A founder who is wrapping up a crowdfunding campaign gives a detailed account of what she learned along the way. By Chandra Jacobs (Founder, Tripchi)
Thinking about launching a crowdfunding campaign? Great, because that’s what this blog is all about! Before you dive in to your campaign, keep reading for some tips, tricks, and lessons learned, that I’ve collected throughout my tripchi Indiegogo campaign journey (still underway until 12/15).
Why Crowdfunding? Why Now?
For my startup tripchi, we came to a point in our product development where we hit a resource wall. We needed to augment our internal dev team with outside resources to speed up the pace that we were building. We’re too early-stage still to raise a seed (because we don’t have a public release yet), and we’ve already burned through our internal investment money. At the same time, we wanted to validate the concept with our customer base, generate interest, brand awareness, and create early product evangelists and adopters. Moreover, we wanted to learn a ton from our customers and test out the mechanisms of our marketing strategy and product message. Indiegogo was therefore the perfect fit. If you’re in a similar situation, it may also be a good fit for you. Just be clear about what your goals are and try not to make them unrealistic – achievability, clarity of purpose and necessity are key.
Our goal is to raise $10,000 (which, in retrospect, is fairly ambitious), which will cover the build out of at least three airports (that the Indiegogo community votes for). The more we raise above this figure, the more airports and specials features, deals, and offers, we can include in the app for supporters. We will also give supporters access before anyone else to the app once it's built, and engage with them throughout our product development and testing process. It’s important to make your supporters feel like they’re part of the cause and greater vision with you, because, let’s face it, they’re not making the donation to really get a tangible something in return. Perks are great, but bringing them in to the process is even better. You can check out our campaign here to see how we did it.
That said, we’ve been planning this campaign for months, and I thought I’d share with you some of our learnings along the way.
Indieogo vs. Kickstarter
Kickstarter is typically for "serious" companies, not necessarily the "fund my life" campaigns that often clutter the Indiegogo pages. That said, Kickstarter also has a physical product focus and it is much harder to design perks to fit with Kickstarter’s more stringent rules (for example, all perks have to be made by the team – so if you want to use a third-party vendor, tough luck). Finally, Startup America offered a discount through Indiegogo so that clinched it for us. That said, I would recommend doing Kickstarter if you can, because the exposure and reach is magnified and businesses are often taken more seriously through that platform.
I decided to make my campaign last for about 35 days. The most successful campaigns are right around 30 days, and everyone I spoke with who had run campaigns before said that 40-day efforts ended up doing about the same as 30-day efforts, the only difference was 10 extra days of work for the campaign managers (since you end up putting in 5-10 hours a day in your outreach). I launched the campaign on a Monday night and didn’t quite get the initial pop I had hoped for until Tuesday and Wednesday. In retrospect, I would have launched it on a Thursday – this is one of the days of the week that people aren’t buried in email, are actually a little bored, and are catching up on messages. It also is good timing for all those newsletters that go out Monday morning.
These take a really long time to think through and are a coordination headache between lining up vendors, negotiating prices, defining your margin, an ultimately setting the price you will offer the perk at. You want to have 1-2 perks under $50 (which is the average donation size and should also be the size of your "core" perk -- for us, access to the Beta) and several above.
I think one of the biggest things I wish I did differently is make it clearer to donors that they can donate any amount of money they want and basically disregard the structure of the perks if they want to. This makes sense in the context of a large global network (like I have), where donating even $15 is actually a lot of money due to exchange rates and purchasing power parity.
Finally, make sure that your perks all have something to do with your brand and vision. For us, it’s all about traveling, and improving the airport experience, so we offer perks like: our “Keep Calm and Fly On” keychain, tripchi branded leather luggage tag, and a “Travel Saved My Life” t-shirt
The earlier you can reach out to people the better, so you can prep them for what’s coming and ensure an initial "pop" of donations in the first week. It’s extremely important to seed the campaign with donations from friends and family so that you can move fast up the ranking in the Indiegogo campaign pages through an elevated “Gogofactor.” This is an algorithm that Indiegogo uses to calculate which campaigns it will feature and your ranking in the Indiegogo pages. You want to be as close to the front of the Indiegogo page as possible (similar to Google). A lot of factors go in to it: number of donations, amount of donations, where donations are coming from, velocity of donations, number of hits that are incoming to your Indiegogo campaign page, social media shares, how many comments you have on your campaign, how many team members are part of your campaign, how many items you have in your campaign gallery, and how many updates you send out.
I started off with two emails. One to all of my personal contacts informing them that an Indiegogo campaign was coming. Then I wrote a second email, once the campaign was live informing them about how the donation process worked and also including a single-click tweet to retweet. I used this format – feel free to steal it. This tactic resulted in 33 retweets, 2 favorites, and a response from @Indiegogo.
Also, be prepared to reach out to press via email and Twitter and keep a steady stream of pitches flowing until about the 4th week in the campaign, when they won’t have time to turn-around an article before your campaign ends. You also will want to get featured in as many newsletters, digests, foundations, alumni group emails/magazines that you possibly can, and it often takes longer than you think to get this content to trickle down. For example, I wrote my alumni magazine to be featured in their December issue and was told that the soonest they could feature me was March. Obviously, I waited too long! Finally, build out a marketing schedule, detailing the frequency of LinkedIn group, Facebook and Twitter posts, etc. that will promote your campaign. (Be careful with LinkedIn groups because it will be seen as spam unless you make it highly relevant to the group readers. Don’t directly ask for money, and consider marking it a “promotion” post).
Aside from social media marketing, expect to be writing blog posts every few days and pushing those out to various press outlets, your own blogs, your list of campaign contributors to keep them up to date, and your email marketing list, if you have one. Don’t underestimate getting the word out in person by attending as many networking and pitch events as possible and making announcements if you’re allowed – this may mean reaching out to the coordinators in advance and asking for a speaking slot. We are attending 2-3 events per week. Only good things can come from this high-touch marketing. Finally, use your alumni connections to your advantage. Most academic institutions have robust alumni societies and local chapters that are pretty enthusiastic about featuring you in a newsletter, event, or writeup and helping promote it to boot. .
I’d love to hear from the readers about innovative or seemingly crazy marketing tactics you have used to promote your Indiegogo campaign.
What worked and what didn’t? What would you have done differently last time? Let us know!
About the guest blogger: Chandra Jacobs (@tripchi) is the founder of tripchi. She has a background in tech, innovation and product development, especially as applied to web and mobile apps in the entrepreneurship arena. More recently, she has moved more into marketing and strategy post-MBA, as well as entrepreneurship.