“A brand story is a cohesive narrative that encompasses the facts and feelings that are created by your brand (or business, if you prefer). Unlike traditional advertising, which is about showing and telling about your brand, a story must inspire an emotional reaction.” - Jane Hope
The human brain is wired for story—stories go for the heart, and move us in a way facts or sales tactics never can. It’s this kind of heart connection that you want to create with your customers to get them engaged with your business, and keep them coming back for more.
That’s where nailing your campaign story comes into play. Instead of trying to sell to your customers, use a story to appeal to them on an emotional level and tell them why you do what you do, and show that you care about them. This will be key in your crowdfunding campaign.
Now that you’ve created your killer value proposition and created your customer persona(s), let’s dive into how to tell your story. Fair warning: This step is quite heavy—simply put, a BoostR campaign is essentially a marketing campaign with many moving pieces and we wanted to provide you with the tips and tricks to be successful.
Let’s dive in!
Brand storytelling, put simply, is pretty much what it sounds like: it’s how you shape your company’s identity through storytelling techniques that evoke an emotional response with potential customers and create meaningful connections.
When done well, research shows the powerful impact storytelling can have:
Stories are 22 times more memorable than facts & figures alone
Our neural activity increases by 5X when listening to a story
Storytelling lights up the sensory cortex in the brain, allowing the listener to feel, hear, taste, and even smell the story
Remember when we told you that people have the attention span of less than a goldfish? In order to create lasting customer relationships that matter—and get them to notice you in the first place—you need to tell the right stories: the stories that stop us in our tracks, the stories that move us to tears, the stories that challenge us, and change our perspective.
We know that not everyone’s a wordsmith, so this can sound intimidating. But trust us—you actually have everything you need to get started. Every business starts as an idea, moves to startup, into a small business and beyond. When we look at other big companies, it’s easy to assume their inspiring advertising has everything to do with their massive budgets.
We’re going to let you in on a little secret. It’s not about the ad or campaign budget—it’s about the content, the story, and the emotion, all of which come back to that idea that sparked your business in the first place. Be inspired by how companies big and small capture a story in an emotional way, and look at ways you can apply these same strategies as you tell your brand story.
Here to share their best tips on telling your brand story are Kate McKenzie, director and founder of digital media company The Secret Marathon, and Jennifer Henczel, founder and marketing coach of Inspired Influencers, both experts on marketing and storytelling.
Let’s jump in!
Nothing gets people emotionally invested in your brand like hearing the background of the business—which ultimately is your personal story! Get personal, get vulnerable—that’s how you build a loyal following and authentic relationships with customers that last.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to get started:
How did your business start?
Where did you get the idea?
What/who inspired you?
Why did you want to make this?
What got in your way?
How did you overcome your challenge?
What did you learn through the hardship?
How has it changed who you are today?
What makes it personal for you?
What’s your “why”?
We already talked about how “facts tell but stories sell.” But the question is, are you telling compelling stories to your customers consistently? That’s where Kate points out many established businesses can miss the mark. It’s important as you grow to review your brand story and make sure that you’re telling it in every aspect of your business.
Try to answer these three questions in your brand storytelling:
These answers help anyone who comes across your business understand why you do what you do. And it’s more than just about being able to list these off in point form. How do these answers come together to create a compelling business story that you can’t wait to share?
Pay attention to what your customers first tell you about why they came to your business, and what they say when they leave you—that’s when they’re the most honest with you.
When you’re able to pick up the words your customers are using to describe your business, you can start to use some of those same words in your brand storytelling—speaking the same language as your current customers will ideally attract more customers like them.
Testimonials are another important way to find out what your customers think, and to share the positive reviews with potential customers. Leverage your testimonials: don’t just leave them as a quote on your website. Tell your story through them—they share what your biggest fans love about you, after all!
Let’s talk about values.
Hannah Cree—co-founder of CMNGD and BoostR alumni—breaks down creating a company culture into four steps that any business of any size can follow. If you’re a solopreneur, we think that getting feedback from mentors, advisors, your biggest fans and customers during this process is a great idea—they can give you some solid guidance as you create your culture, since they’re also immersed in your business.
What you value will show up in your everyday life—both at work and off-duty. If you don’t know what your values are, then you’ll be shaping your business unknowingly, and that’s never a good idea. Getting clear on your own values and learning how they show up in your business are the starting points for identifying what kind of culture exists in your business now, and taking charge of the kind of culture you want to cultivate.
As much as you have incredible power to create culture as a business owner, you’re not completely fending for yourself. Whether it’s from reviews, testimonials or direct feedback, your customers have valuable feedback that can give you a clue of what culture your business has, and maybe where some things could change.
Take a look at what words they’re using to describe your business, and if they match your values and what you want to deliver. You never know, what your customers have to say could point your culture into a new direction you may have never thought of.
Now that you have a bunch of different values that you and your customers have come up with, hopefully you can start to identify some themes. At this point, usually some words will stick out from these categories. The key is to pare these words down—five to seven values is ideal—and then give a trial period to be on the lookout for if and how these values show up in your company.
In about two to three weeks, you can revisit these five to seven values you picked, and force yourself to get it down to three—these will be your core values. Why three? Go more than that, and no one will remember them, let alone live them out.
It’s one thing to have core values, and it’s another to put them into action. Guiding principles allow you to attach meaning and give shape to your core values, so you can see how they’ll apply to every aspect of your business. And bonus: when you have employees, guiding principles allow your team to make decisions based on these principles, so your business is unified.
So how do you go from your core values to guiding principles? Asking yourself and your team the following questions about your values can kickstart this process:
“How do these values show up in our organization?”
“When do they show up?”
“What does it look like when they do?”
“What about when they don’t?”
With the answers of these questions as a starting point, you can start to see what your core values could look like in action.
Once you’ve created your own guiding principles, you (and any employees you have or will have in the future) will be equipped to make decisions based on your values. This sets people—and your business—up for success.
While values are the basis of your company culture, your values also serve as the foundation of your brand story. And, just like culture, your brand story (and the values it stands for) should be woven into your entire company, from your voicemail to your social media, your in-person interactions to your packaging, your website to your customer follow up. We’re talking everything.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to see how you’re doing with integrating your brand story and values into the everyday operation of your business:
Am I telling a consistent story through every part of my business?
Does my company's actions match my ideal brand?
How does my brand story make my customer feel?
What’s the problem/pain point that my business is solving?
What types of visuals am I using? Are they telling my brand story?
Once you’ve defined your brand story and learned how to tell it through everything you do, you’re well on your way to creating lasting connections with your customers.
Keep in mind that these are just guidelines to help you get a grasp on your own story. Don’t treat this like an equation: people can see right through oversimplified formulas. The key is for you to identify the emotionally compelling and interesting elements of your story, and share them in a way that’s relatable and concise.
Figuring out your business’s core story that drives everything you do, and then learning how to let it take many different forms through different channels, campaigns, and touch points in your business operations allows you to connect with your customer in a way that can lead to long-lasting relationship.
Check his funded BoostR campaign out here!
I started my business because:
Back in 2016, we saw that Albertans were enjoying a growing number of locally produced spirits, and we saw the unique opportunity to marry them with local bitters made from organic ingredients sourced from Alberta farms and businesses. We created Edmonton’s first local bitters company to complement the newly flourishing Alberta craft distillery community.
I did a crowdfunding campaign because:
We were approached by ATB team members who thought that our business would be a good fit. The goal of the campaign was to raise enough funds to cover the cost of a year’s worth of ingredients from local suppliers. Sourcing locally rather than buying from large chains or box stores can come with additional expenses, so we thought this was a good way to help offset some of our costs.
I chose ATB BoostR because:
Our company has always been about supporting local. We share ATB’s mission to help support local businesses and entrepreneurs wherever possible. We also felt it would be a good opportunity to gain exposure and get the word out in the community about our products.
My BoostR campaign length:
My BoostR goal:
Actual amount raised:
My rewards were:
100ml bottles of our four flavours, Orange, Cherry, Chai and Lavender, and our Sample Sets. Our sample set was our best seller as it was not a huge commitment in terms of product size or price—a lot of boosts came from brand new customers for this set!
The biggest challenge I faced in my crowdfunding campaign was:
Gaining exposure outside of our team’s personal networks and business social media pages
My favourite part of running my campaign was:
Working towards a specific goal and seeing the amount of support that our community gave us
I wish someone told me:
You’ll never feel ready—hit the ground running and just do it.
The scariest part of owning a business is:
There is a limited safety net in terms of business operations and the day to day. You have to quickly learn accountability and grit and be able to pivot when things don’t turn out the way you expect them to.
The best business advice I was ever given is:
Look into mentorship and building a good team around you. Having a strong advisory network that can share their personal experiences about their pitfalls and how they adapted is the best way to learn.
What were your expectations in terms of using the BoostR platform for your campaign?
We didn’t really know what to expect. We all knew that we were pretty well connected within our communities and across Alberta. We were confident that if we used all our connections and worked hard we could hit our goal. The BoostR team was great with supporting us and providing guidance along the way.
What tactics did you use to get your campaign funded?
Of course we used email marketing and social media to spread the word, on top of talking to anyone we could about our campaign. We provided email copy for people who wanted to spread the word within their networks to ensure that our messaging was clear and consistent. We used a mix of personal and business social posts, our personal posts had a lot more engagement.
We were most active on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We used LinkedIn but it wasn’t our main focus. We posted on social whenever we reached a milestone to show that we had a community rallying behind us—while also creating a sense of urgency to purchase our rewards as there was a limited quantity and our campaign was coming to an end soon.
A winning tactic for us was sharing our campaign with our personal networks. I have a highly engaged network on social media and in the local business community. Reaching out to them had the biggest impact on our campaign.
What did you do when you hit your lull during your campaign?
Reminder posts on social media, showing our audience how far we had come already and how close we were to hitting our goals.
Did you hire someone to make your BoostR video? If so did you use clips of it for your social media?
No—we used a video that we had made previously that we felt showcased our company and our values well. Because our video was not created for BoostR, it didn’t include our rewards. We have some big name suppliers and it would have been beneficial to have included that in the video. The BoostR platform is pretty straightforward so people could easily find our rewards, but in hindsight we should have included our rewards in our video.
HubSpot defines marketing as “the process of getting people interested in your company’s product or service. This happens through market research, analysis, and understanding your ideal customer’s interests. Marketing pertains to all aspects of a business, including product development, distribution methods, sales, and advertising.”
While marketing is a key ingredient to the success of your business, we won’t be covering every aspect of marketing—we’ll be focusing on how you can use social media and email marketing effectively for your BoostR campaign.
Challenge: Get Inbound Marketing certified with HubSpot. This 4.5 hour course is definitely worth exploring to understand the inbound marketing methodology and how you can start thinking about how your business can build and nurture long lasting relationships with consumers, customers and prospects. This is not required for your BoostR campaign planning.
Social media marketing can be really effective if you put in the work. However, building a following on social takes time—you can’t effectively use social media marketing for your campaign if you don’t already have a strong presence on social media. If you want to attract money from outside of your family and friends, it’s worth it to delay your campaign and find your crowd first.
Knowing who your customer is and where they hang out online is important when you’re looking at which platform you’ll use to speak to them. Being strategic with your business’s social media comes down to the content you need to share on these platforms—which is based on your brand storytelling abilities and living out your core values online.
We’re going to take a look at what makes good social media content on Instagram with Lucy, fitness Instagram influencer and owner of Dunnebells, plus some tips from influencer, instructor, photographer and podcast host Jenna Kutcher.
It really isn’t about what you’re selling. People want to know the story behind the brand—they want to know the founder(s), the “why,” and all of the ins and outs of the business. Customers can smell inauthenticity a mile away.
For some people this can be tricky: how much behind the scenes should you show? Maybe you’re not comfortable being on video or in content at all. These are decisions only you can make, but no matter how you choose to tell your story online, make sure it’s authentic.
You’re a business owner, which by default means you’re busy. That’s why you have to schedule a chunk of time to schedule your social media content—or find someone who can do it for you.
Studies show that when you collaborate with brands in similar industries with 10k to 100k plus followers, there’s a better sales conversion rate than if you paid an influencer with 1M followers. People can pay for followers, so the quality or audience is essentially fake. Even if the crowd is real, the bigger the crowd, the harder it is to convert. Teaming up with other businesses where you can promote each other is the best bet.
Here’s one way we’ve seen this at work. In ATB X Growth, we see businesses collaborate and promote each other through social media giveaways that encourage people to tag and follow to win a prize. This grows both companies' followers, and allows you to reward one of your followers for their loyalty.
In general, plan at least one month ahead: write your posts, have your hashtags ready, assign photos. And don’t worry, we have some app recommendations further down to help you out with that.
We get that life can’t always be mapped out on a calendar. What if you create a new partnership? Or you hit a huge business milestone? Make room for the unexpected by leaving some posts as blank canvases every month.
Check in on your scheduled posts once a week to make sure they’re timely or relevant, and make changes when necessary. The world can change quickly, a natural disaster or emergency can happen, so you need to ensure someone’s always monitoring your social media accounts and engaging with your audience.
In the meantime, use your Instagram stories for the less-planned, everyday kind of stuff. These are a great way for your audience to get to know you and build a relationship.
Hashtags are a huge factor in your audience engagement. If you use them well, you can drive tons of people to your profile who are into what you’re about.
Quick tip: you can use up to 30 hashtags per post—in the caption or comments.
So how do you make the most of hashtags?
Let’s take a look at how your hashtags are currently doing without using a paid tool. If you have a business account on Instagram (if you don’t, get one), you’ll see “View Insights” on the bottom left-hand corner of your image if you click on a post. Scroll down to “Discovery,” and under “Impressions,” you can see how people found your post from different sources. Hashtags is one of those sources. The bigger the number, the more effective the hashtags.
Now that you know how your current hashtags are doing, it’s time to do some research.
Check out your competition or an influencer you’d like to work with. Look through their posts and see which hashtags they use.
Search those hashtags within the app, and see how popular they are. Try to use hashtags that have between 10,000 and 1 million posts. Too small, and no one is searching for it—too big, and your post will be drowned out in seconds by other posts.
Jenna suggests two additional tools to help you out.
First, search your hashtags on hashtagify.me. It will show you how popular a hashtag is and populate similar ones that work well in that category. Pro tip: niche it down to be more specific for YOUR market.
Second, check out how relevant your hashtags are: go to ritetag.com and enter the hashtags that you’ve created or been using. It will rate each hashtag based on poor, good, overused, etc. It rates based on the density of posts and helps you see if you’re using effective hashtags.
Need some inspiration to get started with your own scheduling? Check out this fun social media calendar that has all the different types of “hashtagable” days and holidays to help you plan!
Whether the visual aspect of Instagram gets you excited or makes you cringe, Lucy and Jenna have some advice to help you step up your grid game.
Feeling stuck on what to post, when? Jenna suggests a great way to plan out your posts, make your grid visually appealing, and make sure you cover multiple aspects of your brand, all in one.
Your “Fab 5” are five categories of posts you can share, which can reflect up to five aspects of your brand that you want to highlight in your social media. The idea is that you post these five kinds of posts in order consistently, there’s a visual pattern to your grid.
For example, if you’re a fashion blogger, that could look like 1. An #ootd pic or video 2. A styling tip for your followers 3. Detail shot of a piece of clothing or jewelry that you love 4. You wearing an outfit “out and about” 5. Something you’re passionate about, whether that’s your family, partner, home, sport, travels, puppy, whatever. You can also include a spot for sponsorships in your Fab 5 as well.
Not every picture you share has to be all business. Your followers love seeing what makes you tick, so don’t be afraid to include a passion or quirky hobby as one of your Fab 5. The key is, your grid will look orderly, and you’ll have a posting pattern that makes scheduling much easier.
When you own your own business—or if you want to become an influencer—you need to be in your own pictures! People connect with people, so people want to see the face behind the brand. It’s been proven that posting photos of yourself increases your following.
Jenna took a look at her Insta analytics, and found that photos with her in them did three times better than any other photo. So she did an experiment: for one month straight, she posted only photos of herself.
The result? Out of 40 photos, only eight weren’t of her. Engagement rates between 1.64% and 3.48% are considered to be good. Jenna was hitting 6%, 9%, she even had one post that got over 21% engagement! The month before, she gained 6k followers—after one month of showing up, she gained 13k, and saw an increase in sponsorship deals.
While that might not be realistic for you to show your face in every post, try to pop in regularly so your followers know who’s the mastermind behind the brand!
Whatever your profile is about, having a consistent look is key to being taken seriously, growing a following and creating your dream partnerships. You don’t have to be a photographer to make your grid look good. Here’s some simple advice, if your feed needs a refresh.
Avoiding using the Instagram filters—they tend to look outdated and tacky. Opt instead for VSCO, a user-friendly photo editing app that you don't need editing experience to use. If you like to fine-tune your pics but you’re not quite at Lightroom status, try out Snapseed for some more advanced editing capabilities.
To make sure your feed looks cohesive, try to be consistent in at least one of the following:
Theme (outdoorsy, upscale urban, feminine, minimal, rustic, etc.)
You’ve determined who your target audience is. But where do they hangout online? For example, if your product’s targeting people who are older than 50, you may not want to focus your efforts on a robust Snapchat strategy—email and Facebook will likely be better avenues to reach them.
If all you do is ask for money, you’re doing it wrong. Your followers on social media are probably following you because you offer value and they’re personally invested in who you are and what you stand for. If you totally switch off that stream of communication and instead only ask for money you are likely to lose followers throughout the course of your campaign.
The goal of using social media marketing for crowdfunding campaigns is to create content that will spread awareness of your campaign outside of your immediate network. A single tweet can be shared thousands of times if done right. Use the campaign as an opportunity for your social media content to solve the same problem your business is working to solve.
A social media formula made popular by Sam Milbrath on the Hootsuite blog is the rule of thirds:
⅓ of your social content promotes your business, converts readers, and generates profit.
⅓ of your social content should surface and share ideas and stories from thought leaders in your industry or like-minded businesses.
⅓ of your social content should be based on personal interactions and build your personal brand.
By sharing social media content that solves the same problem that your business solves you establish yourself as a thought leader in that space. If you’re looking for ideas on how to talk about yourself without coming across as too pushy, consider posting campaign updates, behind the scenes content and—most importantly—impact and success stories that show that your business is working!
If your call to action reads something like: “Please give me $10 to support my campaign” then there’s a good chance you’ll end your campaign with a weaker brand than what you started with. Instead, emphasize with your call to action that the products people spend money on are a valid purchase and not simply a donation to an entrepreneur who needs to get it together.
Additionally, instead of directly asking for a sale every time, you might consider asking for non-financial help, such as asking your audience to spread the word and share your campaign with others who may be interested.
Crowdfunding is a great way to test your business idea. Build a social media posting schedule and follow a fairly disciplined posting formula to test your social media strategy. By strictly following your schedule and formula for a week or two at a time you can gain pretty accurate insight into your marketing strategy and tweak things as you go.
It’s important to use a push-pull technique when creating your social media content. Develop a mixture of engaging posts that entice the community to respond while also posting content that doesn’t ask for anything.
For example, if you’re asking folks in the community to share your content with people they know, you can also let them know when the campaign reaches important milestones or if it’s featured in a prominent news outlet.
Thanking each and every single contributor is a very quick and simple way to engage the community in a meaningful way.
Regardless of whether or not you meet your crowdfunding goal, it’s important to thank your community for their support. Even after your campaign is over, the community you’ve built is a valuable asset. If you’re truly the thought leader you’ve positioned yourself as, and are committed to solving the problem you’ve set out to solve, then your social media marketing should continue after the campaign ends.
Later: Lucy uses this app to create and plan all of her posts, from photos, captions, hashtags to scheduling. You’ll have to pay for a business account, but it’s a powerhouse tool that will save you a ton of time.
Planoly: experiment with your grid layout, create full posts and schedule them. Start out with a free plan and upgrade for more features.
Asana: a free project management tool that allows you to assign yourself tasks and schedule due dates—great for scheduling posts.
Canva: create graphics for your posts and stories, and use templates for your media kit, all for free. No graphic design experience required.
Hootsuite: Manage all of your company's social networks in one convenient dashboard, and get a bird's-eye view of what's happening in your social world. Plus, they offer your first 30 days for free!
Automation is a life saver. While this isn’t strictly social media related, we wanted to share some digital marketing tools that you can look into that could support all of your marketing efforts as your business grows, no matter what your budget.
Although you may not need to invest in marketing automation quite yet, your business may be at this stage soon. This information is just an FYI.
Hubspot: get all of your CRM, sales, service and marketing tools all in one place. Start for free and add on more capabilities and tools for a monthly fee as you grow. This platform can get pricey for a growing company, but it’s incredibly comprehensive.
Keap (formly Infusionsoft): if you want all of your operations integrated, Keap is the way to go. Handle CRM, appointments, sales pipeline, marketing automation, quotes, invoices and payments and reports all in one place. This option also comes with a decent price tag and there’s no period where it’s free—but it makes sense, considering all of the integrations.
Mailchimp: if you need an affordable option that’s easy to use and gets some of the basics covered—email marketing, automation and digital ads—Mailchimp is for you. It doesn’t have the features that the other two have, but it’s a great starting point for digital sales.
Email marketing continues to be one of the most effective means of creating consumer action online. Start telling everyone you can that you have a campaign launch date planned and collect the emails of folks who are interested in staying in the loop. Consider adding a landing page to your website to collect emails from those interested (you can easily do this through an email platform like MailChimp).
Some people can be protective of their personal email address and therefore might not simply give it to you without an exchange of some value. Always make sure your potential customer has an incentive—a discount, exclusive content, etc.—to share their information with you.
Note: Businesses in Canada are required to comply with Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). Make sure to read up on CASL before launching any kind of email campaigns.
Remember the tactics that Katie Nedjelski from Bloom Kids Essentials used for her BoostR campaign? She created email lists outside of her regular customer base because her business is for kids—and everyone knows someone with kids.
You’re here to test the market, validate your business idea, and spread brand awareness. You’re asking for capital in exchange for rewards—so you’re probably not looking to spend a ton of money promoting your campaign.
Outside of our tips above, here’s a couple more ways you can promote your campaign without spending any money:
Identify your early adopters and product champions: is someone promoting your product/service on their personal social media? Reach out to them directly to connect and thank them. They already love your product—roll out the red carpet to keep that relationship thriving.
Leverage your social circle and professional network. Word of mouth is a powerful tool and often overlooked.
We mentioned Hootsuite above, where you can manage all of your company's social networks in one convenient dashboard, and get a bird's-eye view of what's happening in your social world. Take advantage of their 30 day free trial during your campaign!
Facebook or Instagram Live can be a great way for you to talk directly to your audience in an engaging way. Since the pandemic hit in 2020, people are consuming digital content more than ever—and they’re online all the time. Co-host with another business or an industry thought leader, celebrate a milestone, do a demo for your product or service. The options are endless!