A Soft Serve Approach to The Soft Launch

A Soft Serve Approach to The Soft Launch

by May 13, 2015

How to Soft Launch Your Crowdfunding Campaign

You have decided on a project, carefully researched it to make sure that it is viable, and fleshed out most of the finer details of your campaign. You might feel like you are ready to explode on the scene and begin fundraising, but are you? How many interesting ideas and causes have flopped because they overlooked something or missed a vital channel for generating buzz? Rather than jumping the gun, it is often wiser to begin with a soft launch for your campaign.12339385383_4dfd9c1008_o

What is a Soft Launch?

You have probably already heard the term “soft launch,” or read that it is a good idea, but may not fully understand what it is or how to do it.A soft launch is when your campaign goes live and is accepting donations, but you are only promoting it to select people and groups. This period is where you are testing the waters with close friends or supporters before opening your campaign to your entire network and extended network. It is also an opportunity to iron out any wrinkles that may arise, or to take into consideration the feedback of those who visit your soft launch campaign and offer suggestions for improvement.

By using a soft launch, you have more time to network and promote your project to the people who may ultimately fund it, but also retain the benefit of a campaign with a definite funding deadline.

Where to Begin?

If you have reached the point of almost being ready to launch a full-fledged campaign, then you have probably already invested a lot of time to your project. If your campaign is going to be successful, then by this point, you should have already started developing a significant web and social media presence. Your strategy should include a website with an engaging landing page, a blog, and profiles on all of the major social media platforms (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, and others). You should also have been in touch with media outlets like local press and relevant bloggers, who ultimately have readership within your ideal market demographics for location, age, gender, etc. Through these platforms and connections, you should have distributed a highly engaging, well-shot, and top-quality pitch video that succinctly explains your story and the mission of your cause.

The content that you have created and posted in these various forums should start popping up everywhere for your target audience. They need to see your project on their Twitter and Facebook feeds, on YouTube, on your website, in their email, in the media , etc. That is where your soft launch begins.

SPREADING THE WORD

Exposure is key to the success of a crowdfunding campaign. Many great causes and ideas have gone unfunded simply because their organizers failed to lay the necessary groundwork. The majority of your efforts need to be focused on gaining exposure for your campaign.
This is where a soft launch can really help you make a splash in the crowdfunding world. If you haven’t done so already, you should contact relevant media channels and promote your soft launch. Popular blogs can be enormous sources for referrals, but they are not the only ones who can help spread the word. Remember, your own network of friends and colleagues can act as key advocates for your campaign during the soft launch stage. = Moreover, they are called “social networks” for a reason: people you know may be able to introduce you to other people (like bloggers and reporters) who can help spread the word about your campaign.
Group your contacts into different segments to better organize what they can bring to your cause and to provide them with relevant information.

A sample breakdown might look like this:

Influencers — These are people with heavy influence via their social media connections, blog output, or media appearances.
Resources — These are the people who are useful to help you develop and evolve your concept. They know about your campaign and are willing to help, regardless of their individual influence over others or financial means.
Acquaintances — The bulk of your contacts will consist of this type of supporter. They are not terribly useful for their influence over others (at least, that you know of at this point), but they are the masses to whom you must appeal to in order to get your campaign funded.
Draft your communications for each group differently. Influencers probably deserve personalized emails due to the amount of sway they hold in their prospective community. On the other hand, a mass email may be appropriate for the Acquaintances group.

Make Your Soft Launch a Team Effort

Now that the word is out, you will find that some people are more passionate supporters of your project than others. Make these passionate believers a part of your team. Keep them involved with every step of the process, from getting their feedback about your cause and campaign to sourcing new ideas. Think about using these supporters for tasks like creating your pitch videos and web content.

Use the soft launch as a chance to get advice from your “team.” Engage with your followers, be responsive, and get a conversation going. You do not have to take every piece of advice, but do not discount it all, either..

One of the best ways to gain supporter insights is to use “sneak previews” to make your “team members” feel like insiders. You can throw a have special event, like a launch party, to really engage your network, build excitement, and drive momentum for your project. Also, consider small giveaways or bonuses for these “early bird” members of your campaign.

Loyalty, Networking, Anticipation

During your soft launch, everything is about building loyalty, spreading the word, and increasing anticipation. Create a countdown clock to the actual launch, and post it on your landing page, blog, and social media platforms. Create “early release” content that is only available to the most dedicated team members (whether they are the ones who have followed you on social media, submitted email addresses, contributed to your campaign in some fashion, etc.). Provide referral bonuses for people who bring in other followers. Using the techniques described will help you build excitement among the members of your target audience.

Excitement is something people want to share with others, and that is how the word will spread about your campaign. By offering all of the resources they need to make spreading that excitement easy (e.g., a pitch video, a landing page, social media accounts), your followers’ efforts will quickly spread exponentially.

The soft launch allows you to do all of these things without cutting into the deadline for your campaign. As a result, by the time the campaign officially launches, you will have an enormous pool of potential donors from which to secure your campaign funding. Extra effort in the beginning can lead to an enormously increased payout at the end.