Bill Jelen didn’t exactly need to crowdfund his latest book, “MrExcel XL Book – The 40 Greatest Excel Tips of All Time.” But he did see it as a great opportunity to reconnect with his online network. And since his 40th book provided such a great naming opportunity (XL is the Roman numeral for 40), he saw it as an opportunity to present a milestone book, complete with full color printing on glossy paper.
All in all, Jelen’s Indiegogo campaign raised $25,183, which is more than 1,000 percent of its original $2,000 goal. Through the experience, Jelen learned a few valuable lessons about crowdfunding that could help you with future campaigns. A few of them are included below.
Consider Different Crowdfunding Platforms
When Jelen first decided to go the crowdfunding route, he attempted to sign up with Kickstarter. But the platform required a lot of information including bank statements and documents from the Secretary of State.
Jelen had some issues with Kickstarter authenticating all of his documents and information. All of the back and forth took too long and caused him to lose interest in Kickstarter. But he had much different results when he decided to switch. Jelen said:
“I switched to Indiegogo at midnight on Sunday and was approved 90 minutes later.”
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use Kickstarter. But there are other options out there. Consider which one might be best for you and your offering before committing to one.
Get People Involved in Your Offering
In addition to crowdfunding the book, Jelen also crowdsourced many of the tips included in the book. That means that the people who provided tips were really invested in the project. He even used the opportunity to collaborate as an incentive for contributing to the campaign.
Reach Out to People Individually
In order to get people interested in the project, Jelen obviously had to get the word out. But just posting a general Tweet or Facebook post doesn’t always guarantee results. So to get his message across, Jelen identified some of his more engaged Twitter followers and Tweeted at them directly. Ivana Taylor of DIY Marketers, who hosted a Google Hangout with Jelen, explained why this is an important tactic:
“A lot of people when they go to Twitter now don’t even check the main timeline. I know I just go right to my notifications. So contacting people directly increases the odds that people will actually see and reply to your message.”
Find people when they are likely to see your message
In addition, Jelen was careful to try and reach people when they would be likely to actually see his Tweets. To do this, he came up with a Twitter hack that he explains in detail.
Basically, he charted out his engaged followers in Excel, determined their time zones, and tweeted at each of them around 8 a.m. in their time zone. He explained:
“My Twitter home page is a stream of updates and I never see them all. Three times a day, I might bounce in, see what has been posted in the last 10 minutes, and then leave. This means I am seeing perhaps 5% of the items posted in a day.”
At 8 a.m., a lot of people are just sitting down with a cup of coffee and might take a few moments to browse through their social media apps. So Jelen figured that would be an effective time to start a conversation with them.
Consider the Rewards Carefully
As mentioned above, the rewards for this campaign definitely had an impact on its success. Jelen offered a few different reward levels. He recommends offering something in the $5-10 range, something in the $50-100 range, and something really special and exclusive. The rewards for this campaign included an autographed copy of the book, the opportunity to collaborate, and the opportunity to advertise in the book, among others.
Aside from being aware of the Mr. Excel brand already, those perks provided the main incentives for people to contribute to the campaign. Jelen explained:
“When I survey the contributors and asked for their top 3 reasons for contributing, 52% cited Past Experience, 46 percent cited the opportunity to collaborate, and 42 percent cited to get their name in the book.”
In addition, Jelen suggested leaving a few of the perks empty at the beginning (Indiegogo allows 12 active perks at once). Throughout his campaign, he received suggestions for unique perks that he was able to add at different points.
Be Realistic with your Goals and Timeline
Jelen was also very deliberate with his financial goal. Though he entered a goal of $2,000, he was really hoping to raise at least $14,000 from the beginning. He knew that Indiegogo charged a higher fee for projects that didn’t meet their goals. So instead of taking the risk, he went for the bare minimum $2,000, which would cover an upgrade to color printing.
Then when he reached that goal quickly, he also had the added benefit of his project looking extremely popular. And it allowed him to raise even more than his $14,000 goal to cover all of the custom artwork.
In addition, he recommends that people consider the timing of their campaigns carefully. He originally launched a 10-day campaign to create a sense of urgency. But since it was around the holidays, he noticed a lot of the people he contacted were out of their offices or on vacation. So he ended up stretching it to 21 days.
Have an Existing Network of Real Connections
Many of the tips above are things that businesses can put into practice during or just before launching a crowdfunding campaign.
But in reality, the preparations must start a lot earlier. There were a lot of things that went into making the Mr. Excel XL Book campaign a success. But if Jelen didn’t already have a huge network of followers that he actually engaged with, along with 39 other books that people have actually bought and benefited from, it wouldn’t have been as successful.
A brand new business with relatively unknown founders would not have all those channels to reach out to when asking for contributions. Though every project is different, it certainly helps to have those connections and name recognition on your side. Taylor said:
“I think you have to be at that point in your business where you really have an engaged audience. Bill didn’t start out just asking people to fund this project. He engaged with people and built up his network and paid his dues.”
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