Just as the rules of startups connecting with customers are changing at an astonishing rate, so have the fundamentals of running a successful crowdfunding campaign. No longer can a concept launch with some decent copywriting and semi-professional photography.
Consumers expect (and deserve) perfection.When it came time to launch the next major product from Mizzen+Main, the 0-5 Performance Blazer, we chose to use Kickstarter to bolster our product marketability. Rather than launch a brand over crowdfunding, as many startups try to do, we decided to use the platform to better understand the viability of a new product category. With a bevy of primed Main Men (our beloved customers), we were able to hit our funding goal of $15,000 in less than four hours. With an average pledge of $331, this was an extraordinary achievement given most Kickstarter pledges are between $25 and $77.
Successful crowdfunding campaigns require unique content, attainable merchandise, high-quality branding and a carefully crafted and executed strategic plan. There is still some room for small crowdfunding campaigns, but even for those, many of these guidelines still apply.
Focus on brand equity. In today's crowded market for attention, we all gravitate towards the familiar. When a business asks people to pay money for a product that customers haven't seen, that's a leap of faith for even established companies, unless you're Apple, let alone an entity of which few have heard. Make sure you have an established foundation of meaningful brand equity before looking to execute a crowdfunding campaign.
Harvest customer loyalty. Nearly every successful campaign involves a healthy level of early adopters who already do business with your company. You don't have to get 50 per cent of your funding goal pledged by your existing customers, but make sure that you have served your customers so well that when it comes time to launch a new product, they are the first ones at the door – helping to demonstrate your credibility early.
Perfect the product. One surefire way to sink future chances of success is to not deliver. Stories abound of Kickstarter projects that were funded without delivering months, or even years, later. Make sure you have all your production kinks worked out before you present your product to the public. Furthermore, know your production cycles so you can build in adequate time to deliver on your promises.
Make the campaign beautiful. From professional photography and video to the copywriting and graphics, this is not a place to cut corners. People are buying into your vision – make sure that it shows properly.
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Sell ahead of time. We personalized videos to our top 120 customers thanking them individually for their support of our brand and letting them know about the exclusive early opportunities to get our product at a attractive price point. This obviously helped us connect with our customers on a direct level, but it also gave them "insider knowledge" to incentivize them to act first. Have a plan to make sure that you see early success. Ours enabled us to hit a sizable funding goal in four hours.
Reach out to the media. It is imperative to begin interactions with the press about your project before you launch it. With proper engagement ahead of time and a distinctive campaign, the press should be interested in your project to a point that when you hit that funding goal and can share more and more good news, additional articles will begin to be published, further strengthening the reach of your campaign.
The world around is changing rapidly, and these changes are effecting the world of crowdfunding. It once was a simple way to launch something new. That is no longer the case. A successful crowdfunding campaign requires brand equity, customer loyalty, a carefully crafted plan and most importantly, a great product.
Kevin Lavelle and Web Smith are the co-founders of Mizzen+Main, an innovative men's lifestyle brand. Their 0-5 Performance Blazer surpassed its Kickstarter goal in under four hours. Connect with them on Twitter: @kevinsmu and @web
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