When the idea for EyePatch Case came into my head, I knew I was going to need fund-raising in order to make my idea a reality. Crowdfunding was a no-brainer, and luckily, the EyePatch Case is a perfect product for this type of campaign. My first step on this long (long) journey was to learn as much as possible from as many people as possible. I gathered information, talked to different experts and groups and tested the waters with friends and colleagues. Over the course of the last several years, I have run three successful crowdfunding campaigns and here are my 8 Steps to help you reach your goal.
PROTECT YOUR IDEA
Before you even tell your best friend, make sure your idea is protected. File a provisional patent application, copyright, or whatever is required for your idea before you do anything else. This step is so important that I could actually write a whole blog on this subject alone . actually, wait, that’s a great idea. Stay tuned for that post!
PATIENCE, MY DEAR
OK, so you’ve got your idea, it’s got some intellectual property protection and now you’re ready to create a campaign page, right? Nope. Not even close. Lesson number two is this: have patience. Don’t think that you’ll post your campaign and people will just magically fall in love with your idea. It doesn’t work like that. In fact, repeat after me: no one cares about my idea. Tough pill to swallow? Well grow some thick skin because this is a long-game and you need to stay tough and focused. You need to show the market why they should care about your idea. Which brings us to tip number three…
GIVE YOURSELF A HEAD START
You absolutely need to create a base of potential backers by creating a “landing page” for your idea. This is a simple one-page explanation of your idea and why people should care about it. This is how you will start collecting emails from folks who are interested in watching your idea come to life. Create incentives for them to share with friends: free stickers, a t-shirt, maybe even a free EyePatch Case! You need to spend a good amount of time building this email list to at LEAST several hundred people. This can take several months, so start preparing yourself for that reality.I learned a ton of these initial crowdfunding steps from Clay Herbert of CrowdfundingHacks.com. Clay lead a wonderful talk about crowdfunding at the Inventors Association of Manhattan and you can watch it here.
BECOME AN INFLUENCER
If you don’t understand Twitter, you will not be successful in your crowdfunding campaign. I’m sure there are few exceptions, but this is a fact for 98% of you, so knowing the ins and outs of Twitter is a must.
I originally started @EyePatchCase as a tool to publicize my landing page, but it quickly evolved into much more than that. You need to become an expert in the field of your idea. EyePatch Case is the case for people who care about privacy and it’s also the case for phone-tographers who want to protect their camera lens. That’s two groups of folks who I needed to get to know and who needed to know EyePatch.
Social media is a two-way street, so don’t just expect people to start following you. You will find a tremendous level of success on Twitter when you start engaging in conversations. Start as a follower and become a user who people are interested in. Tweet interesting articles, ask questions, share content that those in your field will be genuinely interested in. I have met so many amazing people this way and many of them went on to become backers of EyePatch Case.
You cannot and will not be able to do this alone.Early on, I connected on Twitter with Chris Labonty who is the founder of HeadFunder.com and that’s when things really took off. Chris loved the idea for EyePatch Case. After a lengthy phone conversation about my goals and strategy, I was sold on using HeadFunder as my crowdfunding platform.
The HeadFunder team are all experts in crowdfunding, which is why I recommend HeadFunder to anyone. A huge reason why my campaign was successful is because they helped me grow my email list tremendously in the months leading up to our campaign. I can’t stress this importance enough.
I am lucky enough to be married to Annie Pace Scranton (for many reasons), but in this particular case, I’ll share that she is the CEO of Pace Public Relations. Annie worked with me on creating a message for EyePatch Case and really building my brand. One of the earliest steps I took was to create a logo. I just happened to be doodling on Pixlr, and created a sample logo. Annie encouraged me to run with it because it’s friendly, cute, and welcoming (unlike a lot of others in the data privacy field).
Once our campaign actually launched, we had a team of friends and family who were ready to spring into action and spread the word.
There’s a darker side to this as well. There have been more than a few times where I considered throwing in the towel. If it weren’t for a solid support system, I’m not sure EyePatch would be the success it has become.
BE PREPARED TO ANNOY EVERYONE YOU KNOW
That solid support system? They need to be ROCK SOLID. You’re going to have to post multiple times a day, every single day. You will need to hit people over the head, time and time again, to back your campaign. Think about how hard it is to collect money from your friends if you are doing a non-profit fundraiser or if you are going in together on a trip. This will be harder. Much harder. You will have people who wait till the very last second, and you will have people who will forget. People are busy and remember, they aren’t nearly as invested in your product as you are.
Be prepared to do things like texting, literally, every single person in your phone or walking your grandma who isn’t so tech-savvy through the process of backing your campaign.You’ll have close friends or family who don’t contribute, and that’s OK. If someone is hard up for cash, ask them to join your team in other ways. They can share on Facebook, send email messages to their group of contacts; or become a sounding board for your new ideas. There are ways that everyone can contribute.
DON’T EXPECT TO MAKE MONEY
Set your goal as low as possible. Think of crowdfunding as financial-aid for a start-up, rather than a full-ride. Your backers are here to supplement your own investment. The lower your goal, the higher the chances of hitting it are.
You’ll have a lot of unexpected costs throughout the campaign and of course, after it ends. That’s the nature of a start-up and you’re going to have to accept & really understand the old adage, it takes money to make money.
KEEP THE ENERGY ALIVE
Before launching my campaign, I emailed several successful crowd-fund campaign creators for advice. To my surprise, many of them responded. Sean Watkins, of SnapPower’s wildly successful night-light campaign, advised me to focus on the whole campaign and not just having a great launch.You will likely make the same mistake I did in assuming that 90% of your funding will come on day one. That’s absolutely not going to happen: it’s a marathon, not a sprint.While we were lucky enough to have some great PR on day one, it helped tremendously to have continual blog mentions and articles come out every few days to really keep the momentum alive.In the end, EyePatch Case’s Headfunder campaign was wildly successful. After the campaign ended, I took a vacation (my honeymoon) and you should plan on doing the same.It’s a tremendous amount of work but it was SO MUCH FUN, and whether you succeed or fail you will learn so much about many different aspects of crowdfunding, business and relationships.I would love to hear some of your tips and crowdfunding stories in the comments below.