This is a 5k-word article on how to run a successful Indiegogo campaign and raise funds, and it will take some time to read.
But, that’s for a good reason; you’ll learn a lot about what to do to successfully crowdfund your project and bring it to life.
Here’s how it all started…
For a great crowdfunding campaign, you need a great product.
Azat (an inventor) presented us his invention, a smart wallet with a power bank and a Bluetooth distance detector: the first version of Volterman Smart Wallet.
After just a bit of research, it was obvious that it had nothing new compared to its competitors.
Nomad wallet was already a successful and long-time leader, which included its own power bank. Others like Walli, Woolet, and Ekster had successfully introduced the Bluetooth distance alarm feature and had very successful crowdfunding campaigns.
It was crystal clear that the arena of smart wallets wouldn’t be won with the features we had.
So when you see that others had similar features and successful outreach, would you make the choice to give up and walk away?
Maybe, but you shouldn’t. We sure didn’t
There was no way we’d get the audience to embrace us, or get the crown of the #1 slot in crowdfunded wallets if we had something that we tweaked to be just a little bit better than our competitors.
If we wanted to beat the competition (and we really did), we had to have a product that was so remarkable, so far beyond what people expected or saw in other wallets that nobody could argue whose was the best.
Rule #1: If you aim to be just a little better than your competitors, you will lose. Be the first – a Champion whose advantages are so obvious that nobody will argue the opposite.
While our competitors had power bank and a Bluetooth alarm system, we added into a list of features a global GPS tracking, memory card, worldwide WiFi and most critically, a camera which would take a photo of thieves when in lost mode.
The last feature was created specifically for media, giving a WOW factor to the product.
As a hook to catch media attention, it really worked.
If you go over the thousands of articles about the Volterman Smart Wallet, you’ll notice that most of the headlines include something like “This Smart Wallet photographs thieves”.
Of course, the article then goes on to discuss all of the wallet’s features, which is what matters to the customers and backers more.
Rule #2: Create a WOW factor with your coolest feature. The camera was not our most practical feature, but it was definitely the coolest one.
Were the great functionality and a cool feature enough to get the crown?
Of course not. We needed a great design!
The design is one of the most important factors in your success.
It plays with people’s emotions.
And if you dig deeper into marketing, you will understand how important emotions are in driving sales.
It’s well-known that people make their purchases emotionally, then justify them with logic. Sometimes they might justify that logic to their spouses, but they still buy with their emotions.
I totally agree with the research in this area.
Because the design was such a critical element in our product, we decided to involve the best design agency out there that we knew – Backbone Branding.
I highly recommend working with professional designers, and here’s a great model to bring them on to the team.
The best design agencies are also the most expensive ones, and you most probably will not able to afford their flat fee before your crowdfunding campaign. There’s where the trade comes in: you can offer them a percentage from the raised amount after the campaign is over.
Because they aren’t getting the money right away and are sharing the risks of an unsuccessful campaign, their rates will be more than their upfront fee.
That’s more than fair. It worked.
Rule #3: Design = Emotions and Emotions = Design
We raised $2 million on Indiegogo and became the world’s most funded wallet campaign… ever, both within smart and non-smart wallet campaigns.
Now, I’ll reveal exactly how we did that.
So you have this great idea, you’re sure it will be the Next Big Thing, but you don’t know where to begin?
Start with research. This is exactly where we started the Volterman campaign.
Your research should answer at least the following questions:
It’s also very important to research the strategies and tactics of your competitors and what sources drove traffic to their campaigns, but we will address these issues later on.
To understand whether the crowdfunding audience likes wallets, particularly smart wallets, we researched every wallet campaign we could, both smart and non-smart.
We copied the URLs of campaigns and posted them in Kicktraq.
This tool works for Kickstarter campaigns and shows how much funding each campaign got every day.
The analog of it for Indiegogo campaigns is Backerkit/Backertracker.
When we see the funding curve is pretty much smooth, it means there’s a stable demand for the project in the platform.
And when we see a sharp increase in the funding, like in the picture below, it means something happened: an article went out, in an increase in ad spending…
And our task here is to find out the source of traffic.
This can be done by searching campaign articles and social media posts that went out on that specific day.
We created an Excel sheet where we posted campaigns according to the following columns: take a look here.
One of the winning points of Volterman was that the product was being developed according to market research and tailored to its needs from the beginning.
Many campaigns fail because they come to crowdfunding with already a finished product which does not take into account some specifics of their crowdfunding audience.
When you’re developing your product from scratch and considering the market’s needs and wants, your chances of success are significantly higher.
As there were many successful wallet crowdfunding campaigns, we were sure that there was an audience for the project.
But if you have something new and don’t have a clue whether or not people will like your project, here’s a cool and trustworthy way we use to find out: we create a simple website with just three pages.
Then, we drive traffic using Facebook Ads and start monitoring with Google Analytics.
When we see that 20-30% hit the ‘Learn More’ button, we are sure that the topic is interesting to the audience. When we see that at least 10% of those people hit the ‘Buy Now’ button (or 2-3% from the overall traffic), that’s when we know we’ve got it. Nothing can provide more confidence than a visitor being ready to purchase.
When you go to your friends and ask “Will you buy my product,” many say “Of course” to make you happy. But when the time comes, they’re suddenly out of money or have something more important to buy.
Check out this great book, Mom’s Test, to know exactly what questions to ask to get more than platitudes.
When you have some real-life statistics of how many people chose to buy now your product right now, that creates confidence that no survey can bring.
If you see that people click on ‘Learn More’ but not ‘Buy Now’ it means that the topic is interesting, but something is wrong, as the pricing or description…
If you see that the percentage of people clicking ‘Learn More’ is not sufficient, that means your product is not interesting to this particular audience.
You’ll need to change either the product or the audience.
Rule #4: Do your research to find out what your audience wants
90% of your success can be attributed to how you prepare before the campaign launch.
You should treat it as a show – the biggest event of your life.
There are three main areas you should focus your attention and time on during the preparation stage of your campaign:
Let’s go one by one…
70% of crowdfunding campaigns fail to achieve their target goals.
With the Volterman Smart Wallet, we met our campaign goal in just twenty-four hours, raising $45,000 in Day 1.
We had a list of 25,000 engaged subscribers who were eager to get the wallet first and obviously with the most discounted price, and swarmed our page when we sent them an email with the subject line: “We are LIVE”.
To collect subscribers, you’ll need a landing page. Here’s an example of the one we had on volterman.com.
Now we just replaced the email subscription field with a ‘Get it Now’ button when we started the campaign to keep from losing traffic.
I am an advanced user and a big advocate of Facebook Ads, so Facebook ads were the major source to drive traffic to our landing page.
There are many tips on how to succeed with your Facebook Ads, and I highly recommend that you read the articles of Jon Loomer for some invaluable knowledge.
Rule #5: Collect subscribers’ emails and create incentives for them to jump on the board first.
I am a big fan of referral campaigns.
Referral strategies are critical to amplifying your database of subscribers. I use two referral services that I love.
First, integrate Upviral to your landing page.
This way when a person subscribes, a popup appears which prompts them to share your page on Facebook or Twitter.
My other favorite tool is called Queueeat.com. We used the Queue a couple of days before our campaign when we already had enough subscribers.
The idea behind this is to incentivize your current subscribers to bring their friends and win cool prizes.
Send an email to all your current subscribers, mentioning the link to your referral page in the email:
Here’s how it looked like in our case: http://volterman.com/landing/
Subscribers sign in with their email or Facebook and are directed to a contest page, where they’re prompted to perform actions and receive points. The service is super-interactive and user-friendly, which makes the overall process fun.
All the participants see contestants who have roughly the same amount of points, which incentivizes them to do some activities to get ahead.
If they saw the points of the people in the first place, it might seem too unreachable.
Gamification psychology, folks.
Here’s an important thing to remember when you design rewards for the winners.
The most reachable rewards in our case were the option of engraving two letters and a wireless charger for the wallet.
Have you figured out the twist yet?
People who won the engraving option for the wallet can’t get it without having the wallet!
They have to become our backers to claim their prize.
It incentivizes winners to come back to our page and pledge for the product.
Why? Because they won something free for them, but that they can only get by giving you money.
We promised to give a free wallet whoever collects most of the points and gets to the first place and there was a really heavy battle between the contestants who collected two of the most points.
Eventually, we gave both certificates for receiving a free wallet.
Rule #6: Your subscribers will definitely have friends who share similar preferences with them. Use referral strategies to bring them on board.
Thunderclap is one of my favorite tools, and it helps create flash-mobs with social media. It works by encouraging people to join your cause through their Facebook or Twitter profile.
If you gather enough people until the deadline, the system will share a link and message that you generate, for every single subscriber, all at the same time.
Having your message shared at the same time drives a great dose of traffic boosting the page on Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
We used Thunderclap 3 times during our campaign with Volterman.
We started building the Thunderclap two weeks before the launch, setting the blast date one day after our launch.
When people land on your page and see there are no backers, they generally leave without backing the project.
That’s why many campaigns don’t manage to get a single pledge and end up with $0 pledged.
People love to see proof that they are not alone in their decision to support your product.
That’s why we set the blast on the second day when we would have backers from our subscribers and a Green-bar effect.
This gives new backers confidence that this was something very cool. We did another blast in the middle of the campaign, and a final blast in the last days.
The last one we did was mainly targeted to subscribers who hadn’t ended up backing the project.
We promised them that we would pick three random participants and give them free wallets.
A lot of people from our subscriber list supported our Thunderclap campaign to get a free reward.
Of course, we kept our promise.
In marketing, they say that if a person gets a message from three different sources then the chances are a lot higher for them to convert.
Based on this, you need to make sure your audience gets information about you from different sources.
We sent an email to our subscribers with the link to our VIP FB group, and many of them subscribed to the group.
People consider themselves closer to a brand if you refer to them as a VIP persona.
Here’s what main channels we used to drive info to our subscribers:
We used also Google Adwords but soon stopped as we were getting cheaper results on Facebook.
Rule #6: Send information to the same person from different sources
PR was one of the most important aspects of our campaign. We put in a lot of effort and resources to get great coverage; it paid off in spades.
During the preparation stage, we needed to collect a database of relevant journalists to whom we would pitch the campaign. I need to stress the importance of finding the relevant contact information for journalists who have previously written articles about the topic of your campaign.
Don’t try to buy or download a list of journalists and send them a mass email – it won’t work.
What we did was brainstorming keywords that were needed to find articles about things like our product: wallet, smart wallet, men’s accessories, power bank, GPS tracker, men’s fashion etc.
The same product can be looked at in completely different ways to attract both the technology journalist and a fashion blogger.
We had a team of four to five volunteers who were researching articles, finding authors, and most importantly, finding the authors’ emails.
Here are the tools that helped us generate a database of around 5,000 journalists:
We have a separate article where you can find all the PR tools we use during our crowdfunding campaigns.
After we started the campaign, we waited to be fully funded before we start bombarding journalists with pitch emails.
Why? Because we wanted to have enough credibility.
When people start pitching media but there’s $0 in their balance, they are shooting in the air.
Here’s an important thing to remember:
If you’re sending the same message to 400 people, putting them in BCC, or the ultimate newbie mistake, CC – it just doesn’t work.
Journalists get hundreds of pitches a day.
To stand out, you need to really hustle.
Instead, we sorted out the journalists into several categories: tech, fashion, smart wallets, etc. and created different messages for each of them.
We used GMass, which is a great tool to send out mass emails using your Gmail.
I really love Rebump, which allows us to automate our email messages and provide automated follow up to those subscribers who didn’t open the email or didn’t reply.
Other my favorite Gmail extensions that we used were:
Streak – Shows who open your emails
Boomerang – Re-sends unanswered emails
Discover.ly – Shows the social profiles of whoever sends you an email
Rule #7: Put yourself in the shoes of journalists. Send newsworthy and personalized messages
There are three main elements in your campaign page: Video, Page Design, and Perks/Rewards.
I’ve written a detailed article on how you should structure your Kickstarter videos, but even we strayed a little from that structure.
When we shot the video with our initial script, the video ran at 7:48.
We had to cut it down several times.
There’s always a problem in editing when you have great things in mind and you don’t want to cut them.
But believe me, what you need and want is to only leave what matters.
We were able to edit our video down to four minutes, and after a couple of minor but difficult changes – 3:56.
Still, when people ask me how long a video should be, my answer is: no longer than 2:30.
As it was almost 1.5 times longer than expected, we came up with one unbroken scene (a humorous sex scene, which grabbed men’s attention and boosted our watch time until the end), which would prompt people to watch it until the end, where we had our hook (Call to Action).
We repeated this phrase: “I am not a superman, I have Volterman” three or four times, and I am sure there are many people who don’t like it.
But it works.
When you say something three times in a video, people fixate on it.
Rule #8: Make your video emotional. Remember, people buy with emotions
Support is one of the most important aspects of success in any campaign, no exceptions.
We put in a lot of efforts to make sure we had 24/7 support, where any question or comment on our Indiegogo page, email or Facebook received a reply in 20 minutes or less.
It fully paid off.
Crowdfunding is all about trust. Nobody is 100% sure you are going to deliver what you promised.
So to back your project, they need to trust YOU – somebody they’ve never met or heard of before.
Support is one of the critical factors of earning trust, and if you do it promptly and thoroughly, you’ll earn even more.
There were a number of times where people wrote us, unsure if they’d back the project, but ultimately said they did because of our prompt support and communication.
It made them feel safe talking with us.
Rule #10: Your support can’t just be good enough, it needs to be great!
We didn’t reveal our price before our launch.
We had great hype, and the number one question we heard all the time was “What’s the price?”
Despite that, we didn’t announce the price until the campaign launched
Here’s the logic behind it.
Before people visit your campaign page, they have very little information about your product.
They may have visited your landing page and read a couple of posts, but that’s not enough to create a complete image of how awesome your product is.
So when you give out a price without the full scope of the product, people start judging the price/value ratio based on the information they have. As you can imagine, in most of the cases the price for something they don’t know about will seem higher in that cost-benefit analysis.
In contrast, when they visit your campaign page and see your great images, video, comments, and 100% funded status, the price that they see seems fairly justified.
The best pricing strategy is to provide both low and high-priced rewards in order to open your product up to backers who can’t spend more while providing opportunities to those who can and want to spend more.
We had three types of wallets (in our perk list), as well as a couple of upsell perks.
One of them was $19, to engrave their initials on the wallet. For $29, we provided a wireless charger.
We also had our big VIP package which combined all the previous perks: Package 365.
365 came from 365 days in a year, meaning it would give you what you wanted every day of the year. We even put the price at $365 to make it easy and memorable (although later on, we had to increase the price.)
It’s very important not to have too many perk/reward levels as people can get confused.
Our wallets had two colors, brown and black, and we had two types of leather – natural leather and faux leather. Imagine what would happen if we put 4 variations of each of our product type – 20 Perk levels!
What happens when you offer too many options?
They won’t choose any.
Fortunately, we knew this and wrote in the description that they would be able to select the color and leather type later on, during the survey after the campaign’s completion.
That gave us just 8 perk levels. Easy to understand, and right to the point!
We’d sent our subscribers five or six emails prior to the campaign’s launch, making sure they were prepared for the launch date long before we hit launch.
In order to break the $0 balance in our Indiegogo account and get traction early, we pushed a post to our Facebook VIP group subscribers – our most enthusiastic subscribers – which said:
“Dear VIP Subscribers,
Today, at exactly 10:00 AM PT, we will launch our campaign on Indiegogo. As you are our most enthusiastic subscribers, we post this announcement in here first and will send a newsletter to everybody else exactly at 11:00 AM. We have only 100 units with an exclusive super early bird discount and we want you all to benefit from it.
Make sure you are in front of a computer at 10:00 AM to get the best discount ever!”
This tactic worked really well, and within an hour most of our early bird items were sold. When we sent out the newsletter, we had already collected more than $10k on our page, which created a sense of urgency and trust.
We published posts on our Facebook page, sent out the newsletter, started running Facebook ads which targeted both our subscribers and cold traffic. We reached our goal within twenty-four hours and collected more than $45,000.
Naturally, we didn’t actually get any sleep that night!
We had great early traction and were on the top of Indiegogo’s homepage, however, we had to keep the ball rolling.
Most of the campaigns have so-called U-Shape curve in their funding analytics.
Which means, that even the most successful campaigns start strong and finish strong, having weak results in-between.
It’s really difficult to keep the momentum throughout the whole campaign.
But, it’s possible.
In the graph below you can see that our funding was rather a Wave-Curve than U-shape.
We managed to keep the funding rather stable and have some strong peaks in-between, getting on average $18-20k funding daily.
Here’s how we did that.
We used these four backer-newsletter services, each of which sends email to their backers.
They worked out… at least enough to break even on their costs.
After we got 100% of our funding, we started to pitch more heavily to the media.
Here are some examples of media pitches we used during our campaign on Indiegogo:
Subject: Volterman – World’s Most Powerful Smart Wallet, Ever
I am Narek from the Volterman Smart Wallet team.
I stumbled on your article in (name of the publication/website/ … Blog; NO links!) about (specify the topic touched on in the article) and really liked it. It was a great piece – really informative and provided great insight. We have a similar project that I am sure will be of interest to your readers.
Volterman Smart Wallet has captured the attention of backers across the globe. With a built-in Power Bank, Distance Alarm System, Global GPS tracking system, Worldwide WiFi hotspot, and even a thief detection camera, it’s a huge innovative leap on from anything currently available on the market.
Our recent Indiegogo campaign very quickly raised over 100% of our funding goal, being backed by over 1,000 backers from all over the world. Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit is even on board.
We’ve been working on Volterman project for more than two years and we have fully functional prototypes now. Your readers will love to learn about the world’s most powerful wallet.
You can find out all about us at: https://igg.me/at/volterman, or feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have.
Let’s analyze it.
Our pitch consisted of four sections.
Introduction – Who we are and why we’re writing to them. Journalists love when somebody appreciates their work, so we use this to help them have a positive attitude towards us from the first sentence
Project Description – In two sentences, what our project is and why it’s different from its competitors
Project Credibility – Statistics (like past successful projects) and celebrity endorsements.
Call to Action – Here, provide links and stress that their readers are going to like this. Journalists are writing for their readers, so showing how their readers will appreciate this – and therefore the journalist – will help you get a response.
Our first success was coverage in Digital Journal, then Mashable, then The Verge. In addition to these big names, we got even better results from places we hadn’t that much anticipated: thegadgetflow.com; tinhte.vn (we don’t understand Vietnamese, but were able to translate the message with Google Translate and submit); thisiswhyiambroke.com; 9to5toys.com etc.
Of those sites, the most conversions($11,435) we got was from The Gadget Flow. It’s a great curation website of innovative products, and they have built a great audience.
We were careful to pay close attention to the recommendations of Mike Butcher from TechCrunch and didn’t write to all the contacts we had from the same journal.
If we didn’t hear back after a couple of days from a journalist we wanted to cover us, we sent an automatic follow-up.
It’s been a while since I contacted you and I haven’t heard back from you.
I hope you don’t mind me contacting one of your colleagues about Volterman Smart Wallets.
Let me know if you are still interested in the wallet that has a power bank, distance alarm, global GPS tracking, worldwide WiFi and a camera that pictures thieves.
Did everybody start to shout no no, don’t do it, we are going to cover you now?
No, of course not.
But we got a couple of positive answers, and that’s more than enough.
One of the things that we did differently than most of the campaigners, is that we didn’t concentrate only on big names in media.
A lot of campaigners start pitching to only Techcrunch, New York Times, Bloomberg etc. throughout the whole campaign.
This is a risky strategy, because if you get a coverage – that’s great!
Many medium and small ones will start reposting the news.
But what if you don’t?
To minimize that risk, as I mentioned, we collected a big database and started to pitch not only to big names but also to medium and small ones.
We found an interesting strategy, that got us featured on the most popular Facebook pages, having millions of followers.
Many pages with that number of followers will feature your video for a fee – it’s how most of them earn a living.
But for them almost as important as payment is the ability to share a viral video, which brings them additional likes and followers.
It’s how they maintain a popular page.
That was the basis on which we built our campaign.
The challenge was to convince those pages that our video is indeed viral.
And we found a way.
We paid one of the pages (Viral Thread), which offered to post our video on its page with 1 million guaranteed views.
We got the views, but we didn’t see the results from the post alone.
However, we used that video with million views as proof to pitch to hundreds of other pages.
Here’s what our pitch looked like:
We love your FB page and have a project that will be of interest to your readers.
Volterman is the World’s most powerful smart wallet with 5 amazing features.
Our video gets millions of views in many premium pages, e.g. https://www.facebook.com/JungleVT/videos/1298194906989015/
We are more than sure that our video will become truly viral on your page as well and your audience is going to love it.
If you need, we can create a special video for you with your page’s branding.
Let me know if you need additional materials so we can send them to you.
We got amazing results and our video was shared on almost all of the top Facebook pages, bringing us literally millions of views and traffic.
Here’s an interesting thing I noticed on our Indiegogo dashboard:
At a time of writing, we had 2,078,769 visitors on our page, out which we got 13,339 backers and … $2,006,270 in funding.
Notice a correlation?
That’s interesting, isn’t it?
The number of visitors and the amount we raised is nearly identical.
You might think it was a coincidence, but check out a screenshot from another campaign we had recently, Moon by 1-Ring.
Notice anything similar?
Same story here: roughly one dollar per visitor
Although the average price tickets for these two campaigns was quite different (about $165 for Volterman and $255 for Moon), there does seem to be a correlation between the number of users and the amount we raised.
So it may be that if you want $1,000,000 to fund your project, you’ll need to ensure a million visitors to your page.
But very much doable, and you’ve just read a whole lot of ways to get your Indiegogo campaign there.