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How to build up your fan base before launching your crowdfunding campaign

Funding a successful crowdfunding project begins long before you hit the “Publish” button.

You can send out as many press releases as you like once your campaign is live, but without existing backers already pledging donations it’s unlikely that news outlets will want to cover your story or that new visitors will buy into your project.

When we say to reach out to your existing network, it’s all too common to mistake that for your Facebook friends.

Below are the five steps you need to take to find fans of your crowdfunding project who will actually convert.

Craft your story

Storytelling is everything when it comes to selling your idea to others; people want to feel your passion and drive to make your project happen; they want to want you to succeed.

Whether you do it through humour or provoking thoughtful debate, a strong pitch should be honest and humble while still compelling people to take action.

For most crowdfunding projects you simply must have a well-produced video; include a bit about your previous work if you can along with a demonstration or teaser of your product or idea, and just talk to the camera like you’re talking to a real person.

Try your best to make your video shareable so that people will want to help you spread the word. Take a good look at viral content calling people to action and the tactics they use to invoke a response; KONY 2012 is a powerful, if slightly over-the-top example of this.

Perhaps keep your video a bit briefer than KONY – attention spans aren’t what they used to be! – around five minutes is best for the majority of crowdfunding pitches.

While you plan, write and film your pitch materials, think the whole time about how you can use each aspect of the process in the future.

From behind-the-scenes “Making Of” blog posts and videos to more detailed blogs explaining particular aspects of your project, keep everything well documented so you have a wealth of additional content at your disposal to keep people interested throughout the campaign.

Don’t throw anything away; if you think of a personal anecdote you’d like to include in your letters to friends and family but don’t necessarily want to include in your public appeal, jot it down to revisit later on.

Don’t forget to draft a press release for your project; you want it to be simple to read, non-commercial, in third person and include a quote from yourself or one of your project partners.

All the while you should be thinking: How does my product or idea help my audience? What will they get out of investing in my project? Why should they choose my project over the thousands of others on my chosen kickstarter platform?

Seek out your potential supporters

Viral content doesn’t just get picked up out of the blue. Before Invisible Children released the KONY 2012 video they spent many months enlisting college students to their cause, so that when the video was released there were already thousands of people ready and passionate to share the content with their friends.

While you may not have the resources to travel the country to engage with complete strangers about your work, you do already have a network of people to tap into, as does anyone else you are working on your project with.

From teachers and school friends to relatives and colleagues, there are many people you’ve met in your life who would still care about what you’re up to.

Use a spreadsheet to begin building your list, and brainstorm until you’re sure you’ve exhausted every single possibility.

Keep a separate column for contact details, from email addresses to social media handles; these may be harder to track down for old contacts such as teachers so fill these in as you go along.

Also keep a separate column with whether a contact is professional or personal, as well as who could make for great advocates of your project.

The key to choosing your advocates, or evangelists, is looking for individuals who are great at sharing the latest big thing and converting others to their cause, whose contacts are outside of your own network so that there is no overlap.

While you’re listing everyone also keep in mind who might be annoyed or put off by your request, as you’ll need to email this list of people around four times during the fundraising process.

Consider leaving these people out of any correspondence, and be sure to BCC everyone else and let them know that they are welcome to opt out of future emails.

You might like to consider using an email marketing service like MailChimp to give people the option of opting out without feeling bad about telling you personally that they’re not interested.

Finally, create a separate tab for media outlets such as news sites and magazines, as well as any niche bloggers and other outlets who might have an interest in your project.

Get your web presence up and running

Before you send anything out to friends or media, get your social media accounts set up.

Make sure you also have a working website with a blog where you can host your product and campaign-related content, and be ready to share the first few pieces of content on your social media channels before contacting everyone.

Use tools like Hootsuite to schedule posts on Facebook, Twitter and others to take some of the pressure off in the first few days while you answer queries and chase up new leads from friends and family.

Hosting your own content not only allows you to document everything that happens during your campaign, but it shows the public that you’re a professional company with a real, tangible project for them to back.

You can further bolster your position as a professional business by providing a telephone number for any sceptical customers who would like to know more.

If you want to get really clever you can use call tracking software from providers like Mediahawk which shows you how your visitors came to find you; an invaluable tool once you start promoting your campaign as it helps you pinpoint your most successful marketing channels.

You can also use your website and social media channels to encourage interested parties to sign up to your email newsletter.

This gives you the chance to reengage with interested parties who may or may not have committed to backing your campaign, where you can send them updates such as milestones hit and ask them to share your campaign with their friends and family.

MailChimp, for example, allows you to automatically send new subscribers a series of emails, meaning you can get everyone caught up no matter when they sign up throughout your campaign without it taking up any of your time.

Make sure you have all of your accounts and tools in place before you send anything out to your contacts or the media and have tested them for yourself so that you’re ready to go from the first day.

Get over those nerves

It’s nearly time to approach your friends, family and acquaintances about your project, so you’ll need to get over any discomfort you feel in asking them for financial and promotional support.

Remember that the worst someone can say is “No,” but most people are actually happy to help so if you’re too afraid to ask in the first place the only thing that suffers will be your crowdfunding project.

Be honest with your contacts in that you need their help. Outline the project and what you’re trying to achieve, and if you have to use any buzzwords be sure to define them.

Be sure to thank them for their time and express gratitude for any help or advice they may be able to give you; ask that if they themselves are unable to help, to please think of anyone else they know who might.

When you go to contact your chosen advocates, you will need to draft a different email which includes details of how you think they could help via their blogs, social media and other networks.

Hit send… but don’t think it stops there

You should be looking for new people and places to help you promote your fundraiser every day before you launch it.

But despite all the lists you’ve compiled over the last few weeks or months there will still be dozens, if not hundreds of avenues yet to explore, and the more eyes you can get on your project the better.

You need to ensure you devote enough time in the days and weeks after your campaign launch to continue finding new opportunities for coverage.

In addition to digital magazines and local radio stations, look out for bloggers, social media influencers and even minor celebrities who could help you.

Also look for relevant news stories and forums to post comments in (in a non-commercial way), as well as Twitter chats being hosted by communities in your niche.

It’s a continuous and longwinded process that requires thoughtful and personalised approaches, which is why it pays off to do your research as early and for as long as possible before launching your kickstarter campaign.

Building and maintaining your fan base is the most critical and one of the most time consuming parts of your campaign, so if your project goes viral be sure you have a plan in place for all the extra relationships you’ll need to nurture!

Written by Kayleigh Conway of digital marketing agency Receptional.