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

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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

 

 

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

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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.

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.

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.

 

 

Digital Advertising, Bad Bet? Bad Bot!

Tip of the Week

 

Last year, White Ops, the self-proclaimed “global pioneer in deterministic botnet detection and sophisticated digital fraud” issued the results of a study. Here’s a highlight of their results.

We expected to find bogus websites with nothing but a bot audience,
but out of nearly 3 million websites covered in the study, mere thousands were completely bogus.
Most of the bots visited real websites run by real companies with real human visitors.
Those bots inflated the monetized audiences at those sites by 5-50 percent.

The results, they stated, were that:

  • Advertisers will lose $6.2B globally this year
  • Ad fraud gets home users hacked
  • Ad bots defeats user targeting

I’m sometimes asked my opinion about buying digital ads to promote one’s crowdfunding campaign. I usually beg off the question because I’ve never used the tactic myself, and because I’m personally very unfazed by digital ads, so I never saw the benefits of them. A more recent report not only strongly suggests you should save your money, but the bot frauds hit closer to home in this one.

It was a study that was released almost two weeks ago, one which I expected would catch like wildfire on blogs, groups, and forums I read. The results, though not altogether surprising were still to my mind offensive and kind of scandalous. Rather than writing about it I thought I’d wait to read what others had to say. But instead of outrage so far I’ve heard crickets.

So here’s the bad news.

It turns out that from 88% to 98% of digital ads we pay for are clicked by bots, not thinking, discerning humans. And the fraudsters aren’t fringe offenders; they are companies we rely on and respect like—this one broke my heart—LinkedIn. They came in at 88% fake, with the worst offender being Google, at 98%. Good old Facebook and Yahoo tied at 94%.

Oxford InfographicClick to enlarge

The data were revealed by a Luxembourg-based company that works in human-recognition technology called Oxford BioChronometrics, a startup from Oxford University, which last year spun out into the private sector in order to continue to further commercialize their technology. According to their site, Biochronometrics calculates changes in our biological behavior.

Good news or more bad news?

The bot fraud is part of a bigger study the team has been working on. Last July’s unveiling informed us that we each leave an imprint through our common behaviors, such as mouse movements or typing speed. Put it all together and it’s called eDNA (electronically Defined Natural Attributes). Over time, the technology allows tracking and identifying up to 500 behaviors— such as drug use, sexual activity, and even whether you’re prone to heart attacks—of users whenever they log onto their computers or smartphone.

The benefit, they say, is that it will immediately confirm identity and reduce the rate of hacking. Whether it’s worth giving up our privacy remains to be seen, though we all know the truth is that ship probably sailed long ago.

To read the full report, go here.

 

Can Krowdster Capture and Promote Campaign with More Efficiency?

Tip of the Week

Krowdster blew onto the scene appropriately around the time that the calendar ticked to 2015. My amateur prediction (read: arrived at completely without benefit of psychic abilities) says that this will be the year we begin to address some of the deeply entrenched issues that are causing crowdfunding successes to plummet: the need to build a crowd that cares enough to contribute to your campaign. Because it’s a problem of enormous proportions.

You can’t keep a serial entrepreneur down, I guess, because it looks like founder Joseph Holm has tossed his hat in the ring in the hopes of turning this around.

You probably know Holm for his crowdfunding networking site called crowdfund.biz, and as the founder of the crowdfunding platform for filmmakers called Tubestart that incorporates content and audience development solutions, tools for rewards fulfillment, and more, into its value proposition. Krowdster is his most recent endeavor.

“I have created Krowdster to help more entrepreneurs become more successful at crowdfunding and launch more shining startups. Krowdster provides evidence-based, big data-powered analytics and campaign optimization as well as the world’s largest database of crowdfunding supporters that can be filtered by category, location or keyword to build an engaged crowd.”

krowdster artwork1

So how does Krowdster work? I The process is simple once you sign up:

  • Analytics provide data from 500,000+ campaigns
  • Optimizes campaign page and rewards setup based on metrics so it’s not a crapshoot
  • Promotes to 300,000+ crowdfunding supporters

Here’s a blog post that dives deeper.

So why Krowdster? Speaking from personal experience in my work with clients, when it comes time create a launch-ready strategy, building the crowd is the weak link for most aspiring crowdfunders because it’s a clunky, fragmented and time-consuming task. A tool that would take that heavy lifting away and allows users to search similar effortlessly would be a relief.

Does Krowdster work? Besides noodling around myself I’ve asked some of my crowdfunding colleagues their opinion of Krowdster’s effectiveness and the word “solid” has come up more than once. And as more people try it out we’ll be able to find out from the source how well it works.

Currently, the site draws its data from only four platforms:

  • Indiegogo
  • Kickstarter
  • RocketHub
  • Pozible
  • Tubestart

Holm is seeking other high-yielding rewards-based sites to further boost data results. Got a site you’d like included? Make suggestions!

Currently Holm is supplying his user-hopefuls with lots of tutorials, graphs, and even early-bird free trial offers. Here’s one video that provides a nice overview.

**Full disclosure: I will be signing on to Krowdster’s Affiliate Program

 

Design Within Crowdfunding Reach Requires Marketing

Tip of the Week

Last fall I moderated a really exciting panel at the Digital Professional Institute that featured five successful Chicago-based project creators. It was a lively and delightful hour that went by way too quickly. (I learn so much from each crowdfunder, whether they fail or succeed, and these panelists all fell into the latter category.) Every campaign was unique, and I could write a post featuring and lauding each one. And perhaps soon I will, maybe in the form of a sit-down video. But that’s for another time and day.

For now I want to focus on a guy by the name of Craighton Bermanphoto

He’s a product designer and a Kickstarter star player with so many rousingly successful campaigns under his belt, one of which has little functional application but more than make up for it through its sheer love fest of form. (I will provide links below.)

I’ve been trying, in vain, to nab Berman for a sit-down with me, knowing full well this guy’s plate is fuller than a Las Vegas gambler taking a break from the slot machines to graze at the buffet table.

But he’s busier than ever and now I know what he’s up to. He’s just committed to teaching a yearlong professional development course at University of Illinois at Chicago.

This is so needed. The problem that many of us who consult come across with project creators is that these people, while brilliant at what they do, lack basic marketing skills. Which is a campaign killer.

Berman’s class Tumblr has the perfect title: Always Be Hustling. It features some really innovative student works. This is actually Berman’s second stint at UIC, with last year’s theme being on the “Making” of the product. This year’s focus: “Scaling.” (Unlike some artists who are less verbal than visual, Berman is equally skilled at both.) How many times does the marketing question come up by project creators? A lot. So this class should really rock. I can tell you from listening to Berman speak, that not only is his enthusiasm infectious but how can you argue with all his crowdfunding success? He clearly knows what works and you aspiring designers WILL want to crawl into the workings of his brain!

For those of you who live outside Chicago, first be happy you’re not dealing with 18” of snow! But also take comfort in the fact that Berman’s really on to something here. So might an online class will be next? We can only hope!

His campaigns:

Pinch (A gourmet salt cellar and pepper shaker set that brings the experience of adding ‘a pinch of salt’ to the dining table.)

The Campaign for Accurate measurement of Creativity (A Sharpener Jar To Quantify Your Creative Output)

The Manual Coffeemaker (A Pour-Over Coffee Maker Designed to Elevate the Ritual of Making Coffee by Hand) *This is the most recent and it raised $100K in 30 days.

 

His websites:

Craighton Berman Studio

Manual

Google Tricks of the Trade You May Not Know About

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No question Google is smart, but maybe not the brainiac we think it has become. To get us up to speed on tips and pointers to make searching more targeted, a site called WhoISHostingThis.com came up with a cheat sheet to help you find the relevant search results we all crave, pronto.

I was somewhat underwhelmed by some on the list. The first tip, for example, advises uses quoting around exact phrases. But keep reading! You’re in for a big surprise by all the nuggets of valuable pointers further down.

Here are some of the highlights from their findings, followed by the fantastic infographic they created for our convenience. Print it out! Commit it to memory. Just use the pointers and you’ll get where you’re going much faster.

Getting Results from certain domains

Let’s say you want to research the competition on Kickstarter for standing desks, because you’re considering running a crowdfunding campaign for yours.

Here’s how you would ask Google:

Standing desks site:kickstarter.com

This is page one of a total of 1,460 results”

standing desks site:kickstarter.com - Google Search 2015-01-23 11-50-06

Finding Content to URL You already know

Since we’re on the topic of infographics, let’s use the example provided. Visual.ly is a data and visualization and infographics platform. What to search for similar sites to, say, compare features?

Here’s how you ask Google:

Related:visual.ly

This is the page with it 48 related sites

related:visual.ly - Google Search 2015-01-23 12-23-06

Other Google Search Tricks

It doesn’t just stop at search terms, with Google Goggles you can find the name of an item just by taking a picture of the item you want to search for on your phone and then voilà! You’ve got your results. Here’s how to download Goggles and examples of how it works.

Check out the Full Infographics
How to be a Google Power User - Via Who Is Hosting This: The Blog

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