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Pitch Perfect Crowdfunding

This is installment number two of a series: Crowdfunding: A playbook and case study. (Check out the entire series here)

photo credit: Haags Uitburo via photo pin cc

Today’s post focuses on making a compelling pitch and determining how to create incentives that draw the interest needed in order get your project funded.

Most crowdfunding pitches offer things like early or deeply discounted product access, elevated customer status, exclusive events and branded articles like t-shirts and mugs as a way to raise interest and additional investment.

There’s a real balance between being able to explain what your thing does, why they should back it and what, precisely, you want people to do in a way that leaves no doubt and creating incentives that get them excited about being a part of the launch.

My belief is there are few incentives that can overcome a boring or confusing project pitch, but it’s the perfect balance of value and creativity that seems to make the difference.

The Message

It’s essential that you’re able to sum up your project in as few words as possible. Imagine you’ve got about thirty seconds to get a room full of skeptics to fork over some money for something they’ve never heard of or seen before – maybe they don’t even realize the problem your product or service addresses exists.

So, what would that pitch sound like?

Here are some tips:

  • Compare to something they already understand – “It’s like an iPhone, but you wear it on your wrist”
  • Attack the demon head on – “This tool helps you get paid on time”
  • Play to a strong sense of community – “We’re helping independent musicians survive in today’s economy. ”
  • Exploit coolness – “A Living Canvas for your Instagram Photos”

Now start segmenting.

Once you create your pitch you’ve got to start thinking about the story for multiple audiences. The trick is to make your story as personal as possible, but keep it relevant for the reader.

A pitch to Aunt Betty is going to be along the lines of “you know you said I’m your favorite niece, right?” but your 473 Twitter followers are going to need something else all together.
Count on creating a short video that engages visitors in the possibilities, community, story, dreams and vision attached to your project.

Prove that you can pull this off – people want to back underdogs, but make them want to win as much as you want to win – that’s how you get people to share with their networks – share your future as if you’ve made it.

Here’s how my case study subject ZebraCard project sponsor Nick Carter explains his approach to this.

“I am a big fan of writing the pitch as appropriate to the relationship I have with the recipient. I’m often disgusted at people who try to craft emails to me as if we were best buds when in fact, there is no prior relationship. I wrote 3 messages. 1 was a personal letter to our closest partners, affiliates, and loyal referral partners. 2 was to the remainder of our customer base. The 3rd was to our subscriber base from the many other lead-gen campaigns we’ve conducted over the years. Each was written with the appropriate level of familiarity or formality.”

The Incentives

Here I think creativity and relevance are so crucial. It’s not enough, in my view, to offer product that’s equivalent with a funding level. Incentive levels, and you have many, are a tremendous way to demonstrate the level of excitement, commitment and buzz you can generate. Remember, funding is only step one, this is a public display of the market viability of your company as well so don’t phone this one in.

The first thing you should do is study every successful project you can on Fundable, Kickstarter and Indiegogo. What’ you’ll likely see are some patterns of value and increasingly levels of exclusivity.

One of my favorite examples comes from, no surprise, a super marketer, Seth Godin’s Icarus Project. Go check it out thoroughly.

Admittedly, Godin has built a huge tribe and his choice of a this crowdfunding mechanism is part showmanship on display, but he gets the incentive game like no one I know.

The first think to note is there’s something for everyone, even those that just want to play – there’s a $4 level that still offers great value. He also creates tension by offering levels that clearly offer the most value to someone that really just wants the book. To me, he’s made it obvious where to go if your main interest is getting the information, but he’s also loaded it with the most value.

Then he creates levels that allow his followers to get exclusivity and access that have little to with the product – he’s offering an experience to those in his tribe that want and can afford that.

Here’s advice that crowdfunding service Fundable offers its project sponsors – “Once you’ve identified your group of potential backers- it’s also important to structure your rewards tiers in the most compelling way possible- taking into account what is most interesting to their particular group. It sounds obvious, but people often walk away with a new rewards structure after they’ve had a chance to analyze and decide on their target outreach groups. Once you know who you’re hoping to attract, it’s easier to come up with rewards that are desirable to them.”

Now, not everyone has the marketing background, reputation or backlog of desirable incentives to offer, so it’s important that you also make it clear what you want someone to do and why they should choose a certain level.

Here’s how ZebraCard approached it.

“My #1 goal was to get business cards with the ZebraCard code on them into circulation. So, I made sure to offer incentives that would not only be valuable to the backers, but also achieve that goal. I made sure there was an easy entry point ($10) that still had something of value in exchange so it didn’t feel like an all-out donation.”

Okay, that’s it for this week – next week we’ll take a look at how to get the word out to the various communities that you’ll tap.

Got any great crowdfunding stories or advice? Please share in comments.

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