Three things that successful crowdfunders can teach us

Crowdfunding offers a model of audience engagement that contract bidders — who often believe we are talking to an audience of one, that’s already sold on what we do — can learn a lot from.

Crowdfunding is a social media phenomenon that combines networking with raising money.  According to Forbes, the crowdfunding industry now raises more than $5.1 billion a year worldwide. Some of the sites operating in Australia include Kickstarter, Pozible and Chip In (for non-profit organisations).

In the world of getting funding to do things, there is a definite hierarchy at work.

At the top of this are essential services, which governments or private businesses are ready to fund through contracts and agreements.  The buyer’s briefing is usually quite prescriptive and can take the form of a Request for Tender or Proposal.

In the middle there are grants, where hopefuls showcase their ideas and projects to a funding body, - generally a large corporation, charitable foundation or private donor - who may be prepared to fund something that piques their interest. The buyer's briefing here is far less prescriptive - more like a set of principles that need to be fulfilled. Because of this, grants are a bit like a beauty pageant. There may be money on offer, but it's harder to get, and difficult to predict who will get it.

Crowdfunding is at the very bottom of this hierarchy. Here, there is no buyer briefing at all. Crowdfunders put their project out to a wide audience that has no firm intention of giving money to anything. Therefore, a crowdfunder’s job is to inspire people to put their hand in their wallet and pull out their credit card.

Here are three things that anyone who sells through contracts and grants can learn from successful crowdfunders.

  1. Reinforce what’s great about your offer. In crowdfunding, this means multiple follow-ups after someone expresses interest in the project. In contract and grant proposals, make sure to spin your most compelling points in different ways; don’t just bury them on page 47 and 53 where they could easily be missed.
  2. Bring it to life. On the major crowdfunding platforms, projects that are supported by engaging video and visuals outsell other projects two to one. In contract and grant proposals, visuals are absolutely mandatory for conveying complex concepts, and to illustrate any kind of methodology.
  3. Be hot AND cool. When you’re sitting alone in your office putting together a grant or tender submission, it’s easy to forget that you’re actually battling for attention in a crowded marketplace. Crowdfunding is the very DEFINITION of crowded, so successful projects gazump the competition by being really, really hot right now. For example, Patient Zero raised $230,000 to stage real life zombie battles, twenty times more than the $10,000 it was originally asking for. You may not be pitching zombie battles, but there’s got to be something cool about what you’re offering. Grab hold of the zeitgeist, tap into needs the customer didn’t know they had, and show them a compelling vision of their future working with you. 
Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant who helps helps service-based businesses that compete through bids and tenders to articulate the value in what they do, command a price premium, and build an offer that buyers can’t refuse. Don’t let others dictate how far and how fast your business can grow – take your power back! Email robyn@robynhaydon.com to request the white paper for the Beyond Ticking Boxes program.