This is the second in a series of posts on the topic of how to start a successful crowdfunding platform. Launcht is in the unique position of powering more crowdfunding platforms than any other company in the industry. From our 60+ clients we have learned a few things that we would like to share with any startup portals, nonprofits, or universities starting their own crowdfunding or crowdvoting platform. This post will focus on initial outreach and marketing strategies.
The importance of outreach for crowdfunding success is stressed by writers, bloggers, and crowdfunding afficianados across the internet, but always in the context of crowdfunding campaigns. It is clear that the secret sauce in campaign success is not so secret–campaign managers need a social media presence and a plan for driving as much traffic to their project as quickly as possible to engage the crowd and reach their goal. Campaign managers need to build hype even before their campaign launches. What is often not stated is that this is equally important for new platforms. To rise above the noise of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, new platforms must reach out to those in their target vertical and prove their value before they launch. There are two reasons outreach is incredibly important for platforms, especially in their initial stages: building buzz in the community and attracting campaigns.
Building buzz in the community
Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are household names for anyone who knows anything about crowdfunding, but they are not the only platforms out there and they do not serve every market. To get people to your site, think about what you do differently–are you targeting a specific niche, supporting a specific region, or offering a special twist on an old model? Go back to your business model and consider your goals; these should affect the way you market your platform. If you are offering Value-Added Services, think about how to best use them to leverage your platform. If you are running a business plan competition, think about who should apply to be on the site and what you will offer the winners.
Most importantly, think about what distinguishes you and makes your site a better option for campaigns and for funders. Be able to explain the need your platform addresses in 30 seconds or less. This is your elevator pitch. Now you can construct your marketing approach by building upon your mission. Take some time to consider your target audience, and be as narrow as possible, as this will help you reach out to specific people.
Once you have established your mission and target audience, consider how to best approach that target group. If you are well connected in the community you are trying to attract, plan ways to do personal outreach. Beginning with personal outreach is important, both to prove the viability of your model to people face-to-face and to get great feedback and ensure engagement. Once you have started doing personal outreach and generating buzz, you can expand your marketing focus. Reach out to bloggers on sites that target your community; find LinkedIn groups and Facebook groups that attract the people you are looking to bring together; send out Tweets with relevant hashtags to let people know you’re joining the space; throw a party for potential supporters and campaigns; go directly to businesses where supporters might be patrons and ask them to spread the word or put up fliers. Combine personal outreach with a well-strategized social media campaign as you lead up to your platform launch.
Sometimes people begin platforms with great intentions, but forget to find campaigns to populate their site. Do not assume that people will come upon your platform on their own. Before you launch, line up campaigns who will jump on the platform as soon as it goes live. These will not only make your site look attractive and populated, they will spread word about your platform to all of their networks, building the hype about what you are doing. Campaigns are the lifeblood of a successful platform, so it is important to constantly put effort into courting new campaigns to go live on your site. Provide them with success guides and advice along with the support they need to get up and running. The benefit of running a new platform is similar to that of running a small business– you can provide personal support that new campaigns want but cannot get from the bigger names in the space. If you can build a good rapport with your campaigns, word will likely spread about your service, bringing more applicants to your site.
The bottom line is that as you put your platform together, you must think about not only the technology, but also the marketing. Consider offline and online marketing strategies. You should feel fully confident in your business model and your “crowd” before you go live.
To Summarize, plan to loosely follow these steps to find success when you launch:
- Step One: Define the problem your platform is addressing
- Step Two: Define your target audience for campaigns
- Step Three: Define your target audience for funders
- Step Four: Create a multifaceted marketing strategy that will get word out to these specific groups about what your platform is going to do to drive interest; the more personal you can get the better
- Step Five: (optional) Have a soft launch to test your platform with a small group and get feedback
- Step Six: Have a big final push and go live!