For new and growth-stage businesses, an equity crowdfunding campaign can be a catalyst to a successful future. The long-term backing from investors, the accompanying marketing boost and, of course, the investment itself, can really help propel a business to the next level.
However, to run a successful crowdfunding campaign, you’ll need to carefully plot the journey ahead.
There will be many milestones to hit so, so you’ll need to do some detailed plotting to support your journey, as well as being reactive to unforeseen events along the way.
Through running more than 70 campaigns on major equity crowdfunding platforms, I’ve designed a roadmap to help entrepreneurs plan ahead and to give them the best opportunity for success.
Consult existing investors
Prior to preparing any materials, chat to existing investors to get some advice about your proposition. Investors can spot an investment opportunity a mile away, so getting their view will be crucial in gauging how to write your pitch materials.
You’ll begin with a quick ‘elevator pitch’ and learn well all the key numbers and market stats.
Produce pitch materials
Pitch materials are a must for any campaign, so prepare to produce the following:
- A pitch page (incl. images) – each platform has their own requirements, so check first
- A marketing plan – what channels will you use, what messages will you send out?
- A press release (and distribution list) – articles providing industry advice, not explicitly promoting your company or crowdfunding raise
- A pitch video – write the script first and get it through due diligence before shooting (see below).
Once you’ve finished your materials, make sure you ask someone who hasn’t been involved in producing them to have a look with fresh eyes and give you feedback.
Gather evidence for due diligence
With your pitch materials finished, the crowdfunding platform will thoroughly check each and every claim you’ve made, both in your pitch page and video. So, make sure you have irrefutable proof to present for every claim you make,
Due diligence always takes longer than expected, so put together your evidence as soon as possible. Whether you’ve referenced your sales history, your team’s employment background, or market behaviour, make sure you have proof to hand.
This also applies to every claim you make in the video, so, to save time, provide a fully-cited script to the platform prior to filming.
It’s now time to setup a landing page on your website announcing your crowdfunding campaign, inviting visitors to sign-up and receive more information about your campaign’s launch.
Alert all of your contacts – customers, business partners, friends, family and others – about your campaign, and direct them to your landing page. Encourage them not only to invest, but to help promote your campaign. It’s also worth letting the world know via social media.
Meanwhile, seek prospective investors on LinkedIn and Angel Investment Network, with the aim of securing a cornerstone investor.
Design a content plan
When writing content during pre-marketing stage, you’ll have time to breathe.
Once your campaign has launched, however, you’ll need to act fast. So, make sure you write the bulk of your platform updates, social media posts, and PR articles well ahead of time to make sure you’ve got an arsenal of content to share and attract investors to your campaign page.
Launch in private live mode
Private mode let’s your cornerstone backers make their investment before your campaign is live to the public. This helps to propel you towards reaching your fundraising target, in-turn giving other investors confidence in your proposition.
During private mode, you’ll also want to encourage those who signed-up via your landing page to invest. Make sure you contact everyone who’s shown interest and emphasise that the campaign will only be in private live mode for a short while.
Launch your campaign; issue a press release
Now that your campaign is live, let the masses know about it.
One key way to do so is to send out a press release to publications whose readers are likely to be interested in your business.
Make no mistake though, you can’t simply plug your own idea or crowdfunding campaign. Your article will need to explore a newsworthy subject that will be of genuine interest to a specific audience. These PR tips will help.
Unless you have some PR experience, it’s worth seeking out a professional to help you write and distribute press releases. It might be pricey, but it’s essential to have someone who’s well versed in this area, has press contacts, and knows how to get an article published.
Meanwhile, you should be prompt in answering any questions from investors, and engaging the crowd with regular updates.
Hold an investor event
Expect the action to die down in the second to third week of your campaign, once the initial hype around your campaign has worn off.
There are a number of ways to reinvigorate a crowdfunding campaign. To re-engage investors, host a webinar, give them an informative presentation first-hand, and encourage them to ask questions.
You can always hold an investor event in-person, but this option isn’t cheap, and requires plenty of organisation and logistics. Wherever you hold it will exclude investors who don’t live nearby. So, an online event can be more inclusive and therefore more effective, but at a fraction of the time, effort and cost.
Inform as many potential investors as you can in advance via email, your crowdfunding page, social media and by launching an Eventbrite page. It’s also worth providing clear instructions for less tech-savvy attendees.
Send a second press release
Another press release, this time with a new and different angle, will also give a boost to a stagnant campaign.
This might be a news piece written in typical third-person journalist style, or an advice-based opinion piece written in first-person. Again, research the publications who might be interested, and write around their audiences.
Prepare for one final push
With the end of your campaign in sight, put every effort into bringing potential investors to your campaign page, with emphasis on the fact your campaign is about to close.
Broadcast this message via all your digital channels, and personally nudge all who have expressed interest but not (yet) invested. If you can think of any others who might be interested, let them know, and kindly ask your network to inform others.
Close campaign and collect funds
With your campaign closed (and fully funded, I hope!) you’ll need to begin collecting the money pledged by investors. As all platforms are first required to check there’s no money laundering from investors and perform the final due diligence checks on your company, this can take a while.
If you’ve run your crowdfunding campaign via Crowdcube, and you’ve passed all due diligence, expect this to take around 3-4 weeks. The process should take slightly less time if you’ve used Seedrs.
Bonus tips for successful crowdfunding
Ask for help
Crowdfunding campaigns bring with them a whole lot of work, and far more than one person can handle. So, recruit at least four people to help you out. This will make everything from writing pitch materials to answering investor questions far easier.
You’ll also need to make sure your colleagues have the time to support you. If not, recruit an agency for some backup. Of course, you’ll still need to run your business in the meantime, so make sure you’re not crowdfunding in your company’s busy season!
Make use of social tools
We use, and swear by, Trello and Slack. Trello lets you assign tasks, set deadlines, and store and sort all your crowdfunding materials. Slack is best for instant messaging your colleagues via multiple chat channels for each aspect of your campaign.
The equity crowdfunding process is long, challenging, but hugely rewarding. It takes a remarkable amount of planning, but follow the above roadmap and you’ll certainly find it easier to meet all those crucial milestones. Good luck!
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by John Auckland, a crowdfunding specialist and founder of TribeFirst. Tribefirst is the world’s first dedicated marketing communications agency to support equity crowdfunding campaigns, and has helped raise in excess of £25m for over 60 companies. John is also Virgin StartUp’s crowdfunding trainer and a regular contributor to ByteStart. You can benefit from more of his crowdfunding expertise in;
- 4 Ways to Make Your Crowdfunding Campaign Stand Above the Rest
- How to Prepare Your Business for Crowdfunding
- Equity v Rewards Crowdfunding: Which is Best for Me?
- 5 Reasons Why You Should Crowdfund in 2019 (and How to Get Started)
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