In April 2020 we ran a successful Pay It Forward Crowdfunder campaign for our London based small business. I've since been asked for tips by fellow small business owners so I thought I would write down some of the questions I considered when i was planning my campaign.
Since the Mayor of London started backing Pay It Forward there's been much more attention so I think it's more important than ever to get it right so you can maximise your chances. For many small businesses this is a lifeline, it certainly Saved Revival Retro!
Before I outline my tips let me just say that in my experience, Pay It Forward was not just about the money, the messages made a difference too. These are tough times for small business owners and reading the 230+ comments left by supporters got me through some very tough times. Read every word of encouragement, share them with your staff and remember them when you recover.
Here are my top tips for running a successful Pay It Forward crowdfunding campaign:
- You are nothing without your customers, so look at it from their point of view. Don't just ask for a handout, think about what rewards will be of real value to them.
- Noone knows better than you, who your customers are, what they like, how they act and what kinds of products and price points they respond to. Make sure you have a range of different rewards to suit different target demographics.
- Do you have a high level of repeat customer? Do your customers have sufficient buy in to pitch successfully to buy vouchers now to redeem later? If now what else you can do? If however you are trying to reach new audience and potential new customers, what is your value proposition?
- Have you built up a brand that people love and respect? Don't underestimate the potential that people will want to recognise what you've achieved so far and believe in investing in a future for your business. Will people donate and expect nothing in return? You won't know unless you give them the opportunity!
- Will you be communicating the campaign to your existing audience, or, are you trying to reach new people who have never heard of you before? Write your description accordingly, tell your existing audience why this is important, tell people new to your business who you are and what you do in a way that might resonate with the Crowdfunder objectives.
- Even your biggest supporters might enjoy a little incentive to Pay it Forward. Look at your call to action from their point of view and ask yourself, in their shoes, right now with all the change that COVID-19 has brought about, would you?
Our length of time the Crowdfunder ran was determined by our physical needs rather than by advice of what's best. Save Revival Retro ran for three weeks only because we were likely to go out of business before the end of the month. We needed that money in our account to pay the bills.
Our target amount was set by what we needed. I was embarrassed my business was failing even if it was due to circumstances beyond my control. I was going to as for a more modest amount afraid of how it might be perceived by my customers. In the end though you have to ask for what you need. We had been excluded from the 25k government grant, that amount would have been a lifeline to our small business it was also helped us explain what, how and why we were crowdfunding when our competitors perhaps weren't.
We didn't rely on the Crowdfunder site to spread the word. We knew that the people who were likely to pledge were our existing customers so we put it in our newsletter (twice, once upon launch and once 72 hous to the deadline), on our Facebook, our Instagram, our Twitter and followers shared it. Staff shared it on their personal social media. I put it on my LinkedIn. We told everyone we knew about it.
Crowdfunder tells you noone wants to be first so we followed their advice and asked family and friends to donate and comment before we launched publicly. We were happy to do this because we had set the minimum reward as £5 and I promised in return to buy them all a drink down the pub once this was all over.
I stumbled at the first hurdle. Crowdfunder tells you how important it is to have a video (and it is) but on the day we set this up I was not in a positive frame of mind (I even told my colleague we would be lucky to raise £150 (we raised nearly 28k) and my initial attempts at filming were downbeat and despondant. We almost didn't launch because I saw the video as such a hurdle. However, I was convince to launch with just a photograph instead of a video and a week later, in a more positive state of mind, I summoned the ability to create a video. Don't let it hold you up!
I couldn't have done this without my colleague Charlotte, she is the one member of staff who has not been furloughed and she has been instrumental in getting our Crowdfunder out there, responding to people, updating the campaign and doing all the necessary administration behind the scenes (remember whatever rewards you promise - you have to be able to deliver them!). When I wrote the plan, she saw the value in it and was enthusiastic to take it forward. I recognised she would be better at this than me and I had other business needs I had to attend to. Thank you Charlotte.
On social media we are @revivalretro and if you scroll back through our timeline you will see much of the activity surrounding our Pay It Forward - Save Revival Retro campaign.
Thanks to everybody who supported us and good luck to anyone who is embarking on their own.