Get your campaign started right with this crowdfunding pre-launch strategy and hacks.
Long-time readers of the blog are probably tired of me harping on the importance of pre-launch crowdfunding. This is the critical period of time, before posting your crowdfunding campaign online, where you drum up support for the project and build momentum. You won’t have a lot of time to do this during the 30- to 45-day campaign so you’ve absolutely got to do it before.
Why do you need to pre-launch your crowdfunding campaign? There’s a whole ‘crowd’ out there waiting, why can’t you just go to Kickstarter and get started?
Because there are thousands of crowdfunding campaigns just like yours and it’s only through pre-launch crowdfunding that they’ll find your page. Getting some early supporters for your crowd campaign gives it credibility and tells Kickstarter that it’s a popular project.
It’s only through that initial push that the ‘crowd’ is going to find your campaign and be convinced to support it.
I’m hoping that through reading about what it takes to build a following and support for your campaign, you’ll see how much time and work is needed for a successful crowdfunding campaign. That should be enough to convince you that pre-launch crowdfunding is a must.
If that’s not enough, you’ve only got to look at the 60% failure rate of campaigns to realize the importance of giving your project a head-start.
Pre-Launch Crowdfunding Stages
For best results, you should start pre-launch crowdfunding activities at least a month or two before you start your crowdfunding campaign.
Why so much time? The biggest reason to starting your pre-launch crowdfunding efforts earlier is to save money. Building a following online takes time if you want to do it without spending money on advertising. You can put together a great website and get active on social networks but it will take time for people to get to know and trust you.
It will take at least a couple of months for your blog to start showing up in Google search results and really start driving free traffic to your campaign.
Pre-launch crowdfunding is typically handled in three stages: researching, outreach and community building. Be flexible as you work through your pre-launch crowdfunding plan. You’ll do most of your research and planning first but may find ideas later on that you want to fit into the plan. There are also quite a few separate steps within each stage that could overlap with other stages in crowdfunding pre-launch.
Don’t forget to check out our free 24-point pre-launch crowdfunding checklist to make sure you’re ready to go!
Pre-launching your crowdfunding campaign is so important that it’s 11 of the 17 steps in Step-by-Step Crowdfunding: Everything You Need to Raise Money from the Crowd. I used the book as an opportunity to detail out all the ways to promote a crowd campaign and add extra resources for before, during and after raising money.
More than 1,600 people have bought Step-by-Step Crowdfunding, an Amazon best-seller in the crowdfunding and the non-profits charity categories. Check out the five-star rating on Amazon.
Crowdfunding Pre-launch Stage 1: Crowdfunding Research
Even if your business has been operating a while, resist the urge to think you’ve done all the research you need. One of the great benefits of crowdfunding is that it forces you to reevaluate your marketing strategy and other parts of your business. Besides raising money, you might just uncover a few holes in your strategy that have been keeping you from being successful.
- Research failed and successful projects related to your campaign. How much were they trying to raise? How many backers did they get and how much was the average amount donated? What rewards were they offering? What emotional or tangible needs did they address with their campaign page?
- After “stalking” previous campaigns and finding out as much as you can, contact the crowdfunder personally. Most will be more than willing to talk to you about their campaign and offer any advice.
Pro Tip: During pre-launch crowdfunding, build a relationship with failed campaigns that are similar to yours. After you’ve gotten to know each other, it may be a good source for help on your campaign or even a list of potential backers.
- Who is the target market for your product and for the crowdfunding campaign? They might not be the same audience. Your product or cause solves a problem or a need. Who has that need may not be the same as the people that want to support you on the project.
- Where does your target audience hang out on the internet? What hobbies do they enjoy and in what forums are they active? Your end goal with the audience research is to find out enough about your target market that you can do two things: target advertising and become part of the community.
Pro Tip: You can use websites like Moz Open Site Explorer to find people on the internet that link or mention your cause or product. Do a Google search for a keyword related to your campaign. Copy the top five blog articles that show up.
- Use Topsy to find people that retweeted the link to a similar campaign – these are people that are already interested in the idea
- Use MOZ Open Site or another website to find people that are linking to other campaigns and ideas related to yours
- These two groups of people are going to be your top influencers for your outreach program
Crowdfunding Pre-launch Stage 2: Crowdfunding Outreach
Outreach is where you start connecting with the people that are really going to drive success for your crowdfunding campaign. Despite what many think, there is no ‘crowd’ in crowdfunding. You have to rally people around your idea or they’re just simply not going to care.
- Develop your master list of all contacts including business and personal. Some will probably not be interested in your cause or business but you should try to reach out personally to each. Just a quick call with your brief 20-second pitch to see if they have any ideas or would be interested in talking more. Follow up your phone call with an email the next day.
- You need a website and a blog! If you have a business, you need an online presence anyway but even a brief social project campaign needs a dedicated blog. Simple ones are pretty easy to put together and cost next to nothing compared to other crowdfunding costs.
- You’re website doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated. You need three basic pages: About, Contact and the Blog. Check around the web for ideas on your own page. This can all be done easily and cheaply from WordPress. Resist the urge to pay for plugins or services just yet.
- You should be posting to your blog at least once a week for a couple of months before your campaign launch. A blog is just a website page where you put articles (you’re reading one now). It does two very important things for your campaign during pre-launch crowdfunding. First, it forces you to research topics in your cause and sets you up as an expert in the field. Second, it builds your online presence through readership and improves the chances that people find you when searching on Google.
- Check out my three-part series on creating a crowdfunding blog and how to drive people to it.
- The process of building a relationship with influencers is very important but can take months. All the most important people you found in your research stage should be put on a strategic outreach program.
- Call first to introduce yourself and give your brief pitch
- Follow up with an email or an introduction if you were not able to get in touch. You are not asking for anything yet, just introducing yourself and recognizing them as an expert. Mention from where you saw their name and how much you enjoyed the article or advice.
- Regularly mention influencers in blog posts, retweets of their tweets and on other social media platforms. With each mention, be sure to reach out by email to thank them for the great post and let them know you will be writing about it.
- Social media is necessary but can be a lot of work. You should set up campaign profiles on Facebook, Twitter and possibly LinkedIn if your campaign is business-related. You will send your blog posts through these profiles and be sure to share them through your personal profile as well. Resist the urge to incessantly check in on these profiles because it will end up being a huge time suck. Check in every few days to ask and answer questions.
One of the best ways to get traffic to your crowdfunding campaign is through your own website and blog. Post once a week for a couple of months before the campaign and you’ll start seeing traffic from Google search to your campaign. Bluehost WordPress Hosting offers one of the most inexpensive plans for simple websites including a free domain name, search advertising credits and an easy-to-use website builder.
Outreach for your crowdfunding campaign is ultimately about more than the money. Raising money for your cause or business may take a back seat to the amount of free crowdfunding marketing and exposure you can get through crowdfunding. Check out an earlier post on raising more than money in crowdfunding outreach.
A successful crowdfunding campaign means reaching out to the real ‘crowd’ in social media. Updating your message a few times each day on multiple social networks can seem impossible without a good social media management tool like Hootsuite. The site allows you to link and manage all your social media messaging from one page. You can even reply to comments and schedule messages in advance from the site.
Crowdfunding Pre-launch Stage 3: Community Building
Building community around your cause or business is not well understood in crowdfunding, especially in the crowdfunding pre-launch phase. It’s too bad because having an active community takes a lot of the load off your shoulders and will get your campaign funded. I posted a more detailed article on building community in crowdfunding that expands on the section.
- Actively post to two or three internet forums that are related to your cause or business industry. If you’ve got a business, you might try being in one forum for business owners and one dedicated to people that might be customers. Get to know at least a few people and talk to them about your project. It’s likely that they already share your passion for the cause. Keep them involved in the planning stage of your campaign and consider bringing them on as a team member.
- You absolutely must respond to all questions and comments from your website and on social media. People don’t interact that much through comments. If someone is taking the time to post a comment or question, they’re probably interested in the campaign.
Pro Tip: There is no competition in crowdfunding and community building. Establish relationships with everyone with an interest in your cause or industry. Avoiding certain people because you’re afraid they will steal your backers or secrets will keep you from valuable advice and help.
Before you are ready to launch your crowdfunding campaign, fundraise from your community for at least three weeks. Actively reach out to your network and ask for their financial support and with a simple task. This gives them an option and you will likely get some volunteer work rather than a straight no. Hold a special event to invite the most passionate in the network where you talk about the campaign and thank them for all their advice. Getting everyone together can be a great way to build enthusiasm before the campaign.
I would start a crowdfunding campaign unless I had at least 5% of my funding goal pre-committed through pre-launch crowdfunding. Data shows that campaigns that start with no funding have just a 15% chance at reaching their goal while those with 5% pre-funded have a 50% chance at meeting their goal.
Pro Tip: Try offering people the opportunity for conditional support. Their financial promise only kicks in if you raise a certain percentage, say 20% or 30% of your goal. This lets them know that you are committed to making the campaign a success and will work hard to get there. You’ll get through a lot of no responses with this strategy.
Ready to go beyond pre-launch crowdfunding to boost your campaign? Check out this mega-resource list of 33 expert ideas on boosting your fundraising idea or crowd campaign.
We’re not done yet! Pre-launch crowdfunding is so important that you can’t just take it from me. I’ve put together the Ultimate Guide of Crowdfunding Pre-Launch Steps right here. This five-page guide includes strategies from ten crowdfunding experts and more than 30 tips and tricks to making your crowdfunding campaign a success before you even launch it!