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You could get a marketing automation tool and try to figure it out yourself. Or you could get a marketing automation company to do everything. Look, marketing automation gets crazy complicated. Lead routing, lead tracking, campaign measurement, all the emails and landing pages, lead nurturing, dozens of segmentation lists, it goes on and on. Not …
What is crowdfunding? It’s one of the newest ways to fund a business. It’s been around a few years, but not as long as other funding options. It allows you to access tons of investors at once, and test the market at the same time. Here’s how it works. You market your business on the platform, and anyone who wants to can invest in the company. Some platforms will even accept donations as low as $5 or $10 dollars, though most do require more. With rewards-based crowdfunding, you get some token of thanks for your donation. With equity-based crowdfunding, which almost always requires $500 or more, investors get a piece of the company pie, so to speak.
What is Crowdfunding and Will It Work for You?
The question of what is crowdfunding is easy to answer. The question of whether crowdfunding will work for you is a whole other can of worms. It works well for some businesses, but not for every business. In fact, most find that they need to supplement their crowdfunding money with some other form of funding. Since it is debt free cash however, it is definitely worth considering.
Credit Line Hybrid Financing: Get up to $150,000 in financing so your business can thrive.
What is Crowdfuding? The Basics
Now that you know the answer to what is crowdfunding, you need to know what it is not. First, it’s not ever a sure thing. While there are a lot of successful crowdfunding campaigns, the majority are not able to fully fund their business through crowdfunding. According to Startups.com, the average success rate of a campaign is 50%, and 78% of crowdfunding campaigns reach their goal. That sounds somewhat promising. However, it seems success depends greatly on your market, among other things. For example, here are a few more statistics from the same study with success broken down by the type of business:
- Business and Entrepreneurship: 41.4%
- Social Causes: 18.9%
- Films and Performing Arts: 12.2%
- Real Estate: 6.2%
- Music and Recording Arts: 4.5%
If you’ll notice, none of these hit the 50% success rate. What does that mean? It means whatever you do, be sure you have a backup plan.
What is Crowdfunding? Different Types
A lot of people do not realize there are actually two types of crowdfunding. There is rewards based crowdfunding and equity crowdfunding. Many see all crowdfunding as some sort of hybrid between the two. However, they are actually very different creatures.
In fact, while some platforms allow campaigns to do both, many only allow one or the other. It’s important to determine which one will work best for your business before you decide on a platform.
What is Crowdfunding? Benefits and Drawbacks of Each Type
Which one will work best for you will depend on a number of things. It can help to understand the benefits, as well as the drawbacks, of each option.
Rewards Based Crowdfunding
- Debt free
- Do not give up equity in your company
- Relatively easy
- Typically raises smaller amounts of money
- Risk lawsuit if do not follow through on promises
- Rewards can get expensive
- Easier access to investors
- Faster way to show investors what you’ve got
- Less focus on regulatory compliance and more on getting product or service to the market
- Managing a lot of smaller investors can be harder than managing a few large stakeholders
- May need an investor liaison, which can be costly
- Reporting and auditing requirements can get tricky with a lot of investors
What is Crowdfunding? Which Platform Should You Choose?
There are a lot of options out there when it comes to crowdfunding platforms. They include some that are quite well known, and others that are not. Some allow for both types of funding, while others only allow equity crowdfunding or rewards based crowdfunding, not both. Here are a few of each to kick off your research.
Rewards Based Crowdfunding Platforms
They are the biggest crowdfunding platform. They have over 14 million backers and over 130,000 funded projects. Campaigns are for products and services such as:
- The arts and film
- Comics and illustration
- Design and tech
A prototype is required. Also, projects cannot be for charity, although nonprofits can use Kickstarter. Lastly, they do not allow equity crowdfunding.
Indiegogo has over 9 million backers. Their minimum goal amount is $500. They charge 5% platform fees and 3% + 30¢ third-party credit card fees. Fees are deducted from the amount raised, not the goal. As a result, if you exceed your goal, you will pay more in fees.
RocketHub is more for entrepreneurs who want venture capital. They give you an ELEQUITY Funding Room. This platform is specifically for business owners working on projects in these categories:
If you achieve your fundraising goal, you will pay a fee of 4%. In addition, you’ll pay a 4% credit card handling fee. However, if you do not reach your goal, that fee jumps up to 8% plus the credit card handling fee. As a result, RocketHub is best for companies that are confident they will make their goals.
Credit Line Hybrid Financing: Get up to $150,000 in financing so your business can thrive.
Equity Crowdfunding Platforms
MoneyCrashers.com has a great list of equity crowdfunding platforms. Here are just a few.
AngelList is a trailblazer when it comes to equity crowdfunding. Their original mission was to form connections between technology entrepreneurs who needed cash and angel investors. Today, they remain true to their first love and so much more.
CircleUp works to help emerging brands and companies raise capital to grow. However, companies must apply and show revenue of at least $1 million to get a listing on the site. That said, the platform will sometimes make exceptions.
The process is thorough, which makes them a good option for entrepreneurs who already have an established business.
If your business gets approval for listing on CircleUp, the fee percentage comes from the total amount you raise.
Fundable actually offers both rewards based and equity crowdfunding options. Their basic profiles are open to the public.
They charge $179 per month to fundraise. Fees on rewards are: 3.5% + 30¢ per transaction. They do not charge success fees.
Though they do not make it formal, the companies listed here tend to lean toward a specific type of niche. For example, most are innovative and social or non-traditional.
The cool thing about Wefunder from an investor’s standpoint is, although most platforms set minimum investments around $1,000 or higher, this platform allows investment minimums to go as low as $100. Still, many companies go ahead and require at least $500. They companies on the platform vary widely including:
- Green energy
- Insurance and
- Even packaged food
Localstake hooks up investors with small businesses that are already generating revenue. These companies tend to be consumer-facing, such as food production, apparel manufacturing, or brewing. Localstake is unique in that it offers 4 different options to investors. These include revenue share loans, convertible debt, preferred equity, and traditional loans.
What is Crowdfunding? Set Your Campaign Up for Success
Whatever type of crowdfunding you choose and whichever platform, there are some things you can do to help your campaign be as successful as possible.
Do the Research
You have to know your market and what demand looks like. The only way to find that out is to research. Figure out how much money you actually need before you set your goal. Lots of business owners have started crowdfunding campaigns only to find the demand isn’t there or their goal fell short of the actual need.
For products, you need to have a sample to show investors. This is important. People are much more likely to let go of money if they can see something tangible. This is so vital that Kickstarter actually mandates that you to have a prototype to show potential investors
The Right Platform is Imperative
Once you know who your target audience is, you can determine if you would be best served by Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or another successful platform that is not as well known. If your audience doesn’t use the platform you are on, it won’t matter how great your idea or product is. They’ll never see it.
Goals Build Mountains
Setting attainable goals is necessary to success. Make certain you look at the numbers in relation to actual facts before you set a fundraising goal. Be certain you have production facilities on the line that can meet the timeline goals. Do not randomly set goals with no clue what it will take to reach them.
Marketing Makes the World Go Road
You can’t just throw something together. If you create a video, it needs to be professionally edited. Any social media should be specifically targeted toward your audience.
What Happens When Crowdfunding Isn’t Enough?
The best part of crowdfunding is that, for the most part, it is debt-free cash. However, it is not a given that you will raise all the money you need. What do you do if you need more? There are a few options.
Credit Line Hybrid
A credit line hybrid allows you to fund your business without putting up collateral, and you only pay back what you use.
Your personal credit score should be at least 685. In addition, you can’t have any liens, judgments, bankruptcies or late payments. Furthermore, in the past 6 months you should have less than 5 credit inquiries, and you should have less than a 45% balance on all business and personal credit cards. It’s also preferred that you have established business credit as well as personal credit.
Don’t give up if you don’t meet all of those requirements. You can take on a credit partner that does meet them. A lot of business owners work with a friend or relative to fund their business.
There are a ton of benefits to using a credit line hybrid. For one thing, this is unsecured financing. You do not have to put up collateral. Also, the funding is “no-doc.” That means you don’t need to provide any bank statements or financials.
Then, typically approval is up to 5x that of the highest credit limit on the personal credit report. Sometimes you can even get interest rates as low as 0% for the first few months, allowing you to put that savings back into your business.
The process is pretty quick, especially with a qualified expert to walk you through it. Also, with the approval for multiple credit cards, competition is created. This makes likely you can get interest rates lowered and limits raised every few months, assuming you handle the credit responsibly.
While grants aren’t typically a complete funding option, they can work very well as supplemental funding. If you are a business owner that fits into one of these categories, grants may especially be an option, though there are grants available to all business owners. Those that have the most grant opportunities include:
- Businesses in low-income areas
The competition is fierce for all grants, but they are free money. That makes them worth a shot for sure.
Loans are the tried and true funding option, but they aren’t all created equal. If you do not qualify for traditional loans, SBA loans can be a saving grace. There is a lot of red tape involved, and they are not fast, but because of the government guarantee involved, some businesses are eligible for these loans when they are not eligible for others.
When your credit score isn’t quite up to par, you may not be able to qualify for SBA loans easily either. In this case, online lenders can be a legitimate option. They tend to lean less on personal credit score and more on other factors such as revenue and time in business.
Credit Line Hybrid Financing: Get up to $150,000 in financing so your business can thrive.
What is Crowdfunding? A Great Option!
Crowdfuding can be a great way to raise funds for your business. However, it’s not a guarantee. You definitely need a backup plan. A credit line hybrid is an awesome backup funding source, but there are others as well. SBA loans, grants, and online lenders all have their place.
The main thing to remember when it comes to crowdfunding is, you have to take the time to make educated decisions on whether you want to use equity crowdfunding or not, which platform best suits your type of business, and what kind of campaign goals you need to set. Once you make these decisions, all you can do is put your business out there and hope for the best. Good luck!
And for more information on funding options that aren’t crowdfunding, check out our many legitimate funding sources.
You could get a marketing automation tool and try to figure it out yourself.
Or you could get a marketing automation company to do everything.
Look, marketing automation gets crazy complicated.
Lead routing, lead tracking, campaign measurement, all the emails and landing pages, lead nurturing, dozens of segmentation lists, it goes on and on.
Not to mention a deep integration with your CRM which has to work flawlessly.
Your entire marketing program depends on getting marketing automation right.
The best sales teams already work with top Salesforce partners to get everything set up from the beginning.
It’s about time that marketing teams followed their example.
Don’t just look for a marketing automation tool, find a marketing automation company (agency) that can help you with everything.
The 5 Best Marketing Automation Companies
Some of us in that marketing automation companies are:
- Neil Patel Digital – Best for Content Marketing Automation
- LeadMD – Best for Tech Stack Integration
- CS2 Marketing – Best for On-call Marketing Operations
- Bluewolf – Best for Salesforce Automation
- Perkuto – Best for Marketo Automation
Let’s dive into each.
#1 Neil Patel Digital – Best for Content Marketing Automation
If there’s one digital advertising channel that cuts across all others, including automation, it has to be content marketing.
I’m not here to remind you that content is king. You already know!
Even with marketing automation, content marketing drives everything. You need the right content in the right emails to keep leads moving down the funnel.
Tons of billion dollar startups have built their sales and marketing process around content. And it works beautifully.
And it’s an area my team at Neil Patel Digital shines the brightest.
We’ve rolled out content programs for the entire sales cycle across many Fortune 500 brands.
I truly believe we’re one of the best companies at content, period.
If you’d like content marketing and marketing automation working together seamlessly, we should chat.
#2 LeadMD – Best for Tech Stack Integration
Marketing automation frees you (and relevant people on your team) from mundane tasks.
For example, say someone signs up to download a whitepaper on your landing page.
They fill out the form fields, your CRM collects this data, creates tags based on the info provided, and segments them into relevant email lists.
That email sequence could include 180 days or branching email logic based on their actions and sales stage.
For this to work well, you’ll need tight integrations between your:
- Marketing automation tool
- CRM tool
- Landing page tool
- Software trials and accounts
- Ecommerce accounts
- Subscription settings
- Customer support tools
- Deduplication tools
And dozens of small tools that impact your users.
If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is.
These systems get extremely complicated very quickly.
You’ll need a team that knows how to get everything working together. One broken link in the chain could dump thousands of leads by accident, costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’ve seen it happen countless times.
LeadMD specializes in setting up these types of integrations:
LeadMD is the go-to marketing automation company for integrating your tech stack.
If you feel really good about the rest of your marketing strategy and just need help with getting all the infrastructure working correctly, reach out to them.
#3 CS2 Marketing – Best for On-call Marketing Operations
Once you get your marketing automation fully implemented, that’s not the end.
New marketing operations projects come up all the time.
A hot new campaign needs to get added to your automation. Sales wants to tweak the lead scoring or MQL definition. IT changes one of your tools and you need to re-implement that part of the stack.
Lots of projects (large and small) will come up.
One option is to hire a full-time marketing operations person. That’ll easily cost $100K fully loaded with benefits, taxes, and marketing rate compensation.
Or you can find a marketing automation company that specializes in scaling up and down as you need them.
That’s exactly what Cs2 Marketing does.
First, you can sign up for a contract to get ongoing consulting. This is super valuable to make sure you’re not accidentally lighting your whole marketing stack on fire.
Then, when you have a project some up, they have a whole team that can execute it for you.
This is perfect for mid-size companies that need to keep every dollar focused on customer acquisition for as long as possible.
#4 Bluewolf – Best for Salesforce Automation
I’m going to say something controversial.
Oftentimes, how your marketing automation tool integrates with Salesforce is more important than the marketing tool itself.
After all, your business lives and dies on your CRM, which is usually Salesforce.
One way to get everything working right is to work backwards. Get your CRM dialed, then force your marketing automation tool to work the same way.
So before jumping into a deep marketing automation tool implementation, consider getting a top CRM agency to help with Salesforce.
For this, check out Bluewolf.
Bluewolf is an IBM company, and that alone speaks volumes about this agency’s reputation. They mostly serve enterprise brands and are prepared to handle anything that you can throw at them.
Bluewolf is also global. They have about 24 offices spread across different continents.
#5 Perkuto – Best for Marketo Automation
Marketo is a one powerful tool. If you’re already using it and want to go really deep with your implementation, check out Perkuto:
You could say that Perkuto is THE top-most Marketo expert, having achieved the “Marketo Engage” status and works with a team of over 50 marketing automation strategists and hardcore engineers.
If it can be done in Marketro, Perkuto can make it happen.
I’d definitely reach out to them if you have a Marketo implementation that’s gone haywire and you need serious expertise to fix it all. In those cases, you want a top expert to get you back on track. They’re worth every penny.
5 Characteristics That Make a Great Marketing Automation Company
When looking at marketing automation companies, what should you prioritize?
What are the red flags?
What signs tell you that someone is one of the best?
I start by looking for these characteristics.
1. ROI Before Tech
Some engineers and infrastructure folks love tech for tech’s sake.
Not all, but some do.
In marketing, that’s super dangerous.
You need a marketing automation implementation that generates real ROI. You spend $X. It needs to generate more than $X. That’s the whole point of marketing.
Otherwise, it’s just a waste of time.
When looking at marketing automation companies, they should have an extreme focus on driving ROI. It should be the lens that they filter every recommendation through.
Even better, they should talk about revenue growth and ROI naturally. You shouldn’t feel like you have to push them here.
2. Experience With Companies Bigger Than You
When working with any marketing automation company, make sure you’re not the biggest customer.
The last thing you want is for a vendor to patch your implementation together because it’s the first time they’re handled your complex use-case.
You don’t want the marketing automation company to learn on your dime. Your implementation will suffer. Tech debt will pile up and you’ll end up paying to fix it later.
Ask the company for case studies and a list of clients in a similar industry as you. Many of them should be larger. If not, treat it as a red flag.
3. Deep Experience With Your Marketing Tech Stack
In any marketing automation tool, there are dozens of different ways to set up any workflow or feature.
You don’t want it to just work, You want it set up so it has that perfect balance between scalability and flexibility.
That’s not easy to do.
To know what option is best, it takes a lot of trial and error with every tool. And experience across dozens of clients and implementations.
So even if a marketing automation company has a ton of experience, make sure they have experience with your marketing tech stack.
Otherwise, keep looking.
A marketing automation (and CRM) implementation is one area you do not want to cut corners.
We’re talking about foundational infrastructure that routes every lead of your business.
Any leaks means you’ll lose serious money.
And sense these systems get extremely complicated, it’s easy for stuff to fall through the cracks.
So when you’re shopping around with different companies, look at low prices as a red flag. The experienced folks will know their value and charge accordingly.
Spend the money to get your marketing automation set up correctly. It’ll instantly pay for itself.
5. A Desire to Coach
As you start talking with companies, the best ones will have an innate desire to coach you and your team.
Even if they handle 100% of the initial implementation, they know that your team needs to manage and operate it all.
Communicating best practices, guiding your team, and empathetic coaching will make sure that your implementation stays clean for years to come.
On any given call, you should feel like you’re learning. That’s a good sign they’ll continue to coach your team throughout the entire implementation.
What to Expect from a Great Marketing Automation Company
Once you start to reach out to marketing automation companies, expect to go through these steps.
1. Filling out the contact form
Since marketing automation projects are major rollouts, expect an in-depth sales process before getting started.
The marketing automation also needs to do a deep dive on your needs before being able to come up with even a general price range.
Look for the contact form of their website and use that to get started.
2. The discovery call
After filing out the contact form, you should receive a reply pretty quickly.
Any great team will be crazy responsive to any new prospects. Expect a reply within 24 hours.
If you don’t get a reply, that might be a sign that you’re a poor fit for that company. For example, the companies that specialize in enterprise clients will probably ignore smaller startups that need a basic implementation for a marketing team of 2-3 people. It’s just too small for them. In these cases, they typically don’t respond at all.
So if you don’t get a response and you’re a smaller company, look for folks that feature clients on their site that are closer to your size.
Once you get a reply, you’ll usually get asked to jump on a discovery call. There won’t be much pitching on this call. Instead, the marketing automation company will want to learn as much about you as possible. They’ll ask you things like:
- Your marketing tech stack
- Company size
- Key stakeholders
- Hard requirements for the project
I recommend that you sit down and come up with clear answers to these items before the discovery call. That will keep the process moving quickly.
The clearer you can be with the partner, the more likely they’ll be able to deliver what you want.
3. The Proposal
Depending on the complexity of your implementation, you might have several calls to scope out the full project.
Once everything has been clarified, expect to get a proposal that breaks down the full cost, timelines, and deliverables of the project.
If you wince at the price, it’s probably in the right range. Implementation fees for CRMs and marketing automation tools are pretty high.
One other thing, really double and triple check all the requirements with your team. Look for holes and items that you missed in the spec. Changing requirements later will get really difficult. Best to get any changes added to the proposal now.
Also ask the company how they handle mid-project scope changes in the event that it happens. Usually, they’ll have an hourly rate that they charge for any additional work.
4. Sign and get started
Once you’re ready, sign the proposals and get the project going.
After everything is signed, the marketing automation company usually takes the lead. As long as you’re responsive on your side, things usually stay moving without you having to push on them.
The initial process usually starts with:
- Introductions to the whole implementation team
- A kick-off call
- Scheduling for regular check-ins
- Calls with internal experts to go through all details
Are the Top Marketing Automation Companies Worth it?
I believe so.
Any serious marketing team will need a fully operational marketing automation tool.
And marketing automation tools have gotten so complicated that it’s unwise to muddle through them yourself.
You want an experienced team to roll out your tool the right way. It costs a lot more upfront but it’ll save you a ton of money in the long run.
I was speaking to a VP of Marketing the other day. He worked at a top-tier marketing team, managing hundreds of thousands of leads. He turned to me and said “You know, the other day, we discovered 100,000 leads that got lost in our marketing automation tool. They were just sitting there. For like a year.”
That’s nuts! Think of all the lost revenue.
And it happens all the time.
Look around, reach out to a few experts in this space, and get it done right.
Raft is a niche consulting focused on building cloud native solutions that make a positive impact on wide ranging users. We work in the Govt. Tech space at the intersection of Technology, Data, and Policy. Most of our work is done completely in the open source , , and . We are looking for like minded folks who want to work on systems that serve a bigger purpose. We are always looking for folks who obsess over automation, want to try new tools, like to dig deep into problem solving, can troubleshoot from logs, and like building inclusive frontends.
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