In her book Cash From the Crowd, Sally Outlaw, founder and CEO of crowdfunding website peerbackers, reveals the secrets of funding your business with help from colleagues, peers, family, friends and even perfect strangers through a crowdfunding campaign. In this edited excerpt, the author offers details on the three groups you should approach when marketing your crowdfunding requests.
The term is crowdfunding, as in: You need a crowd to fund your idea. There are three groups you'll need to include in your marketing strategy, and each of these will require a different approach:
- Your existing personal network of friends, family, and acquaintances like co-workers and neighbors
- Any subscribers, followers, or fans in your social media world
- The new audience you want to attract
1. Personal network. As you look through your email contacts, Facebook friends and LinkedIn communities for those who may help support your campaign, put them into separate lists of friends, family, acquaintances and business associates. Each of these groups will require different messaging. You wouldn't send the same note about supporting your project to a business associate as you would to a family member or good friend. Those with whom you haven't recently communicated will need a more extensive introduction to your crowdfunding initiative vs. closer friends who may have heard every detail of your business and impending campaign.
It's also important to look over your contacts to identify "super" connectors and promoters in your own network who'll help you spread the word. You'll want to get these people involved as early as possible in your campaign by asking them to play a larger role in your efforts. You can start by asking for their input on any of your campaign elements and having them preview your page. The hope is that they'll begin to feel a part of your efforts and invested in your success.
Whatever you do, make sure you're reaching out in a personal way and enough in advance to genuinely reconnect. As one of the entrepreneurs I spoke with pointed out, "I wouldn't want to get an email from somebody I haven't spoken to in two years saying 'Here's my campaign.' "
2. Tangential stakeholders. When identifying people who can help promote your campaign, think about all the stakeholders who relate to your project. Are you creating a beach safety app? How about engaging lifeguards, swim instructors, medical personnel, organizations such as the Red Cross that train lifeguards, beach-side hotels, retailers who sell swim suits and beach toys, etc.? Perhaps these entities would be willing to post your campaign on their Facebook page, mention your campaign in their email newsletter or place your promotional flier at their register. Better yet, they may donate and even offer to build a longer-term business relationship to sell your app to their customers. Bottom line is, you want to find groups that have the same goals as you do; they'll be the most motivated to support your efforts.
Whether you're creating something that already has an audience -- a new version of a popular video game, an upgrade to a current product -- or developing something new that targets a niche crowd, you'll want to uncover and tap into specific communities before you launch your business campaign.
3. Social network. Having 5,000 Twitter followers doesn't mean you're ready to crowdfund. Considering that only a small percentage -- about one to five -- of any fan base will actually donate, the more followers and fans you can assemble, the better your chances of success. However, it's equally important that these followers are engaged and that you have a core group who'll strongly support you by actually contributing and sharing your project.
If you don't already have a crowd, spend time building a following. Because social media venues such as Facebook and Twitter are the key channels you can control for promoting your campaign, it's important you build these up well in advance. Growing a community of engaged and loyal members isn't something that happens overnight. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- On Twitter, you can follow accounts, lists and hashtagged (#) subjects that relate to your business area. Find the types of people with whom you want to engage and follow them, and you'll build your followers as their fans discover you.
- Engage in Twitter conversations. Go beyond just following people and make sure you're posting and re-tweeting things. One of the best ways to get followers is to post things others want to read; don't let the first time followers hear from you be, "Hi, please back my crowdfunding campaign."
- If you only have a personal Facebook page, start one for your business or your campaign.
- Use tools such as HootSuite to schedule automated posts to your social media accounts. Most are free and allow you to post on multiple social media sites simultaneously -- a big time saver!
- Join Klout and review your "influencer landscape" to identify those most well-connected in your network so you can tap them to help you promote.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Sally Outlaw, a crowdfund junkie, is the co-founder and CEO of fundraising platform peerbackers.com and crowdfunding media company Crowdcast Network. She's the author of Cash From the Crowd (Entrepreneur Press, 2013) and speaks nationally on the topic of crowdfinance and the JOBS Act.