Crowdfunding Do’s and Don’ts: Fundraising and Word-of-Mouth in the Digital Age

Before heading back to the set to film season two of his Web series, EastSiders, actor/director/writer/producer Kit Williamson put on another one of his myriad hats, that of digital marketing guru, and hit the road doling out tips doing crowdfunding correctly.

kickstarterWilliamson is a crowdfunding disciple with good reason: he’s raised a lot of money with Kickstarter to fund his own creative endeavors. And he’s figured out a few things along the way.

And what he’s figured out is the way to do in today’s digital landscape the same things some of us figured out how to do in the analog landscapes of yore. What I love about crowdfunding is that it’s relying on the exact same principles that have been used to drive word-of-mouth conversions for, well, forever.

61h4NxKAjXLIf you do crowdfunding well — or you want to crowdfund successfully — I would suggest that you read two olde timey books. The first is Gladwell’s seminal The Tipping Point.

(I remember distinctly making a very theatrical statement — I was given to very theatrical statements at the time! — involving my approach to marketing an organization which was at odds with what a particular Board member thought I should be doing. I said I was right. She said, “Prove it,” and I threw the first edition of Gladwell’s book down on her desk and told her to read it and get back with me if she had any questions. I think the only reason I didn’t get fired more was that I turned in good results. Really good results.)

51JtorwzipL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The second book on my reading list is Tom Peters’ 1994 think piece, The Pursuit of WOW!. Read them back-to-back and then if you are really into it, reach back through the mists of time and find a copy of David Ogilvy’s masterwork, Ogilvy on Advertising. These three books will save you thousands on a Master’s in marketing. (Test me on this: go get an MBA or the equivalent and find me something tangible that you learned that was not in one of these three books. Go on. Go.)

But, back to where we began. In an recent interview with NBC Chicago, Williamson outlined his own four-point-plan for kickstarting a kickstarter.

  1. KILLER VIDEO
  2. INSPIRATIONAL MESSAGE
  3. CREATIVE PR
  4. KEEP BACKERS INFORMED

Yep.

And here’s what I think: numbers 1 and 4 are absolutely essential. Unless you hook them in the video, you can hang it up. It’s the video stage that gets people to sit up, pay attention, open their wallets and hand over those all-important 16 digits on the Visa card. Everything that Gladwell and Peters outline in their books has to be in that all-important first video.

And, man oh man, if you don’t follow up with the information for the backers and sincerely thank them for taking a risk on you/your project, well, you might make your goal but I can assure you, you won’t be able to do it again.

Finally, here’s a few interesting little stats: Kickstarter self-reports that approximately 44% of all projects successfully meet their fundraising targets. And of those projects that fail, most do not make 20% of their originally stated goal across all product categories. But, according to the numbers released by Kickstarter, 80% of those that do make 20%, will finish successfully.

So, are using crowdfunding? Are you thinking about how you might? Even if you don’t, I think it behooves those of us involved in developing audiences, expanding emerging markets and looking at new ways of opening revenue streams to think about how we can use the essential building blocks of crowdfunding in our own organizations.

And while looking for the links below, I thought I’d snip this from a post from back in January. It was about something entirely different, but if you want a few more reasons why Kit Williamson’s numbers 1 and 4 resonate, here they are:

As I think about this, I have always found that this idea of popular and best rather curious. I am immediately reminded of a time a few years back when I received a “significant award” for news writing. I couldn’t believe the story that was picked won. I had written much, much better stories that year, I thought.

What I learned about best, popular and the fickle nature of audiences I learned by developing audiences for the theatre. These things translate:

1. Treat all assignments equally.

2. Always do your best work.

3. Be proud of your efforts.

4. Say “thank you” and mean it.

5. Be grateful and a little bit humble.

6. Never, ever believe your own P.R.

If you think that those things have nothing to do with popularity, you’d be wrong.

A couple of recent ramblings on crowdfunding from my other blog:

Why I’m Supporting EastSiders…

A Grand Time for Singing

Williamson’s website:

Go Team Entertainment

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