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It probably sounds pretty weird that we're calling the idea of crowdfunding a "goddamn nightmare," especially since we just wrapped up a successful campaign for Rotten Plots, the obscene movie making party game. Well, here's the thing. While there are plenty of great things that crowdfunding can help your company accomplish, we found that success did not come easy, and that the road to 100% is filled with obstacles, marketing train wrecks, and sudden and severe alcoholism.
Before we launched the campaign, we thought we pretty much knew it all. We read every single goddamn blog on the internet in regards to the art of "making people give you their hard earned money." But not everything we read was true, and most things weren't helpful. And most importantly, we learned that we shouldn't take a blog post about crowdfunding as fact, because every business is at a financially different place when they launch a campaign, and every blogger is trying to sell something...just like this one.
So anyway, here are seven helpful tips that we wished we would have read in a blog before we started the treacherous fall into soullessness and nihilism that is crowdfunding.
(P.S. It's not all negative. It's just way more fun to write that way.)
Most articles say that facilitating and running a crowdfunding campaign will be "like a part time job." This might be the case with large, corporate teams. But when your team is as small as possible, it becomes a second full time job. This isn't a bad thing by any means, but it's absolutely worth noting that it is definitely a thing and that you should want it to be this way. If you’re actually passionate about your project, you should dream of having the luxury of working with it all day, every day. If you're not passionate about your project, you're probably a loser, and you're probably not even reading this article.
The idea that you'll need to spend an extra forty hours a week on your passion shouldn't upset you. But for us, it was a very unexpected situation that punched us right in the teeth. Learning how to continue this kind of schedule isn't easy either, but you get used it as you grow to understand the power of minute-based time management.
Summarily, if you want your campaign to be successful, be prepared for your life to change. You should also be prepared to spend most of your "free time" practicing your pitch, answering questions, sending emails, drinking coffee and energy drinks at 11pm, and worrying about waking up in three hours to go to your real job.
Most articles will tell you to make sure you offer interesting perks, but none of them mention having perks that aren't related to your project. Due to the graphic and vulgar nature of Rotten Plots, we knew right off the bat that we'd have some friends and family who simply wouldn't support it and definitely wouldn't talk about it. So we made some perks that were still humorous but that were totally unrelated to the campaign. We threw up a cheap perk where I would record myself screaming whatever the hell the contributor wanted. Then we threw up a more expensive perk where we'd write a custom comedic blog post about the contributor. For example, we wrote this article about Dustin Scheller in which we expressed how fuckable everyone thinks he is.
These perks really helped us gain a lot of social exposure from people who didn't give a shit about card games but who would still pay a few measly bucks to read an aggressive smut-post about their friend or watch a chubby dude scream some Simon & Garfunkel.
Something we realized about halfway into the process, unfortunately, was that traditional marketing and simply being a socialite was a great way to get small contributions. We'd go to a party, tell some people about our campaign, and after some convincing (and probably a few shots) they'd hand us a ten or a twenty. We'd write their name and email down, and then we'd put the money into the campaign at around 11am the next morning when our hangover wore off. Around 20% of our orders came from people at bars and parties who liked our pitch, thought we were funny, and who were generally interested in us as people.
Here's the thing: Our social following isn’t spectacular. It's steadily growing, but we're basically fresh out of the womb as far as Ecommerce and online presence is concerned. But throughout this process, we found that you don't necessarily have to be a rich and douchey Instagram star as long as you can confidently talk to a ton of people in real life. Because sometimes your idea is too good and/or time sensitive for it to be shelved until the "time is right."
But that said, if you can't be social in the real world, you might as well start captioning every selfie with 600 hashtags.
We've always had an issue with shameless self-promotion. It was easily the most troubling and counter-intuitive aspect of marketing we had to learn how to tackle throughout this process. Sometimes people think that their product is so interesting that it shouldn't need anyone to emphasize that it's “really damn awesome." We thought that same thing at first, and we quickly realized that we were wrong. So we ditched the nonchalance approach and began to promote confidently. Guess what. It worked. It was insane to us at first. But we got used to it.
If people sense your confidence in your own product, they'll be much more likely to contribute. However, there's a fine line between being confident and arrogant. Saying, "yeah dude, this is the best fucking thing in the world" will only push people away. And saying "yeah dude, it's pretty neat I guess” is pointless. You have to find your confident sweet spot.
Also, the old defensive adage “it’s not about the money” is no longer an acceptable excuse if you’re actually invested in your project. If you’re no longer living in your parents’ basement, it’s absolutely “about the money.” With this pissy attitude, you might snag some pity donations, but the last thing you want from a legitimate crowdfunding campaign is for people to think of their contribution as a charitable donation. If you want people to take your project seriously, then you have to first.
Before they give you money, make sure they need it. They aren't donating to HBO when they give in and purchase a subscription just to binge the hell out of Game of Thrones for twelve straight hours. They aren’t donating to Taco Bell when they order thirty Spicy Double Chalupas in an act of desperation at 2:30am. Make sure they know they aren’t donating to your campaign. MAKE THEM NEED YOUR PRODUCT.
Every crowdfunding article will tell you to email viral sites like Buzzfeed and Thrillist about your imminent campaign launch. But we realized early on that our company was much too small for them to give a shit. And we don’t blame them. Why would they care about a company they don't recognize that has 0% of the funds raised for a project that hasn’t even launched yet? Looking back, our initial email effort was more of an exercise rooted in our own excitement than an explanation as to why they should be interested.
If you try to get a write up from these outlets without giving them a reason to do so, they will ignore you like a sad, fat loser at a high school dance. Especially since less than 25% of campaigns end in success anyway. We wasted at least twenty hours and sent over one hundred custom, disgustingly desperate emails to the behemoths of viral marketing when we could have been focusing on other ways to bring in money.
If you're a small business like us, wait to email these social boosters until you reach mini goals. For example, we got much more interaction from influencers and bloggers when we reached milestones like 50% and 75%. Then we got write-ups and mentions, because they could tell we weren’t just throwing shit at a wall, hoping it would stick. They knew we had a real shot at a successful campaign and a product that wasn't for sad, fat losers....regardless of whether or not the creators fit that description...
So they brought us by the hand to the dance floor to let us mingle with the cool kids.
It's a really good idea to have some money (or the promise of some money) from people before you start your campaign. Once you launch, and if the people who promised to contribute actually do so, others will follow. I’ll be totally honest here. We didn't get our first contribution from a stranger until we hit 30%. Everything before that came from family and friends. And from then on, we had the interest of random international board game enthusiasts and total strangers. You have to create some FOMO in your potential audience.
Add some urgency to your social posts, and make sure they know exactly what the fuck they're missing out on, man! Be the shepherd! Lead the sheep, bro!
Let them know who has contributed, and post excitedly to social media every time you hit a milestone. Even if people don't contribute through these posts, these will trigger much more interaction than your other ones. You'll get a bunch of likes and "great job, dude" comments that will help increase the organic reach of the post. Basically, your Facebook post will be seen by a whopping ten people instead of three. WOW! INSPIRING! INCREDIBLE.
We received a lot of contributions through local networking and regional micro-influencers. Never throw out the idea of getting a feature in a hometown podcast or on a small run publication. These outlets are, most of the time, actually interested in your project, and more often than not, your business as a whole.
This helped us gain plenty of social shares from within our somewhat relevant local circle of creatives. Another good thing about this type of marketing is that it’s more of a relationship building exercise than a request for a service. In small towns, as you probably know, the creative market thrives on co-promotion. So when you develop a business relationship, both entities grow. Sure, you might be able to get a dope-ass write up from Gizmodo, but it’s unlikely that they’ll want to become business friends.
Local networking really helps build your audience for your next creative endeavor. This is something that’s really important for Dead Ends Entertainment, because we think of ridiculous shit all goddamn day every goddamn day just to see if we can sell it.
In order for your campaign to succeed, you have to love it like a child. Scratch that. MORE than a child. And like we said earlier, all these articles are just trying to sell something, so you should buy our game here: