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The One Thing That Prevents You From Falling Flat on Your Face

The One Thing That Prevents You From Falling Flat on Your Face
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As you read this, my Kickstarter project is now 44 percent funded after its first 13 days. The CEO of Kickstarter has even backed our project and we are succeeding for one simple reason: inexpensive experience.

Trust me, with a little over 50 percent left to go and just 24 days left to do it, I’m still nervous about falling flat on my face. Especially considering 56 percent of all crowdfunding projects fail. But the one thing I have on my side is that I’m actually following my own advice. Which I’m sure you’ll agree we entrepreneurs don’t always do.

So how do you make sure you don’t fall flat on your face when trying any new initiative? I can tell you that in everything you do, there are two kinds of experiences you can have: expensive experience and inexpensive experience.

Related: Building a Business Can Be Downright Terrifying. Here's How to Cope. (Infographic)

Expensive experience is what happens when you try to do it all yourself and make a lot of pricey mistakes because you don’t know what you’re doing. It costs you precious time, money, and can even cost you your professional reputation. (Think back to the last DIY home improvement you screwed up. That was probably an expensive experience.)

And then there is inexpensive experience, which refers to studying the strategies of successful people who have already traveled down the path you’re about to go on. Mentors accelerate your learning curve and put you on the fast track because they enable you to follow a tried and true, proven blueprint to success. (It’s like taking the class at Home Depot on laying tile before you go try it at home yourself.)

We have an old saying here in Maine, “The time you want a map is before you enter the woods.” That holds true not just for hiking but for Kickstarter or any other entrepreneurial journey. Mentors wrote the map that provides you with inexpensive experience.

When I was a young assistant coach, my coaching mentor sent me on a journey to meet with three highly successful leaders in other industries: a preacher, a U.S. Marine Corp. recruiter and a CEO of a multimedia company. This was my introduction to inexpensive experience and I probably learned more in those three days than I did in the three years prior. My mentor and his strategy had such a profound impact on my career that I wrote a book about it and hopefully with this Kickstarter campaign will be taking it to the big screen.

Consistently accumulating inexpensive experiences from mentors has single-handedly changed the trajectory of my career more than anything. I encourage you to make it a best practice as well. Here's how:

  1. Identify the superstars. In every industry there are a few champions and then there’s everyone else. Shoot for that top 1 percent.
  2. Acquire their contact information (phone, email and physical mailing address).
  3. It will feel intimidating, so go ahead and acknowledge the feeling.
  4. Overcome the intimidation and then make the call, hit send or mail the letter.
  5. Ask for help. “I respect and admire you and would like your help.”
  6. Ask the questions: “What do I have to do to get to where you are?” And the million-dollar question: “What do you know now that you wish you knew when you got started?”
  7. Take notes and write down their advice.
  8. Thank them with a small gift accompanied by handwritten note.
  9. Follow the advice.
  10. Repeat.

Related: 4 Ways a Coach Can Help You Lead Your Business to Success

In preparation for my Kickstarter campaign these are a few of the inexpensive experiences I’ve accumulated, which can work for you in both crowdfunding or any other type of endeavor.

Interview the foremost authority in your field. 

I interviewed Hollywood crowdfunding expert Jodie Bentley.

Study success and failure. Both leave clues.

I researched the top 20 most funded Kickstarter film campaigns as well as the biggest failures. This enabled me to find themes and determine what works well and what does not. You can do the same in your field.

Become a "student consumer."

What I mean is purchase or hire that which you wish to emulate. I backed "The Perfect Burpee," which was the most popular fitness project, just to see how it “went viral” and were fully fund in just two weeks. I then interviewed its inventor Justin Mendelson to learn what strategies worked best for the campaign and what to avoid.

Recruit great teammates.

I hired a team of experts in web strategy, project management and online video production. Together we created a crowdfunding toolbox that contains a written game plan and live event, social media and email marketing strategy and reverse engineered a promotional schedule.

Headed into the process there were a bunch of variables I didn't account for. Thankfully my team was there to fill in the blanks. The lesson: Work to your strengths and hire or delegate to your weaknesses. Note: A back-up computer and router are solid investments. (Murphy's Law happened on my launch day.)

So many people have asked for our crowdfunding toolbox that I've added it as a Kickstarter reward. The bottom line is that teams don’t enter a game without a scouting report, guides don’t enter the woods without a map and I can tell you from experience you shouldn’t enter crowdfunding without a game plan.

Related: Learn the Valuable Lesson of Curiosity