Taking an idea for a business or creative project from brainstorming to reality can be daunting, especially when money is an obstacle. Bank loans can be extremely difficult for small business owners to obtain, and even when loans are accessible the terms can be debilitating. Sure, a limited number of artists and entrepreneurs are able to obtain grants, but what about those who can’t? Crowdfunding can be an invaluable way to get projects off the ground and build relationships with customers and fans.
Nicole Delger is a creative strategist and brand consultant with useful insights on crowdfunding. After helping the Natural Decadence bakery in Humboldt County, California, raise $16,543 in 30 days on Kickstarter, Nicole wrote her lessons learned in the ebook Get Funded: A Kick-Ass Plan for Running a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign. Illustrated by her husband, Tim (who’s also the creator of the Hipster Logo Design Guide), Nicole’s book is as informative to read as it is a pleasure to look at.
Nicole talked with me over email about her experience crowdfunding and shared a few pointers for creatives looking to crowdfund their ideas.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to start your own advertising and branding agency. In what ways does working for yourself help you thrive? What is it about branding that helps bring out your creative side?
I run my own business that specializes in brand development and communications strategy. I am passionate about working with Indie Brands — individuals like artists, designers and creative entrepreneurs, as well as creative businesses — whose personal identity is closely tied to the brand they are promoting. When they want to grow their business or launch a new product, I help develop marketing strategy, PR and communications around their goals.
I launched my business just over a year and a half ago. I’ve worked in advertising, corporate communications, publishing and even crisis management. I went into business for myself because I liked doing it all and being in charge — and when you run your own business, that’s definitely the case.
You ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for the gluten-free bakery Natural Decadence in Humboldt County, California. What were some of the challenges you faced running your first crowdfunding campaign?
Time and resources are challenges for any small business. There’s a chicken-and-egg scenario with crowdfunding: you need money to grow the business, but to create a successful campaign (the strategy, planning, video and execution), it also takes resources.
Have you heard of the iron triangle? “Good, Cheap, Fast: Pick Two.” If you want a stellar campaign on a shoestring budget, then give yourself plenty of time because you’re on borrowed time and pulling lots of favors. So my advice is plan well. Why rush? If the campaign is going to be the foundation for a business or an idea for years to come, then why not give yourself some time to plan and do it right?
Of course, good planning is hard (especially if you’re more creatively inclined). This is why I wrote Get Funded, which is based on my experience running a campaign and consulting on two others. I wanted to share the love and knowledge in a format that I thought other guides lacked: a fun tone and an intuitive layout that was more like a crowdfunding plan rather than a complicated instructional manual.
While crowdfunding for Natural Decadence, what would you say were the high points that helped lead the campaign to success?
Essentially, crowdfunding is all about community, either your local community or the niche community who you identify online that would be an advocate for your product. Talk to them, engage with them and show them why you’re so passionate about what you have to offer them. That level of engagement will only improve your chances of hitting your goal and potentially creating lifelong fans and customers.
I’ve heard this about running crowdfunding campaigns: although small donations won’t add up to your final goal on their own, it’s nonetheless important that many, many small donors pledge donations to your campaign. This helps the campaign build energy. What would you say about attracting large vs. small donations and building an energetic community around your campaign?
I think it’s completely logical to start the backing at just $1.
For example, maybe I give a buck to your campaign because although I don’t really need your product, I believe in you, and I like what you’re creating. A few weeks later, perhaps you’re hitting the 36-hour mark and need more to make your goal. I may step it up as a backer because all I have to do is change my bid rather than pull my wallet back out and re-input my credit card. Seems small, but there is an ease and a psychological barrier there you don’t have to overcome.
A lot of campaigns close a big gap in the last few days, so getting as many people as possible on board at all levels of donation is key. It’s the classic snowball effect of crowdsourcing: a fan who gives a dollar but shares the campaign may indirectly bring in more money at a later point in time.
In Get Funded you write that brainstorming your true motives for carrying out your project, determining how exactly your project will benefit the world and considering what you will do with the money you receive from your campaign are important first steps. Why is it so important that those looking to crowdfund a project start by thinking about these things?
No one wants to fund a vacation, and a choice few may want to help fund a personal dream, but the general population will want to fund a vision for making the world better.
So many people think, “I’ll do a Kickstarter as a way to launch my brand.” I think this is a big mistake. A crowdfunding campaign is, after all, the first introduction people will have to your idea or product, and it should be as fully baked and engaging as possible. The underlying reason for crowdfunding is to have meaning and VALUE above all else.
Historically, the best brands out there aim to make their customers’ lives better and succeed: Apple, Southwest Airlines, Zappos. As you think through the potential evolution of your story and messaging over the course of the campaign, start with what your customers will connect with or want in their lives. That’s your hook and the most important place to start.
Many artists turn to crowdfunding to finance creative projects they wouldn’t be able to undertake otherwise. What advice would you give specifically to artists looking to get into crowdfunding for the first time?
I would say: respect the process. Kickstarter and other platforms allow creative entrepreneurs to take their great ideas and bring them to life on their own terms, rather than waiting for outside influences, which is amazing.
A big mistake is thinking the result of crowdfunding is just “free money.” The true key to successful crowdfunding is understanding that it’s not just a ploy to gain funding but a means to remove the financial barriers that come with starting a business. Typically, big financial moves like exchanging money from outside investors for a stake in the company or risking it all by taking out a huge loan from the bank can be major hurdles in the beginning stages of bringing a creative idea to life.
Crowdfunding removes some of these obstacles while also setting the vision and tone for an idea and all its nuances. It’s important that people in charge of campaigns have very visible passion and ownership over the idea to keep the project energized and on track throughout the campaign.
Not to mention, there are more and more people turning to crowdfunding to bring something to life, so plan well, get serious and make sure you’ve done the foundational work to rise above the competition and meet your goals.
If you’re looking to launch your own crowdfunding campaign, take a look at what Nicole has going on. In addition to her ebook, Nicole also offers a crowdfunding kit complete with a campaign checklist, worksheets for campaign messaging, templates for tracking media outreach and calculating backer rewards, a goal calculator and more. Nicole also offers one-hour crowdfunding consultations over the phone or video chat. You can find more information about Nicole’s crowdfunding consulting services, or buy Get Funded here.
Images via Tim Delger of TimDelger.com