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posted Aug 1, 2014, 1:52 PM by Siamak Ebarhimi
It is no longer just a buzzword.

For some, crowdfunding via online campaigns on websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have helped successfully launch their product or company. Others have learned valuable lessons about what and what not to do.crowdfunding marketing

Damien Lavizzo, president of Murrieta-based Zenion Games, definitely recommends using Kickstarter. He and his partner, Phillip Jenné, have held two profitable campaigns, each time accruing more than $30,000 in donations. "Is it viable? Yes," Lavizzo said.

But he doesn't give all the credit to Kickstarter. "The biggest thing is doing a lot of legwork beforehand, like getting on Facebook and Twitter and connecting with any relevant local businesses," Lavizzo said. Legwork consists of building an online following and keeping them apprised and excited about upcoming campaign launches, he said.

"You have to hit at least 25 percent of your goal on day one, and get people to back you for at least $1 or $5 a day—that is most important," Lavizzo said. That's because the way Kickstarter works, project creators must set a goal for pledges, then reach or exceed that in order to cash out.CrowdFunding marketing

In Lavizzo's case, it has paid off. The funding has enabled Zenion Games to produce and ship a card game and a board game, with plans to launch another campaign for another game in the near future. "This has allowed us to bypass a lot of red tape and to remain independent and locally-based, which is important to us," Lavizzo said.

For another local merchant, Pia Maffei, the use of Kickstarter was also useful but on a much smaller scale. Maffei held a 30-day online campaign in February 2013 with the goal of collecting $4,000 in pledges toward the launch of her Temecula business, Artisan's Palate, which opened in June 2013. She exceeded her goal.

Reflecting on her experience, she agreed that the preparation one does beforehand can directly affect the outcome of a campaign. "You need about 30 days prior to do a pre-campaign, because if you are just going to do a campaign and expect people to find you and fund you, then it is not going to work," Maffei said. She also agreed that sharing the campaign via social media is vital.Kickstarter Marketing

"Really from the beginning the strategy was an awareness campaign to let people know that something like this was going to exist in the valley," said Maffei, who describes her Artisan's Palate storefront as a hybrid of a local farmer's market, gift shop and health-food store.

"But when I started the Kickstarter campaign it was also something that was very, very new to this valley."

That translated into her needing to educate her connections as to what crowdfunding is. "That was from the lens of last year; now many people since then have run campaigns in this area," Maffei said.Indiegogo Marketing

An additional piece of advice she offered Kickstarter hopefuls is to have other funding lined up beforehand. "A lot of people make the mistake of thinking they can raise $250,000 in a campaign. Well then maybe they should look for an investor first because they are missing the whole point of crowdfunding."

Another local example of a young company that learned from such an experience is Find 'Em Scent Kits. Founded by two Inland Empire law enforcement K9 handlers, the kits are designed to help track the missing by ensuring their scent has been previously stored.

Travis Shows, the CEO of Find 'Em, said he had intended to use Kickstarter to fund his manufacturing. "We had already obligated to have them made, and we had to come up with the money to get that paid off," Shows said.

But Kickstarter did not approve the campaign because it did not fall within their scope of requirements, he said. So he chose to use Indiegogo, another crowdfunding option. For various reasons, including running the campaign during the holidays, he said the campaign was not successful. "We did spend some effort but it really didn't pan out for us," Shows said.

So for now, Find 'Em is taking a different path than crowdfunding, he said. "We are trying to partner with someone much bigger who has the marketing potential," Shows said. "A strategic partnership with a group or company that wants to make a difference in saving lives."crowdfunding websites

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By David Khorram