Crowdfunding Campaign Strategy: Crowdfunding Outreach

Crowdfunding success depends on your ability to reach people. Check out these tips for crowdfunding outreach and bringing people to your page.

While a lot of your crowdfunding support will still need to come from your existing network, real crowdfunding campaign success depends on your ability to reach out and build a sense of community around the project. This begins with campaign research but the real test is here in the crowdfunding outreach phase.

It’s during crowdfunding outreach that you are going to make the initial connections with potential backers, cheerleaders and the all-important influencer.

  • Crowdfunding outreach starts with a simple introduction and building out your list of people that might be interested in the campaign
  • Depending on your crowdfunding campaign timeline, you will need to decide how quickly you convert outreach candidates into supporters
  • Start with smaller requests like advice and social shares of your blog posts to bring people into the campaign and build a sense of community
  • Building community with outreach candidates is not a one-way street so be prepared to offer up a little time of your own for their needs as well
  • Do not think that support starts and stops with financial backing. Get to know the people on your crowdfunding outreach list to understand where they can help the most. Offering multiple opportunities to support the campaign will make it easier for them than simply asking for financial support or nothing

Crowdfunding Outreach Friends and FamilyCrowdfunding Outreach Friends and Family

Reaching out to friends and family will be your first task in crowdfunding outreach for a few key reasons. Your closest personal network is probably going to be your strongest supporters, even if they do not share your passion for the idea. Besides their support, they are also likely to be brutally honest with you in offering critique and advice for the campaign.

Within your list of friends and family, you’ll have an idea of which will want to help or might be able to offer advice. You’ll want to personally contact those with particular experience or that you’re sure will want to be active in the campaign. For the rest, I would still recommend sending an email to ask if they would be interested in hearing more about the campaign. Don’t write anyone off before you give them a chance.

Your goal should be to get at least one or two people from your closest network to be a part of your campaign team. Even if it’s an informal team, you are going to need all the help you can get with outreach and community building. Don’t just ask them to help out on an ad hoc basis. Since they might not be as enthusiastic about the campaign, they will need direction on specific tasks. Talk about what they are good at and one specific task they might be able to handle on a weekly or monthly basis. Defining the task in time and process will go a long way in getting their help, especially if it only takes a few hours a month.

Of course, so much the better if you can find someone among your friends and family that is as passionate about the campaign as you. They can take a more active role in the campaign and take a lot of weight off your shoulders.

Crowdfunding Campaign Research

Crowdfunding Campaign Research

Crowdfunding Outreach to Previous and Current Campaigns

While researching previous campaigns can give you a ton of information around which to design your own crowdfunding campaign, it can also provide one of the best ready-made outreach networks. Previous crowdfunding campaign owners have already built their network and searched for the best places for their online presence. Because crowdfunding evolved around the idea of helping each other, campaign owners are usually willing to share their experience and may even want to help further.

If you did not contact previous campaign owners in your crowdfunding research, you’ll want to do it now. If you are shy about reaching out and talking to strangers, put down this book and forget about crowdfunding. Only your mother is going to help your campaign without asking. Most others will have to be asked and sometimes asked multiple times.

Send a brief introduction email telling them that you saw their campaign and were impressed by some of its ideas. You can mention that you are thinking about launching a campaign but you don’t need to go into detail. Here you are only asking for 15 minutes to pick their brain about their experience.

If you get a phone call, make sure you are ready to talk about their campaign. Be honest about how you came across their campaign, it will help lead in to your own campaign. Depending on how long they have available you want to try for the following information:

  • Is there any topic-specific advice they learned while crowdfunding, i.e. anything that might relate to your product or service?
  • Did they find any social groups on Facebook or LinkedIn that is related to the topic and yielded some good interest from members?
  • Did they find any online forums or websites that were particularly helpful?
  • Did they find any blogs or bloggers that were receptive to guest posts or talking about the campaign?
  • Did they find any journalists or publications that were interested in hearing about the campaign?

You can ask about general crowd funding and marketing but their real value is going to be in the advice they can offer that’s relevant to your industry or topic. You are also going to want to gauge their enthusiasm for the topic versus and how willing they might be to help you out in your campaign. You don’t need to be too aggressive right now, you’re only building your crowdfunding outreach network. Follow the phone call with an email thanking them for their time and let them know you will be watching for any of their future campaigns.

Follow the phone call up a week later with another call, asking for a relatively easy favor like tweeting or passing a blog post of yours through their social network. Not only will this open up their social network to your campaign but you are also furthering your relationship with the crowdfunding campaign owner. Thank them for everything and let them know that you want to help them out as well.

At this point, you should have an idea of what they are doing and possibly something with which they might need help. If you have no idea, just ask. Be generous with your time and try to offer something more than a social share of their webpage or blog post. The back-and-forth here is not just a game though to get a little more out of them for your campaign. If your campaigns are truly related in the same topic, you should be able to find ways to help each other out now and in the future.

Crowdfunding Outreach Backers

Crowdfunding Outreach Backers

It takes some sleuthing but comments may also be a source for your crowdfunding outreach campaign. By clicking on the comments link in a Kickstarter campaign, you can see notes left by backers including other projects they’ve backed. Kickstarter also provides a neat little pie chart denoting the categories they back most.

The page won’t have any contact information but you might be able to find something from a Google search. You might also ask for a personal introduction from the campaign owner, again only after you’ve established a level of trust. If you are able to contact the backer, just mention that you noticed they back similar projects and was hoping to get their feedback on your upcoming campaign.

The above process is similar with current crowdfunding campaigns though the campaign owner may not be willing to talk about current backers. A lot of crowdfunding campaigns set up reciprocal donations with other campaigns. It is usually at the lowest level of support but can still show that numerical-level of social proof. I wouldn’t commit too much though, especially if your campaign has not launched yet.

I used this process to reach out to campaigns on their best tips for church fundraising ideas and school fundraising ideas in crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding Outreach Forums

Crowdfunding Outreach Forums

Crowdfunding Outreach Online Forums

There are two types of forums on which you will want to focus, forums related to your crowdfunding campaign’s category and those related to crowdfunding in general. Forums are a great tool for outreach because they attract exactly the kind of people you need for your campaign. If someone is passionate enough about a topic to spend their time in a forum, they may be willing to spend their time on your campaign.

To find a forum related to a topic, search in Google for [Forum: your topic]

For example, if you were looking for forums about pottery, you would type [Forum: pottery] but without the brackets.

Check out a few forums for how many members they have and how active the community is in discussions. You will probably only have time for maybe two or three forums. Remember, real social networking is about building relationships and offering something of value. You cannot expect to drop a message off on a forum and have people come looking for you.

Introduce yourself on the forum and talk a little about your campaign or idea. Look through other posts and answer questions or relate to others’ stories. As with a lot of the social media and crowdfunding outreach tasks here, you will want to schedule out 20 minutes or so each week to come back to the forum and contribute. Do this for a few weeks and you will begin to build a network. Within this network you can start talking a little more about your project and start asking for advice and support. Keep it simple at first, asking for social shares or ideas on contacts with influencers.

Forums dedicated to crowdfunding in general can also be helpful but you have to make sure not to overdo it. Check out a couple of forums and bookmark them if they seem particularly helpful. Spend half as much time on these as you do the forums related to your campaign topic. You might be able to draw some backers from these or pick up some good advice but your focus should be people on other forums that are passionate about your specific campaign topic.

Crowdfunding and Social Media

Social media can be extremely frustrating for crowdfunding campaigns. While everyone knows it’s a pipe dream, there is still that little voice in the back of your head that says, “Maybe my campaign will go viral.” After spending tens of hours crafting a social media strategy, low social shares of your campaign can be nearly unbearable.

Understand that click-through rates, or the percentage of recipients that open and click on a link, for email are between 1% and 5% depending on your industry. The rate for social media is even lower, around 0.4% to 0.8% for Facebook and Twitter. Even if people share your post on their social profile, they may not click through and actually look at the campaign. If you are actually able to get someone to visit your campaign, only about 2% of page visitors end up donating on Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

Before you get too discouraged, there are ways to improve the response to your social media posts. It begins with finding the people that are most likely to share your posts in the first place, those affinity groups that share a passion for the topic. There are two parts here, joining any pages or groups that revolve around the topic and adding people within these groups as friends.

In Google+ these are known as communities and can be found in the drop-down menu on the left of your Google+ page. Once you are in the main communities page; you can search, join or create a community of your own. It’s important to get a feel for each group before you start submitting posts of your own. Check out the group rules (if any) and look through a few posts.

In Facebook, you will look for group pages. An important distinction here is to be made between a group and a page. Facebook pages are like personal profiles but for an entity. Your crowdfunding campaign should have its own page. Facebook groups are supposed to be affinity groups set up for communication around the common interest.

Crowdfunding Outreach Social Media

As with other outreach groups, try out a few Facebook groups to get the feel for how helpful they might be. A lot of groups will degenerate into worthless spamming if the moderators are not present. Find a couple of groups where people share valuable insight and opinions and start building your presence.

With your group participation, it isn’t about reaching everyone in the group but building a relationship with a few members. Since these people are already passionate about the topic, they are likely to be part of a wider social network around the idea and more willing to help you with the campaign. As opposed to the general population where you will need to build trust and passion for the campaign, here you will only need to build trust.

Twitter does not offer a group function but you can create lists that will work in a similar way. When you tweet, you can tweet only to the list or to your general profile page. You can also decide if list members’ tweets go to your general page or only to the list. There isn’t the same sense of community in Twitter lists but it does provide a way of separating the tweets into specific groups.

  • Click on the Lists tab on your profile page and create a list.
  • You can add people to your list, share a list with others and request to be added to lists.
  • Through the tweets you see from people on topic-related lists, make a note of common hashtags and other Twitter profiles.

I have used Pinterest for driving visitors to my blog and there are some good outreach opportunities as well. Searching for your topic will show pins, pinners and boards. Pinners with a lot of followers on Pinterest are likely to have a lot of followers in other social networks and may have their own website. Add a few of these to your list of influencers to contact and follow the strategy below.

Journalists and the Fourth Estate for Crowdfunding

Journalist and traditional media contacts are like the Holy Grail for crowdfunding. Getting your campaign on the news or in a widely published periodical can mean tens of thousands in donations and an army of backers.

There are two things to remember for getting journalists to cover your campaign, the story and who is most likely to want it.

Your first step is researching which journalists or publications are most likely to be interested in your story. This is usually fairly simple and just a matter of noting the journalists that frequently write about a topic. After all your other research into your campaign, you will likely have come across at least a few names that keep popping up. Even if your campaign is not locally-focused, you will want to note which local journalists cover the topic as well.

The second part of getting journalist coverage is creating a story that others will want to hear. The best way to do this is by relating your campaign to a current event. Can you relate your campaign to a holiday or special community event? Does it relate to a social cause that is making the news lately? You’ll have to be fast when reaching out to journalists. Most will source and outline an article days or even weeks in advance of an event.

There are a few resources online for connecting with journalists. The most popular is Help a Reporter Out (HARO), a website set up to connect journalists with informational sources. HARO used to be more helpful in landing journalist contacts but is now pushing its fee-based services pretty heavily. It’s still worth filling out a profile and checking in on the site once a week to see if you can find journalists looking for your particular story. Other sites include PressRush, ProfNet and SourceBottle.

Crowdfunding Outreach Journalists

Crowdfunding Outreach Journalists

Prioritizing your Crowdfunding list and reaching Influencers

Spend any time on crowdfunding outreach and you are likely to build quite a list very quickly. We talked about the concept of influencers briefly in the crowdfunding blogging chapter but it’s worth repeating here. There are some people that are just naturally sociable or that carry huge social networks. You shouldn’t neglect anyone that is willing to help your campaign but the most efficient use of your time is going to be spent reaching out to these people.

This is really where your team comes in handy. If you can get a couple of people passionate about the campaign, they can help build outreach with general contacts while you concentrate on influencers. Crowdfunding outreach is tough work so you might want to offer a little something to persuade people to help out. A small stipend or even dinner can go a long way to buying yourself some of their time. The important thing is that they share your passion and will share that passion when reaching out to others.

Prioritizing your outreach list is relatively simple. Websites like Alexa and Compete.com can be used to measure the popularity of another website or blog. For individuals, you can check out how many people are in their social networks on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Make sure you check out how engaged their social followers are through comments on their social shares.

With website and social measures at hand, you can rank the people in your crowdfunding outreach list by how much influence they might have on other people. Besides prioritizing your list in this way, you might also want to highlight the names of people that you know to already be enthusiastic about helping your campaign. Even if they are not particularly influential, there is no sense neglecting what could be some great help.

The people with thousands of active social followers and a highly trafficked website are going to be at the top of your list. Unfortunately, you are not the only person trying to reach out to these influencers. It will take longer to build a relationship and trust with these people before you ask them to be a part of the campaign or to share your project with their network. As we talked about in the chapter on building a crowdfunding blog, this is done through reading, sharing and commenting on their own online material.

You will need to decide the time and effort you commit to different levels of people on your crowdfunding outreach list. For the people toward the bottom of the list that may not be of much influence, a simple email might suffice. In my experience, you are likely to get a response from about 10% of the people that you email without any prior relationship building. Setting up a relationship through a couple of social shares and comments can boost the response to 15% or 20% after a couple of weeks.

About Joseph Hogue

An investment analyst by profession, I run two blogs (Crowd101 and PeerFinance101) in personal finance, peer lending and crowdfunding. I've been on both sides of the table as a lender and a borrower and am excited to be a part of the peer movement. With the power of the internet, people are helping other people manage debt and raise money in ways never before possible.

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