Crowdfunding and the Question of Paying Consultants on a Percentage

The other day my acupuncturist and pal and I were talking about the ups and downs of running our own businesses. At one point he said that when he first started out even though he knew his business would profit, he made a decision he’s never regretted: not to take on clients who had weight-loss or smoking-cessation goals. At first I thought it was because he didn’t feel he could in good conscious reduce this noble healing art for such superficial ends.

I was wrong. He told me he turned down client after client because he soon came to realize these people were looking for shortcuts—gain without pain—and with these types of medical problems, he said, client compliance is at least 80% contingent on their recovery. In other words, all the needling in the world from the most masterful healer, which he is, isn’t going to help if the client didn’t follow the lifestyle change regimen he laid out for him or her.

Warning! This post will not be popular with everyone, but I’m okay with that

As a crowdfunding consultant, that really struck a chord with me. Anyone who’s contacted me about working together already knows I’m not in this business just to tell you what you want to hear to get your money. (My acupuncturist and I also talked about the downside of this policy is turning away business…but the upside is good karma and way fewer headaches!)

Weeding is Not Just Gardeners’ Work

When someone contacts me about working together I ask them to fill out a brief but telling questionnaire. The answers give me an insight in not only their readiness but also their work ethic and the chance that they will comply with my recommendations on what they need to do to be successful.

Because of the questionnaire, I end up with some of the most motivated clients ready to roll up their sleeves and work; it’s a great collaboration that’s fun for me.

If they wind up flaming out—crowdfunding is hard work, after all—I can say with all respect that it’s really not my concern. I have put my best foot forward, have shared all the knowledge I’ve accumulated, but doing the work is on them, not me.

Money for Nothin’ (Chicks for Free)? Nah

It’s become more commonplace to field requests from people who want me to work on a percentage basis. Usually they add that working with the promise of payment will be motivational for me and keep me honest. They note how beneficial it will be for me when their campaign succeeds!

I say no because about 99.9% of the time requests come from people who have got the no-pain-all-gain attitude about crowdfunding. And because I happen to like to get paid for my work as I go.

So You Want to Pay on a Percentage

I know there are companies out there that will work on a percentage, but I’m pretty sure they’ve got a list of criteria the potential client must meet in order to qualify that goes something like this:

  • They should have an existing, active, and engaged social media following
  • They should already be creating marketing content to prove authority and trustworthiness
  • They should have a good idea that’s well thought through, truly innovative and have already expended considerable personal capital, both in sweat and some financial investment
  • They should have a solid understanding on how this tool called crowdfunding really works and plan to be an active working participant from beginning to end

Assuming the idea is good, an exception that even I would make would be to work for a well-known person/celebrity because what they might lack the list above they make up for in name recognition that can be harnessed successfully to attract media attention. But alas those come around rarely. (Okay, never. So far.)

Final Warning

Oh, and if you do find someone who’s more than happy to work for you on a percentage basis without asking anything of you in return? Be afraid. Be very afraid. Because there are no shortcuts and reputations are a two-way street: yours could suffer in ways that you will end up paying in more costly ways than dollar-wise.

Photo credit: DodgertonSkillhause from morguefile.com

 

 

This is How a Good Crowdfunding Campaign Starts

Tip of the Week

Oh, it’s been a while! Not that I haven’t been posting elsewhere; been busy working on the board of the Crowdfunding Professional Association (make sure to bookmark the page to keep up with news on our upcoming Summit at the end of the year, among other value props for your crowdfunding toolbox); and, of course, strategizing with clients on some really cool campaigns currently in the works.

But still. Yesterday, I got a great idea for a Tip for you all.

First, though I say it often, I don’t just write about campaigns unless there is a teachable moment for readers. One arrived in my in-box that I wanted to share because the writer basically did everything right when contacting me about his upcoming project. This is what he said:

Hi Rosa,

I just dived head-first into crowdfunding… and wow, what an intense adventure.

Reading your blog posts is helpful (back when studying Copywriting at the SVA, Ogilvy was basically a demigod). To prepare for Kickstarter, I even started a daily comic strip about it: KickstarterNews (so many fails and discoveries, it was too funny not to publish).

In any case, I have a question.

Quick backstory about how I got into crowdfunding: my startup, Your Comic Story, creates custom comic books for individuals and businesses.

Recently, we’ve taken on a mission of teaching kids entrepreneurship (we feel it’s important to learn about the startup mentality and possibility of creating your own business at a young age).

To achieve our mission, we’re publishing the My First Startup comic book in 2-3 weeks. We’ll launch it as a Kickstarter project in August, and then proceed to regular publishing and online/TV extensions.

The question: Is it ok to update you about the project when we launch, so you can share it with your readers?

Thanks!

David

David Kieve
Your Comic Story
www.yourcomicstory.com

This email has all the elements that a good email pitch should include:

  • It’s personal. This is evidenced by the specific comments he makes about my work
  • It’s light-hearted. A little casual joking goes a long way to maintain reader interest
  • It’s brief. Please be brief
  • Yet it’s informative. Nothing like writing that is coherent
  • It’s respectful. By closing with a request to keep in touch he gets big kudos
  • The campaign itself has a great giving back component. Always a plus
  • It utilizes content marketing for brand building.

I went to his Kickstarter News page and discovered he’s made a great start to building his online authority and brand. Click to enlarge

Can I talk to you about Kickstarter?

This is one crowdfunding campaign I look forward to following.

Calculate Your Chances For Crowdfunding Success

Tip of the Week

As crowdfunding becomes more woven into the fabric of fundraising efforts of all kinds, competition is an issue so preparation can make or break you. As so many have learned, it’s best to approach it methodically, checklist in hand.

Problem is, what if you don’t know what questions to ask to begin with? Before I set up a consultation, I send out a brief questionnaire to my clients, which I believe strike all the notes they will need to hit before launch. When I get back monosyllabic responses or questions that are left completely unanswered, this to me is a sign—of a lack of readiness.

HitThe folks who run GoGetFunding.com understood this problem and have come up with their own questionnaire, to assess not only success but also to predict how much you will raise based on statistics from Kickstarter and Indiegogo, as well as their own platform.

The site is called crowdfunding.io and the tool, which they describe as a “success predictor” poses many of the same questions that I and other consultants know to ask in order to catch red flags that will thwart your chances of success. Depending on the type of crowdfunding campaign you want to run, there are between 10-15 questions. An algorithm does the rest. And it’s free! This of course is a plus for the bootstrapped, though the downside it must be said, is the lack of human support. Eyeball

I spoke by email to founder Sandip Skehon who told me, “Using the responses and data collected over the years, our algorithm will predict the likelihood of meeting the campaign target —and provide a specific dollar estimate.”

While he admits they are still refining the algorithm, “in initial tests with cause-based GoGetFunding campaigns did indeed raise what crowdfunding.io had predicted.” Sekhon says, that 28 of 32 surveyed campaigns fell within their estimates.

Time will tell if accuracy will increase but Sekhon welcomes feedback in order to continue the refinement process.

Remember, this is not anything like Kicktraq, which, through its own unique algorithm magic, assesses success on campaigns that are up and running already. (Though it’s still sadly limited only to Kickstarter campaigns, womp womp womp.) Indeed I had a couple of clients with active campaigns input their information and the results were not accurate at all.

Anything that helps crowdfunders think strategically before they launch is worth a try. Test it and report back on your findings!

Cats

 

 

What Would David Ogilvy Do?

Tip of the Week

I’m a big fan of David Ogilvy, the real-life Don Draper who changed the course of advertising in the 20th century with his enduring insight that the ad man’s first job was to get into the minds of his audience before he wrote a word of copy. This, of course, was way before we started referring to the client as a “brand” or understood the value of creating “consumer personas.”

Yes, Ogilvy had it going on.

Unlike Don Draper, however, Ogilvy was much more disciplined—no pulls of scotch, neat, from his portable bar before breakfast; no walking out of a meeting because a plane easing its way across the sky captures his imagination. (For those of you who haven’t watched the season finale a) what are you waiting for? and b) don’t click the link of Don Draper’s name.)

No, Ogilvy was in the ad business for the long haul, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude for easing us into the age of social media whether he likes (or realizes) it or not. And as crowdfunders you should be aware of your audience because you ARE your own advertising company.

And speaking of gratitude, in the midst of a busy period myself I am eternally grateful for the good people at Copyblogger who went through the trouble of creating this shareable poster of how to avoid Ogilvy’s ire so I didn’t have to. Don’t do these things and the content you write will keep both him and your audience smiling.
10 Ways to Piss Off David Ogilvy (Free Poster)

Like this copywriting crimes list? Get copywriting advice that works from Copyblogger Media.

 

A Twitter Change That Boosts Engagement and Gets Us Out of the Dark Ages

Tip of the Week

I’ve owned up before to how little I use or like Facebook. As seems to be the case for many people, this is not for personality reasons, however. Mark Zuckerberg bothers me no more or less than any other teen entrepreneur-turned-gazillionaire.

No, it has more to do with my rule that my social media investments need to be short, sweet, and easy. My biggest problem is the constant changes in Facebook’s functionality, which absolutely does not fit into my criteria. (In fact, I felt very vindicated after reading this confessional post by a social media guru.)

So I was a bit irked when I learned that Twitter, my favorite go-to social media platform, had made changes. It took me a little time before I decided to stop being in denial and get the new lay of the land—and I’m glad I did! The changes are neither onerous or numerous. You can learn more about them here. But here’s the biggest one that in my mind will produce more engagement for crowdfunders rather than the interrupted, jagged conversations that simple RT or Favorites brought.

What was:

Arguably the most trigger-happy button on Twitter is the Retweet button. So easy! All you have to do is click on that blue baby and you are good to go. People know you’re there for them, right?

Yet the biggest complaint in the crowdfunding universe is how to get any social media interactions to go from a knee-jerk click to actual engagement that has the best opportunity to convert to a contribution.

What is:

When you click on the Retweet button if you’re a lazy susan or stuck in the Dark Ages you can still broadcast back a tweet and call it a day. But don’t do it! With the advent of the Add a Comment function, why would you?

What happens now when you click on Retweet is that you are presented with an Add a Comment box. In this box you can basically add personal commentary to what ever the original tweet says. And you’re give a generous 116 characters to do so.

Why this is so important:

This is revolutionary for crowdfunding because it builds on engagement possibilities by telling your followers why you’ve elected to retweet. If everyone adds their own personalized comment what this change has potential to do is actually get a conversation going. Here’s a small example of how I used the comment section when I spotted a tweet about a group trying to raise money to start a crowdfunding platform in the Philippines. The island country caught my imagination seven years ago when I was lucky enough to have the opportunity of going on assignment there. (It was for a spa magazine and oh it was a blast. Please don’t hate me for that!)

This was the original tweet:

Here’s what I wrote back and their response.

Now this is a real conversation! Others, I believe, will pick up the thread and engagement is sure to follow. And even if no one else chimes in with their own reason for loving the Philippines anybody who’s already reading my tweets and retweeting them (thank you, all you loyal followers who are helping me help other crowdfunders) will actually be able to follow the flow of the conversation—and that can’t be bad. In fact, I really think this is a big step forward toward interactions of quality that will produce more quantity—both the sharing and giving kind.

So be sure to stop that trigger-happy finger from simply retweeting and add your own two cents to the conversation. You will be helping us all out of the social media Dark Ages.

When Should You Hire Crowdfunding Help?

Tip of the Week

Because the crowdfunding landscape is evolving, each and everyday it’s important that we change with it. Take me, an enormous proponent of empowering the crowdfunder to be in charge of his or her own campaign and not outsource it to 3rd party entities that will not only cost you money you may not have, but  also threatens to put a wall up between you and your fans. ReachingHand

Who better than you knows your campaign, right?

Well, I’ve had a qualified change of heart. I say qualified because there are still large and creative members of the crowdfunding community that have an excellent handle on their campaign. They know almost intuitively what it needs and have no problem deploying those mechanisms.

If you are one of those people you can stop reading here. (If you’re not sure where you fit on the spectrum, keep going, because you are in a category all your own, and it is by far the most dangerous one.) To the rest of you read on.

The Categories

You have the money to shell out

This category could be an existing business with a support staff in social, marketing and PR; a startup with a small invested pool of family, say; or you could be someone with a good job who’s got a great idea and a nest egg you’ve put aside for when you’re ready to bring it out into the world. You can easily part with this money and not risk ruin.

You know what you don’t know

You are in the best position because it means a couple of things. It says that you’ve been researching crowdfunding extensively and know what’s required of you. You know you can handle certain aspects but fear that others may overwhelm you. It could be building and working an engaged social media following. You’ve got accounts on many social media sites but have anemic followings and do scant posting, because you don’t put out the effort (or more likely, you just don’t particularly like social media.) It could be that you feel awkward doing media outreach, feel not up to the task. It could be you are simply strapped for time. These are good reasons to assess where you need it most and hire out—thoughtfully. You have to do your research and find companies with good track records and the testimonials and data to back up their promises and costs.

You don’t know what you don’t know

You, my friends are the most dangerous category. Though the attitude likely springs from a shortage of funds—understandable if you’re crowdfunding—you blithely march into a crowdfunding campaign, without doing any research and without laying much groundwork. You are the category that people like me receive frantic emails from, begging for help when the clock is ticking and the future is pretty much fated. There’s little excuse for that attitude in this day in age, folks, when so much high-value information is out there for the taking.

Conclusion? I repent! Sometimes you gotta spend money to make money.

Photo credit: Penywise

Doing a Search of All Types of Crowdfunding Just Got Easier

Tip of the Week

Holla to my pal Alex Feldman over at Crowdunite, the crowdfunding platform review site, for directing me to a crowdfunding search engine called Crowdrabbit. Though it was launched in December it flew under my radar until I read an item about it in Alex’s newsletter. So I went to check it out and realized that though they are still young, they are beginning to gain some traction.

What is Crowdrabbit?logo-onwhite-ae7919d53e3028031fa58d8368234a48

Crowdrabbit is a search engine that bridges the gap between the entrepreneur and her investors by aggregating platforms across crowdfunding types. That means that you now have one-stop shopping regardless if you want to do a simpler deep dive into rewards- or donation-based crowdfunding, or you want to study up on equity, debt or real estate investing.

Why is this important?

If it’s been said once it’s been said more times than I can count: You’ve simply got to find and study other projects similar to yours before you launch. Besides FunderCloud, an app that allows you to search Indiegogo and Kickstarter at the same time, the only way to do that (especially if you don’t want the mobile experience) has been to schlep to other crowdfunding platforms and do a keyword search at each of them. This can be tedious, so it’s way too often left undone. Well, now you have no excuses for not doing your homework.

Not to mention investor support

Besides offering a lot of support to project creators—a position most crowdfunding blogs take—in their you’ll also find helpful investor/backer tips on what to be on the lookout for, good and bad, so you can choose wisely. As all manner of crowdfunding continues to grow and dominate, learning how to be a a savvy investor is a much-needed safeguard in the crowdfunding ecosystem.

Like all aggregator tools, which are only useful as their directory is comprehensive, Crowdrabbit isn’t there yet. But it is definitely filling a vacuum and the more users lean on it the more likely their team is to continue to make improvements, increase functionality and bring value.

How to Succeed at Crowdfunding—Fast!

Crowdfunding: The 21st century’s online phenomenon that holds the promise of dream fulfillment in ways not ever before possible. It’s an amazing thing! The question I’m always asked is how can I succeed—fast?

Today I’m going to answer that question!

Below I’ve created a checklist that is designed to bypass all those tedious, labor-intensive recommendations those so-called “experts” are constantly spouting and are nothing but a big, fat drag on your time and energy, and that gets in the way of reaching the finish line.

So get out your pencils, lick that lead nib (I don’t know what that’s actually for but I see it all the time in movies and it looks cool. Also, I’m fairly certain it’s not enough to actually poison you but you might want to Wikipedia that first 😉

  1. If you’ve got an idea, just run with it. It’s not necessary to research other campaigns similar to your idea. According to your Aunt Madge, who’s always been a big supporter of yours, no way they’d be as good as yours! And besides, you’re probably not even sure how to do the research, so why waste valuable time on learning? You’ve got money to raise! A business to launch! You feel very confident you can be one of those campaign success stories on the order of the Coolest Cooler.
  2. Don’t be concerned about creating a marketing plan. You creative types like to shoot from the hip, rules be damned.  Just throw that campaign up and see what sticks. If it doesn’t you’ll figure it out as you go.
  3. How should you decide on your funding goal? Same method you used to come up with your Santa wish list when you were a kid in footie PJs. Pull out that trusty pencil and notebook, but now you’re old enough to grab a beer, put on some high-energy music to get your juices going, and go for it. (For example, “Money For Nothing,” by Dire Straits.) No need to create a budget. No need to put any of your own money in the early stages—I mean, that’s why you need to crowdfund, right? Just pick a number out of the hat that sounds good and run with it. Get ready, your ship is about to come in!
  4. I know you’ve heard that a pitch video is necessary. In fact, statistics claim that campaigns raised on average 114% more if they have a video. But those cost money (not to mention time and again, you’re in a hurry), you’re no filmmaker and you hate being on camera. Well, it you’re lucky day! Screw it! You’re a free-spirit and rules are meant to be broken.
  5. Social media has never been your strong suit. Sure you use Facebook to keep up with you ex’s shenanigans, and of course you love to post grumpy cat memes. But other than that you are more than willing to admit that the whole social media thing eludes you. Besides, you’re pretty sure if you build it, they will come!
  6. On the other hand, for those of you who do use social media, remember to just blast out the same message day after day. It’s good to annoy people with your incessant demands for money. That’s the best way to be effective. If fact you’re fairly sure you even read that somewhere.
  7. It’s the 11th hour. Campaign not going as well as you thought? This may be the time to contact one of those crowdfunding experts. Make sure to sound desperate. Use lots of CAPS and exclamation points. Be demanding! No, you can’t wait until next week because the clock is ticking! (Sheesh, I thought these experts were supposed to know their sh*t.) Make sure to try and negotiate the consultant’s fee. Or better yet, ask them to work on a percentage of your take—if you succeed. After all, you can’t be expected to hand over money upfront. They will be rewarded if they pick up your mess and spin gold out of it. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

That’s it! You’re ready to launch your crowdfunding campaign. So pick a platform—anyone will do—and get that campaign up and running. And since there’s no time like the present, launch your campaign today April 1! (AKA April Fool’s Day.) _DSC5462

Photo credit: GaborfromHungary from morguefile.com

The Real Secret to Your Success May Surprise You

Tip of the Week

There’s so much helpful content being written on good marketing and social media practices that it can be a little overwhelming when strategizing how to implement all you’ve learned.

Providing you find resources that have a solid reputation and align with your philosophy there’s enough high-value information to get your campaign on a good track to success.

As I’ve said before Hubspot is one of my favorites, especially for all the free downloads they offer. They also provide a lot of helpful data to better understand social media in a larger context.

All good stuff.

But sometimes it’s good to give rather than receive. So today’s Tip is about what and how you can give to your social media compatriots who are looking for an RT or a thoughtful comment or a repost to give them a lift. And lest you think that’s a nice thought but I barely have time to keep up with my own marketing needs, remember there’s a cosmological paradox at work when you give: your generosity usually boomerangs right back at you.

It’s happened to me so I always make it a point to:

Take a few minutes each day—or if I don’t have the time to do that I’ll at least try and dedicate about 30 minutes once a week—to go through my feed and look for people who are sharing meaningful information, especially about content that has nothing to do with crowdfunding.

Yes, you read that right. I do this for two reasons.

First, there’s nothing worse than being bombarded with the exact same message on a regular basis by someone who wants and expects me to share their campaign with my followers. Why would I do that when I know nothing about them or their idea? It comes across as demanding and selfish and most people don’t respond well to that.

Secondly, if social media is most impactful when you actually engage with others then it makes sense to try to make new friends and turn them into supporters. It’s happened to me many times. I’ll comment or RT about something I find interesting or socially relevant and the person responds with equal kindness. Before you know it we have developed a bona fide relationship and when I see that person has posted something I always make it a point to check it out.

That’s how relationships form and besides being a lot of fun it’s rewarding on many levels. I now have a new advocate and it makes my online time no longer feel like a chore.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 1.08.23 PM

If you haven’t already, find and read a book called “Give and Take” by Wharton professor Adam Grant. The idea behind the book is that while once we believed success was a result of things like hard work and luck, his research indicates that success is “increasingly dependent on how we interact with others.” His ideas about getting ahead in business have been praised by everyone from Oprah to Malcom Gladwell.

According to his studies people fall into one of three categories: takers, matchers or givers. Guess which ones get ahead the least? Since these attributes can have a big impact on your success, after registering you should take the test to see where you fit. If you’re a taker you may want to get some pointers to find out how to turn it around.

Here’s one of his many nuggets of wisdom:

“If we create networks with the sole intention of getting something, we won’t succeed. We can’t pursue the benefits of networks; the benefits ensue from investments in meaningful activities and relationships.”
– Adam Grant, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

 Image: Michelle Bulgaria

One Big Reason You Should Start Using Twitter Before You Crowdfund

Tip of the Week

The announcement came last month that Google and Twitter have partnered up. Twitter has given Google access to its data stream to index tweets, which will allow the search engine to display your tweets in its results in real time. That’s quite a boon for crowdfunders, in my opinion.

This is actually a rekindling of an old relationship between the two behemoths, which expired in 2011.

The effects of the implementation will likely not be in full evidence for up to six month, the time it will take for both companies to figure out how to prep and utilize the data.

During that time Twitter users should be prepping, too, so that your tweets will start showing up in Google’s results pages right away. How do you prove your tweet value to Google? By maximizing engagement, which is the first step in alerting Google that you’re producing high-value tweets. (Spammers need not apply.)

For active Twitter users this means your presence is going to be more felt. For those who wonder why they should be using Twitter, this is a good enough reason to start on the right foot.

Stone Temple Consulting Inc. recently did a study in which they analyzed over 4 million tweets. (I also recommend you read Stone Temple’s analysis on how the new deal will affect SEO.)

For the time-challenged or visually inclined, here’s their four-minute explainer video:

From that study here’s a summary of the factors they find most important:

  1. Inclusion of media (images or video) – also broken out by number of pieces of media
  2. Character count
  3. Inclusion of Hashtags – also broken out by number of hashtags
  4. Hashtag length
  5. Inclusion of Links – also broken out by number of links
  6. The Domain Authority of the shared link
  7. Time of Day
  8. Inclusion of Mentions – also broke out by number of mentions

So if Twitter is not yet a social media platform of choice for you, consider making it a priority within the next six months. If you plan to crowdfund, it might help you amplify your campaign.