Editor’s Note: This non-partisan guest post was graciously submitted by Clay Adams of Fried Comics. Enjoy!
All election-ed out?
Because the 2016 contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton provides ample crowdfunding lessons.
(There’s a reason we call them Kickstarter campaigns.)
So, sit back, relax, put your partisan politics aside, and let’s look at what worked and what didn’t.
LESSON #1: FORGET VIRAL. YOU NEED A GROUND GAME.
Many creators put their campaigns up on Kickstarter and hope it goes viral. (Confession: this is what I did).
Nothing just “goes viral.”
Behind the scenes, there is a large, grassroots effort to spread the word. It usually starts among friends and family and then builds steam from there.
In politics, we call this grassroots effort “ground game.” Otherwise known as: “get-out-the-vote.”
This is exactly what it sounds like.
You pound the pavement, knock on doors, and find the people who will support you. And then you get them to the polls.
(Or, in your case, your Kickstarter pledge page.)
After getting shellacked in 2008 and 2012, the GOP worked hard to improve their ground game as well. By all accounts, it paid off.
But wasn’t Trump’s campaign a “movement”?
Didn’t he gain a massive following while doing little in the way of advertising?
Shouldn’t we look at his Electoral College win as evidence that some campaigns just go viral?
Because you are not Donald Trump.
Donald Trump has been famous since the 1980s.
Donald Trump had a top-rated TV show for 10 years.
He has written best-selling books.
And he is not you.
You do not have his name-recognition or brand.
You need to have a ground game.
Takeaway: Use a service like Green Inbox to reach out to everyone you know.
LESSON #2: HAVE A SMALL SET OF SPECIFIC REWARDS (Or: K.I.S.S.)
Many creators make the mistake of loading their Kickstarter with a large set of rewards. The thought process is: the more stuff I offer, the more money I can raise.
Leaving aside the fact that the more stuff you offer = more stuff you have to pay for, this is a bad idea for another reason.
It muddies your message.
You need to practice K.I.S.S.
Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Think about it.
What were you going to get from a Clinton presidency?
Have you thought of it yet?
Well, we can suppose she’d be more inclusive in her language.
Maybe you remember something about free college.
And a no-fly zone in Syria, and… well, there was a bunch of stuff. I’m sure I saw it on the website.
Now, think about this:
What would you get with a Trump presidency?
Answer: A wall.
Also: New trade deals.
He offered specific rewards.
And not too many of them.
These simple, tangible, and sometimes unconventional rewards made his ideas sticky.
Whatever you think of the policies, you can’t deny it worked.
Takeaway: Make a specific, physical thing. Price it at $25. Then offer a handful of specific items at the following price points: $1 or $5 for digital. $12 for deluxe digital. $50 for a deluxe physical. And, maybe a higher cost, shoot-for-the-moon option. Keep it simple, stupid.
LESSON #3: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. IT’S ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE.
When crafting your message, remember to focus on your audience.
Too many creators make the mistake of making it all about themselves.
“Help me do this!”
“Help me make that!”
But, terrible as it may sound, few people do something just to help someone else.
The first question people ask is: “What’s in it for me?”
(Be honest. You do this, too.)
So what’s in it for your audience?
As Michael Moore said repeatedly: Trump would win because he promised to be a “Molotov cocktail” thrown at Washington. For the people.
By contrast, Clinton asked her audience to declare, “I’m With Her.”
When all the votes were counted, which message worked best?
Takeaway: Don’t ask people to support you. Support them by making something they want.
LESSON #4: EMOTIONS TRUMP FACTS.
Pop quiz: What do you think drove people to the polls more?
a) Hillary’s 12-point tax plan
b) Trump’s proposal on infrastructure
c) The chance to vote against “Crooked Hillary” or “Orange Hitler”
If you answered “c”, go to the head of the class.
Campaigns are about persuasion. And, as Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams likes to say, when it comes to persuasion, facts are irrelevant.
This is why both candidates spent a lot of time—and money—making you fear the other one.
Fear is a strong motivator.
But as Obama proved in ’08, so is hope.
As a prospective backer, I don’t care that you spent twelve years making your comic.
I don’t care that you found the best printer in the world.
But I might care that you are part of an underrepresented minority, making a project about people like you.
Or I might care that your project will make the world a better place.
And I just might back you for it.
Takeaway: Find an emotional hook for your project that makes people say, “I have to support this!”
LESSON #5: FORGET STATS AND CLOSE STRONG.
Statistics say that if you reach 20% of your funding goal, you have an 80% chance of meeting it.
And if you can hit that benchmark in the first week? Even better.
Sounds good, right?
Ask Nate Silver how stats work.
The fact is, the final week matters just as much as the first.
But in the closing days of the 2016 campaign, one of the candidates left the trail.
Neither had met their goal (winning the election).
But statistics said one had it locked up.
So instead of reaching out to voters, she planned victory fireworks over the Hudson.
Meanwhile, the other candidate continued to campaign hard. Especially in those states that put him over the top in the Electoral College.
We all know how it turned out.
Takeaway: It ain’t over til it’s over, baby. Keep pounding that pavement til the bitter, bitter end.
Clay Adams is the co-founder of FRIED Comics, proud purveyors of off-beat, irreverent pulp fiction since 2013. He has successfully crowdfunded a project on Kickstarter using many of the principles outlined here. Get three free first issues plus a bonus gift at friedcomics.com/free.