Takeaways from a Crowdfunding Campaign

There’s no better teacher than experience. Last month we wrapped up a successful crowdfunding campaign to start mass production of The Passport Protector. We raised $16,081 or 107% of our $15,000 goal; we 14,788 visits, 4365 views of our main video, and 202 backers in 40 days.

While we clawed our way to $15,000 – there were products in Columbus going viral for $250,000 in funding, Solar Roadways raising millions and sunglasses raising $400,000. I’m an even bigger fan of crowdfunding now, but it to an outsider it may look like easy money until you’ve run a campaign. So what were the big takeaways??

  1. It was much harder than I thought it’d be. 90% of any campaign’s success is determined in advance, and it was still a ton of work. Leading up to the launch, I invested nights and weekends for a couple months studying crowdfuding. It was also a lot of work to get most of our promotions ready beforehand. We raised 50% within the first week, but for the rest of the campaign, I still invested a couple hours every night and had to push right up until the deadline. In the end, persistence cures all.

The type of stressful funding I was trying to avoid:

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And then that’s exactly what happened:

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2. Good public relations is critical, but it’s not easy.  For a crowdfunding campaign to really get beyond family and friends, you have to get exposure with blogs, news, magazines, etc. We mapped out a PR gameplan to get specific influencer groups to share our campaign. Travel writers, study abroad programs, and gear/gadget sites were our main targets. Around 80% of people we targeted never even responded; once they did reply, we had about a 50/50 shot of collaborating. It took months of reaching out and communicating with different organizations to see if they were willing to share. Initially I also invested in a PR campaign that was a complete flop and waste of $700. Oddly enough, there was a different campaign for half the cost that had a massive response with travel bloggers and resulted in over 70 industry experts sharing our story with their followers. We saw some backers come through PR channels, but it also played a major role in validating our efforts with would be backers.

3. Don’t overlook the details and user experience. Graphics, photos, copy, email strategies, video, pricing levels, timing, updates, social media and more have to be considered. A big part of our initial success was due to a well executed email marketing campaign. We used MailChip to deliver solid graphics, fresh content, updates, and calls to action. Again, user groups were segmented based on influencers, friends/family, personal network, etc. We sent 15 or more customized email blasts over the course of the campaign. One area I shot myself in the foot was setting up the type of Indiegogo campaign. Basically, I went for all or none funding, but that meant people could only use PayPal – other formats allow backers to just purchase with a credit card. I had a number of people say they donated…but the transaction didn’t go through because of too many steps with PayPal and I’m sure many others just gave up or couldn’t remember their password. Bottom line, we could have done everything right to share the message, have a great video, etc and the last step in the funnel wasn’t easy so we lost backers.

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4. The ‘framily’ plan made it happen. Social media guru and angel investor Gary Vaynerchuk has said, “I would rather have social capital than venture capital.” Ultimately the majority of our backers came from family and friends who already knew me. Would they be as excited about The Passport Protector or trust the team to deliver if they didn’t know me in some other area? Probably not. The good news is I’m grateful those relationships lead to a successful launch and I plan to make them proud early backers. The tough news is we have some work to do to get the same type of buy-in from the rest of the market. Friends and family may have bet more on me than the product, but the validation we got from travel experts shows the big opportunity ahead for The Passport Protector.

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The campaign seems like it was ages ago. Now we’re well into manufacturing and will have more updates to come. For anyone interested in a crowdfunding campaign – do your homework and don’t be afraid to ask others for lots of help and advice.

 

Thoughts on crowdfunding? Backed other projects or thinking about a product launch? Share your thoughts and comments below. 

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