Here are some practical recommendations to avoid mistakes commonly made even before a crowdfunding campaign launches. The top five mistakes, from least to most egregious, are:
Treating your campaign like a traditional business plan.
Many people come to us with fully formed business plans. Typically, they’ve been thinking about their product for a while, but have only recently considered crowdfunding as a way of making their idea a reality. The problem is that crowdfunding campaigns are not business plans. If you have a business idea you’d like to fund through a campaign, consider the campaign as an experiment that will either validate or refute your business plan’s underpinnings. Keep the experiment short and simple so that you can quickly react to the findings and alter your business plan accordingly.
Telling your story in reverse.
Some project creators have been thinking so deeply for so long about their idea, that they’ve lost the ability to communicate the idea effectively to other people. This often leads creators telling their stories backward. For example, we’ve seen many campaign videos that start off introducing the project creator, followed by a review of how their competition fails, followed by the their product idea. Not only did they forget to ask for the support of their backers, but they told the whole story in reverse. In most cases, a campaign video would be more effective if it instead answered the following questions in this order:
- How does your idea make life better?
- What makes your idea better than the competition?
- Who are you and why are you qualified to carry out this idea?
- Why do you need help from backers?
More than once, a simple shuffling of the scenes of a campaign video was enough to dramatically improve the story being told.
Assuming you don’t need to show a prototype in action.
Knowing what and how to build something and actually building it are worlds apart. Having a prototype in hand before your campaign starts is invaluable. For your potential backers, it hopefully gives them confidence you know what you are doing and shows them why they would want to support your project. For you, it affords the opportunity to discover refinements and improvements before committing to a production run.
Asking for what you want, not what you need.
All project creators hope their campaigns will bring them plentiful funds with which to execute their ideas. The mistake that many make is to confuse their hopes with what they actually need to succeed. Don’t set your goal at $1,000,000 if all you really need is $1,000 to get the idea off the ground and into the world. There’s nothing stopping you from raising well beyond what you actually need.
The converse holds as well - don’t set your goal at $1,000 if you really need $1,000,000. If you’re tempted to ask for less than you need because you don’t think you can raise what you actually need, there’s probably something wrong with your overall plan and you should revisit the foundation of your idea.
Launching a campaign without an outreach plan.
As mentioned in last week’s post, the myth is that you can launch a campaign and then sit back and watch the interest build organically. In nearly all cases, the reality is that you must have a great marketing and outreach plan in place before and during your campaign. Even your most stalwart supporters need to find out about the campaign and be reminded to support it by making pledges and spreading the word. Journalists, bloggers, and other media outlets need to hear about your campaign before it launches. You need to assemble your list of first backers and alert them when to take action so your campaign launches with a bang.