First let me tell you I hate competition where you have to ask for votes, they are biased toward people that have established connections, affiliates and networks. That said, it is true in this social connected world that “Your network is your net worth.” So says author John C. Maxwell.
Your network is invaluable and campaigning is an opportunity to reconnect and nurture your network. Least of all, campaigning makes you aware of the value and your relationship with your network.
Africolette is special occasion clothing of African Caribbean patterns in European tailored styles. I want to bring colour into the boardroom and executive lounges, I want business women to feel confident wearing their colour with pride. Virgin Media Business Voom competition was an opportunity to help bring the business plan to life and I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to try crowdfunding. Later I learnt besides Richard Branson, Tyra Bank and Sara Blakely would judge the finals, perfect for Africolette brand ambitions.
Initially my network was developed offline and on the whole these connects have stood the test of time. Many more of my connections are coming through my online activity and although I offer a great deal of free information through my weekly blogs and speaking engagements I have realised that many of these relationships are not sticky. What I mean by this is having a reason why your community keeps returning regularly to get something specific that only you can provide. This builds stickiness and engages your community and as a consequence many of your relationships will be more engaged and committed you give you support.
I have a list of over 17000 connections across all social networks and email databases and if only 15% had voted I would be through with the top 80 start-up to the pitchathon. I joined the Voom competition 5 April and was very po-lite in my posting thinking my connections would take action. After 5 weeks I realised my campaign was not going well and I had to get more engagement and commitment from my community.
Voom – here is what I learnt:
- Plan your campaign prior to the event start, and prepare a pre-launch campaign to forewarn your audience, the earlier you start the better.
- Target influencer early, this is anyone who has access to a network relevant to your pitch, negotiate what you can offer them to endorse you campaign (reposting your posts is not an endorsement, it is not enough to get their network to act) Influencers must sell it like it is their own product.
- Contact people with a direct message, social posting creates awareness not action.
- The earlier you can find a hook for your business story, that is news worthy and secure press attention the faster your campaign will accelerate.
- Use your personality and make it personal, think what will resonate with each audience.
- Make it funny, random and entertaining; who wants to receive the same dull requests for help.
- Where possible respond to all comments good or bad immediately.
- Do not take it personally, people will choose to support you or not, their choices may have nothing to do with you.
- Use all medium and media to create engaging content all social media channels, interesting pictures, video, posts and blogs, I started doing Facebook Live in the latter stages.
- You cannot do it on your own, you need to separate the tasks and have committed helpers, be relentless.
- Getting people to act is harder than you think, it will consume your life, so make space.
In the end Africolette unverified position was 62 on Crowd funder and 211 with 361 votes in the start-up category of the leader board; this is out of over 4000 start-up pitches. Only the first 80 start-ups move forward and I would have needed over 2000 votes.
During the campaigning process, I have had a few naysayers, however, I have had so many encouraging messages from people wanting to wear Africolette clothing. Many friends pitched in and people from my network sent motivating messages. I have been escorted out of Westfield shopping centre for soliciting their customers (RESEARCH – not what you think!)
Win or lose is it worth the experience, well here is what I have gained:
- Awareness: if you google Africolette we have a lot of online coverage.
- Potential influencers, advocates, employees, contractors and customers.
- Confidence in my product and business potential.
- Customer insight and knowledge.
There is a lot I would do better and earlier, so I hope my experience will help you in yours.
A massive and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported my Africolette campaign, this is not the end of the journey. Please connect with me, if you would like to follow the progress of Africolette.
Watch this space