By Javon Frazier, Founder/CEO, Maestro Media.
Far too often, creators gravitate toward crowdfunding platforms with an already completed project, eyes wide and ready for people to fall in love with the concept, only to quickly realize their idea or concept is not what the consumer wants. Nine times out of 10 this can be avoided with one simple shift in perspective: Crowdfunding platforms should not be used primarily for funding purposes. This may sound contradictory since “funding” is in the name, but crowdfunding is far more than just raising capital; it’s about collaborating and engaging with the “crowd” aspect far and above everything else.
Take my company, Maestro Media, a product and business development firm, as an example. We use crowdfunding to find and understand what consumers want in a product, and discover the best way to deliver the right campaign to the right audience by actively engaging directly with the consumer. We have found that crowdfunding can be more powerful and impactful as a collaborative marketing tool rather than the main source of funding a project. Our most successful campaigns included fan collaboration as the primary aspect. By incorporating fan feedback directly into a project in real-time, and leveraging the platform as an engagement tool, it offers the consumer a sense of agency and ownership of the final product and helps us deliver a now-proven product that consumers will want to buy.
So how exactly can you use crowdfunding as a collaborative marketing tool? It’s surprisingly simple: Engage in an ongoing dialog with your supporters and create ways for them to feel 100% included, involved and ultimately heard. That’s it — it’s that easy. Here are a few examples my team and I have seen success with that I encourage you to explore yourself.
Come to the crowdfunding platform with a solid concept, not a completed product.
Just because you have a solid idea and a vision of what you want to create does not mean there’s no room for improvement. If you have a card game, you’ll need to have a general base concept for the game but should be open to adding to it, tweaking it or, if necessary, recreating it (depending on feedback from fans and supporters).
Actively listen and engage with your backers.
They are the ones who are backing it and are going to buy it, so it would be foolish to ignore what they want from your product. Are you creating the next award-winning barbeque sauce? Then you may want to ask your supporters if they would prefer glass or plastic bottles, noting that the difference in containers can affect price. If you see a big response stating they’d prefer to pay more for shipping to be more eco-conscious with the glass containers, then you would be doing yourself, and your supporters, a disservice by using plastic.
Allow your fans to contribute their own ideas and give them a sense of ownership of the final product.
This is your product — your creative brainchild that you’ve spent weeks, months or even years working on. Do you feel that sense of pride and accomplishment? That’s the same feeling you want your backers to feel, or as close to it as possible. By allowing your supporters to have a definitive say in at least some aspect of the final product, you are providing them a sense of ownership. They will feel as though they helped create the product with you and the community — because they did! And because they did, they will have a similar feeling of pride and accomplishment you have when talking about your product, which will result in them sharing it with their community as well. In addition, this will only help you create further valuable, genuine brand affinity and ongoing support from the community.
Interact and have FUN with your fans.
Think of crowdfunding as a big party and fundraiser. Everyone is there for the same reason — to support you! The more customers have fun with you and see you as a person, and not as a salesperson pushing a product, the more likely they are to share your campaign with their community and potentially back it further. Have contests with the fans, follow them back on social media, conduct live Q&As and treat them as humans, not transactions.
Far too often, people focus on the “funding” portion of crowdfunding and fail to give the “crowd” aspect it’s due, and that’s doing a disservice to both the creators and community alike. By making the community the key focus of your next crowdfunding project, you are almost guaranteed to have a more impactful campaign, resulting in increased funding and proven, dedicated consumers from the start.