Crowdfunding: 5 tips from a digital marketing guru

These five pieces of advice are some of the take-aways of the live video AMA I conducted with Audrey Binkowski, partner and COO of Large Media, for the Hardware Club’s community.

Large Media is a digital marketing agency based in upstate New York. Audrey has worked with some of the largest crowdfunding and pre-orders successes in history, including Tile, Navdy, Lily Robotics, Plastc and Nebia. Having led over two dozen crowdfunding campaigns over the last two years, her agency has helped startups raise over $65M orders through strategic digital marketing.

You’ve been working on your product for months, perhaps even a couple of years, and the big day is finally approaching. Your idea, your vision, your masterpiece. This is the first time you’ll publicly present your product to the rest of the world, and you don’t want to screw it up. Launching a preorder or crowdfunding campaign is not easy thing, and you’ve finally approached the big question: how do I acquire customers?

Respect these 5 rules, and you’ll give yourself the best possible odds to catch the Holy Grail.

1. Create, test, analyze and optimize — this is your mantra

The number of types of content and communication channels has grown in the last decade. Not every channel is created equal, and you’ll need to understand the rules of the game for each of them.

“optimizing is really an on-going continuous forever process because you can always improve”

Run A/B testing for everything — yes, everything! It takes time and energy, but it will boost your conversion rate. Not sure it worth it? A/B testing alone helped President Obama raise $75M for his second presidential campaign. There is opportunity everywhere for improvement. Think about your pricing, your Adwords, your email subject lines, your Facebook ads (text, picture, tagline…), your CTAs, the pictures and even wording on your website. All can be tested and optimized for conversion.

Click To Action (CTA) wording was one area Audrey said had a major impact on the success of her past campaigns. Get rid of the “preorder” word, and instead opt for expressions like “Reserve now”, “Buy now”, or “Get it now”. According to Audrey, a small two words change from “preorder” can improve your conversion rate by nearly 200%, a game changer for startups.

When working with digital marketing, the primary metric for success is conversion rate. Make sure every single piece of marketing content is trackable for conversion rate data. For that, use specific links for everything, setup a dashboard where you gather every data from every channel, analyze your return on investment in terms of money and time, and keep optimizing everything.

Test everything, everywhere, every time

2. Find the magic in your product and exploit it

The key to any launch success is maximizing momentum. Whether it’s videos, posts, press articles, pictures, links etc., you want to figure out how to get your content shared thousands of times all around the world. It’s a phenomenon we call virality, and it’s the ultimate achievement for any launch strategy. Bad news: going viral is one of the only things in your launch you don’t have control over.

“Everybody wants to go viral, but going viral isn’t a marketing strategy”

Good news: if you can’t “plan” to go viral, you can at least work on maximizing your odds. How? Start with creating a community of people and potential backers who like your product. A simple Facebook page and a neat landing page are good starting points. Try your best to build up a list of 10,000 email addresses as it will help you make some noise for your launch. Meet people, talk about your product, and use the community you’re building to determine what is the “wow effect” of your product. The “wow effect” is what makes your product different and desirable compared to other existing products in the market.

To help you determine that “magic something”, your marketing team and agency should be in touch with the product team to get to know your product and to determine how people feel about your product. You can even organize focus groups with your community and your teams to enhance that process, as feedback from early adopters can be a key for realizing your full potential. Your product video will play a key role during your campaign. Once you know what sets your product apart, make sure it is showcased in your video.

Showcase your product like a golden ticket for the Chocolate Factory

3. Prepare your team and your tools

As you prepare for the launch, take the time to ensure that the following four areas are fully operational.

Team — Even if you hire a digital agency, you’ll need to have a team dedicated to your campaign. Split the responsibilities among your employees and make sure everyone understands their role. During your campaign, every question (even the most difficult ones) must be answered within 24 hours. For that, you’ll need between three and six people for social media, not including your email customer support team. For the first 48 hours of your campaign, you should have from four to six people mobilized around the clock to handle feedback. Finally, as a CEO, don’t interfere: a CEO shouldn’t be involved in the campaign because he or she has way more important things to do, starting with building a product.

“the CEO shouldn’t be tweeting during the campaign”

Content and tools — Keep it simple, keep it cheap. Use Crowdster to coordinate everything, Zendesk to create macros and deal with your customer care, and Mailchimp for your emailing campaigns. Once you’ve determined the content that converts, use Basecamp to centralize everything so that everybody knows where it’s stocked. On average, your digital marketing budget shouldn’t be more than 20% of the sales amount you plan for your campaign.

Referral program — Running a referral campaign can be an incredibly effective way to re-engage your community. As you think about your offer, remember your approach should differ depending on whether you’re pre-launch, mid-campaign or post-campaign. You have many options in regards to offers, such as early access to the campaign, coupon code, free product… Try to find a balance: if you don’t incentivize enough you’ll get no additional backers, if you incentivize too much you’ll get people signing up for things they’re not really interested in buying, which will result in bad long-term conversion rates.

Communication channels — First of all, make sure your website works perfectly. You don’t want it to crash in case of massive turnout. Check that your checkout process is seamlessly fast and simple. Same thing for all your social media accounts, everything should be setup. As you’ll gain momentum, lots of people will reach out: potential investors, press and media, job applicants, distributors… To facilitate the treatment of these inquiries, create an email address for each category like career@startup.com, press@startup.com, investor@startup.com etc. and split the management of each one among your team.

FAQ — Once your campaign launched, you’ll get hundreds of questions from potential and actual backers. To save valuable time, you should have an extensive FAQ ready and shared with your team so that each person knows how to handle any kind of questions. Of course cover the basics, but also think outside the box in regards to possible inquiries. You may be surprised by the kind of questions you get. If a customer can read through your entire page feeling fully educated to make a purchase, then you know you’ve done your job right.

Success only comes to those who are prepared

4. Some timing roadmap guidelines

When should you launch your campaign? The best period is in spring or fall. Starting November, the costs of ads will double and then quadruple in December and January. You certainly don’t want to pay the high price to compete (and loose) against companies like Microsoft or Apple which have way more resources than you.

How many times should you communicate? During the campaign, post three times a day on your social media and email once a week. Once the campaign is over, go gradually from there to a post per week and an email per month.

“Tell them the good and the bad, don’t lie”

After you end your campaign, be sure to continue your communication with backers. Once all hands on the manufacturing process, many startups begin to forget about their backers. Continuous communication is key, so keep answering questions and, above all, always stay transparent.

Don’t let unanswered messages and questions pilled up

5. Last but not least, adapt if you want to succeed

A campaign, whether it’s a crowdfunding or a preorder one, isn’t something linear. You’ll notice that content that once converted for the pre-launch no longer converts during the campaign. Keep in mind that you need to dissociate the different goals depending on where you stand in your campaign. Before the launch, your conversion rate must focus on sign ups, after your launch it must focus on sales.

Pull and analyze your data on a daily basis. By the end of the week, you will have gained clear insights on what works and what doesn’t. Capitalize on this and implement the necessary improvements to boost your conversion rate.

Follow Darwin’s wise words

Special thanks to Audrey Binkowski for her precious advice.

Special thanks to Evan for his help.

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