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How to Create an Amazing Crowdfunding Pitch

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Thanks to the Pebble E-Paper Watch's recent $10 million record-breaking fundraising effort, and similar online ventures, crowdfunding has recently exploded onto the mainstream consciousness, and with good reason -- for several reasons, it's a superb approach to raising venture capital and angel investment.

But as fast as the field is moving, the stakes continue to rise for creators in terms of project production values, marketing efforts and overall customer expectation. While using online tools to post project pitches and solicit donations from the public in exchange for merchandize or unique experiences seems simple at surface value, don't be fooled. Whether or not equity changes hands (and it will start doing so by January 2013, as soon as the SEC weighs in) the process of pitching everyday end-users is quite different than selling concepts to seasoned investors, being at heart a consumer marketing effort.

Looking to kick-start your own crowdfunding initiative and improve your chances of connecting with backers, let alone convincing them to dip into their own purse or wallet? As discussed further in a free downloadable book The Crowdfunding Bible, here's how to use top sites and services to craft powerful campaigns that resonate.

Building an Effective Crowdfunding Pitch

Your pitch is your first point of contact with potential backers, and opening salvo in the war to win their hearts and minds -- and you know what they say about first impressions. Note that an effective pitch requires exhaustive preparation and execution. Don't wing it. Plan it. Work it. Refine it. Test it on unsuspecting friends. Solicit feedback. Play devil's advocate, and consider everything that can go wrong. Tweak, pull and modify it until you're certain it can't be better. In other words, you've only got one chance to make a successful debut: Make sure it's the best pitch you can offer.

Your pitch will consist primarily of two components: A video and a written introduction to your project.

Creating Powerful Videos and Film Clips

  1. The video pitch can be one of the most persuasive and effective tools that project builders have to engage an audience and potential backers. Here are some ground rules for effective video pitches:
  2. Start by examining at least 10 other video pitches before beginning. Look at successful projects and unsuccessful ones alike. Think about and analyze why some were better than others and plan your video accordingly.
  3. Next, prepare -- and then prepare some more. Make sure you have something eye-catching to show that will quickly grab people's attention and make them interested in your project.
  4. Keep the contents of your video short, simple and engaging: You should grab the viewer's attention in the first 10 seconds and keep things brisk and engaging -- upwards of two minutes is pushing it for overall length, given shortened online attention spans.
  5. Make sure your pitch clearly demonstrates your project, key selling points and what makes it unique. Videos should clearly represent each new venture and why it's so original and compelling. Let viewers know: Why are you passionate about projects, and why should they be as well?
  6. Clips don't have to be "professional" or polished. However, you must make sure that segments aren't choppy, poorly lit or difficult to discern, and that audio is clear and understandable.
  7. Be yourself -- and be natural and upbeat. You want people to believe in you, to be on your side, and to want your project to succeed. Remember, you're selling yourself as much as you're selling the project. Bear in mind, however: You're not a used car salesman or a discount furniture wholesaler -- honesty and warmth are essential. You can be nerdy or funny or even a little awkward. It's OK, as long as you're authentic, and express yourself clearly and with genuine enthusiasm.
  8. Rehearse your pitch so that it becomes second nature. Learn to express yourself concisely and with a positive and enthusiastic attitude. Remember, you are your project's biggest evangelist -- if people don't think that you believe in the venture, they won't either.
  9. Describe your project, your goals, why you need the money, how you'll use it and the time frame in which you need pledges to come in. And definitely don't forget to describe the rewards you have to offer. Answer these questions for the audience:
    • Who are you?
    • What is your background relevant to this project? Why should I trust you?
    • What is your project?
    • What's so special about it?
    • What does it look like?
    • How long will it take to complete the project?
    • How much backing do you need to complete the project?
    • How will you use the money?
    • What rewards are you offering?
    • What will you do if you get more money than you are asking for?
    • Why is your project worth viewers' hard-earned dollars?
    • How will you keep in touch with the community during development, and after the product is released?

  10. Be reasonable. Only promise content, features, services or opportunities that you know you will be able to deliver upon if goals are met. Save inessential or riskier additions for updates and "stretch goals" that can be added once your initial goal is achieved.
  11. Note that it's important to check funding rules on the site or services you are using before beginning... most allow you to keep everything you make, even past your goal, but some do not. It is also important to check rules regarding copyrighted content. If you don't own it or make it yourself, be sure that you have the rights to use it.

Designing a Project Homepage

Your video sales pitch is important, but before potential backers even view it, they'll first land on your campaign's homepage to find out more about your project. Part of what will drive traffic there, and prompt them to learn more and consider financial contributions, is the brief summary and image that people will see when they initially browse your chosen crowdfunding service/site. Bearing this in mind, be sure you can describe your vision for the project concisely and that you have a good snapshot to accompany it, which will often be a still image from your video pitch.

Once prospective patrons have arrived at your homepage, you will want to grab their attention quickly and explain what your project is, what makes it unique and why they'd want to invest in the venture. Naturally, you should carefully think through everything you are going to put on the page. Here are some suggestions:

Do Your Research. Just as when putting together campaign videos, it's important to assess and review several examples of pitch pages for both successful and unsuccessful projects. Note what you like about them and which elements grab your attention. From off-putting aesthetic designs to dense text descriptions, take note of which aspects of these pages don't seem to work as well. Take these findings into account, and plan your homepage, pitch and supporting assets accordingly.

Create Compelling Headlines. Bold callouts that break up text descriptions into easily digestible sections not only give people an idea of the subject matter contained within each grouping, helping to make descriptions more approachable and alleviate monotony. They also adorn them with naturally eye-catching headers. For online reading, remember: Short, simple write-ups work best, with longer clips more effective when subdivided into more user-friendly nuggets, which also serve the added benefit of more capably attracting viewers' attention.

Use Arresting Images. Eye-catching pictures and screenshots that represent your project do wonders for your home page. Try to find several attractive photos that showcase your project and possibly the people behind it as well. Note that wherever possible, all should speak to and communicate one or more of the three key ideas and messages you're trying to get across. In fact, using photos to convey these points can be much quicker and more effective, and provide the advantage of helping you say less with fewer words. Keep in mind that action shots are frequently more effective than stills as well.

Leverage Notable Personalities. If you can get people from outside your project to recommend it - particularly those with a strong following whom your target audience would trust and believe - use their commentary wherever possible to reinforce your message. Likewise, where suitable, consider inserting a very short video of a noteworthy individual or someone credible that supports your project explaining why they believe in it.

Write Attention-Getting Descriptions. What you write about your project and how you describe it is very important. People will read it and want to find that all of their key questions have been answered. At minimum, here is what you need to tell them:

  • Who are you?
  • What is your background relevant to this project?
  • Why should I trust you?
  • What is your project?
  • What's so special or unique about it?
  • What does it look like?
  • How long will it take to complete the project?
  • How much backing do you need to complete the project?
  • How will you use the money?
  • What rewards are you offering?
  • What will you do if you get more money than you are asking for?
  • Why is your project worth readers' hard-earned dollars?
  • How will you keep in touch with the community during development, and after the product is released?