J is for journey

However well your crowdfund does, the whole process from start to finish is a journey. A journey that is so fast and pressurised it is like going through a wormhole, compressing everything into an 8 week period; your marketing vision, your relationship with your customers and your handle on social media!

wormhole2

In order to ensure your journey develops more wormhole rather than blackhole it is key that you take note of several things:

  1. Planning.  Your plan will change, but work out what each member of the team will do for every day of the crowdfund.  Who will you contact, and how.  What visuals will you produce? Who will do the thank yous? Make sure you understand your core message, but change how you say it so it doesn’t get boring! At the end of your crowdfund you can look back and see how much of your original plan changed!
  2. Your donors are your customers.  They are gold-dust.  They will get to know you very well over the period of the crowdfund, and you will certainly get to know what they like and what they don’t like, be prepared to listen.  Some companies spend a lot of money on this kind of information – you, instead, are spending an intensive period of time, and lots of sweat.
  3. Use your crowdfund to co-create.  Let your donors help develop your product or service.  If you’ve got them hooked they’ll have plenty of ideas from their perspective and will be more loyal in the longer term.
  4. The end of the crowdfund is really only the beginning. Before your launch, few people will have heard of you or what you are trying to do. Now you are in the public eye – you’ve made promises and now it’s time to keep them.  Make sure if you’ve got rewards, send them with thank you’s, send them on time, and send them to the right address!
  5. Make sure you take a break at the end.  It is such an intensive period of time, emotions are frayed and you may even ask ‘was it worth it’. It really will have been, but to get onto the next phase you really need to be fresh, not run ragged and have no energy.

Watch our film interview with Medicine’s Dark Secrets here just after they finished their crowdfund on Indiegogo.  Learn from them how they managed their journey, and what tips they have for others deciding to crowdfund.

I is for Inspiration

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In 1851, a Scot called John McDouall Stuart took men through the interior of Australia from Darwin to Adelaide. This arduous adventure took months to complete through arid desert on horseback.  One and a half centuries later a Scottish serving officer in Afghanistan, Alex Freeborn, brushed against his words and was so inspired by “the man whose amazing persistence, indomitable courage, and unfailing common sense enabled him to succeed in a mighty task in which most others would have failed” that he created a vision for repeating this expedition for the first time but this time with vulnerable veterans across the globe.  The aim? To fundraise and highlight the amazing courage of these veterans and to help build the skills and confidence of the wider veteran community on their return to civilian life. And so was born Back Out There and the Stuart Expedition.

Central to SoLoCo’s DNA, what I love most about inspiration is that it can sit as a collection of words on a page, dormant for years until they catch someone’s eye and a spark is ignited and a new path is struck.

The vision of the Stuart Expedition struck Dean Bousfield who immediately signed up to help.  Having been shot through the brain while serving in Afghanistan he was told he would never walk again. Back Out There has given him the focus and long term goal he needs to get through his recovery.  Not only is he now Ambassador to BOT, he is trialling for the paralympics and has even been voted to the top 20 for the Lynx Appollo space mission.  He tweeted on 26th March that he has just beaten his walking record of 1km in 40 minutes.

Dean Bousfield
Dean Bousfield

His blog , which you can read on the sidebar here is inspiring people from all walks of life and backgrounds, both military and civilian including my 10 year old daughter who made a presentation to her class and announced that Dean is her hero.  Little would John McDouall Stuart know he would be such a catalyst for courage further down the history line.

If you can inspire, whether through creativity, innovation or story-telling –  if you can ignite dormant words or even lay them down, your crowdfund campaign could reach people you never knew existed and might even have an effect years down the line.

SoLoCo will be working with Back Out There throughout the 2013.

Inspire Series

At SoLoCo we are constantly inspired by those around us whether in our community or on the other side of the world. So, we have decided to start up a series where we will post up stories, videos and images that we find inspiring. We invite you to do the same and let us know if anything or anybody has inspired you to start your venture, how and why.

So, be prepared for lots of Ted Talks, blogs by people that we work with and some random stories that we come across in twitter or Facebook.  2013 is a time to be inspired and make things happen.  So, help us do just that!

So, to kick off here is one of my first inspirations to get up and make something happen.  Ernesto Sirolli’s approach to life and enterprise has had a lasting impact on me. So, shut up and listen….

H is for Hungry

To do a crowdfund you must be hungry for success. However, don’t confuse hungry with starving.  Because starving smells of desperation.

When hungry you want to see all elements working for you. You want to plan and prepare all of the aspects for the longer term so that you can taste each and every part of the meal you have cooked.  In crowdfunding terms, success looks like engaged followers, co-creation of ideas, longer term support AND money in the bank.

Desperate won’t achieve this. You will forget about the people giving the money, as the actual money is all that you can focus on.  You will probably give the hard sell, and will be so worried about not succeeding that you will probably be run ragged before you even start.

So. Give yourself time to plan and prepare. Look at all of the options. Look at who you are hoping to engage with. What do they want?  Are you providing an interesting, measured and appealing campaign?  Will it sate everybody’s appetite, not just yours?

My advice? If your funding is about to run out, steer clear of crowdfunding.  Fill yourself up on other funds and start to plan it for the future.

G is for Gratitude

Gratitude is key to your crowdfund. Each donor has done more than just donated money. They have taken the time and effort to show their commitment to your cause, and to your future. This time and effort is priceless and should never be underestimated or taken lightly.

Think about the process that person goes through to actually donate. They have thought through your offering in their head, worked out if they care about it enough, and then taken the time to actual physically go through the paying process. Yes, they may want the reward you are offering but more often than not they are giving you the thumbs up for your approach.
So, if you forget to personally say thank you to that person – they can automatically feel quite disaffected, disgruntled and less likely to tell others about you. In fact they are much more likely to warn others off giving to you too.
So, never forget gratitude. If it wasn’t for your donors, you wouldn’t get anywhere.
So, some tips on saying thank you…

– They don’t have to be lengthy, they just have to be authentic.
– Personalise your thankyou’s whether by email or tweet.
– Take a photograph that means something to the donor(s).
– Do a personalised youtube/ vimeo film.

None of these have to take long – but each of them will mean a huge amount to the person who has gone out of their way to engage with you.
So, for all of you who will read this blog and take heed,

Thank you.

F is for Flexibility

Plan, plan plan. We need plans, business plans, marketing plans, strategy documents, timelines, dead lines, guidelines etc. etc. They all have an important role to play in any business or campaign, without them you’re probably not going to go far. We have to know what we are, where we are going and critically, how we are going to get there.

There’s no doubt that plans are essential tools but they should never be rigid, things change so you have to be flexible.

Plans often are based on assumptions and by definition  may go out of date rapidly. Moreover, you can’t control your competitors who may change pricing structures or release a product upgrade etc. you have to be nimble and don’t be frightened of amending your plans.

You may find an approach you have adopted just doesn’t work, every business will encounter challenges sooner or later but what will help to make your proposition work best is by adjusting your behaviour, approach or strategy.

Perhaps by instinct or experience, most of us can tell if somethings not working, a drop in sales, a new fully funded competitor enters the market and puts your business at risk, it could be staff moral or you’re working 24 hours a day and not making any money; all very standard challenges that most businesses face.

If it’s not working then change it, find a mentor who can support you and your business, talk with people who have more experience than yourself, try to understand what is wrong and be creative in your attempt to fix it. No one gets everything right all the time, don’t forget that, there’s no shame in admitting that something has gone wrong or simply doesn’t work; on the contrary, identifying an issue and solving it makes for better business, a more robust business.

Everything comes and goes, things change, being flexible and adjusting to the present conditions is part of growing a sustainable and profitable business and in this context a successful crowdfunding campaign. When you start your crowdfund, you should have all the plans in place, you know what it is you are doing and how you are going to do it.

However, don’t be rigid, the campaign timeline will come and go, you may have to adapt or modify an aspect of the campaign, look for the things that are clearly working well and maybe do more of that, consider the aspects of the campaign that are not working so well and consider if it’s worth abandoning those things completely. Either way, flexibility is a prerequisite, remember, it’s not about you but your customers so don’t be precious about anything. With flexibility things improve, your campaign will be better. Unfortunately there’s no magic formula unless you happen to own an Oil Field but even those will dry out one day.

Next up: G is for Gratitude

E is for Evangelism (and Brand Ambassadors)

We’re going to be a little loose with our definitions here, but in this context I’m going to lump evangelism and brand ambassadors together. Ultimately they do the same job; both terms have been adopted by marketers and refer to individuals (paid or unpaid) who promote your company, product or service at every given opportunity.

You could argue that evangelism comes first, bringing a business to the market and brand ambassadors help to spread the word. But for now, if you think about the word evangelist for a moment, normally associate with the preaching of the Christian Gospels – ‘good news’, you can see why it’s been appropriated by the branding world; it’s a potent word that seeks to place brands on a level with the spiritual, the Godly, the great.

Evangelists and brand ambassadors are key to any business success. Without people talking positively about what you do, either formally or informally, you will struggle to sell. For small local businesses, the activity of ‘word of mouth promotion’ is still regarded by most as the best way of getting your messages out there; think of it in the same terms as a personal recommendation (a technique increasingly used by social networking sites such as LinkedIn).

If for example I recommend you to my networks on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc., you instantly gain an element of regard, people who trust me are more likely to trust you and use your services or buy your product. If I can say something positive about your business it’s probably the case that there are others out there who can do the same. You need to find these people and encourage them to speak about your business. It’s not necessarily about technology, instead it’s about individuals talking to others, either one to one, at a conference or a trade show. That face to face time is essential, it’s good marketing practice and it works..

Assuming you want your business to be sustainable and perhaps grow, gaining customer trust and enthusiasm are the first steps to gaining the evangelists and brand ambassadors you need. Your USP may be price, quality, capacity or any number of other attributes, what’s important is you get this across to your customers and get them to talk about it. Every customer is a potential evangelist, if they believe in your product or service enough they will recommend it to others. One final point for now; both your evangelists and brand ambassadors need to be nurtured, they are an extension of your work force, probably unpaid but non-the-less key individuals who care about your business and will help it to grow. Communicate with them, let them know what you are doing and above all, keep them happy.

Next up: F is for Flexibility