Regardless of if your marketing budget is $1M, or if it be $0, pre-launch is the most crucial marketing period for any crowdfunding campaign. Patience is the virtue here. Never rush to launch. You will fund no luck during a live campaign, and the foundation of your backer count is laid well before you launch.
There are but 3 facets to pre-launch marketing:
BUILDING AN AUDIENCE
Larger budgets will benefit most from promoting their landing page via facebook advertisements. The goal of the landing page should be to get subscribers to an email list, as well as phone numbers for SMS notification if you can get away with it. Beginning this as far as 1 year in advance has enormous benefits, but beware: the longer you begin in advance, the harder it will be to keep your subscribers engaged. Be creative here, and always save your unsubscribers so you can email them again on launch day 😉 — using a different domain and email provider of course.
Small budgets need to get creative. You don’t need friends and you don’t need family (although you will benefit if they are rich). What you need is a way to grow an email list and social media following on the cheap. One such way is to create “teaser content” that is published on blogs online using public relations. This is assuming your product is really good though. Another idea is to hit relevant Meetups – which can be scaled by having other people in other states hit Meetups in their cities as well. A publicity stunt is something that may work as well. The point it: get creative, be entertaining, and get people engaged with either YOU or YOUR PRODUCT.
BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH JOURNALISTS
Emailing a journalist after you’ve launch and asking them to write about you is the equivalent of walking up to a stranger and asking to have sex with them. Sure it can work if you are red hot (ie. if you have a red hot product) – but when it comes to the quest for riches, it’s best not to leave these things up to chance. Follow these simple steps to engage journalists pre-launch so they will actually write about you once you’re live:
A) Make a database of every journalists who will actually write about you. Only include journalists who you think actually will do it – and perhaps a few that might. Save the mass email blasts for when you have 2 weeks remaining and are running out of time.
B) Contact them on a weekly basis, and make yourself out to be an expert. Give them feedback on their articles, provide additional information they could have used, and even disagree with their articles and explain why. Journalists need knowledge and information more than friendship, remember that.
C) Keep them engaged and aware of you until launch day. Do this by repeating step “b” every week, and at every opportunity you get. Don’t waste any emails to them if you don’t have serious information or value to provide. If they never respond, just keep doing it anyways.
TEST OUT MARKETING AGENCIES
After you’ve launched is not the time to find out if your agency(ies) are going to produce results for you. Pretend like your email list is your backer count. If an agency is not getting your audience size numbers high enough, then it is safe to say that once you launch they will not be able to get your backer numbers high enough. In terms of public relations it is a bit different but just as easy to gauge how good they are doing. Every week ask your PR agency to show you all the conversations they are having with journalists about your upcoming launch. If they give you any excuse as to why they are not currently speaking with over 10 journalists then you need to immediately switch agencies. You can use this method to try out as much PR agencies as you want, and you may need to go through many of them to find a shining star.
If you’ve got a low budget, chances are you are doing all of this yourself. Instead of testing out agencies then you need to be testing out strategies. See what works to build your email list, and see what product pitches are working best to get responses from journalists about your upcoming launch.