What platforms would you use for reward based incentives (giveaways as opposed to equity)? How would you get the word out? Would you hire an expert to help? What are other things to consider. Thanks!
Starting crowdfunding while in beta is good - you already passed part of the way. So for backers it is less risky to support you.
When I've started my project - the only real option was KickStarter. Now it is the same because only KickStarter has "blockbuster" effect - huge paying audience. On KickStarter you'll collect at least ten times more if to compare to #2 IndieGoGo. Sure if your project will pass KickStarter moderation. But it is worth trying.
Giveaways, in my opinion, is always better: you test your production chain & keep full control over your business. Also the product is the core of your business and improving your product will lead to higher valuation.
If you have community - try to make it bigger & tell your followers about your crowdfunding plans so they prepare to back you when funding starts. If there is no community - start to build one. Also prepair press kits & at least 10 updates (when 30-50-75-100-150-200% of goal reached, explaining functions of your product etc.), make spreadsheet with press (also include communities related to your project) contact details, check your project category on the selected crowdfunding platform for projects related with yours (for future cross promotion).
Hiring expert is pretty useless, I think. Calls on clarity.fm will work better as you not tied to one person and may get more opinions, probably, for the same price. And it is not so much information in the net about crowdfunding to lost in it.
All you need (considering you already have great product) is: 1. good project page (which means video + photos + text) 2. good work with press (not so much may be done: press kit + send it over the contacts you have - the result is related to kit quality and amount of contacts) 3. some ways to utilize KickStarter organic traffic (that's "30% rule" & crosspromotion - these ways generally don't cost a penny and both work great for me and 2 more projects I've mentored).
Call me for details - I'll be happy to help.
I advised Collusion on their $158K Kickstarter raise and know the LIFX ($1m) guys well, so I know what I'm talking about.
You don't need an expert or a consultant to project manage it for you - it's not rocket science. There's a whole industry of self-serving "crowdfunding experts" who charge for their services; they are a complete waste of money in my view. Just like "social media gurus" of a few years ago.
1 - Use Kickstarter. If you can't get onto Kickstarter, then your product isn't good enough to be crowdfunded. Kickstarter won't bring you a whole lot of traffic per se, but it does have credibility and brand-awareness with journalists.
2 - Remember that crowdfunding for a business is about pre-sales. Don't believe any of that crap you read about "telling a story" - show your product, show how people are using it, tell people what they get for their pledge. That simple.
3 - Make sure the video is professionally shot and treat it as a product demo. If you can, make it funny.
4 - Create a list of journalists you want to write about you. Crowdfunding is all about press. Reach out to them and ideally meet them face-to-face to build a relationship before you tell them about your kickstarter campaign.
5 - Before you launch your campaign, go and spread the word. Collusion spent months demoing their product at Silicon Beach, the main tech meetup in Sydney. Considering your typical Kickstarter backer is usually a tech-savvy early adopter, this is a good place to start. They gave these guys business cards with a special password written on it that gave early access to the kickstarter page (that is, they didn't announce anything publicly until day 2 of their campaign)
6 - Structure rewards properly. Some good ideas are to offer a limited quantity of discounted products as your lowest tier - this encourages people to pledge immediately, rather than waiting to see what other people do. Fear of missing out is crucial. Don't do T-shirts - that's pretty mundane and boring now. At the upper-end, get creative - invite to launch party, lunch with founders/advisors/investors/celebrity evangelist, get the product or part of it named after you (especially a character or item in a game), limited-edition versions that are a different colour or have better functionality, early access to beta etc.
7 - Exclusivity and fear of missing out are your friends. Make the lower reward tiers limited in quantity. Make the very top tiers only available to one or two people. It will help build momentum and get press if some of your reward tiers sell out early.
8 - If day 1 is about giving people you know the opportunity to jump in and grab the discounted rewards, day 2 onwards is about press. Don't waste money on Adwords or Facebook ads, it's all about getting press coverage.
9 - Learn how to write a press release properly. I can run you through this, and how to deal with journalists if you want.
10 - Make sure you have a plan for what to do after your project ends. I've seen some companies run their own follow-on crowdfunding campaign on their own website successfully; I've also seen a lot of companies set up an online store and then stick a link in their Kickstarter page saying "Our Kickstarter campaign has ended - if you want to buy a [name of product] head over to our online store."
I would check first if you are delivering a tangible product. Software-only or service companies have a hard time crowdfunding, as it's hard to find interesting rewards for non-tangible products.
I would then focus on creating a strong community behind the project. This is where investing resources on Facebook makes sense.
If you have more than 600 Facebook fans, I would then try to find an angle where you can tell a good story with emotion about what you are doing. Is there an overarching cause? Who are the people behind the project? What's the impact. Those would be good points to tell in the video.
Since you are in beta, I would present it as such : "We've already done so much, built a prototype, but we are a startup with limited resources, and need your contribution to get us to first version." Offering early access, user privileges, access to the developer edition are all good ideas for rewards. You can also have a "Credits" section on your product, everyone appreciate having their name on a public website.
For crowdfunding I think Kickstarter is the best way to go. It seems to be the most well-known, and doesn't hide the dollar goal amount like some other platforms. I think transparency is key in gaining trust.
Setting a reasonably low goal amount is a good practice because it helps build momentum. I used Kickstarter for my last endeavor, a unique song-a-week project that raised $35,000. That's 400% of my $8,500 goal, which was fully funded in the first 12 hours. Having the goal amount visible helps people feel connected to a tangible goal and feel like partners.
The best way to get the word out is through an existing community of "fans". Obviously having a unique and remarkable product is crucial. Give your fans a something that they can tell their friends about in a few words.
People don't buy WHAT you're doing, they buy WHY you do it. Be passionate about the reason you're starting the project, give people a chance to resonate with you and your company.
Note: I'm not a business person. I'm a musician who's learned enough about business to keep doing what I love. I'm also a music fan, which helps me always keep my audience in mind. I think this is extremely important. What do they want? What will they feel connected to?
Do your homework. I researched hundreds of successful campaigns before starting mine and felt it was time well spent.
Offer creative rewards. The more creative and unique the rewards, the more likely people are to get involved and spread the word.
As far as hiring experts, I don't think that's necessary but do agree that seeking advice from those who've been successful crowd-funders will go a long way.
I would love to talk more with you about your project and brainstorm some out-of-the-box strategies to help effectively connect with your audience and get them passionate about your campaign!
For a successful campaign, you need a great cause, great video and good content. You need to do a custom video explaining what you need the money for and who your company will benefit. I would always recommend doing a giveaways opposed to equity, as you will it makes for a cleaner campaign. For getting the word, I would involved a press release, local media, contact friends and family and leverage your network. Hiring an expert can be a good idea but pay them on a pay per performance basis (i.e. X% if we hit our goal of $XXXX). Make sure to have a plan and strategy before you go live with your plan. Preparation is KEY!