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 tips for driving traffic to your project.
Crowdfunding is not a "post it and forget it proposition." Running a successful campaign requires a major time commitment in advance of, during and post campaign. It also requires that you be fearless in getting out and spreading the word about your venture.
Some crowdfunding entrepreneurs boast that they'll "shout from the rooftops" about their company and promote their fundraising efforts far and wide, but later, when asked how many friends and family members they went to for support, their response is, "Oh, I don't feel comfortable approaching my own contacts."
If that sounds like you, here are two important considerations to help you get over that discomfort. First, be honest about your passion and excitement for what you're doing. Is it enough to drive you to tell everybody who'll listen? If not, then why are you doing it at all? It has to be a passion that will sustain you through the startup's challenging times. Second, if you're not going to get the buy-in from your own inner circle -- the people who know you and most believe in you -- why would you expect strangers to get behind your venture and give you money?
To driving traffic to your project, you'll want to start your campaign with those who you know will support you. Then, as you gain momentum, you can begin to send the project link to others in your circle. It's important that your page reflect some funding success before you start to reach outside your network -- especially to bloggers and other press.
Remember that you need to be actively promoting the campaign during its entire duration. A campaign's impending deadline tends to make entrepreneurs ratchet up the urgency of their messages, but there's no reason to wait until the end of your time frame to intensify your efforts.
One of the approaches some campaign owners take that can hurt them is broadly-addressed emails such as "Dear Family" rather than the more individualized "Dear Uncle Bob," or sending out an e-newsletter via a Constant Contact or Mail Chimp service to introduce their campaign. Sending personalized emails not only strengthens your relationships and keeps the connections genuine, but it really does have an impact on your funding success. It's been shown that people are less likely to do something when asked as a group than they are when they're singled out individually.
You can use technology to help discover where your visitors and backers are coming from so you can put more effort into those avenues. Along with whatever analytics are built into the crowdfunding platform you're using, other freely available tools can track your project activity and provide you the statistics you need to maximize your success:
- Bitly.com allows you to see how popular your shared links have become. It offers a free link-shortening service that, when added to any URL, shows stats like referral sources related to that unique link. Use this every time you share your project and you will be able to track the activity surrounding your project views and shares.
- Google Analytics also offers a Google Analytics IQ area where you can learn to become a more knowledgeable user and dive deeper into things such as tying in a Google AdWords campaign, should you use ads to promote your crowdfunding efforts.
- YouTube provides tips on using its audience-tracking tools in the YouTube Creator Playbook.
- Twinitor is a robust search and monitoring tool focused on Twitter activity so you can check when people are tweeting about your project.
Other online promotional musts:
- Reach out to high-profile Twitter users or leaders in your field. See if you can get them to mention your product or campaign to their followers and fans.
- Update all your social media profiles (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) to include a link to your campaign.
- Add your campaign link to your email signature.
- Embed a campaign widget/banner on your blog or website.
Some campaigns experience immediate and wild success -- like the one for OUYA, a gaming console, that raised more than $2 million on its first day on Kickstarter -- while others develop over time, reaching their goal only in the last few hours. Don't get discouraged when your campaign hits a lull. It's common for a lot of backer support to show up in the later phase of the campaign. Those who may not have stepped up in the beginning may now be inspired to help you cross the finish line when discovering you are closer to your goal. You may just have backers who require five or six reminders before they can pause long enough to donate. Projects that reach at least 50 percent of their funding goal during their campaign have a 95 percent chance of reaching that goal in the end, so keep pushing!
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.