July 6, 2016

6 Mistakes That Could Kill Your Crowdfunding Campaign

Hundred dollar bill
Crowdfunding has opened new doors for indie film financing, but it's certainly not without its pitfalls.

You need money for your film, so you do what countless indie filmmakers have done and you start a campaign on Kickstarter or Indiegogo or Seed&Spark. You create an account, write down all pertinent info about your project, decide on the rewards, make a campaign video, and there you go! Congrats on a successful campaign!

Well, not really.

Crowdfunding seems simple, but considering the fact that over 63% of all Kickstarter campaigns fail, there are quite a number of things you can do to muck it all up. And who better to learn how to run a more successful campaign than Indiegogo's Head Film and Creative Campaign Strategist, John T. Trigonis? In this Film Courage video, he shares six major mistakes filmmakers make when running a crowdfunding campaign.

1. Relying too heavily on press and influencers

Unless you're a part of the communities you're marketing to, you're "just another crowdfunding filmmaker" asking for money from people you don't know—and how many of those do you scroll right past every day? Social networks like Twitter and Facebook aren't going to magically give you an audience that is excited about your project; you have to invest some time into the communities you want to be in (and from which you'll eventually be asking for money).

2. Having boring "standard definition" incentives

Trigonis says, "The perks are almost the lifeblood of what makes people contribute to an actual campaign, so give them some cool interesting perks."

He lays out three types of incentives to include in your campaign: "Standard definition" (i.e. social network shout outs, copies of your film), "high definition" (i.e. producer credit, getting your backers on set), and "3D", which are "personalized" things you can't get anywhere else (i.e. personalized poems, signed copies, tickets to your film's premiere).

3. Not soft-launching your campaign

Your friends, family, and fans are going to be the first ones to support your project, so it's imperative that you alert them about your film's campaign before its official launch. Why? Because it builds momentum!

"Crowdfunding is physics and crowdfunding is psychology."

4. Having no strategy in place 

Running a crowdfunding campaign is essentially a full-time job, which means you have to be prepared. You need to set daily goals, determine how you're going to market your campaign, decide when and how you're going to give your backers updates. There is so much to do!

Trigonis puts it perfectly: "It's not free money. You're gonna work for that money. You're gonna work hard for it." 

5. Setting your goal too high

This is not the time to start going overboard about how high you're going to set your goal. Approach it rationally: ask yourself how much you actually need and how much of a following you already have.

So, how much should you ask for? Trigonis says that a good place to start is by asking yourself if your friends, family, and fans can raise 30% of your goal.

6. Not having an audience

If you don't have a crowd, how can you crowdfund? If your film doesn't have much of a following, you shouldn't be trying to get one on the first day of your campaign. You should be putting in that work months in advance by tweeting and Facebooking about it, emailing people about it, and asking film blogs if they'll cover your project.

If you want more from John T. Trigonis, check out his TEDx Talk on crowdfunding:

What are some mistakes you've learned from while crowdfunding? Let us know in the comments below!     

Your Comment

9 Comments

Having run a successful campaign for $20k, these are good tips. I do have a slight problem with #5, setting a high goal can (in some cases) make your campaign take off because a lofty goal is exciting to an audience (crowdfunding is all about psychology). But generally, yes, ask for what you need unless you already have a platform like NSF where people know you.

Also, don't use the lukewarm campaign sites like GoFundMe or IndieGoGo. Those campaigns, statistically, achieve their main goals far less frequently than Kickstarter where it's all or nothing (again, psychology). The exception being only if you don't truly need all the money, if you're okay getting 5% of your ask to offset costs, well, go ahead and use a site that will give you whatever amount you raise.

July 6, 2016 at 11:31AM, Edited July 6, 11:31AM

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Michael Willer
Director/Screenwriter
100

Thanks for the thoughts, Michael! I will say you've a good opinion about the whole "lofty goal being exciting" aspect, but only when the filmmaker is en route to reaching that lofty goal. 20% of $200,000 isn't exciting anyone, I'm afraid. And Indiegogo –– which is far from a "lukewarm site" –– has has a fixed funding ("All or Nothing") option for that added psychology factor, should filmmakers need it. The way around that is by running a creatively strategized campaign.

July 6, 2016 at 2:30PM, Edited July 6, 2:30PM

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John T. Trigonis
Writer, Storymaker, and Crowdfunding Strategist
95

1, 3 and 6 are interconnected: you need a crowd to softlaunch. And without a crowd you have to rely on press and influencers.

A year ago I met someone who said they were planning a crowdfunding for product innovation. I gave some advice: build a following on Twitter and Facebook, connect to your network on LinkedIn, make sure you have all your existing clients in a mailinglist, write blogs to gain attention before the campaign, prepare press releases, inform your crowd before you start the campaign and ask them to pledge on day 1. And not to forget: it is hard work.

About a year later they started the campaign without soft launch, no blogs written, a tiny crowd who got surprised, no overview of the press they want to reach out to and a lack luster stamina so after 2 weeks they more or less gave up.
I wonder what would have happened if they had put in the effort to prepare the crowdfunding campaign.

July 6, 2016 at 1:06PM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9363

There's no wondering for me, Walter –– had they followed your advice and put in the work, they would've been rewarded nicely! Thanks for sharing that story!

July 6, 2016 at 2:33PM

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John T. Trigonis
Writer, Storymaker, and Crowdfunding Strategist
95

Im going to consider these great tips when I run my campaign for my next project.

What other incentives do you guys recommend to offer other than the ones mentioned in the video? ( Film download,Producer Credit, Tickets to the Premiere,etc)

July 6, 2016 at 3:11PM, Edited July 6, 3:11PM

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Abraham Marquez
Independent Filmmaker
191

Glad you enjoyed the tips, Abraham! As for other incentives, those ones are the standards these days. Depending on the premise and themes of the film itself, you want to try and get creative with it. I have lots of examples in my book (http://goo.gl/xZmls4) and in the "Incentives" section of my popular Medium piece (http://goo.gl/z2Qs4W), but some of these incentives include poems (I wrote acrostic poems for everyone who contributed $10 or more for my campaign for CERISE, a short film about words and a former spelling bee champ haunted by the one that took him down); Alejandro Jodorowsky offered "poetic money" during his campaign for ENDLESS POETRY; KALEIDOSCOPE MAN director Simon Cox offered numerous "3-D!" perks during his many Indiegogo campaigns, including various ways to get your face in the film itself. These are the kinds of perks that require a bit of thought. The "Hi-Def" experiences are things like set visits, roles as an extra or even a speaking role, and Google Hangouts with the cast and crew. The most important thing, though, is to price these things appropriately so that they move; no sense in having awesome overpriced rewards on the shelves; better to price 'em lower and have the money to make your film. Hope that helps!

July 6, 2016 at 9:51PM, Edited July 6, 9:53PM

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John T. Trigonis
Writer, Storymaker, and Crowdfunding Strategist
95

Thanks john, Im going to check the book out when it comes time to start the campaign.
Cheers!

July 9, 2016 at 11:31AM

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Abraham Marquez
Independent Filmmaker
191

Rule #1: Prove yourself. Start a YouTube channel and make videos that people actually want to see. Don't tell me about how great you or your project are, show me.

July 14, 2016 at 3:31PM, Edited July 14, 3:31PM

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Ryan Gudmunson
Recreational Filmmaker
933

Yep! "Show, don't tell" is still the name of the game.

July 21, 2016 at 4:41PM

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John T. Trigonis
Writer, Storymaker, and Crowdfunding Strategist
95