Crowdsourced funding - it’s the new revolution! Just start your Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaign, call your mates, put it up on Twitter, and bingo! No problems, right?
Actually, it looks like there are a lot of problems. Funding is funding is funding, whether you’re talking to a major studio, a rich investor, or a crowd from whom you plan to source. You’ve still got to persuade them that they should give you money - and that means sales.
I’m seeing a lot of Indiegogo campaigns making the same mistakes - mistakes that are pretty obvious if you’ve got a background in sales and Internet Marketing, but probably not at all if you don’t…
No social proof
This is the big one. There’s an old saying that Venture Capitalists don’t invest in the product, they invest in the team. Although your smaller investors might not conciously realise it, all humans operate on similar principles - we always look at the human element of any plan. Trust in people equals trust in the plan.
The primary question any potential investor will probably be asking is “can these guys make this happen?”
Your Indiegogo campaign will benefit massively from ANY information you can give investors about your team. For starters, they need to know who you are as project creator, and what experience and other assets you have that will make this project a) possible at all and b) awesome. Do you have other filmmaking experience? If so, share it. Link your best work or your showreel. “I worked on X large movie as Y, and am taking that experience to making my own unique projects” works really well.
Let everyone know about other impressive people you have on board already (and if you don’t have some, go out and try and recruit them!). This doesn’t just mean actors, although of course well-known actors really help - it also means crew, producers, effects guys. Anyone involved with serious experience.
If you possibly can, add some video of you and the cast/crew talking about the show. Keep it short, but seeing a human face is extremely powerful for sales. Internet Marketing types report 40% or more increases in “conversions” (translation - people who buy their stuff) with video pitches - it’s the new big thing in the IM world. We’re filmmakers - use that to your advantage.
You need to do two things for your investors. You need to persuade them you can make this thing happen, and you need to get them involved and excited about the process.
You can do both by sharing your plan of action in as much detail as possible.
Don’t just say “we need $20k, which we’ll use for cameras and crew and cast and stuff”. Break down your timeframe. Tell people when things are going to happen. As much as you can without breaking contracts, tell them where the money’s going to go. It’s no coincidence that many of the most successful Indiegogo and Kickstarter projects are very specific about what they need the cash for - color correction, prints, marketing, even catering.
People respond well to numbers - particularly non-round numbers. Get your estimates as precise as possible. Tell your investors that it’ll take 13 days to shoot the film, and 27 days to edit and color correct. Explain why. Be real here - “working around my day job, from past experience I’ll be able to edit the first episode in 17 days from shooting”. Include stuff that non-filmmakers might not think of, like catering, M&E;, legal and accountancy costs. Make it sound credible and real.
Investors are stuck between two poles - hoping that the project you’re pitching could be awesome, but afraid that it’s going to fail. Will they look like idiots if this thing disappears? Will their friends laugh at them? Indiegogo projects tend to do well at the hope side of things, but badly at the soothing fears aspect. Don’t make that mistake.
Oh, and when you’re doing this - eliminate or explain all jargon. Have your mum read it over, assuming your mum isn’t an executive at Columbia or something. If a normal person can’t understand your pitch, they won’t invest in your project.
No Call To Action
It’s a simple thing. But it increases the number of people who take the action you want by, in some cases, orders of magnitude.
I’m talking about a call to action, which regular readers are probably sick to death of me banging on about.
Short version: if you want people to do something, tell them to do it. Nicely, but tell them. So, for your indiegogo campaign, your pitch should end with something like “Contribute to the project now!” or “Claim your perk on the right of this page to make this project happen”.
Ideally, you want to build a benefit into the call, and make it as clear as possible what you want them to do. “Support us”, for example, might seem perfect but research shows is too vague. You want your readers to give you money, right? Then ask them to do that. “Fund PROJECTNAME now!”
At the same time, if you can reference the reason they’d be doing that, it makes it even stronger. “Start MAIN CHARACTER’s journey by funding us now!”.
And if you can build a time limit in, it becomes stronger still - “Our campaign closes on Thursday, so start MAIN CHARACTER’s journey by funding us now!”
It’s a very simple thing - so simple that you might think it wouldn’t work. But nearly a hundred years of marketing (I’m not kidding - calls to action are referenced in my copy of “Tested Advertising Methods”, pub. 1932) show that they do work. And well.
**Was that article useful to you? If so, please retweet it - and if you’d like more tips on polishing your crowdsourced campaign, comment below! **
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“We’ll put the first episode out and tell our friends about it. They’ll tell their friends, and then it’ll go viral. We’ll get tons of traffic in and make lots of money.”
Have you ever wondered why you’ve got really enthusiastic fans, but not much traffic? Or why, when you get a huge traffic spike and you think you’re made, it drops right off again and you’re left with exactly as many fans as you started with?
I’ve been in both of those positions in the past. And they boil down to one simple truth.
Fans don’t automatically produce traffic, which doesn’t automatically produce fans.
They CAN - and there are ways you can make much more certain that they do. But it ain’t going to happen without planning.
Traffic doesn’t always bring you fans
Woohoo! We’re on the front page of Digg! That’s going to get us…
Great traffic doesn’t necessarily mean tons of comments, fans or cash. One of my fastest-viewed short films was “When We Two Parted”. Front page of YouTube UK, 73,000 views inside a few hours. Loads of great comments.
It’s also the film I produced that gets forgotten the most. Virtually no comments about it online. Very few mentions anywhere.
(To be fair, it didn’t get fans because I did a very rare, for me, zero-effort launch. I made it for myself as a hobby project, and the YouTube thing was a bit of a shock. But it still serves as a good example.)
This is pretty common. Even with tons of traffic, some films, episodes or even series will just see people bounce.
Why? Well, there’s two reasons.
First, all traffic is not created equal. Digg, in particular, and the other “I’m bored” aggregation sites like Reddit and, yes, YouTube’s front page, have a tendancy to send streams of very disinterested viewers to your film. They’re clicking through because of momentary curiosity and nothing more. And as such, whilst you might get great traffic from them, in the long run you’ll probably get more fans and more revenue from a guest post on a medium-sized blog that’s very targetted at the interests your series serves.
(I’ll keep coming back to this point on this site. Most of the time, you’re better off getting 50 very, very interested people to your site than 5,000 completely untargetted visitors.)
Second, there are a whole bunch of things you need to bear in mind when you’re getting traffic, if you want that traffic to convert to dedicated fans and followers. You need to think about how you’re capturing those people initially and letting them know that there’s more to see. You need to think about the personality you’re projecting online. And you need to ask whether your series is casually interesting, or if you’ve managed to find something that fascinates people - and if you haven’t, find it.
I could talk about all these things a whole lot, but I already did it elsewhere, in Get Crazed Stalkers. If you’re interested in learning more about how to convert casual viewers to fans, you really need to sign up to that (it’s free), because it’s a series of 3 lectures going through the entire process of turning your casual viewer base into devoted, enthusiastic fans.
Fans don’t necessarily mean traffic
It’s very easy to fall into the following thought trap: “If someone loves my work, they’ll tell their friends about it.”
No, they won’t.
This one’s confused me plenty of times. On Kamikaze Cookery, for example, we had a large, vocal and enthusiastic fan following. We also comparatively rarely saw people recommending our stuff, and as a result, stayed fairly small.
There’s a key difference between liking something and wanting to share it. And top of the list is this: the reason that we like something and the reason we might share it with our friends ain’t the same.
There’s no cost associated with liking a product other than the initial time to view it. However, there is a potential cost associated with sharing something - social standing. Your viewers will only share something with their friends - any group of their friends - if they believe that their friends will like it, and if they believe they won’t be annoyed by it.
It’s standard sales - you’ve got to provide benefits and overcome objections - only in this case the currency we’re trying to get our viewers to pay with is not cash, but their friends’ eyeballs.
So, if you want your fans to share your stuff - are you selling it to them? Are you providing a call to action? (I talk about reminding people to do stuff - calls to action - in episode 1 of Crazed Stalkers - it’s a very powerful and easily forgotten tool).
Are you demonstrating the benefits, which can be as simple as providing something that will make sense outside the context of the series?
You know The Guild? You know their stand-alone, very funny music videos? With girls from the series in hot outfits? Yep. That’s why they make ‘em - they’re obviously, immediately something that many peoples’ friends would like to see, and so Guild fans share them.
(We should have done a LOT more 30-second clips from Kamikaze Cookery episodes for people to share.)
Are you reassuring potential sharers that nothing bad will happen because they share your stuff? Might seem silly, but there’s nothing like a crushing “WTF? Pointless.” comment to make your readers wish they’d never shared.
Many people will share like a shot with friends groups who share an interest - KKC got shared around the molecular gastronomy/geek crossover, for example. Can you pinpoint what interests would mean peoples’ friends were more likely to like what they’re being offered? Can you provide examples of other people who’ve shared your stuff and gotten grateful comments?
Most people won’t want to ask their friends to take much time our of their day. Do you have short samples that people can share? Do those samples, in turn, have calls to action on the end, and ways to capture viewers?
Andrew Chen goes into the psychology of sharing in great depth in his essay on viral loops - it’s really worth reading if you want to understand how to turn fans into traffic.
Of course, once you’ve got ten thousand fans or a million viewers, it’ll be easy to turn that into money, right?
(All of my readers who’ve been in that position are laughing right now).
Nope. Just because you’re super-popular doesn’t mean money is going to turn up. Hell, both Twitter and Facebook have looked like they weren’t going to turn a profit in the past.
So how the hell do you turn fans or traffic into cash?
Hate to cliffhanger you, but… that’s the subject for another article. I’ll write it soon, I promise!
_Subscribe to Guerilla Showrunner to avoid missing the money articles! And to learn how to translate your casual viewers into hardcore fans, sign up to Get Crazed Stalkers - it’ll just drop right into your inbox. _
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