Project Planning and Execution tips


There are lots of moving parts to launching a project and issues, more than you may think and you usually stumble into any one of or all of them listed here. There are many factors to consider in order to properly plan and figure out the best way to approach some of the challenges you will face, being prepard can save you a lot of money, time and headache.

Listed below are some questions to ask yourself and helpful tips to get your project up and running, this is based on our experiences and some significant research about the realm of crowdfunding, it's hisory, trends and the marketplace that it exists in today. There is a lot of material here, all of it custom created for you, read all it or just the relevant parts for your project. We wish that we would have had a resource like the one below to access and get some quick answers to questions (verses searching the net for hours and hours) when we were working on our first crowdfunding project. That is why we created it here for project creators, we want to help you create the best crowdfunding project possible.



 Are you up for the challenge of a CrowdFunding project?

Creating a project from the ground up and all it's aspects is a huge commitment of time and effort. Trust us, we were where you are right now, you have an idea and it seems pretty straightforward how to execute it and get it ready to be crowdfunded, so why wouldn't you proceed?

Truth be told it's going to take much longer than you may initially think and it is going to eat up a good portion of your spare (or full) time. Ask yourself do you want to and are you able to devote hour after hour to something which has no guarantee of success? We're not trying to scare people away from Crowdfunding, quite the opposite, what we want is for people to know that creating a good crowdfunding campaign is like a part time job at the very least and, in terms of hours may be like a full-time job.

You're going to probably hit several road-blocks and may feel like giving up, your family and friends may start complaining that they never see you. Other hobbies, interests and chores may have to wait if you want to keep your project moving forward. This isn't for everyone but chances are if you're reading this you are one of the few that has an entrepreneurial mind, you relish a challenge and you know that if you never try and never risk anything then you will never gain anything, it's just the way it is.

It's best if you look at a crowdfundig project as starting a business in its own right. After all if and when you reach your goal you’re going to have customers who funded you that you will have to answer to. They didn't pledge just because they like you (although that IS part of sales - never let anyone tell you different), they did it because they expect something in return.

There are also many benefits to being a crowdfunding creator. Your idea could be the ground floor to a personal freedom that most people never realize, you'll be doing something that many people talk about but very few actually do. You'll be part of the creative driving force that has enabled mankind to progress throughout history, you will be in the company of greatness and no matter what the outcome remember that trying is the first step to anything great and, anything that someone else can do you can do as well.

 Is your idea unique - being first is best (usually)

Everyone has had an awesome idea - everyone, the catch is that there may be someone out there that has also had the same idea, and others that have brought it to market. It may sound obvious but when you have an idea that you think is worthy of crowdfunding, check the net to see if it has been done before. Check, check, re-check and check again altering your search words every time, search pics using the same queris, and then search again.

You would be amazed how many people start down the path of new product/service/offering development only to realize that it has been done before. Being first is best since it will usually give you an advantage to get some free marketing that will get your project in front of more potential funders. If an idea is truly unique, it is usually worthy to then write about, which makes your job of marketing your project that much easier. Editors, bloggers, writers and reporters will not usually rehash an original idea after it has had its initial time in the news. Readers always want new content and are more likely to read about something that is completely fresh.

Usually

Unless your product/service/offering is significantly different and approaches the problem it solves in a unique way. AND usually has a completely different marketing spin and hook. It is possible to do even better than the first however this is an anomaly, and after viewing literally thousands of crowdfunding projects rise or fall, we've noticed that first to market is an advantage - usually.

Also note that if you see an idea similar to yours that has failed after numerous attempts by different projects it may be an indication that your product does not have a market or, the market is not ready for it. This is your flag to do more research to see why these projects have failed, to take a step back and think about your market and who you are after for funders. Time spent doing initial research is never a bad thing, on the contrary it can save you much time and effor down the road.

 Which Crowdfunding site should I choose to host my project?

Choose from any site that is featured on CrowdFundFusion, it's that simple. These sites have the high amounts of traffic and are known to produce quality projects.

One difference between them is that Kickstarter is known for having turned down projects to be listed because of project type (they have more stringent rules) but both Indiegogo and Rockethub are not as strict. Kickstarter still has the highest number of users but remember that this means you will have more projects to compete with, so it is a two edged sword. In addition Kickstarter requires that you reach your funding goal to get any funds released to you, whereas both Indiegogo and Rockethub allow you to keep whatever you raise, this comes however with a higher commission fee.

Another factor to consider is to check if there are similar projects to yours on whichever crowdfunding site you decide to use. Look for projects that are similar to yours in type or function without being too similar (for example you don't want to launch another iphone holder on a site that just had 10 holders launch - the demand will already have been met). If these projects have done well it may bode well for how yours will do. This leads to the fact that you should spend some time researching each site before you make your decision, don't forget that no matter what site you decide to use, your marketing campaign is going to be key to get people to come see your project. You will get some organic traffic from the crowdfunding site itself but the majority will come from your marketing effort.

 Should I place my project on multiple CrowdFunding sites?

In a word, no, it isn't worth the extra hassle of creating several project pages on different crowdfunding sites. It is something which has been tried several times by projects with minimal success. This is because the majority of traffic that will come to your project is going to be generated by the marketing plan that you create, regardless of where or on how many sites it is hosted.

Imagine that there is a pool of potential backers to your project on the net, this pool will not change with the number of crowdfunding sites that host your project. That being said if you are promoting your project on several sites you will have to use different links to your project when you are mentioning your project. This will divert the traffic from that potential pool of backers to different sites rather than one point, reducing the chance that your project will be able to generate traffic of its own - the mythical critical mass when a project can go viral. This happens when people start to mention your project on their own to other people. A single crowdfunding site as a collection point has a much greater chance to start going viral than if spread over 2 of more. The more traffic a single project is getting the higher the chances are that it will go viral, and going viral is the holy grail of getting attention for your project.

 Creating your Project Plan

Do really need a project plan? Yes, you really should spend a little time on one. It does not have be something worthy of a project manager, with gantt charts, cost projections and spreadsheets but they can help especially if your project has a lot of individual steps and phases. Your plan can be as simple as a check list of things to do but if you take the time to do more in depth planning you will see a better picture of all the nuances of launching a crowdfunding venture. You can get a much better idea of how long it is going to take you to do everything and be able to create a more comprehensive offering. Your plan will get you thinking of how all parts of your project are related and how each one effects the other.

The world of crowdfunding is littered with missed deadlines and completion dates. With better planning you will be able to say with more confidence that your delivery dates will be met. Happy backers can turn into more customers later on when you make it to market, just like unhappy clients can lead to negative comments for your company.

Sounds great so where do you start? A simplified development life cycle that you can use to build on or as a STARTING point is below, you will work through these phases during the course of preparing your product/service/offering for launch on a Crowdfunding site.


You'll probably end up doing this for several iterations, in fact if you don't there is a chance you have missed something (or your project may be a unique type). You can add many sub phases within the phases to keep track of exactly what you should be doing and have done.

The above phases work best for product development but can be applied to almost any project type, with something like a film for example you will have to go through the same phases but you may only get one shot (literally) at getting it right so, do more analysis and ensure that you get your design right (for the film example a storyboard would be a good example of well thought out design work). By the book of project management there are a lot more process groups and knowledge areas but that would take hundreds of pages to go through. You want to get your project up and running, not learn a new profession, you can however search the net for more detailed project management info to see if it will help but for the purposes of a single project it's not really necessary. That being said the project phases covered here are not exhaustive and your project will probably have several that are unique to its type, what is covered here is meant to get you started and pointed in the right direction if you don't know where to start.

Some other major areas of your project plan are going to be:


These parts of your project plan are so important that they have their own sections on this page.

Everything that has been mentioned so far takes a lot of time and that's why you should be creating some kind of project schedule to plot out how long different tasks are going to take you. You'll see that it is going to take a while to do everything you need to do but it's better to see this sooner and plan for it rather than be surprised and then perhaps try to rush through areas, causing the quality of your project to suffer. Make sure your schedule covers all parts of your plan, everything takes time and you can't do everything at once.

Your plan is not static either, it IS going to change as you learn more about what you have to do and how to do it. Update your plan regularly so that you have a snapshot of what you have done and what you still have to do. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

 Cost Projections

In the process of creating and working through your project plan you will start to collect information about costs. Bringing your project to market isn't going to be cheap and you have to know how much it's going to take since based on that you will know how much you should ask for and can ask for.

With projects being so diverse and different there is no hard and fast cost list we can give you to check off. Your project is going to have some unique parts and tasks so this is where your expertise comes in. You're probably going to have to start searching the net to find companies that can create a prototype, do graphic work, design etc. (the possibilities are endless). These companies may or may not be the ones that will be mass producing the offering (if applicable). If that is the case you will have to do more searching, you may end up contacting dozens of possible manufacturers with some being overseas. It is advisable to contact many since you can get wildly differing quotes, you can shop around for the best deal. Whatever the case may be you need to ask for and get proper and official quotes for large production runs that will ultimately produce the final products. They should state how much a set number of units will cost and how long they will take to produce. Be sure to ask for different batch sizes to see what your cost per unit will be based on volume.

Take all this data and enter it into a spreadsheet and start moving numbers around. Create scenarios based on costs at different volumes of units produced to see what your profit margins are. These will be key to calculating what the break even point of your campaign is going to be and thus will be influential in deciding what to set as your project funding goal amount.

 Creating your Marketing plan

You should have one, period. Even if your product/service/offering is ground breaking and tens of thousands of people will want it, if they don't know about it they won’t see it and you won't reach your goal. You cannot rely just on the internet or the crowdfunding site itself to bring you people and potential pledgers. You have to get the word out to people and it's going to take a lot of your time, don't underestimate it.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:


These questions will get you started in thinking like the people that may come across your project page and, just as important - how they got there. Chances are they got there based on a link/article/blog/mention somewhere on the net. For that to happen you had to plant the seeds in right place for them to see your project and then convert to pledgers.

After you feel that you have a handle on who you're after you will have to start building your contact list. The great thing about this is that you can start this process at the same time as you're developing your product/service/offering. The bad thing is that it is going to take many, many hours to do. Start by searching the net for places that your possible pledgers will be; for sites and blogs that relate to your product either directly or in the same genre as your product. Find out how to contact these places on the net, comb through and find their contact pages and note if they have a contact email or contact form page and take note of them (spreadsheets are best). Your list should be as big as the amount of time you have to devote to it, it should not just be 10 or 20 contacts, if possible it should be in the hundreds. This list is something that you will be constantly adding to and it is going to come in very handy when your project launches because that is when you will be contacting all of them. Get your list together, refine it, see if there are any names that you can find to send your email/form contact to since it's always better to get an email that states: "Hi Steve, your readers will love ......." rather than "Check this out". When you launch keep track of who contacted you back, what they said and if they wrote an article as well. A quick thanks after someone you probably don't know has done you a favor can pay back big dividends later on.

The people you will be contacting have to have something in it for them to write about your crowdfunding project. Let me repeat that - they have to have a reason to write about what you are offering. They probably get A LOT of emails from crowdfunders trying to do exactly what you're doing. So, ask yourself what is the hook that your project has for people and how could it benefit the writers that will be giving you essentially free advertising. Phrase your contact subject line and first few sentences in a way that will whet the appetite of the writers. You have to get them interested enough to go to your project, check it out and write about it.

In this the best advice that can be given is keep it short, get their attention without being too rude or pushy and include key points about your project from the viewpoint of the potential readers of your contact and provide links to where your project is on the net. Your main project page is a given, along with a website if you have one (you should) and of course a link to your project on CrowdFundFusion - after all you want your project to get as much traffic as possible. Have you project featured on Crowdfundfusion is going to get a lot more people to come to your project.

Social Media, some project creators swear that this is all they need to get their project attention and while that may be true, it is always better to get more attention than less so: use both. Get the ball rolling on interest in your project on social media well before it launches, get people to become friends of or part of the circle of people in your social networking web. We won't go into detail of how to do this, it's been written to death on the net so, if you're not sure how to do it, search the net and you will find more than enough information on the subject.

A quick note about TV mentions for your project. It can't hurt to contact most TV stations about your project but to be fair they will only be interested after you start getting attention. It may make more sense to get some mentions in articles on the net first, then show the TV stations that your project is already news worthy. Attention captures attention and TV usually takes a lot of attention before it can start getting you even more.

When you finally launch your project you want everything in place for your plan, have all your contacts and in which order you want to contact them, be ready to make the announcement on social media and other venues that you will use. When you hit the button you want there to be a flood, a frenzy of attention since if you hit the ground running, others will see all the action you are getting and want to be part of it, to write about it and satisfy their readers and viewers. This is probably going to be the most intensive time of your project, it's going to take days and even weeks to get your message out there so block off a good chunk of time, focus in on it and good luck. Others have done this, what one person can do another can do - and that includes you.

 Create a website if possible

Is it absolutely necessary to have your own website when launching a crowdfunding project? All the crowdfunding campaigns that have done well have had their own websites. They may not have been anything more than a few pages but it gives credibility to the project campaign since people associate that with what is or may become a real company. A person with an idea is just that, on the net or not but a person who has at least a site can seem more like a company, have more credibility and be seen as more likely to deliver a project if funding is successful.

It can also be part of your marketing plan, when sending out links to your contacts you can include a link to your website as well as your crowdfunding project. The person reading your message will see that they will have more to offer their readers in their article, they would be able to include a project/company link which most people give more weight to in terms of credibility.

What should your website include? That is up to you, it doesn't have to be more than a few pages since it is just another base on the net for your project. Usually your project video will be shown in a prominent place on the site along with several pictures showing exactly what you are offering. It should also be littered with well-placed links (not too many) to drive people to your project page or even right to the pledging page.

Some have even gone to the extent of asking for pledges on their own website as well as their main crowdfunding campaign page. We don't unfortunately have any data on this but it may be a way to create some additional pledges. Others may argue that it would take focus away from the main campaign but arguably it may just become another collection point.

 Video - you have to have one

Crowdfunding campaigns with no video at all have a bunch slimmer change of succeeding, because people love video. It doesn't matter if you have invented a home cold fusion power supply, without a video most people will just move onto another project.

It also goes without saying that the better your video the better your chances of grabbing attention. A bad video will cause people to leave, whereas a good one that catches attention (within the first 8 seconds if you read the latest studies) will garner interest. The people will be more apt to read specifics and then pledge and even better, tell people they know about it.

You video can be something as simple as a home video or slick and cut in a studio or a mixture of the two. It all depends on how much time and money you have to spend on it. If you decide to do most on your own you will still have to have decent video editing software and might have to spend on props and location shoots. You can get away without spending a lot but the catch is that whatever you don't spend in money you will in terms of time. This is not a bad thing but you should understand that this may push out the dates for your project. You might also end up doing research on the net about things like lighting, backdrops, camera positions and white screens. Again not a bad thing but it will take time to learn, sometimes a friend with a video hobby can come in extremely handy as they may be able to take a large load off of you to help create your video.

Ideas for your video can come from anywhere but some of the best places for inspiration are other project videos. See what some of the successful projects have done to get an idea of what a slick video can do. See if you can emulate and improve on some of the video shots they have created. Music can radically alter a video too so keep this in mind. The best type of videos elicit an emotional response of some kind, they make you remember that video and thus your project. This is easier said than done, think about the huge industry that movies and TV are. A lot of time and effort goes into them and they work, and with a little work on your end you can achieve some emotional responses as well, which can turn into backers for your project.

 Text for your project page

What to write is going to vary depending on your type of project, for that we can suggest that you see what other similar projects have done. What they have said and how, how much detail they went into and what eye candy (video, pics) they offered on their project page. You should also see what some of the most successful project have done. You will start to notice patterns and get a feel for what works and what doesn't. There are few hard and fast rules since what may work for one type of project may not work for others.

One important aspect of web page eye tracking information to mention is that peoples' eyes are drawn to the top and left of a page for the most part. They also look at more items above the fold of any web page - this is anything above the point of where they would have to scroll down to see the rest of the page. This means that you should get your prospective backers attention asap at the start of your text. Bore them or present things that don't interest your target audience and you may lose them. You have to get their attention fast so keep this in mind, often asking people who are not directly involved in your project can provide a wealth of feedback. Ask what they found interesting and make changes accordingly.

 Selecting Rewards Tier levels

Rewards and funding tiers can also be very specific to your type of project. Again there are no hard and fast rules here, unfortunately "it depends" is about as clear as any reliable answer as you can get. Projects have had varying success with using a large amount of tiers or very few, again some have had success with tiers that vary considerably with price range. All we can say is use your market research to get into the skin of people coming to your project page, ask yourself (and others) if you found your project online, what would be a good reward for you and what price point would you be comfortable with.

One interesting offering being done by some projects with some success is offering varying rewards if sub-goal or higher goal amounts are raised. When a level is hit, current backers might get extra incentives. This can be in the form of new variations becoming available or even additional items being provided (again it really depends on the type of project). The core idea is that it gives supporters of your project a reason to push it out onto the net by themselves. By helping your project they are getting something more out of it. It is actually a good incentive to get people more involved.

 How long should your campaign be?

This question has been dissected a lot on the net in crowdfunding circles. There are basically 2 schools of thought on this.

The first is that your campaign should be as long as possible so that you have the chance to capture as much traffic and thus possible backers as possible. This has some merit but one thing to try to create in a potential customer is a sense of urgency. If the timeline for your project is too long then you run the risk of making backers think that they can take their time with making a pledge. The danger there is that they may forget about your project entirely which is definitely not good.

The second is that by having a much shorter time frame you will get people to pledge faster since they will have a sense of urgency to pledge now before it's too late. This makes sense but if it's too short then your marketing campaign might not have time to get into high gear. For example a 20 day project is over so quick that you might be just sending out launch info to the last of your contacts (which could be in the hundreds) by the time the project ends. They also won't have a chance to be actioned by potential writers of articles about your project. In addition, exposure on other media like TV take time to arrange and they like to see a steady stream of progressive interest before they may decide to do a story on your project.

Our opinion (depending on many variables), based on what we have seen in the crowdfunding world is that somewhere in the middle is best. A campaign should be long enough to get attention but short enough so that people don't lose total interest and take too much time to take action. Take this with a grain of salt as there are always exceptions that apply.

 How much should you ask for?

Another well discussed topic. This question again has many different possible answers and it is best said that once again "it depends".

First and foremost the amount you should ask for should at the very least cover the costs of bringing your product/service/offering to market. That being said you now have to ask yourself, how much do you want to pay yourself for your time? One school of thought says that you should try to keep your goal amount as low as possible to better have a chance of reaching your funding goal. The other states that you might have to wait a long time before you can get your project to mass production so you might as well pay yourself something for all your hard work.

On this topic it is probably more advisable to lean towards a smaller amount so that your project has a higher chance to reach its goal. Projects that have very high goal amounts can scare away potential pledgers since they may feel that there is a small chance your project will reach its goal, and therefore some people may not bother. This is what some have said on the net and it seems to be based in some fact based on the research that we have seen and done. However make sure that you build in a buffer into your costs since it will probably take more time and money than you have budgeted for (things always come up). A buffer of 10 - 25% of on top of your minimum requirements to bring your project to market is usually enough but you should make a realistic estimate based on your expertise of the type of project and what is involved to fully bring to mass production run of your product/offering/service to market.

 Patents? Does it matter when you're showing the world anyways?

The topic of patents comes up more for new products being put to market. The fact is that unless you have deep pockets with which to first get a proper patent (as much as several thousand and a lot of waiting time), and then to possibly defend it in court, they aren't an absolute necessity.

The fact is that patents can sometimes be easy to get around, any company that can hire a decent patent lawyer can find a way to file another that will probably get around yours. Another fact is that patents are only good in the country of origin, so unless you file one in every country they are a paper tiger. Imagine if you had a patent for a product that was well received by people, it gets so popular that you notice knock offs coming from another country. Your patent will have no power unless you filed in that country, and even if you did you would have to navigate a foreign countries legal system, pay many fees and then even if you win, the company could fold and just start up under another name - and you wouldn't get a dime. It's the wild west for new products on the internet, only companies with deep pockets can really afford the type of legal advice and teams to make a patent have some teeth.

Copycats are inevitable, we would suggest not trying to shield your idea, look at it as more people are able to see your type of product, the idea will get more exposure. With product development happening so fast you should look at challenges as opportunities. Just as Winston Churchill said "atttitude is a little thing that makes a big difference".

But hey, this is based on the research we have done. If you think a patent is something that you have to have more power to you. A patent won't be a detriment to your project but it may slow things down and make you focus more on legalities rather than your project. Just our two cents.

 Should you try to do everything yourself or hire some parts out?

The simple short answer is that hiring out usually frees up more of your time, so if time is in short supply consider hiring out some tasks.

It can be easier to pay for an expert to do a good video for example (or better yet a friend you can hire with all their own gear) and then not have to spend time to learn even the basics of videography. The same can be said of many other tasks that you are not an expert at or even know how to do (we had to learn CAD software ourselves for our earlier projects, not easy). If an expert charges too much, resources like local groups of that profession or schools that teach it may be places to go to find someone cheap.

If money is really tight then it may make sense to shoe string it and try to do everything yourself, it will take a while to lean everything you will probably need to but your wallet will be thicker.

It also depends on your unique scenario, some tasks are best left to the experts - like engineering parts for a product so that they don't fail under stress. Anything can be learned but sometimes the learning curve is so steep that it just doesn't make sense to try and learn yourself.

 Design and Build Philosophy

In designing something for your project it can be easy to try to get the design so perfect that you start to burn too much time doing it. A design is just that - a design, it's meant to be brought into reality so that you can truly see what can be better and what is perfect. Don't be afraid to get a working concept and prototype up and running quick, part of the development life cycle is that mistakes will be made during research and development. You will most likely have to re-work things several times before it gets to a good standard. Accept this so that after you design something and make some tweaks, cut it free and see what it is like as a prototype. Then repeat, and repeat, your project will end up saving time vs. trying to get a design perfect, and then have to redesign and re-work anyways.

 Buying required software or free open source?

A quick note that may save you some time or money here. In creating one of our projects we had to learn how to make 3d models for prototyping. We initially chose a free software that met most of our demands, but not all. As a result a lot of time was spent learning software (and hacks within it) that we would eventually stop using. It's great to save money but you usually get what you pay for. We could have shaved months off our project schedule if we started with proper software that we bought and just learned that. Time can be one of the most important commodities and sometimes choosing free software has costs all its own. Your situation will of course be unique but keep this in mind if you find yourself at these cross roads.

 3D Printing - your super Prototyper

You probably know what 3D printing is, if not search the net right now about it. It's a way to make tangible, usable, objects based on CAD files. Objects can be made from more and more materials each day, down to fractions of a milimeter accuracy.

The cost savings are enormous for creators, prototypes that used to take thousands to create can now be done for a fraction of that. Allowing for many more iterations of proofs of concepts and prototypes, and do it faster.

The only catch being that you will have to learn how to use CAD software to make your designs (however if time is a constraint then you can always hire out for this).

 Project Launch tips

All aspects of bringing a project from idea to reality will come down to one moment when you set your project status to live.

Going over your project plan beforehand will let you be sure that you have all the angles covered. Get your contact list ready and as soon as you are live, start contacting as many of them within a short period of time to get the word out. Blast your message across the internet, keep track of who you contacted and whether they contacted you back (spreadsheets are awesome for this). Utilize social media to stir the pot even more. The number of people backing a project can be visualized as a steep up curve followed by a trough then another peak closer to the end of the project. You want to keep that first curve as straight for as long as possible as it will mean more dollars for your project faster, which can attract more attention and in turn get you even more backers. Up to now your project was like a taught crossbow, it's time to release it! (cheesy but a good metaphor).

 You've reached your goal! Now the real work begins!

You’re in a lofty place now, enjoy it, you've accomplished something that very few have done! When you see you are close to your goal start getting your lists ready for the manufacturers you're going to contact. As soon as your funds are released go, go, go and get your product/service/offering to your backers as soon as possible. You're a business now and nothing is worse than people not getting what they want when they were expecting it. Make the people who pledged for your product happy and you will get good reviews and more orders and continuing success.