Startup Guide: Marketing Means Buying Customers

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In this post, you’ll learn how marketing helps crowdfunding succeed, and we’ll point you in the right directions to run a marketing campaign. Here’s an overview:

  • Build a free, professional-looking website with Weebly or Squarespace, and establish a social media presence. You need a place you can drive traffic to.
  • Post episodes from your crowdfunding journey on your blog. A stream of interesting content will help you build a following.
  • Collect the emails of your family, friends, acquaintances and potential customers, so you can keep them informed through a newsletter. That way, they’ll be ready to respond when you launch. Mailchimp and Mailgun are both great ways to send out newsletters and marketing emails, respectively.
  • Write great marketing copy based on interviews with customers.
  • Ask them to back your campaign within 24 hours of launch, because that will give it the momentum that it needs to get press coverage and meet your goals. Front-load your support and you’ll end up getting featured by Kickstarter.
  • Make a great video! This is the face of your campaign and the message most people will see. You will pray for it to go viral. Adam Lisagor’s *Sandwich Video* have made some very successful ones.
  • Tell a compelling story. Dramatizing and illustrating whom you help, who you are and the problem you solve makes a deeper impression than just talking features.
  • Respond to every single comment, message and email. Uservoice works well for CRM.

Crowdfunding campaigns are essentially acts of salesmanship. You have an idea for a thing. Other people have money. You persuade them to trade their money for your thing.

Marketing is how you do that. Essentially, you’re buying customers. You pay content distributors to get your message in front of people so they’ll come to your website. Those content distributors are called channels. A bad channel has a high cost per customer; a good one costs less than what that customer will end up paying you.

While the problem of PR is simply getting into the press, the problem with marketing is finding the right channel at the right price. Failing one or the other, you’re stuck.

Everybody starts out paying too much and wasting money on channels that don’t work. Everybody. Early customers cost the most, and with time and experimentation the cost should decline, but the only way to fine-tune your marketing is by keeping close track of each campaign. UTM codes are a good way to measure what works. A typical URL and UTM code might look like this:

You need to have a new UTM for every single marketing campaign, changing the source, medium and campaign variables as appropriate.

Once you find a good channel, you’ve cracked the nut, you have a business and all you need is money to move the marketing flywheel. (That’s where VC money comes in.)

In other words, marketing is finding that select group of people who care about you, and then convincing them to do what you want. Those customers are needles in a haystack of billions, a scattered community united only in their desire for your widget. They don’t wear that desire on their sleeves.

Learning how to find your future clients, and what they respond to, is a process of trial and error that will cost you time and money. Most marketing advice is baloney, because the business changes quickly, and successful marketers guard their secrets to keep their favorite channels cheap. That said, there are a few principles to discuss.

Marketing differs from PR chiefly because you can pay to be seen and control your message. Even at its most successful, PR places you in the hands of a third party, the press, who final draft you cannot dictate.

A channel, in marketing speak, is a way to reach your customer base. Some channels are direct: door-to-door sales, Tupperware parties, conferences, trade shows and street-corner peddling are all examples.

These can cost more time than money, but they also quickly provide invaluable feedback, because they are a chance for you to find out whether people like your product, what they like about it, and what they might prefer instead.

Other channels will be mediated by words and images, even if you’re sending a message straight to consumers. These include direct mail or email campaigns and content generation on your website. Potential costs here include paying for mailing lists and content, if you can’t supply them yourself.

Finally, you enter the realm of advertising, where you pay to place ads in front of various — hopefully well targeted — audiences via any number of platforms and media outlets: search engines, social networks, blogs, TV networks, radio shows or print publications.