you probably know a few people who don’t use Facebook, for whatever reason, and for everyone else that does, the Facebook experience is often a confusing and unreliable barrage of content. Email is much more of a surefire way to engage people.
Choose an email newsletter provider like MailChimp. Using a service like Mailchimp helps to make sure your messages get past spam filters because email services like gmail have special agreements with professional email newsletter services. And as for cost, most newsletter services offer a free tier of service for your first thousand or two subscribers. Most also have tutorials and responsive customer service teams to help you get going.
Once you’ve signed up for an email subscription service, embed an email subscription form prominently on your site (your newsletter provider will give you the HTML code needed to do this).
Create An Editorial Calendar
Now that you’ve got infrastructure in place, it’s time to start creating content! The best way to do so is to create an editorial calendar, outlining formats, subject matters, and dates for content publication. Here’s what’s involved:
Decide on the type of content you want to release, whether it’s mostly text based, or some combination of text, audio, video, and/or graphical. Choose media formats that make sense for your audience and resources (when in doubt, keep it simple).
Brainstorm content ideas that relate to your overall brand message, the making of your project, and anything else of particular interest to your audience. Remember, just because you’re an expert in “your thing,” doesn’t mean everyone else is. You can share anything from how you get ideas to your favorite places to work to films/music/products that have inspired you. Keep it informative, entertaining and simple. Then, plug in dates using a simple spreadsheet or calendar to match each content topic with a release date.
Build Your List
Add an opt-in to your newsletter and always include a note to readers to “feel free to share with family and friends” at the bottom. You can sweeten the pot by creating a free giveaway for people who sign-up and advertise it on your site (a sample clip from your film, an mp3 from your album, a chapter of your book etc.).
List-building takes time (often a year or so to really get it going, depending on your efforts), but it’s totally worth it. Not only does it allow you to build a relationship with your potential supporters, making them more likely to invest in your project, it also allows you to gain clarity and continual feedback on your process.
Follow these steps and you’ll never find yourself wondering, “What if more people had known about my project?”
This is the third part of a four-part series on how creatives can build successful crowdfunding campaigns by leveraging direct response marketing techniques. Next in this series, we talk about launching your crowdfunding campaign.