There was a time not too long ago when there was no easy way to raise money online, aside from urging friends to send you money over PayPal.
In 2007, Indiegogo was founded, followed two years later by Kickstarter. And today, the crowdfunding floodgates have opened. You can put your money behind anything from a bowl of potato salad to a Reading Rainbow relaunch.
But running a crowdfunding campaign can be a big time commitment, especially in terms of marketing. There are promotional videos to film, social media outreach to do, and PR emails to distribute to the press. If you’re busy, you might not have time or the skillset to do it all on your own.
Enter the crowdfunding consultants.
A Google search yields dozens of results, names of companies and individuals offering their strategic services to help you with your Kickstarter or Indiegogo project. They will provide handwritten press releases, media kits, consultations, and email templates. Some will even provide you with a list of journalists and bloggers who have written about crowdfunding campaigns similar to yours.
Most consultants have experience in marketing or public relations, but they have plenty of useful advice for anyone trying to launch a crowdfunding campaign — whether you’re a seasoned veteran by now or it’s your first project, here’s some valuable advice to ensure your crowdfunding effort gets off the ground.
Learn a thing or two about PR
The Crowdfund Mafia, headed up by CEO Mike Fultz, started his small company in 2012.
“There were eight of us in a tiny 8 x 10 room — copywriters, designers, video people — everyone had to wear headphones-in because the echo of everyone typing at the same time was maddening, he told Business Insider. “We took on any clients that would hire us, some for nickels and dimes and some for free.”
Fultz’s company has worked on campaigns for brands like Stone Brewing Company and products like The Body Dryer. “We got involved in the crowdfunding PR world not because it was an emerging market, but because we saw it as the perfect way to disrupt PR from the ground up,” Fultz said, explaining that traditional public relations isn’t suited for the startups and crowdfunding campaigns his company serves.
“That’s what’s great about this new method of PR: Just like crowdfunding, PR for startups can absolutely be DIY. We highly recommend that entrepreneurs approaching crowdfunding get their hands dirty in the PR world, and we offer as many resources on our site as we can to help guide them,” Fultz said.
Of course, if you want some serious hands-on help from The Crowdfund Mafia’s public relations and marketing people, it will cost you anywhere from $US497 to just shy of $US3,000.
Seek help from a consultant
Not everyone has the time or resources to handle all of their own PR needs, and The Crowdfund Mafia’s Mike Fultz gets that. But it’s important you do, too.
“Sometimes it’s important to recognise that you may be a great engineer, but not the best writer,” he told Business Insider. “When it makes sense for companies to outsource their PR, we’re there to take on those needs, and our specialisation means we can do it efficiently and effectively.”
While crowdfunding campaigns certainly benefit from having a team of people dedicated to the project, there are still plenty of solo consultants that can help, too.
In 2010, Ian MacKenzie, an award-winning filmmaker, kicked off his first crowdfunding campaign for a film called Evolve Love, which he was working on with Canadian documentary filmmaker Velcrow Ripper. In three weeks, the two filmmakers raised over $US25,000 — “an enormous feat considering we didn’t really know what we were doing,” he told Business Insider. Two years later, the duo ran another campaign and raised more than $US50,000.
MacKenzie’s success with these campaigns made him curious about how crowdfunding serves as a force to bring important projects to light, so he decided to offer his services to others. He hopes to impart some of the lessons and wisdom he gained from crowdfunding his own projects.
“Having a third-party consultant takes the pressure from handling too much yourself, along with offering an important guiding role in crafting the narrative,” MacKenzie said. “I’m able to see where the focus needs to shift and when bigger moves should be made. Lastly, I can often provide ideas and contacts to allies of the project that tap into a wider network of support.”
Pay consultants before and after the campaign, not all at once
It’s hard for crowdfunding consultants to find a pricing model that suits their needs as a business and their clients needs. Many Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns are used specifically to make money; the campaign creators don’t have that capital up front, MacKenzie said.
“The model for consulting that I’ve found most successful is a combination of percentage up front, followed by the rest at the end of the campaign,” he added. “This incentivizes both the consultant and the campaigner to succeed.”
It also ensures that you don’t spend too much money at once. You may need to employ consultants or others at various points in your crowdfunding campaign, so it’s important to keep your helpers motivated by paying them multiple times throughout the project’s duration, as opposed to all at the beginning or all at the end.
Do your homework ahead of time
Elena Mikhaylova is the CEO of CrowdFund Productions, which offers anything you need for your crowdfunding campaign, from marketing to content management to strategic planning and PR. Mikhaylova says most crowdfunding campaigns fail “because they haven’t done their homework.”
“They read articles about successful Kickstarter campaigns, and they have unrealistically high expectations,” she told Business Insider.
CrowdFund Productions works with roughly 10-20% of the crowdfunding campaigns that seek out their help. Mikhaylova says it doesn’t make sense for either party to work with campaigns that won’t make money.
“For me, it is very important to trust a client who has experience, resources, and the willingness to do everything they can to deliver what they had promised,” Mikhaylova said. “For example, last year I canceled a very lucrative project because I realised that the client was lying about the prototype.”
Crowdfund Productions charges the small portion of clients it takes on $US50 for an hour-long Skype consultation. From there, Mikhaylova’s clients can pick a bundle deal that suits their needs best (plans range from $US50 to $US550, though CrowdFund Productions offers custom quotes for more complex projects). Still, she warns people who she can’t help to stay away.
“If you have a live campaign that seems to be close to death, your best option is to cancel it, to learn from your mistakes and to start over,” she advises.
“Like any gold rush, there will be snake oil salespeople trying to make a quick buck.”
Crowdfunding consultation firms focus on different aspects of the campaigns too: Some only tackle social media, for example, while others take a more holistic approach. Though there’s definitely an abundance of crowdfunding consultants, Mikhaylova views the market as neither oversaturated nor competitive.
“We all work on different campaigns; [CrowdFund Productions] mostly works on campaigns with products like wearable tech, product design, and hardware,” she said.
The problem with most strategic consulting firms that work with crowdfunding campaigns, according to Mikhaylova, is transparency. Someone who works on a crowdfunding campaign may just be one of a half-dozen consultants working on the project, specializing in PR while another consultant tackles the videography. But the same consultant may advertise that they worked on a Kickstarter project that netted millions of dollars, and neglect to mention to prospective clients that they were among a handful of consultants on hand to help with the campaign.
But, as The Crowdfund Mafia’s Mike Fultz points out, the good news is there are plenty of options out there for those who need additional help sprucing up their Kickstarter campaigns.
“There are a lot more options for crowdfunders to choose from nowadays — and more people are doing their homework. Like most industries, there’s a wide range of capabilities, services offered, and even price points. To startups looking for pre-funding PR agencies, we recommend looking at track records, press strategies, and the agency’s core values.”
“Like any gold rush, there will be snake oil salespeople trying to make a quick buck,” Ian MacKenzie told Business Insider. “I receive far more requests for consulting that I can accept. I would love to refer these campaigners to other consultants that I trust — to be honest, there’s not many. For example, I’ve heard of crowdfunding consultants who have charged large fees for their services, but upon exploration, realised they’d never worked on a single campaign.”
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