Your next-generation rehab tool is poised to be a big hit in the market, but you can’t construct a prototype because you are maxed out on credit cards. You’re looking to expand your practice to a second location and are on a capital campaign to secure the lease and fund the build-out. Maybe you’re simply trying to purchase a much-needed piece of equipment for you clinic, but the bank isn’t extending your business’s line of credit.
What can you do to climb out of the financial doldrums and make your physical therapy dreams a success?
In our current economy, access to traditional capital and credit sources remains tight, but a new form of donation-based funding has emerged that could provide the needed finances for your situation. Crowd-funding, as it’s called, is a revolutionary way to build interest in your project while simultaneously accessing the money needed to make it a reality.
Last year I leveraged the power of the crowd and secured the funding needed to publish the Mad Skills Exercise Encyclopedia. In just 30 days, I raised over $9,000 and built the momentum needed to propel the book’s sales and strong Amazon.com ranking.
In this guest blog post, I hope to share some of the hard-won insights about what it takes to run a successful crowd-funding campaign. Equal parts grueling and anxiety-producing, these campaigns are in no way easy, but they are utterly rewarding.
Aside from helping you get the money needed to complete your project, a well-run crowd-funding campaign gives you:
- Immediate feedback about the market’s interest in your product or service
- Additional publicity for you and your brand
- An audience for future products and services
Before going any further, it bears mentioning that many websites—such as Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe—have emerged as tools to build your own crowd-funding campaign. There are many platforms to use, so before you get started, it’s wise to explore the best ones out there to determine which platform will best suit your needs. (Forbes has a good list of the top 10 sites.)
When you’re ready to take the leap, here are my six steps to running a successful crowd-funding campaign:
1. Start early.
Before you take your project live, there’s a ton of legwork to do, and you need to give yourself plenty of time to get it all done. My project began at least four months before the launch date, and it involved hiring a videographer and graphic designer as well as a virtual assistant (VA) to help prepare for the launch. I used a physical therapy student who was moonlighting as a VA to help compile lists and do market research for my outreach program. If you run your own clinic, having your existing staff perform tasks related to the campaign might suffice. However, be sure to carve out time from their schedules to make sure they can dedicate attention to the campaign.
2. Identify key supporters.
The success of your campaign depends on how much support you can muster from the community. To reach my funding goal, I needed to get at least 50,000 people to know about the campaign. Because my personal network consists of only a few hundred friends, reaching that number of eyeballs meant I had to connect with allies who could take the project to a larger audience. Thus, building relationships with influential bloggers, local news outlets, and social media kingpins must be a fundamental part of your plan. To reach those people, you’ll need to leverage the different tiers of your network: friends, friends of friends, and total strangers. Asking your immediate network for introductions to influential people is the best way to connect with them, but you might also have success from a random email, tweet, or Facebook comment.
One key task I had my VA perform was to make lists of contact information for hundreds of people I wanted to reach. Once you have the email addresses, Twitter handles, and Facebook profiles of people you think might be interested, your next task is to ask if they would mind sharing a link once the campaign goes live. Tim Ferris’s blog, The Four Hour Work Week, has a great post about how one company used the process outlined above to raise $100,000 in 10 days.
3. Craft a knockout pitch.
Convincing people to donate their money to your project is what a crowd-funding campaign is all about, so crafting a killer pitch is essential. You need to tell your story and get people excited about what you are doing. To do so, answer these questions:
- How will they directly or indirectly benefit from your project?
- Where will the funds go?
- Might other therapists benefit from a new technology you are developing?
- Will current customers benefit from a new clinic location or type of service?
Nothing conveys your passion and excitement for a project like what you can show in a video. Spend the time and money to have the video done professionally as this will be your main way of communicating with potential backers. Art students and other freelancers found on Craigslist are great resources for shooting a video pitch. In my case, a recent graduate was looking to develop her video portfolio, so I was able to shoot my pitch for $200—a real bargain. Check out Indiegogo’s blog for creative and successful video pitches from the past few years.
4. Offer compelling perks.
What will people get in exchange for the different tiers of donations they make? This is a really fun part of the campaign, and you can be creative in how you choose to reward your funders. The lowest level of backer for Mad Skills received a social media “shout-out” on Facebook and an electronic copy of the book, which I emailed once the campaign was over. Higher-level supporters had their names listed in the back of the book and received apparel and print copies of the exercise encyclopedia. If you’re building a new clinic space, perhaps you could list and thank your supporters on a special placard, hung prominently for all to see. Maybe a wellness package would be an appropriate reward for a certain level of donation. My funding awards were based on levels of commitment ranging from $5 up to $500, but you could choose to make yours as high or low as necessary. You’ll be surprised at the number of people who will make upper-level contributions.
5. Catapult yourself with a powerful launch.
Crowd-funding platforms often note that campaigns that raise money in their first days are more likely to be successful than those that don’t. Thus, it’s important to kick off your project with a bang. Aside from holding a kickoff event, you should line up backers to give their support in that first 24-hour window. For the launch day of Mad Skills, I rented an event space with an open bar and got the crowd fired up with some fun physical challenges. Yet, a week before the launch, I had emailed a list of 10 close friends and asked them to pledge their support on the day of the kickoff. I asked if they could share a link to the campaign across their social media pages and commit to a donation. Do whatever you can to build early momentum, and make it an internal goal to raise over two-thirds of the goal in the first half of the campaign.
6. Use a battle plan to maintain momentum.
Sorry—you don’t get to rest after the launch date. It’s natural for interest to wane after the excitement of the kickoff, so you’ll need to remain vigilant to keep the momentum building for the duration of the campaign. Plan out who you will contact every day. My Google calendar was filled with 30 days’ worth of tasks, and I assigned myself at least three people to reach out to each day. Magazine editors, news anchors, local print journalists—reach out to everyone you can to make sure the community knows about your campaign. Also, determine what you’ll do on your social media pages. You don’t want to give your followers campaign fatigue, so try not to harass people, and be sure to spread your efforts across multiple outlets. Some successful crowd-funders release new perks and offer small competitions as time progresses to keep people engaged. Whatever methods you choose, don’t give up on your efforts until your campaign ends!
Phew! Those six steps sound exhausting, don’t they? Yes, launching a successful crowd-funding campaign is strenuous, but don’t let that dissuade you. After a bit of upfront effort and 30 days of solid hustle, you can walk away from it with the financial backing to make your dreams blossom.
I hope you found this post helpful. Crowd-funding was a very lucrative tool for me to bring Mad Skills to market, and I’m sure you can use it for the same success. Please share your comments with the WebPT community below, and don’t hesitate to ask any questions you might have.