Crowdfunding Checklist: Step 3, Building an Audience
A product without an audience will certainly be dead on arrival. To ensure success (or at least boost your odds), you’ll need to build interest before your campaign launches. While some well-positioned crowdfunding campaign creators start the process with a massive fan base they’ve built up over the years, few will have this advantage. That’s why a strong marketing and promotional effort is critical.
So, how do you build an audience and generate excitement for your offering before you’ve even launched your campaign?
Creating Your Brand
Source: Limelight Leads via Flickr
The first step for any aspiring campaign creator is to build a brand for the offering. This may seem difficult without any of that crowdfunding capital, but it’s absolutely critical. You only get one chance to brand yourself before everyone else, so you’ve got to make sure you set the tone from the first moment.
You may or may not need a logo for your brand. You may already have a company with its own brand and plan to run your campaign to launch a specific product under that corporate umbrella. You might be an independent creator with a great one-off idea for a board game, or a fun pair of socks, or a collection of Cthulhu-related art. CrowdOx works with creators of all shapes and sizes. But one thing that’s common to all of them is that their campaigns come together with a well-designed and comprehensive set of explanatory images and videos.
You’ll need to tell a compelling story about your offer to build a community and generate interest prior to your campaign launch. You simply cannot do that if you can’t show people what your offer is. For most crowdfunding campaigns, the visual depictions you choose to show people are what creates the brand of that campaign.
Your Landing Page
Source: Tang Garden
You can put your crowdfunding story together on a landing page that presents the campaign in a similar way to Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Your product images and videos should build interest as people scroll down, until they’re ready to plunk their money down before the campaign even starts.
Creating a landing page that emulates your eventual crowdfunding campaign page is also a great way to refine your pitch and improve the design of your campaign page before you launch. Working on your campaign page structure on a separate landing page will improve your ability to convert viewers into backers during those critical early hours.
Do you have a physical product, or at least an accurate digital mockup? Can you create one before you launch your campaign? Having real stuff, whether it’s something you hold in your hand or watch on a screen, will be hugely beneficial in conveying the value of your offer and demonstrating why people should back your campaign.
Some offers, particularly board games or other printed materials, can be represented with graphical mockups until you’re ready to go to production. However, it’ll be much harder to generate interest in complex physical products, like technologically-advanced coolers or a sexy set of chef’s knives, if you can’t demonstrate physical versions of those products in pictures and videos. The crowdfunding world has seen too much vaporware to get lathered up about gadgets that only exist in your mind.
Source: Joe the Goat Farmer via Flickr.
Once you’ve put together a compelling visually-driven story on your landing page, you should make sure that page has ways to capture visitor emails. You’ll need to stay in touch with your audience early and often, and it’ll be harder to do that if you let them slip through your fingers without asking for their contact info first.
You should use email automation tools like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or Aweber to create email capture forms for your landing page and to manage your growing email list. It’s difficult enough to build a great crowdfunding campaign without trying to manage an email list manually just to save a few bucks. “Sign up to get notified” or “Send me more information” are good starting points to encourage viewers to submit their emails and sign up for your list. And once you’ve got people signing up, make sure you communicate regularly with them to keep your soon-to-launch campaign at the top of their minds.
A well-designed and highly visual landing page is just the first step. What good will it do you if nobody knows about it?
Social Media Outreach
Source: Tracy Le Blanc via Pexels.
That’s where social media comes in. No matter your offer, there’s bound to be a thriving community (or ten, or ten thousand) for it on Facebook. You’re probably part of one or more of these communities already, since people are naturally drawn to groups that share the same interests. Talk up your offer in these communities -- and while you’re at it, create a community of your own with a Facebook brand page that can serve as a key way to promote your offer and maintain engagement with prospective backers. If you’ve already developed great visuals for your offer, you can post them bit by bit on Facebook to keep people hooked.
Some guides suggest using Twitter or other social media platforms, but in our experience, nothing comes close to Facebook for building an audience for a crowdfunding campaign. Unless you’ve already built up a huge following on Twitter, it can be very hard to reach enough of the right people quickly enough to create the audience you need. Instagram may work because it’s also owned and operated by Facebook, but people generally engage with Instagram content less deeply than they do with Facebook updates.
You should also consider running paid ads on Facebook to direct people to your landing page or to your Facebook brand page. Many digital marketers agree that Facebook’s ability to target audiences is simply unmatched anywhere. If you’re going to crowdfund a board game, you can not only target board game enthusiasts, but enthusiasts who like the type of game you’re developing. If you’re creating a gizmo, you can find people who are early adopters of similar types of gizmos.
Savvy campaign creators can and should attempt to reach out to journalists and bloggers who cover the industry. If your offer’s pre-launch landing page is compelling, it should merit more than a few writeups by smaller blogs and publications. If you’ve got a truly fantastic offer, you can even get the bigger guys to take notice and put your name out there as well. If you’re loving the promotional material you’ve got, don’t be afraid to contact people who are known for loving the stuff you’re about to offer. A single article on TechCrunch or Wired or BoardGameGeek can be worth a ton of Facebook posts in terms of the audience it’ll bring.
Building an audience through landing pages, visual content, email newsletters, Facebook posts, and influencer outreach is something no successful campaign mastermind can do on their own. You need a team to reach for the greatest possible success with your crowdfunding campaign. In our next update to this series, we’ll show you how to start assembling one.