Equity crowdfunding has flourished as a key form of alternative finance for early and growth stage businesses. It’s become a great alternative to bank loans and other traditional funding sources, allowing entrepreneurs to engage a crowd of passionate investors for financial backing.
However, the popularity of equity crowdfunding has left platforms, like Crowdcube and Seedrs, rather overcrowded with hundreds of active campaigns at any one time.
While this shows that equity crowdfunding is a thriving industry, such an array of great campaigns makes it challenging to grab the attention of investors. So, how can small, early-stage companies make an impact?
1. Videos – tell your story, don’t make a blockbuster
Pitch videos are a must. In just a few minutes of screen time, you’re able to put across all the key aspects of your pitch, demonstrate the character of your brand, and showcase yourself as a human being.
As your pitch video is so important, it’s tempting to splash out to make it special. However, investors can view an elaborate production as a careless way to use a startup’s limited funds.
This doesn’t mean you can’t make your video look professional or visually compelling, you just need to hone your creativity.
Take Gunna Drinks, the company challenging the big soft drinks manufacturers with their larger than life brand.
With a captivating script, some colourful presenting and clever editing, Gunna’s video captured their brand perfectly, yet focused on the investment opportunity more than the product itself. It also introduced the team and their big personalities.
Make sure you put across both your brand and the investment opportunity, not forgetting to explain why you’re best placed to provide a product or service in your market.
Then get in the mind of investors. How big is your market? Have you found a gap in it? Have you already won over any high-profile investors?
Then, find a reasonably-priced production company who you feel understands these elements and is able to help you communicate them.
2. Offer unique rewards that don’t break the bank
Just as Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer rewards in exchange for supporter donations, businesses running equity campaigns can also offer rewards to sweeten the investment opportunity.
We find it’s best to offer specific tiers of rewards and making the prerequisite investment amounts odd numbers. For example, tickets to an exclusive event could be offered to investors willing to put in £1,700 or more. The idea is to encourage additional investment by making these numbers slightly higher than the rounded number that precedes it (in this case £1,500).
Your rewards don’t need to be grandiose or costly to your company. One of our clients, NextUp Comedy, gave membership subscriptions to investors of a certain level. While this reward essentially cost them nothing, it helped them raise 123% of their target funding.
What can you offer that’s unique? Maybe it’s the product or service you provide. Or do you have connections that might help you arrange a special event to entice investors?
Simply try and identify what investors might want and which option will cost you the least.
3. Opt for an interactive webinar, not an event
The best way to answer investor questions is in person. You’re able to explain the opportunity in detail and make sure the investor understands your proposition in a way that’s not possible via written communication.
However, as your proposal may attract hundreds of investors, it can be useful to speak to a crowd of them at a Q&A event. This not only proves you’re open to scrutiny; you will also avoid having to repeatedly answer the same questions.
While an investor event might seem like the best route to go down, it requires a whole lot of planning, cost, and logistics. There’s no guarantee that investors will be able to make your event and whichever location you choose will exclude some investors.
For example, London may seem like the obvious choice to cater to the bulk of investors but may not be feasible for those who don’t live near the capital.
These are several reasons why a webinar can achieve the same result as hosting an event but with a tiny fraction of the required resources. You can still meet investors, engage them and answer their questions, but it doesn’t matter where they’re based.
Even if they can’t make it for the live broadcast, they can send in questions in advance or you can even record the event and share it with those who missed it. Just make sure you let you know your attendees that you intend to record!
Plan your webinar early during your campaign, hold it around the halfway point, and publicise it using Eventbrite (or similar) website relatively early on.
Include a short description of the webinar format, along with the date, time, and clear details on how to access it. Then promote the event via social media, email, in person, and on your campaign page.
Always leave time for questions at the end of the webinar. If you don’t know the answer to any, be honest, and promise to get back to the investor with the full answer at a later date.
4. Put some wind in your sails with a dedicated PR campaign
Making an impact in the media can make an amazing difference to your campaign. It promotes your business, yourself as an expert in your field, and informs potential investors about your market.
This really isn’t something you’ll be able to execute yourself. Hiring a professional PR agency is, therefore, the best way to get some media traction, albeit one with an additional cost. Agencies come with an array of media contacts and usually a strong reputation amongst journalists for giving them good stories.
One crucial thing to remember when weighing up the cost versus benefits is that every pound you spend works three times as hard by promoting your business, your campaign, and yourself as a thought-leader.
You may be somewhat surprised to hear, however, that self-promotional articles are unlikely to be picked up by reporters. They need a newsworthy angle, perhaps with a couple of stats, some good research, and clarity of why the issue is important. In short, journalists don’t care that you’re crowdfunding ? with so many companies running crowdfunding campaigns, it’s simply not news.
Any mention of your company in the article itself should include other businesses in your market as examples. You’ll still get a decent byline next to your article title and you can provide a boilerplate describing your business that they’ll use in the footer. Also, make sure to include social media links and a link to your crowdfunding campaign.
Offer publications free expert content on a subject their readership are interested in and they’ll likely publish your article. Score enough relevant media placements and your campaign should enjoy a lot more traction and, ultimately, investment.
What advice or expertise can you offer that relates to your company? Can you also weave in a message that will resonate with potential investors?
A PR agency should help you decide on 2-3 articles to go out during your campaign which are newsworthy and are either original or able to be explored via a new angle.
Do your research and write well-referenced articles around 1,000 words in length based on these titles. Your agency should help you with the grammar, flow and style, in order to produce a well-polished piece.
Do all of the activities listed above and you should only have to spend around £2,000 to publicise your crowdfunding campaign. From our extensive experience, this should boost your campaign funding by an extra 20% or so.
The crowdfunding campaigns we’ve worked on have aimed to raise around £100-200k, on average, so an extra 20% can equate to £20-40k in investment ? a 10-20x ROI.
So, think of these actions as your own small investments. Be proactive, judge your actions well, and you should be able to attract a far higher level of investment than the average campaign.
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 £17m for over 50 companies. John is a regular contributor to ByteStart, and you can benefit from more of his expertise and insight into crowdfunding in;
- How to get investors to back your crowdfunding campaign
- 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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