October 28, 2013

What is Crowdfunding?

The fundamentals of crowdfunding are not difficult but they are intricate.

View the slide-show until the end for an invitation to join me for a free Hangout on Air all about crowdfunding. Enjoy!

October 23, 2013

Interview: Mike Allton, The Social Media Hat

Name: Mike Allton  
Company: The Social Media Hat

Please tell us about your business:   I have been building websites for businesses and organizations since the early 1990's, but decided in 2012 that I wanted to create a new business and platform for social media and blogging, which I am passionate about. I strongly believe businesses can and should be writing and sharing stories about their business to engage and communicate with their customers.

I created The Social Media Hat so that I could regularly write about these topics and provide consulting services. I still offer websites to businesses that need one, but these sites are implemented as a platform for content marketing and social media marketing.

How long have you been working from home?   2006

Do you work from home full time or part time?  Full time

How do you stay connected with colleagues in your field?   Google+ has become my primary platform for networking and communicating. As I have become more and more engaged and connected there, my experience has improved dramatically.

I joined several groups related to my industry, and business in general, and have been able to participate in some outstanding conversations and discussions, and have used those interactions to meet some truly outstanding people.

How do you deal with the isolating nature of working from home? While I love my home office and the freedom it brings, I do try to get out of the office at least once a week, whether it's for a client meeting, a networking event, or just spending some time working in a coffee shop.

I also participate in regular Twitter chats and Google+ Hangouts which keep me connected and engaged real-time.

How do you stay motivated without the accountability of a "time clock"?   While I generally do not have issues keeping myself motivated and on task, there are some steps that I take or have taken to ensure that.

For instance, while I enjoy having music or the television on while I'm working, I have found that I cannot play movies or TV shows that I haven't already seen, as they are too distracting. Instead, I use Netflix or DVDs to play reruns of my favorite shows.

Another example would be Facebook and iPhone games. I will no longer accept invitations to play any game at all, as it is too easy for me to get addicted to the game and risk spending time playing when I should be working.

Other than that, I make sure that I have a schedule for my day that I stick to day in and day out. I am in my office by 8am and work until 5pm every day, plus a couple evenings and Saturday mornings. My family understands my hours and respects them.

What are the biggest challenges you face when working from home?  Interruptions from my family used to be the biggest challenge, but that's improved lately. When my daughter was born Aug. 2011, my wife struggled to learn how to handle "baby emergencies" on her own, and I struggled as well to keep myself removed unless absolutely needed. Having an office that's in a third floor loft helps keep me removed.

Do you work in your underwear?   No

What is the best part about working from home?   I really enjoy the flexibility in my schedule, the convenience of my home office, and the relaxed setting. A great deal of my work is creative, and there are also a lot of stressful situations, so it is critical that my environment is comfortable and peaceful.

What is the one item that you find vital to have in your home office?  Having my TV and DVD collection and/or music collection is absolutely critical - perhaps more than coffee!

What is the one piece of advice that you can give to those just starting out working from home?  My best advice is to establish a schedule and routine and communicate that clearly to anyone else in your life who might potentially impact that schedule. Certainly, everyone in your house has to understand that you now have work boundaries that cannot be violated unless it is for something they would call you at an office about. If they wouldn't be willing to call you, than it likely can wait until you're "off" work. By the same token, avoid spending time "working" outside of those hours if you can, so as to give your family the attention they deserve.

Continue the conversation...

If you are an entrepreneur that works from home and would like to be highlighted in an interview, 
please submit your information here.

October 21, 2013

How can I Market my Crowdfunding Campaign?

DSC_0173 by pennyblessings, on Pix-O-Sphere
Q: You always talk about “building the crowd” and I thought that I did that. I have over 2,000 likes on my Facebook page, 1,700 Twitter followers, and circled by over 5,000 on Google+. 

But when I posted my crowdfunding campaign, I only got a few likes, re-tweets and pluses. Only my family and close friends made comments. I tried to post it to groups and communities but the posts got removed as spam.

My campaign is live with only 10 days left. I need help now. I am praying that you answer this! So here is my million dollar question: Where can I post my crowdfunding campaign and not be perceived as spam?

-Frustrated Campaigner, Not Spammer

Thank you for your question and for allowing me to share this with my audience. I responded in more depth via email, but here I am going to separate my response because you touch upon two separate yet integrated segments of the crowdfunding marketing plan.

What does building the crowd really mean?
It doesn’t mean to acquire as many followers as possible. This is a common misconception. When you initially plan your crowdfunding marketing plan, take an inventory of your current social media followers. Who follows you and why?

For your campaign, you want people to follow you who are interested in (and want to support) what you are doing (idea/dream/business). This is your target market. Find ways to cultivate those folks organically. By creating natural connections, you are cultivating a network of individuals (followers) who are interested in hearing about the launch. These folks will share your campaign, look forward to hearing updates, and overall be engaged with you.

A lot of clients tell me the world is their market because everyone can/should/would benefit from the product/idea/business. This is never the case. The planet is too broad of a target market. Take the time to truly understand business concepts before you plan, not during the campaign.

With 10 days left on the campaign, let’s focus on where you can post:

 ü Look for blogs, influencers, and traditional media outlets that are natural partners and submit a thoughtful article about the product/idea/business and include a link to the campaign. Specifically ask them to post the article and/or share your campaign. This is an example of leveraging other peoples/businesses networks.
 ü Contact the local news. Many news stations have segments about the community; contact them to see if your campaign fits. Prepare enough information but don’t overdo it, be authentic and transparent.

 ü Don’t link drop. Link dropping agitates followers just as much as push marketing tactics and trolls.

 ü Wherever you post, post with intention. There are hundreds of crowdfunding platforms, hosting thousands of campaigns. Followers are not piggy banks and many suffer from fundraising request fatigue.

 ü Don’t limit your marketing to social media. Pick up the phone, send emails, write letters, host a demo, create hybrid events- get creative!

Another big misconception is that one receives enormous amounts of traffic from the crowdfunding platform itself.  Unfortunately, most crowdfunding platforms only highlight the most popular campaigns, so don’t rely on them for publicity.

If you have a live crowdfunding campaign and would like me to give you specific insights to improve the campaign, please schedule a crowdfunding consult here.

Mailbag Mondays is a biweekly blog series, so if you have a question regarding fundraising, entrepreneurship, or meetings and events; submit your questions hereDue to the volume of questions received, your question is not guaranteed to be answered and featured here on the blog.

October 16, 2013

Interview with Anetra Henry-Hunting, Principal The Hunting Group

Work at Home Wednesday

Name: Anetra Henry-Hunting Company: The Hunting Group

Please tell us about your business:   I started The Hunting Group in 2010 after the company I worked for went bankrupt and closed abruptly.  I'd been searching for months for another job, interviewing, traveling for interviews only to be told I was overqualified, or needed a master's degree, or I was too ambitious--basically no.  I finally decided to tell myself yes and start my own business with the support and help of my husband, Nick. We offered management and marketing solutions and focused on small to medium sized businesses. I initially started doing contract work, requiring me to be on-site, but the nature of my clients have changed as I have shifted to more sponsorship clients versus operations management consulting which allows me to work fully from home.

My degree is in Marketing, however my experience is in operations management for the Salon, spa, and wellness industry. Part of my duties included influencing or making marketing decisions for the locations I managed--especially when it came to sponsorship/donation requests.  I've seen it all and that's why I decided to re-focus my business in this area.  It really bothers me to see entrepreneurs have amazing ideas for events, but because they are uneducated about the process, they get denied funding.  Also, it bothers me to see small and medium sized businesses miss out on the opportunity to create loyal clients because they, too, are uneducated about the benefits of sponsorship or what to ask for to make it a true win-win.

How long have you been working from home?   2 years

Do you work from home full time or part time?  Full time

How do you stay connected with colleagues in your field?   Social media is a major help-- Google +,Facebook, and LinkedIn groups help me stay connected to my contemporaries.  However, there is no substitute for that personal connection.  I Skype with one of my accountability partners several times per week and meet face to face with another colleague 2-3 times per month.

How do you deal with the isolating nature of working from home? Skyping with my accountability partner several times per week makes me feel like I'm still in an office somewhat.  I also keep a TV on in a different room for the voices.  It fills my "home quarters" up with the sounds of ideas and work!

How do you stay motivated without the accountability of a "time clock"?   Motivation based on a "time-clock" has never been an issue for me.  When I had a clock to punch, I was that person that had to stop myself because I was undervaluing my time.  I once calculated that I worked for $6/hour as a Regional Director because of the amount of time I was putting in. 

What are the biggest challenges you face when working from home?  The bouts of "ADD" type behavior.  I'm still a wife, a daughter, sister, friend, dog owner--and I am IN my house and everyone knows it.  It can be easy to get distracted by the list of "chores" that "someone" was supposed to do, but somehow, got left undone or those mid-day phone calls from a loved one who forgets that I'm not just "at home" but I WORK from home.

Do you work in your underwear?   Sometimes, if pajamas count as underwear, then yes.

What is the best part about working from home?   
The best part is to only have to turn "on" the parts of me that need to be "on".  When I worked in corporate, I had to look a certain way (get dressed, do my hair and make-up, and smile--especially in the spa, salon, and wellness industry) just to go somewhere to do what I do best all while being aware what my body language may be saying to a team member.  Working from home, I get to focus ALL my energy on the project at hand and not (always) worry about if my lipstick is still on or if my hair is out of place.

What is the one item that you find vital to have in your home office?  Lysol wipes.

What is the one piece of advice that you can give to those just starting out working from home?  I strongly recommend getting an "accountability partner"--someone who has permission to tell you when you when are moving in the wrong direction regarding your goals.  Mine gets on my nerves (LOL), but she keeps me on my toes and out of my comfort zone so I can continue to grow professionally and personally.

Continue the conversation... 
+The Hunting Group   +Anetra Henry Hunting   LinkedIn                                   

If you are an entrepreneur that works from home and would like to be highlighted in an interview, 
please submit your information here.

October 9, 2013

Interview with Lisa Hovnanian from Lisahov's Health & Fitness

Name: Lisa Hovnanian

Company: Lisahov's Health & Fitness

Website: http://www.lisahovhealthfitness.com

Please tell us about your business:   I am an Independent Beachbody Coach, focused on helping people eat smarter and "clean", and live a healthy lifestyle that includes a balance of diet and exercise. As a full-time pharmacist and mom, I bring a unique perspective to healthy eating, since I can see how Beachbody's products, like Shakeology, can be an important nutritional supplement that, in conjunction with cleaner eating and exercise, can help people meet lead a more healthy, fit lifestyle.

How long have you been working from home?   1 year

Do you work from home full time or part time?  Part time

How do you stay connected with colleagues in your field?   I do a lot on Facebook. I have a private Facebook group for my team of coaches, where we collaborate and share ideas to help each other grow. I'm also part of several broader Facebook peer groups, and a customer challenge group as well. I make myself available through emails and chat.

How do you deal with the isolating nature of working from home? It's the ideal situation for me because I choose to coach through digital media, not in person. With three young children, I need the flexibility to be able to answer questions and market myself on my own schedule.

How do you stay motivated without the accountability of a "time clock"?   I've always been very disciplined with my scheduling. I devote at least a half hour in the early morning and an hour at night strictly to work. During the day, while managing my other responsibilities as a wife, mother and pharmacist, I use mobile and digital media to run my business.

What are the biggest challenges you face when working from home?  My peak hours for customer and marketing activity are actually different from the hours I have scheduled to be in front of my computer. So that's where my iPad and phone are critical.

What is the best part about working from home?   The flexibility to determine how much time I want to dedicate to my business on a given day.

What is the one item that you find vital to have in your home office?  My corkboard. I have all my notes, follow up reminders, and marketing ideas pegged on it! Well, obviously my computer, phone and iPad are a no-brainer, too.

What is the one piece of advice that you can give to those just starting out working from home?  Be disciplined about the time you dedicate to your business. Especially if you focus your marketing efforts on social media. It's very easy to get sucked into these sites, and you will find yourself wasting valuable time. Go online with a purpose, get the job done, and have a fantastic rest of your day!

Continue the conversation...
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If you are an entrepreneur that works form home and would like to be highlighted in an interview, please submit your information here.

October 7, 2013

Why do Crowdfunding Campaigns Fail?

Tenacity: Backbone of the Entrepreneur RachaelAlford.com

Without looking into the specifics of the crowdfunding campaign, I can only provide some insight as to why a crowdfunding campaign has no backers.

For me, crowdfunding is the most satisfying way to raise money, but it takes tenacity to pull off a successful crowdfunding campaign.

1. Plan.  In order to be successful at any fundraising attempt, there are layers of pre-planning that must be completed. Even though you decide at 3:00 AM that you need to fund your grand idea –Don’t submit a crowdfunding campaign before you have planned out the entire campaign from setting goals to fulfilling rewards. Successful crowdfunding campaigns take months of preparation.

2. Learn about how the crowdfunding platform that you have chosen works. Create a complete profile. Pay specific attention to how any sharing features pull the campaign content. For example, when working with the Funder Hut™ platform, use this quick sheet to plan

3. Provide value. What are you providing to the backers as an incentive to support your campaign? The reward valuation needs to be considered carefully. Unless it is a nonprofit crowdfunding campaign, would you donate $10 for a Twitter shout out? Me neither.

4. Show and tell. People process information differently. So be sure to accommodate everyone by including video, images and inforgraphics along with narrative text for the project. Visuals of the rewards should also be included. Do you spend money without seeing what you are receiving?

5. Exude gratuity. Be thankful and excited that others are sharing in your vision. The biggest turn-off for backers is an air of entitlement. You may think your project is the best thing since sliced bread, and it very well may be. But you don’t want to alienate potential backers and possibly future customers.

6. Build the crowd. Many people come to me with innovative ideas and projects but cannot effectively market to the crowd because they have not considered their target customer in their crowdfunding marketing plan. Get out of the mindset that “if you build it, they will come.” Less than 10% of crowdfunding campaigns are found by people browsing the crowdfunding platform.

7. Learn to promote. Don’t rely on the crowdfunding platform for promotion of your campaign. Many platforms highlight or feature only popular campaigns. Don’t be scared to ask for money! If you don’t have the confidence in your project, why should a potential backer? Be authentic and share your dream. Don’t hire someone to help you get likes, follows, etc. these tactics don’t work.

8. Go offline. Host events, live demos, street teams, gamify, make calls, etc. Don’t isolate your efforts exclusively online. Even bootstrapping entrepreneurs can come up with promotional activities that don’t involve spending boatloads of cash. Be creative and engage your community.

**This is a question that I get a lot so I thought it would be a great question to begin the new Mailbag Mondays blog series. ~Rachael 

Got a question? Send an email to Rachael@RachaelAlford.com  Due to the volume of email received, your question is not guaranteed to be answered and featured here on the blog.

If you need help creating or planning your crowdfunding campaign, Rachael Alford Consulting Services offers interactive workshops, campaign plan or page critique, full campaign management and commission based options.

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