It’s said by many people – not just me – that as well as raising money, effective crowdfunding is great marketing. It gets you written about and maybe interviewed. It gets you noticed by would-be suppliers, collaborators, distributors, influencers, affiliates and stockists, as well as backers. I made one of own investments after being impressed when I saw, by total accident, a startup CEO interviewed on television about her crowdfunding project.
Crowdfunding is one of twenty categories in the third annual round of the international BOLD Awards. Their aim is to recognise and shine a spotlight on crowd-related breakthroughs and innovative people, businesses and projects that are leading the way and setting an example in digital industries. Other categories include AI, Robotics, AR/VR, Crypto, Fintech, Cybersecurity, Agritech, Sustainability…….. here’s the full twenty categories.
Here’s how it works. Entries are submitted online, naturally, and can be viewed by potential voters and continually updated by the entrants. There will be a public round of voting early in 2022, which is an opportunity for entrants to mobilize their communities and “get the vote out.” An international panel of judges will then take a look at the entries, and winners in each category will be decided through a blend of public votes and judges’ appraisals.
Winners will be able to collect their awards at a prestigious black-tie gala dinner on March 25th, hosted by Europe’s largest accelerator hub, H-FARM, on their campus just outside Venice. It will be a unique event, with unrepeatable opportunities to network and connect with leading edge innovators and disruptors among the other winners, the judges, and invited VIPs. Given thatcrowdfunding is great marketing, here will be your chance to make an impression in person.
Plenty of candidates would be able to enter under several categories. As an example, the Small Robot Company, with its agritech robots controlled by AI and working to improve sustainability, has recently concluded a round of equity crowdfunding in the UK.
Previous nominees in the Crowdfunding category include Startup Italia and Borrow A Boat from the UK.
Entries are open, with the price held at €77 until September 15. If you have worked hard and enjoyed crowdfunding success, get some recognition at the BOLD Awards gala dinner award ceremony in Venice in March 2022. Register to enter now, and maybe I’ll see you next March in Venice.
In five years, Narek Vardanyan, CEO and co-founder of The Crowdfunding Formula, built the world’s largest agency (in Armenia) that specialises in supporting entrepreneurs who want to launch new and innovative products, and generate high level pre-orders through crowdfunding. The TCF agency is far removed from asking friends and family members to support a modest Crowdfunder, Kickstarter or Indiegogo project. In the past three years they have worked on 13 projects that raised over $1 million of product orders, and that’s the level of ambition they want to work with.
There are plenty of lessons to learn from understanding their almost indiustrialised process of preparing for and executing a reward crowdfunding project, many of which also apply to equity crowdfunding.
How to secure The Crowdfunding Formula’s engagement
TCF uses a simple scoring system, and a project has to score at least 4 out of a possible 6 to be considered.
To achieve this rating it’s clear a product must be aimed at a B2C mass market for TCF to become involved.
Beyond the scoring system, a project leader should have a core team of around five people to share the workload, an ambition to achieve at least $1 million worth of pre-orders, and a prototype that’s at least 85% complete.
How and what to prepare in a pre-launch period
Thorough preparation in the run up before a reward crowdfunding project goes live is absolutely vital to provide a foundation for success. This work is never seen in the project content finally visible to the public on a crowdfunding platform, and remains a challenge to many who aspire to be an innovative entrepreneur.
TCF’s team of experienced operatives can identify a host of issues to double-check and pressure test, including sourcing materials and components, manufacturing to regulatory standards in different countries, and supply chain and fulfilment reliability. Some projects have started as long as a year later than originally planned in order for the prototype to be acceptable.
Start to build a crowd of backers
Work here focuses on three elements:
Growing a base of early-adopter subscribers who are interested enough to sign up through a landing page, or join a Facebook group, and not only back a project but maybe also add their voice to the marketing efforts. Opportunities to earn perks with limited availability can make them feel special and identify strongly with a project’s ultimate success.
Creating a network of influencers, bloggers, journalists and editors of off- and online media who will review and rate a product.
Building a stockpile of images and video content.
The question of “How many subscribers are needed?” relates to the item unit price. Once a crowdfunding project goes live, potential backers of high ticket items will need more reassurance than for lower price items, and thus need to see an early and convincing level of support.
How to reach and motivate subscribers
TCF can set up a chatbot, a VIP Facebook group, and other social media pages such as Instagram and a ‘regular’ Facebook page. They will create subscriber subsets who will respond better to different types of communication content, and devise a raft of bonuses to keep them all involved during the pre-launch period. You need them to place their orders as soon as the crowdfunding project goes live to give it momentum. Asking them to refer friends can also be very effective.
How to collect and communicate with influencers
Manual searches to first establish the identities of relevant influencers, and to then find contact details, are too slow and time consuming for a project that aims to raise $1 million. The TCF team have the skills to use automated services. Whether you’re going to use a marketing agency to support your project, or handle it all yourself, these are some of the list-building tools that are available.
Nymeria enables users to quickly find a person’s email address on supported sites like LinkedIn and GitHub.
RocketReach finds email, phone and social media details for over 250 million professionals.
Prophet is an advanced search tool available from the Chrome Web Store. Has 30,000 users.
Email Hunter extracts and auto saves email addresses from website pages as you visit them.
Lead IQ, primarily designed as a tool for sales teams, similarly extracts contact data from web pages and LinkedIn.
Voila Norbert has built up a massive database of B2B email addresses which they will examine to meet customer requests.
Anymailfinder uses job title search to find your ideal contacts if you don’t even know their name.
Leadgibbon can add email addresses to a list of contact names and domains.
PhantomBuster is great for finding contact data in social media profiles.
Having created a group of influencers, reminding them about your project and keeping them informed of progress is also handled better through automation. Mailshake is an email outreach software and sales engagement platform that helps you send emails from Gmail and G Suite, and Streak extension is another CRM system for Gmail users. Others are available.
PR tips on what to say
Have product samples available to send to influencers for them to review, and put the most important information in an email in a P.S. Use articles about your product in retargeting ads, and embed tracking pixels in your emails to enable effective follow up.
Let them know you are available if they want to make a video that features you or your product, offer them special perks if they place an order, and ask if they can make any contact lists available to you.
Remember, all this is done in a pre-launch period before your crowdfunding project goes live. Much of it equally applies to equity crowdfunding, where the challenge is to build crowds of influencers and potential retail investors.
How to set a reward crowdfunding target
Narek’s advice is you should set it as low as possible in order to be able to report a fantastic level of overfunding and look to be a sensational success. Nobody else has to know the real aim is at least $1m, or whatever your own target is.
The minimum goal for an “All or Nothing” crowdfunding project should be the breakeven point where pre-orders cover the first minimum production run. It is important to also allow for the following:
Any level of profit you feel your team’s efforts deserve.
Fees charged by the crowdfunding platform, which will include an element covering transaction costs (credit/debit card, bank transfer fees, PayPal). In total, about 10%.
Packaging and delivery costs of the products, plus any applicable tariffs related to countries you are going to ship to.
Costs you are going to incur to run the crowdfunding project, such as video production, photography, maybe launch events, product samples, Facebook and other social media advertising, legal services and charges, IP protection, and the fees charged by a support agency.
Under the terms of “All or Nothing,” if your project fails to meet the minimum goal the backers are not charged the money they pledged, there are no platform fees to pay, and you don’t have to manufacture the product. The manufacturer, however, may still want some level of payment if they had set aside some production time in their schedules. Consider this in your negotiations with them to begin with. Overall though, if you fail to reach the minimum target you can go home to think again without having incurred a great debt.
The Crowdfunding Formula charges 25% of the money raised. This may seem a lot, though consider what they help each client with, the other benefits of crowdfunding beyond generating sales income.
This article was first published, by me, for Crowdsourcing Work, where my role is Content & Marketing Partner. I am in regular contact with team at The Crowdfunding Formula – what do you want to ask? Email me at [email protected].
Responsibility for executing an organisation’s Marketing has changed drastically. Back when digital multi-channel television and colour photographs in newspapers were becoming the new normal, I was planning where and when international clients and household brand names should run their media advertising campaigns, and convincing their heads of marketing to sign off eight-figure annual budgets.
Today, just as importantly for the businesses involved, I handle social media accounts and write articles for B2B clients to post on their websites and elsewhere as part of a Content Marketing strategy. In terms I learned at school in GCSE Economics classes, Marketing for many organisations, particularly smaller ones, has transitioned from a capital intensive activity (needs a lot of money) to a more labour intensive one (less cash outlay, though needs more time spent on it). Whose time should it be?
Old School Marketing
Imagine standing at a podium in front of a large crowd of people, telling them things about your business. Some of them are your customers, some of them are people you’d like to be your customers, and some of them are people who could be asked for advice on whether they think you’re any good. You have the only microphone, you are standing on an elevated stage. You know where your audience is to face them, though you can’t see them very well through the stage lights.
This is how much of marketing communications used to be done – broadcasting. Whilst there is some element of audience interaction – you can hear if you make them laugh, or when they didn’t at a point you hoped they would – it is fundamentally a one-way experience to deliver a controlled, scripted message to an audience switched on to politely sit and ‘receive.’
To ensure the advertising and PR message(s) being put out were the correct ones, and that they were delivered professionally and effectively, you would have hired an advertising agency and a PR company. The messages would be relayed through media owners – the press, radio and tv companies – that controlled the gateways to reach their readers, listeners and viewers. Or you could use direct mail, or some leaflets delivered door-to-door.
Whatever a business chose to do, it was almost totally handled externally, and managed by an internal Marketing team or person. By far the majority of any organisations’ employees had nothing at all to do with it.
Now think about sitting at a table with a group of eight or ten people from that theatre audience, who have been selected to discuss your business and its ‘brand values’ – the reputational values and core skills you want your business to be associated with. You can all see each other on the same level, there are no microphones, no stage lights. The process of communicating is very different, and the biggest difference is now that you will have to spend a lot of time listening.
As you begin to talk there will be interruptions, of agreement and disagreement, it will be a true iterative process. The people round the table will start talking to each other, maybe some to defend you, others to pile on the pressure of what they think your business lacks or is failing to do (or say) properly, or even chip in with personal poor experiences. You will be debating, advocating, persuading and interacting. You might find it can be a bit like this when you’re networking at events.
Then add to the table a couple of your employees. The other people at the table are likely to make judgements based on what they say as much as what you say. Do they support or deviate from your own core messages; how enthusiastic are they; do they project a ‘united front’ of consistent values, knowledge and skills? Or maybe they sit there absent-mindedly gazing out of the window while ignoring the conversation, your customers, influencers and other stakeholders who are present.
This is more what Marketing has become in the interactive two-way street of social media, with direct and immediate person-to-person (C2C) contact without permission or approval required from gatekeepers, and with every person creating and delivering their own messages in their own style. It’s a powerful process that can easily use images and video clips. It’s also chaotic, noisy, cluttered and taking place 24/7. And it’s a process that at best you can hope to influence though never actually control. So wouldn’t it be better if there were a few more people helping out?
Marketing Is Not A Person
Inside your own business, think about the numerous people responsible for direct contact with your clients, with key decision-makers: are they all saying the right things, the same things, about the business? And with what degree of enthusiasm or lacklustre detachment?
You also have other ‘back room’ employees in contact with your clients’ counterparts, and occasionally perhaps local authorities, licensing bodies, suppliers, professional trade bodies, the taxman, local and specialist professional media – don’t think this is unimportant. Every contact point at every level influences external perception of your business and what it’s like to do business with you: how the phones are answered; how emails are worded; accuracy and timing of the response to questions; timely and accurate billing; how problems are handled – do people take responsibility or play the blame game? As a start point, it’s why you’re (usually) all smartly dressed and presentable for business meetings – to project a good image. Everything else is simply an extension of this.
Marketing’s ‘New Normal’
These days, a wider appreciation of Marketing should be part of a successful company’s DNA, woven in to its very fabric. In the new “always on” digital-era business environment, it’s more a state of mind, a company culture, not restricted to people who have the word in their job title.
Supporting the company’s digital and social media marketing doesn’t require anyone to spend large amounts of time on it, start writing their own engaging content or become a social media influencer with a multitude of followers. A fuller commitment to the company’s business aims can start with as little as a Click now and again on a LinkedIn Update ‘Share’ or ‘Like’ buttons, or a Twitter re-tweet or a ‘Like.’ To do nothing is to gaze out of the window.
One of the biggest recent trends in marketing is crowdsourcing. In the last decade, 85% of the top global brands have used it in some form.
In pre-digital days it was pretty much restricted to publicity stunts or involved celebrities, or both, and relied on the media gatekeepers – print and broadcast media owners – to be a vital part of the process. Media owners were the b2b crowd that a brand owner sourced, and the media provided the b2c link. Mass digital connectivity has widened the net, and crowdsourced marketing can skip the media owner involvement and still achieve phenomenal results.
Today’s digital connectivity enables all of us to publish online material, if we want to, and social media spreads the word to encourage direct access to content created personally or in-house by brands. It also means people can respond to brand owner call-outs with an array of written content, photos and videos. This means crowdsourced marketing can involve consumers voting on or even submitting ideas for marketing campaigns and advertisements. A well-known example is the Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” contest in which consumers submitted homemade Doritos commercials for the chance of their work being shown during the American Football end-of-season Super Bowl. It ran for 10 years.
Sticking for the moment with crowdsourced marketing meaning generating editorial media coverage through newsworthy publicity stunts and appearances by celebrities, Richard Branson is very good at it. He continually makes himself a news item to promote one Virgin brand or another. The example below is a press conference for the launch of Virgin Voyages, cruise ship holidays. The media pick up on a lot of what he does, and he also uses his own social media to communicate directly with audiences.
Examples that relied on traditional media to leverage the message include the now defunct UK holiday company Club 18-30 (which catered to that age group) that used to get high levels of press media coverage by putting up risqué posters near to newspaper offices where they were bound to be seen by journalists: “Wake up at the crack of Dawn… or Lisa, or Julie” was one example. I created a case study about this back in the Noughties for the out-of-home contractor Clear Channel.
This and other similar poster executions won advertising industry awards for the creative ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, even if public outcry against indecency – ironically fuelled by the newspaper coverage they were designed to achieve – resulted in them having to be taken down early. But they had done their job.
Founder of the Ultimo lingerie brand Michelle Mone is another business person/celebrity who created her own media moments in the spotlight.
One incident, when she was still a cash-strapped startup just beginning to get the first shops to stock her products, involved hiring a dozen actors. They pretended to be plastic surgeons and demonstrated outside the Selfridge’s department store to try and prevent them stocking her cleavage-enhancing underwear.
They claimed they would be out of work if too many women decided to wear an Ultimo bra rather than have surgical implants, and blocked the road, the world famous Oxford Street. Their morning picketing was shown on lunchtime television news and Selfridge’s sold what was meant to be six months’ of stock in five hours. It’s all in her book, My Fight To The Top.
Up-to-date, and on a far more serious theme is an example from South Africa. Francois Du Preez, Digital Creative Director of Grey Advertising in South Africa presented a case study at the Crowdsourcing Week 2016 Global Conference. Dog fighting is an unsavoury and illegal activity in South Africa that causes many animals to suffer, not just the ones that do the fighting, and it’s a multi-million Rand industry when related gambling is taken in to account.
Criminals steal domestic small dogs to feed to pitbulls being trained to fight, to give them the taste. But over time a majority of the public had tired with and disengaged from the regular media coverage of tattered, battered and mutilated dogs. The ad agency created a mobile billboard that appeared to publicise a dog fight, Nitro vs Thor, with a website URL and a phone number. Social media exploded within one hour of it driving around affluent suburbs of Johannesburg. It was reported on radio news and in the next editions of newspapers. Angry people found out the website had been registered by Du Preez and some came looking for him.
The website was taken down after just three hours in which time it had received more attention than they had ever anticipated. Against this background of anger they ‘came clean’ that the advertised dog fight was a stunt and then got even more media exposure for supposedly trivialising the distasteful and illegal activity. The issue was suddenly important once again to many people.
The amount of media space and broadcast airtime costed as media advertising exposure was valued at Rand 1.7 million. The mobile ad had cost Rand 7,000, allowing a claimed ROI factor of 240 times the initial outlay. But not only had massive media coverage been achieved for such a tiny sum, the mobilisation of the crowd had made it so much more effective than if a real budget had been used with a regular “this is bad, let’s all help put a stop to it” style of message.
In the digital-era of personal connectivity, newcomer craft beer brewer Brewdog claimed to be worth £1.8bn in January this year (based on some corporate investment deals), and has vowed to never spend a penny on paid-for advertising. Though they happily hired and branded a helicopter to make a video of parachuting “fat cats” (stuffed toys, I hasten to add) in to the City of London to generate news coverage of the fact that they were crowdfunding. They went on to raise their first £5m through equity crowdfunding without the services of any expensive “fat cat” investment advisers.
A current example is the Royal Mail which has installed four musical post boxes in the run-up to Christmas. When cards and letters are posted they trigger a sensor that plays a loop of snippets from Christmas tunes and reindeer sleigh bells.
There is just one in each of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. The one in England is in Greenwich, the historic area on the south side of London’s River Thames and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, very popular with tourists.
It has been mentioned in social media by many people and organsations including numerous bloggers and local businesses in the area, reported in local and national newspapers, on BBC tv news and by the advertising industry platform Campaign.
The Royal Mail are using the added media coverage to raise awareness of this year’s last posting dates. There, I’ve written about it and you’ve read about it, it works.
Crowdsourced marketing offers huge benefits for businesses. Crowdsourcing saves on marketing costs because either consumers are happy to submit their ideas for free in exchange for seeing them used in the marketplace, or because bloggers, journalists and editors fall over themselves to create engaging content featuring stunts and/or celebrities to entertain their audiences. Plus these days there is direct consumer-2-consumer connectivity. It’s a great way to get affordable coverage of a crowdfunding project.
If you’d like to discuss you own ideas for a crowdfundng project and to see how I can maybe help you please email me at [email protected]. Don’t forget, a dream isn’t a plan and hope isn’t a strategy.