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Attracting Investors

The Secrets of Crowd-Funding Your Business

In her book Cash From the Crowd, Sally Outlaw, founder and CEO of crowd-funding website peerbackers, reveals the secrets of funding your business with help from colleagues, peers, family, friends and even perfect strangers through a crowd-funding campaign.

Sally Outlaw

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In this edited excerpt, the author offers tips for driving traffic to your project.

Crowd-funding is not a “post it and forget it proposition.” Running a successful campaign requires a major time commitment in advance of, during and post campaign. It also requires that you be fearless in getting out and spreading the word about your venture.

Some crowd-funding entrepreneurs boast that they’ll “shout from the rooftops” about their company and promote their fundraising efforts far and wide, but later, when asked how many friends and family members they went to for support, their response is, “Oh, I don’t feel comfortable approaching my own contacts.”

Get over yourself

If that sounds like you, here are two important considerations to help you get over that discomfort. First, be honest about your passion and excitement for what you’re doing. Is it enough to drive you to tell everybody who’ll listen? If not, then why are you doing it at all? It has to be a passion that will sustain you through the start-up’s challenging times.

Second, if you’re not going to get the buy-in from your own inner circle — the people who know you and most believe in you – why would you expect strangers to get behind your venture and give you money?

Related: Don’t Make these Mistakes When Pitching an Investor

Tell people about your campaign

To drive traffic to your project, you’ll want to start your campaign with those who you know will support you. Then, as you gain momentum, you can begin to send the project link to others in your circle. It’s important that your page reflect some funding success before you start to reach outside your network – especially to bloggers and other press.

Remember that you need to be actively promoting the campaign during its entire duration. A campaign’s impending deadline tends to make entrepreneurs ratchet up the urgency of their messages, but there’s no reason to wait until the end of your time frame to intensify your efforts.

How to promote it

One of the approaches some campaign owners take that can hurt them is broadly-addressed emails such as “Dear Family” rather than the more individualised “Dear Uncle Bob,” or sending out an e-newsletter via a Constant Contact or Mail Chimp service to introduce their campaign.

Sending personalised emails not only strengthens your relationships and keeps the connections genuine, but it really does have an impact on your funding success. It’s been shown that people are less likely to do something when asked as a group than they are when they’re singled out individually.

Related: Meeting with Investors? Here are the Dos and Don’ts

Make the best use of technology

You can use technology to help discover where your visitors and backers are coming from so you can put more effort into those avenues. Along with whatever analytics are built into the crowd-funding platform you’re using, other freely available tools can track your project activity and provide you the statistics you need to maximise your success:

  • Bitly.com allows you to see how popular your shared links have become. It offers a free link-shortening service that, when added to any URL, shows stats like referral sources related to that unique link. Use this every time you share your project and you will be able to track the activity surrounding your project views and shares.
  • Google Analytics also offers a Google Analytics IQ area where you can learn to become a more knowledgeable user and dive deeper into things such as tying in a Google AdWords campaign, should you use ads to promote your crowd-funding efforts.
  • YouTube provides tips on using its audience-tracking tools in the YouTube Creator Playbook.
  • Twinitor is a robust search and monitoring tool focused on Twitter activity so you can check when people are tweeting about your project.

Other online promotional musts:

  • Reach out to high-profile Twitter users or leaders in your field. See if you can get them to mention your product or campaign to their followers and fans.
  • Update all your social media profiles (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) to include a link to your campaign.
  • Add your campaign link to your email signature.
  • Embed a campaign widget/banner on your blog or website.

Some campaigns experience immediate and wild success – like the one for OUYA, a gaming console, that raised more than $2 million on its first day on Kickstarter – while others develop over time, reaching their goal only in the last few hours.

Don’t get discouraged when your campaign hits a lull. It’s common for a lot of backer support to show up in the later phase of the campaign.

Those who may not have stepped up in the beginning may now be inspired to help you cross the finish line when discovering you are closer to your goal. You may just have backers who require five or six reminders before they can pause long enough to donate.

Projects that reach at least 50% of their funding goal during their campaign have a 95% chance of reaching that goal in the end, so keep pushing!

Sally Outlaw is the co-founder and CEO of fundraising platform peerbackers.com and crowdfunding-campaign services company Crowdfunding Academy. She is a seasoned entrepreneur who has traveled the globe, including 10 years in Russia, starting and managing several successful companies and running her own media ventures. She's the author of Cash From the Crowd (Entrepreneur Press, 2013).

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Attracting Investors

The Investor Sourcing Guide

How to attract and obtain investors to your established, high-growth business.

Greg Morris

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As an established, high-growth company, you may find that you need to source capital, identify a mentor, or work closely with other affiliates to prosper. In this case, partnering with an investment holding company can be a valuable growth tool.

So, what should you do if you want to be acquired by a holding company?

Read this.

1. Research everything

If you’re considering a long-term investment partnership, make sure you conduct substantial prior research. There may be many potential investment partners out there, but each has specific venture and industry directives. Get to grips with these.

Related: Is Venture Capital Right For You?

2. Be candid with yourself

The amount of capital that you need will affect which holding company you choose. In particular, you’ll need to understand what your risk profile looks like relative to the returns you expect to provide. This will also help you to source, entice, and keep the attention of the most appropriate partner.

3. Identify your must-haves

Any investment partner you choose is likely to be able to provide you with funding, a broader network, and economies of scale. Beyond these, however, you’ll need to decide on your most important benefits (must-haves), so you can target the companies that can offer you the best fit.

4. Spell out your funding plan

You’ll need to be very clear on how you plan to spend the funding you get from your investor. This plan should stipulate, in particular, how you plan to grow.

Related: 5 Key Questions To Answer For Raising Funding

5. Scrutinise each investor

Make sure to analyse your potential investors’ investment history, so you can get a clear idea of where your interests are aligned. Look specifically at things like:

  1. Where investors’ get their funding
  2. What their investment track record looks like
  3. What their investment directives are
  4. Their appetite for risk
  5. The returns they usually aim for

The crux of the matter

Research is essential, no matter which holding company you hope to be acquired by. This will help you to find, attract and retain an investor who gives you the funding you need, and lends you the support to be innovative, productive, and profitable.

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Attracting Investors

6 Great Tips For A Successful Shark Tank Pitch

Whilst most of us are unlikely to appear on television shows such as Dragons Den or Shark Tank there is a lot we can take out from watching these programmes.

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Whilst most of us are unlikely to appear on television shows such as Dragons Den or Shark Tank there is a lot we can take out from watching these programmes. Entrepreneurs will often need to promote their businesses to prospective customers, lenders, investors, employees and even suppliers.

All stakeholders would like to know with what and whom they are dealing. They will need to assess risk and will try and evaluate the business against others who are competing for those same funds.

1Know Your Product

You should be able to describe your business within 60 seconds, in a confident and positive manner. Let the stakeholder know what particular problem your business solves which makes it viable and attractive.

Your brand and how you intend to develop it is important in determining whether they will invest or lend you money. Share critical information with them such as large customers, patents and trademarks and details of forward orders.

If you are looking for funding or investment, make sure you have the relevant paperwork to back up what you are saying.

Related: 10 Tips From The Dragons Of Dragons’ Den SA

2The Numbers

You must have your numbers at your fingertips.  A true and successful entrepreneur will know his numbers instinctively and be able to recollect and present them convincingly. Stakeholders want to know your turnover (sales) over the last couple of years, your gross profit and net profit.

Investors want to know what they are investing in and whether there is strong potential for their money to grow. Lenders will want to assess their risk — how are you going to repay the money? Moreover, you as the business owner, need to be sure that you will be able to make the required repayments.

You must know what your margin is, as this will largely determine your viability as a business. Margin or gross profit is the difference between the selling price of the goods and their cost and is usually expressed as a percentage.

3Know What You’re Asking For

asking-for-business-funding

Be clear as to the size of the investment you want to give away and how that determines the ‘valuation’ of the business. Therefore, if you wish to raise R200 000 for 10% of the business, that means you value the business at R2m — be sure you can back that up or you will get taken apart.

4Have a Business Plan

The best way to fully understand your business is by way of having a detailed business plan, which has been prepared whilst working through every facet of your business, from the original idea to the finished product.

As the business owner, you need to live this business plan and be able to use it as your daily guide to success. Develop it, change it where circumstances require it, but most importantly know it and understand it.

In this way, you will be able to deal with most of their questions, be they about marketing, research, international expansion etc. It is also a good idea to know your competition and what they are up to.

Related: Dragon’s Den Polo Leteka Gives Her Top Tips To Attract Growth Capital

5Sell Yourself

In most interactions, you the entrepreneur, are selling yourself. Whether it is an investor, lender, customer or prospective employee, it is their impression of you and your capabilities which ultimately determine whether they want to work with you.

Be confident, defend your position where required, as you will need to parry some blows but do not behave arrogantly.

6Learn From Your Mistakes

Many entrepreneurs who have presented to the Shark’s Den and not been able to garner investment have turned their business into great successes. You need to be able to learn from the experience, and if rejected, bounce back even stronger.

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Attracting Investors

3 Things You Must Have In Place To Get That Start-up Bank Finance

If you’re planning to secure funding for your start-up, you need to put the right foundations in place.

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The South African landscape for raising finance is tough for any business, with stringent lending regulations. Here are three areas to focus on as you set up your start-up to ensure you’ll qualify for a loan or equity funding.

1Securing a Market

Most SMEs I have mentored or advised start with expressing how big the total market size is for their product or service, but, while this is important to understand, the big question is: What percentage of that market will you attract and how?

Look at the ‘how’ first and work your numbers backwards. For example, if you secure a R10 million contract to supply an item that has a market size of R37 billion you are capturing only 0,03% of the market. However, if you’re able to cover your monthly expenses (including your loan repayment) and make a profit, that’s what counts. You should be able to show this contract or letter of intent to procure, which shows how and where you will find this market.

Related: The One Question You Must Be Prepared To Answer When Pitching Investors

2A Strong Team

When you’re starting out you’re likely to be the sum total of your team. If you’re going down the entrepreneurial journey alone, make sure you have identified who will mentor and guide you through the areas you don’t have competencies in and cost this into the business start-up and running costs.

Focus on who in the business is going to:

  1. Sell and market: Do they have the necessary skill, network, product and market knowledge?
  2. Control the money: Are they financially savvy and can they make sure that money is being used for the right things?
  3. Operate: Who has done this before? Can this individual manufacture the product or arrange the supply of goods or services, ensure quality control and sound human resource management?

3Compliance

Formalising your business is costly but necessary. If you don’t have a formal entity, shareholders agreements, loan agreements, financial statements, management accounts, tax compliance and so on, you will come short when looking to raise finance.

Understand these costs upfront and include them into your start-up budget — this will save you a lot of pain in the long run.

Related: 3 Ways For Social Entrepreneurs To Access Fundraising

The truth is that finance is available for women who have the right business ingredients just as much (if not more — in the South African context) as it’s available for men and just as with men. And, resources such as these help to unpack and guide the core fundamentals that are needed to make business bankable/fundable.

Then it’s all about implementation and staying on track to translate all that you’ve done and all that you wish to do in a bankable business plan, and approach the relevant funder for your needs. The right business mentor can certainly help you on that journey.

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