Okay, kiddos, I brought this up at work last week and a few people seemed to understand some of the words, so I thought I would repeat it in more augmented form here. So, here’s a few tips from the land of Savvy-Ass Marketing 101, inspired by watching the Kickstarter campaign of the web series EastSiders unfold.
This needs a set-up, though. Once upon a time, back before the flood, back before the earth began to cool, back around the time Mr. Edison invented the Mazda lamp, I worked in non-profit professional theatres. Most of my job was to develop marketing and promotional schemes for plays and events. Getting people to buy tickets. I was exceptionally good at it.
There are two revenue streams in this type of business: (1) earned — the things people purchase and (2) contributed — the money people give you.
One night, working late, I thought about contributed income — and I usually didn’t because development work bored me to bits — and it occurred to me that we were doing a poor job of marketing our fund-raising. (The people that I pitched this idea to decided to humor me and let me do whatever I had already decided that I was going to do, having already discovered that I am the type of person that it’s best to humor or it’s just death by a thousand cuts until you give in.)
Most people build thank you programs on the public television “donor appreciation” model. You know, “For a $25 contribution you get this Downton Abbey tongue depressor, but for a $250 contribution we’ll send you a wooden spoon autographed by Mrs. Patmore.” And I did it, too, but where I went a bit rogue was designing the actual thanking. What?
Yes. I actually told people how to write the words “thank you.”
Here’s the deal: people adore something personal. Back in the days of print, I had note cards printed so we could hand write a note. You would then hand address the envelope and put a real stamp on it — never, ever run it through the meter or label it — because you (yes, you) cannot resist a hand addressed and hand stamped envelope, especially when you know there’s a card inside.*
THEN, I took it a step further and conned a few of my company members to write these notes for me. Except, I didn’t want them doing the “big gets;” I asked them to write the notes for the smaller gifts, e.g.:
“Dear Mrs. Jones,
Thank you so much for your gift of $25. Your gift is so important to us as it allows us to continue producing terrific shows like our recent production of Uncle Vanya that I was so proud to be a part of. We really do appreciate — and need — every gift, so your generosity truly does make our shows possible. Again, thanks.
P.S. I hope to see you next month when I’ll be appearing as Danny Zuko in Grease!”
Theatre fans LOVE to get stuff from actors. It worked because of that and it worked because it was genuine. Every time we had a chance to thank someone personally, we did. And while I’ve thought up a blue million thank you gifts in my time, nothing has ever worked better than a personal thank you note.
Besides, the warm fuzzy you get from the thank you note may engage you to be receptive to increasing your gift AND it makes it more likely that you’ll be more receptive to purchasing another ticket (or widget/fruit basket/dog obedience class) the next time I have one for sale.
Flash forward to social media infused today. What’s the equivalent of the hand addressed thank you note? Well, how about this:
Here’s what happened. I like this series. I think it’s smart — and smart is rare on the web these days. They began a Kickstarter campaign and one of the things they asked — because, remember, you don’t get anything unless you ask — was that if you’ve contributed then to share it on your Facebook or Twitter. Okay. Fine.
This is called word-of-mouth and historically it’s the most important way ticket sales are influenced. It’s also a personal appeal and that’s the most effective influencer there is.
I wrote a short blog post and then sent it out on Twitter. HOW HARD WAS THAT? Next time I looked at my phone, I had that note. So, what now? Well, now I’m invested. I am an invested investor. They have given me a reason to care that they succeed.
Every day this week, there’s been a video posted on YouTube about their progress. AND a thank you to the fans and contributors in each one. This has been a super successful campaign. They met their initial goal in four days. Then, this tweet arrived:
Then, this video was posted later in the day:
Why? Why do this? Why make this thank you video? Why send out updates? Why tweet out screen shots of your Kickstarter page? Why make a series of thank you videos? Why? Because, cats and babies, that’s how you get to do it again.
Be grateful. Be genuine. Be appreciative. Be bloody, bold and resolute. Be gracious. Be humble.
How many people are going to fund your next great idea — no matter how well-crafted it is — if you’re a dick?
See, there’s nothing fun — nothing useful — nothing creative — about sitting home alone, brooding that the world doesn’t understand the genius that you know you are. In the immortal words of cold pop-loving Internet meme Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
On the other hand, “Could you help me with an idea? I’d really appreciate it,” goes one helluva lot farther.
So, the first barrier is breached: the “we need this much money to just barely do it” barrier. Now, the harder work comes: the “we need to raise money to pay actors, to pay crew, to feed people on set, to rent better lights, to have more edit time, to make it a viable enterprise” phase. And it’s harder because people are more likely to give money for bricks and mortar than flesh and blood. Sadly, that’s really true across the board in almost any fund-raising enterprise.
I’m looking forward to see what the EastSiders team does next — because they’ve done the marketing of their fund-raising flawlessly so far — and they’ve stayed bang on top of all the social stuff which, I can’t stress this enough, is so incredibly critical to this type of enterprise but so easy to let slip.
I want to see how far above that initial goal they get because, you know, a labor of love is great, but you can’t pay the electric bill with it.
N.B. — I just checked, as of 1/22/13 they have raised a bit more than $21K which is more than their revised goal. There’s still two weeks left. I do enjoy seeing a plan come together!
*Truth in advertising: not my original idea, I just tweaked it and played with it. Like “Fresh Eggs and Flying Lessons,” I stole it, but I always credited it as such!