Ever wondered about the secret to a successful Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign—why one project surpasses its goal by thousands of dollars, while another sputters and falls short? Or maybe you’ve had a project you felt so strongly about that you considered a crowdfunding campaign yourself?
I’ve recently had the opportunity to watch the producers of Sunset Doheny Productions debate the pros and cons of an Indiegogo campaign for “X-Girlz,” a new reality series exploring the adventures of women who dare to test their skills in the rugged world of extreme sports. I thought it would make an interesting case study on what’s involved in successfully marketing and publicizing a crowdsourcing campaign. Here, the partners in Sunset Doheny stand at the starting gate; after the campaign goes forward, I’ll document its progress and success (or…?).
“We’ve been looking at the crowdfunding option for a while now,” says Steve Gerbson, partner at Sunset Doheny Productions, who has previously produced such shows as “The Best TV Shows That Never Were” and “Las Vegas Then & Now.” “It’s a great way to do two things: get the seed money for production costs while you begin the process of talking to broadcasters and distributors, plus develop a built-in fan base who will help spread the message of your show.”
“But we didn’t want to jump into a campaign too fast because we know you have to have the right marketing approach in order for the campaign to be successful,” adds Stacey Zipfel-Flannery, the other principal in Sunset Doheny Productions, whose credits include “Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman” and several “Biography” episodes for A&E.
To gain insights into the marketing/PR process, I spoke with Shannon Swallow, head of communications and marketing at Indiegogo. “The most important actions to take when launching a crowdsourcing campaign are to be proactive, to have a good pitch, and to find an audience that cares,” Swallow says.
This breaks down into four key steps:
1. Show—Don’t Tell—Your Story
“The number-one tip I give campaigners is to have a compelling story for your potential contributors to engage with,” Swallow says. “Campaigners should tell the world why what they are doing matters. And incorporating visual elements is a great way to do that. On average, campaigns with videos raise approximately 115% more than those without videos.”
This should be a lock for Gerbson and Zipfel-Flannery’s show, which is chock-full of adrenaline-fueled footage of amazing women in action in extreme sports.
2. Create Your Irresistible Perks
“Great campaigners are the ones who get creative and come up with interesting perks that they can share with their networks in order to engage their audience in fun ways,” says Swallow.
Among the possible unique perks that Sunset Doheny could offer include producer credits, thank-you phone calls from the “X-Girlz” host and cast members, or opportunities to watch the athletes in competition.
3. Know Where Your Audience Lives
“Be sure there is someone on your team who is dedicated to pushing the campaign out to the audience that cares,” Swallow says. “Identifying where that audience lives is what is most critical.”
Sunset Doheny should start with the fan bases of the “X-Girlz” and branch out from there. Other opportunities include extreme sports bloggers, fan sites and magazines as well as brands that cater to the extreme sports lifestyle—anything from Red Bull to GoPro.
The latter approach is another of Swallow’s suggestions: “The next step might be arranging a partnership or it may be simply using those businesses as channels to get in front of those audiences,” she says.
In the “X-Girlz”’ case, Sunset Doheny might form a partnership with an extreme sports website or blogger, offering exclusive content about the series and the athletes in exchange for running regular updates on the Indiegogo campaign, for example.
“Social media is extremely important—typically 25-30% of where a campaign’s dollars come from is through their immediate social networks,” says Swallow. “Campaigners continually surprise us with creative ways to get the word out about their campaign—Reddit AMAs, Thunderclap, Help a Reporter Out, campaign events, partnering with buzz-worthy causes, individuals or organizations, and much more.”
One way to actively engage a social media following is to run a referral contest. “You can give a prize to any fan that refers the most amount of funders to your campaign, or that helps to raise the most amount of contributions,” Swallow explains. “The ‘Referrals’ tab on the Campaign Dashboard shows you money and visitors sent by fans who have shared your campaign with others. This is powerful data in case you'd like to know which bloggers, organizations, or individuals are the most valuable to your fundraising.”
Creativity is clearly the secret to a successful crowdsourcing campaign—which should come naturally to creative types like TV- and filmmakers.
“Crowdfunding is a very appealing option for those of us who’ve spent our careers working in the Hollywood business model, where the money men call all the shots,” says Gerbson.
Adds Zipfel-Flannery, “The genius of Indiegogo and crowdfunding is that it puts the power in the hands of the creators and the consumers who truly want the product.”
To be continued!