Shout Out to Local Startups Series – Tinted Week 4
Over the past 5 weeks, friend of the firm Tony Farnsworth has been hard at work managing his first crowdfunding campaign for his startup, Tinted. He was gracious enough to spend time speaking with us to detail Tinted’s story in three parts; The Big Idea, The Tech, and Preparing for Launch. This week, Tony returns for the final part of this four-part series – Lessons Learned. Zach spoke with Tony following the conclusion of Tinted’s campaign, and he offered his biggest takeaways and some advice for those considering launching a crowdfunding campaign of their own. Enjoy!
Q: Good to have you back for the conclusion of our series, Tony. Thanks for taking the time to share your story – I’m excited to hear your takeaways from your first crowdfunding campaign. Could you start off with a brief summary of how it went?
A: Sure thing. Overall, the campaign was quite a rollercoaster – we finished short of our fundraising goal (36%), but we met our two other biggest campaign goals. We were able to test many kinds of marketing to see what works best for our target consumer, and we received lots of valuable feedback about both our product and the problem we are trying to solve. We also finished with over 20 product pre-orders, which will be a great opportunity for more feedback.
Q: How did you go about receiving product feedback? I thought the campaign was all about raising capital?
A: Well, as I mentioned in one of our previous discussions, I had a three-part marketing plan for the campaign. I hired a marketing agency to handle all digital marketing, I had an extensive list of friends and family to get the campaign off the ground, and I planned to utilize social media influencers as well. The influencers were incredibly valuable – we sent our product to 12 or 13 influencers who tested it out and posted about it. While the influencers may not have driven a ton of traffic to our campaign, we got a bunch of influencers who are super excited about our product. Their excitement led to them creating tons of content, like professional reviews, that we can use in the future – and we didn’t have to pay them at all.
My biggest advice to those looking at crowdfunding as an option – don’t look at it as a viable option for raising capital. It’s likely you will spend 50-75% of the money you raise promoting the campaign. Instead, focus on the campaign as an opportunity to gain traction and recognition, and learn about how to reach your target audience.
Q: Wow, that’s a big takeaway. I always thought crowdfunding was all about raising money. How did you go about finding influencers to post about your product?
A: Great question – I actually have a family friend who is an influencer herself. She agreed to help manage the influencer campaign and oversaw locating prospective influencers, reaching out to them, and sending them their sample product. For anyone thinking about using influencers in their marketing campaign, I’d recommend looking at those with less than 15k followers. We found that 10-15k followers were the sweet spot – a large enough audience, but also influencers that are willing to post for free. Any larger and you are going to be spending a significant amount per influencer post.
Q: Sounds like great advice. What was the biggest obstacle during the campaign?
A: Unfortunately, we were forced to fire our digital marketing several days into the campaign. Leading into the campaign they were very confident in their abilities – however, they spent over 50% of my budget in one weekend with a click-through rate of less than 1%. They weren’t following any of the market research we had already done. Fortunately, Jeremy at CTX Capital was able to put me in touch with an agency that specializes in the crowdfunding market. In their first day, the new agency drove more traffic to my campaign than the other agency had all weekend, with click-through rates of 10%.
My biggest recommendation for those looking to hire an agency – work with an agency that is very familiar with the crowdfunding space. The target crowdfunding contributor is a very different person than the target consumer that agencies are used to marketing towards.
Q: That’s sad to hear about your struggles with the first agency. I’m glad that Jeremy was able to help. Now that you’ve wrapped up the crowdfunding campaign, what’s next?
A: The biggest things this campaign did for us were to continue our market validation, teach us about what types of marketing will be most useful for us, and it humbled us. There were several days of frustration where we thought we must be doing something wrong – we just weren’t getting the contributions we expected. However, it ended up being a valuable chance for us to go back and review all our previous market research and product feedback with an unbiased eye. I had no idea how much time and effort this campaign would take – I spent 2-3 times as much time as I planned to manage comments, figure out how to get people to our page, and put together packets for the influencers. I’m talking about spending full-time job-type time in addition to my full-time job. We were in an all-hands-on-deck, actually running a company mode that we weren’t quite prepared for.
Our next stage will be some experimentation in the market. We’ll play with various ways of explaining the product, offer several different product variations, and do some work in-person, setting up shop at places where people buy paint. We’ll be monitoring how people come to our site, so we can learn more about how to get them there.
I just want to reiterate – crowdfunding is a great way, with the right plan, to learn about traction and market validation. Don’t feel like failing to reach your fundraising goal means your product is a failure. Crowdfunding is a very different market, and the only people who actually raise significant capital are those that go viral.
Q: Thanks again for all the time you’ve spent sharing your journey with us, Tony. You’ve offered some great insights to anybody considering crowdfunding as an option for their own idea. Congratulations on a successful first crowdfunding campaign. We here at CTX Capital wish you and the whole team at Tinted the very best going forward.
The crowdfunding campaign may be over, but it’s not too late to get involved with what Tony is creating at Tinted! If you’re interested in learning more, I urge you to check out Tinted’s website: https://www.mytinted.com/