It’s no great secret that the current state of society presents a swelling challenge for brands, particularly for their marketing efforts. We’re living in an age where trust in most institutions is as miniscule as it’s ever been. Still, in this complicated and ever-changing economy, we’ve got a fighting chance if we’re willing to do things a bit unconventionally. Crowdfunding is just one of the unconventional tools at our fingertips, but it just might be at its peak opportunity right now. The fact that Kickstarter just won Techcrunch’s Best Overall Startup award for 2013 gives even more credence to our theory.

Setting the Scene

One Gallup poll soberingly puts one of today’s biggest challenges in perspective. The consumer research institution has consistently measured confidence in various institutions since 1975, asking respondents to respond to a list of institutions with their level of confidence in each one. In July of 2013, only 22 percent of respondents said they had either “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in big business. Compare that figure with a whopping 65 percent of respondents who were asked the same question about small business. Based on this survey, it’s clear that trust is damaged between large corporations and their audiences. In the fallout of the economic crisis, we’re still dealing with a landscape in which people don’t trust and connect with large corporations in the same way they once did.

The Opportunity this Landscape Presents for Crowdfunding

While this phenomenon presents hardship for some of the most successful companies in the world, it’s a gem of opportunity for smaller brands who are clever enough to capitalize on it. Today’s consumer wants to connect in a way he or she never has before, and there’s something alluring about a brand still small enough to have a meaningful two-way conversation with its audience. Despite valiant efforts using social media and other forums, I’m not sure that enough consumers feel their opinions are genuinely valued by large corporations. At least not to the degree that smaller entities value them.

Crowdfunding grants the most unique opportunity to date when it comes to building a passionate audience that is more involved with a brand than ever before. Backers are integral parts of a brand or company because they are indispensable to ensure a product’s birth. Nike or another huge brand may respond to your tweet, but they don’t need you so much that they can’t launch a new product or division without your help. This isn’t the case with a crowdfunding project. These smaller entities depend entirely on their backers, and that dependence offers a revolutionary sense of closeness for the audience.

In an article about this year’s Crunchies, Techcrunch highlighted Kickstarter’s standout performance in fostering the development of a brand following.

“Its ability to tap funding sources who eventually become its consumers have turned funding models upside down. The company simultaneously fostered a sense of ownership and community around product development and acted as a way for makers to open up about the successes and setbacks of transforming a product from idea to execution.”

If your brand could have a family, its backers on Kickstarter would be the closest thing to it. They can truly say they were with you from the beginning, they helped you through the growing pains. They’ll be your best advocates for the long haul if you let them.

Taking Your Brand’s Crowdfunding “Family” to the Next Level

So Kickstarter gives you the ability to have a brand family. How can you make the most of that opportunity? I recently read The Passion Conversation, written by several industry experts who focus on word of mouth marketing. In the book, they quote Steve Knox, who is now a senior advisor at Boston Consulting Group. I doubt any other statement could sum up my point any better.

“I passionately, passionately believe that the world of marketing is moving to a relationship-based world. We in marketing have been trained to think about the consumer at arm’s length…in an almost non-human way. And the new world of marketing is so much more about true relationships with people, which means there must be dialogue, and…conversation.”

If you treat them right, you’ll have your crowdfunding family for the rest of your life as a brand. From the beginning, you’ve got to ask questions; you’ve got to listen; and you’ve got to respond. For a full list of ways to maximize your Kickstarter marketing efforts, we have a number of other posts.

  1. Take the time to personally answer and thank those who post in the comments section of your campaign.People feel special when you take the time to respond to them individually, and they’ll immediately feel more of a sense of attachment if you speak directly to their concerns. The time this takes is more than worth it in the long run.
  2. Ask for feedback and ideas .Many clients we talk to have so many ideas for the future of their products, and they have trouble deciding what their next move should be. Call on your audience to test the popularity of your ideas and gauge what the response will be. You can do this on whatever crowdfunding platform you’re using and with your social media outlets. It’s a win-win strategy: you get beneficial feedback and your backers get an intensified feeling that their opinions and ideas are a part of your process.
  3. Remember the little things.Providing an amazing customer experience is key. People are often so surprised when a company goes above and beyond to ensure they are happy. Provide thank you notes, social media shout-outs and think of ways to do add-ons and freebies. Any creative way you can think of to show appreciation to your audience is a great opportunity.

In a world cluttered with marketing jargon and overflowing with false promises, you can take a ride to the top with good listening skills for the people who love your brand most. Make them feel like an irreplaceable part of your brand, and you’ll have a team of people who you don’t even have to “market” to.

You’ll just have a conversation with them. They’ll listen, and trust me, they’ll spread the good word.

We think these are some of the best ways to keep backers engaged and create an enthusiastic audience that does a lot of your marketing for you. What have you done to facilitate a conversation with your backers, and what types of things have you seen work? Tell us by commenting below or by filling out our contact form to get in touch.