In November 2013 we were given a very special project to work on. The Milk And Honey distillery was working to create the first single-malt whiskey ever made in Israel. They had opened an Indiegogo campaign to raise the necessary funds and we were tasked with promoting the campaign and helping the team achieve their funding goals. Yup, the future of the Israeli whiskey industry was at the balance and we were the ones who were supposed to help make it happen.
In addition to the challenge of helping an Indiegogo campaign reach its goal, we found out that the Indiegogo platform isn’t a big fan of promoting alcohol campaigns. Various regulations related to selling alcohol severely limited the campaign perk descriptions and made them appear as if they were written by a team of corporate lawyers rather than an upstart distillery trying to raise funds.
Also, I forgot to mention that when we started working on it, the campaign was already 20 days in and had just 60 days to go. Oh, and no alcohol based campaign on Indiegogo has ever been successfully funded (that we know of). So that was our starting point.
Building The Strategy
The first thing we did was work to understand what community we could tap into and how we could tell our story through different social media outlets in a way that would yield high quality results over the shortest period of time.
We did the same thing for our PR efforts and identified different angles we could use to tell our story and determine which publications would respond to the different angles we had crafted. I’ll expand on those efforts in more detail later on.
We wanted to get quality results in the shortest amount of time possible, so we decided to use mainly Facebook and Twitter. We did that for several reasons:
We already had a thriving and supportive community that was happy to like, share, and comment on the content we put out on the Milk And Honey Facebook page. So we had leverage on Facebook.
Twitter is a great platform to share messages, but also, it’s very easy to engage with new prospects and find influencers or people who share a passion for whiskey. So it was the best choice to create valuable and meaningful engagement.
On Facebook we utilized our social real state that we already had and kept uploading interesting content for whiskey lovers always keeping a balance between being informative, interesting, helpful, and promotional. We also targeted relevant Facebook groups that centered on alcohol and started a conversation there.
On Twitter we posted engaging content and looked for influencers and whiskey lovers we could talk to. We started conversations with people within our target audience and basically made people happy while informing them of our campaign.
The biggest surprise was the usefulness of LinkedIn groups for the campaign. LinkedIn wasn’t originally a part of our strategy, but when we saw that Facebook and Twitter were giving good results but not quite fast enough we dived into the world of LinkedIn groups. We targeted groups that talk about whiskey and the engagement was really great and so were the leads. We were sometimes able to generate approximately $300 in a few hours of effort.
All-in-all, social media outreach helped generate roughly $7,000 of the campaign.
For this campaign, PR was the real breakthrough. We were stuck at around $22,000 for almost two weeks, but the instant the first articles started appearing, money started coming in.
We approached several different media categories and used different angles for each: publications in the Jewish community that we believed would love to support another Israeli innovation and the idea of the first whiskey made in the holy land; publications that focus on whiskey around the world; publications that cover the crowdfunding industry in general; and finally, Israeli publications that might want to cover the origin story of the first ever Israeli whiskey.
We mapped the publications for each category and prepared a unique pitch for each angle. Eventually the Israeli publications turned out to be the most responsive.
PR by itself accounted for about $40,000 of campaign funding. The PR boost occurred about 25 days before the campaign ended and helped us finish with an extra $10,000 dollars at the end.
When we were trying different methods to boost funding we came across some interesting ideas that proved cost-effective.
After doing a little research we understood that it’s easier to get people who already pledged on Indiegogo to pledge again, rather than convince whiskey lovers to make their first-ever donation.
So we mapped all the alcohol related Indiegogo campaigns and went through the list of funders (available to anyone using Indiegogo). We sent a short, special message to each one telling them about the campaign. This resulted in about $1,000 for two hours of work.
Another strategy we employed was to create perks that will help us appeal to niche communities. For instance, we found out that a lot of tech startups would enjoy having a whiskey barrel in their offices – even for the cool factor alone. So we created a perk dedicated to them and pitched tech blogs that cover the start-up scene. This resulted in an amazing article on The Next Web.
Additionally, we realized that BuzzFeed is great for bringing traffic, and that Buzzfeed readers will usually buy online or spend money for something that is cool but not too expensive (they could easily buy one of the smaller perks).
To get their attention, we created a $950,000 pledge that included: a certificate for a lifetime’s supply of whiskey; a magical whiskey trip around the world; a glass of whiskey in space via Virgin Galactic; a Range Rover Sport with a fully stocked bar in the trunk; and the joy of knowing you helped make a fine whiskey come to life. Cool right?
We created a post that matched the BuzzFeed vibe called “They must have been drunk when offering this Indiegogo campaign perk” and posted it to the BuzzFeed community. The post got a lot of traction, though we have no way to be certain of the amount of money it brought into the campaign.
Lessons You Can Take With You
1. Start A Community Before You Need The Pledges
When you start an Indiegogo campaign you need two things – people that will pledge and people who will share and help distribute your campaign. Of course you can’t pre-pledge to your campaign, but you can establish a strong community around your vision.
As Simon Sinek explained, if you tell people why you’re doing what you’re doing there’s a greater chance they’ll help and follow you than if you tell them what it is you do. That’s the great thing of not having a product yet, your vision is all you really have. Build a community around your vision prior to your Indiegogo campaign and when you need their help they will show up.
2. Keep Innovating On The Go
If you were depending on Facebook to bring you pledges, and it didn’t work very well, perhaps you should try Twitter or Quora. Not working? Start looking for blogs that cover your kind of products. Still, not working? Print out flyers and start sharing them around relevant venues. Rewrite your perks, offer something unusual, create YouTube videos showing off your product, create musical mashups of trending songs and relate it to your product.
Well, you get the idea. Live outside the box. Nothing is off limits (as long as it’s legal of course).
3. Never Underestimate The Power Of PR
Yes, the PR industry has been going through changes in the last couple of years. Some people may believe that the only way to grow a startup, campaign or business is only by blogging, giving value, being extra nice and maybe some SEO tricks. I’ve got news, PR works amazingly well.
If you have any budget to spend on the project, spend it on the PR you can’t do yourself. To be honest, PR can be credited for about 50% of the funding we got for Milk And Honey. The moment the various articles and posts started showing up on the web and printed papers (and one prime-time TV show) we saw an amazing boost in pledges.
4. Always Test
With Indiegogo, you have a very specific goal, a very limited amount of time, and very limited resources. You have to invest them wisely, but how will you know what to do more of and what you can stop doing if you’re not testing?
Always check where your traffic is coming from, monitor big boosts in donations and try to analyze what caused them. Analyze traffic, copywriting, and the time of day you distribute content. Iterate your strategy fast and make every day count by analyzing your results.
Expect The Unexpected
Indiegogo campaigns, by their nature, can’t be fully modeled into a ‘how to’ method. Each project is very different in terms of target audience, organic viral reach and market fit.
Some products, just because they fit a certain category, are very shareable or trendy. This makes it easier to promote them, but if the perks are too pricy or the campaign isn’t optimized for the right audience, the traffic it generates will go to waste. Other products can be very hard to promote but may have really great pricing or awesome perks so they will easily achieve their goal. Those are just two variables you can actually control out of tens or hundreds of little details you just can’t anticipate.
The Milk And Honey campaign saw a real boost around 25 days before the end and leaped from $55,000 to $75,000 ($10,000 more than the original goal) over the last two days thanks to massive PR work and other channels we worked on.
The one thing you should always remember is that when you’re running an Indiegogo campaign nothing is off limits. Don’t do one thing and hope it works. Don’t complete a set of pre-decided tasks and get lost if they don’t work. Keep thinking of creative new things you can do and find new channels where you can promote your campaign. In other words – never give up!