Gadget Flow Podcast Episode 3 – How Narek Vardanyan Founder of Volterman Raised $2M on Indiegogo With Volterman

On this episode, Narek Vardanyan, founder of the Crowdfunding Formula and Volterman wallet that raised $2,000,000 on Indiegogo tells us the secret to crowdfunding success and what can help you be ahead in the game.

Me: Tell us a bit more about yourself and how you came into crowdfunding.

Narek: Thank you, Alex. I’ve been in the crowdfunding industry for more than three years. I’ve had crowdfunding training called The Winner’s Program. I had more than 300 participants in there. Recently, with our agency the crowdfunding formula we started to support campaigns to succeed in the crowdfunding. We have participated in more than fifty campaigns, fifty successful campaigns. A couple of our last campaigns were Volterman, where we raised close to $2,000,000. We had The Moon where were we raised more than $400,000, etc. Basically, we are a full-service crowdfunding agency where we provide crowdfunding support to all those people who have these very creative ideas.

Me: What can make a crowdfunding campaign stand out? 

Narek: First of all, it all starts with the product. The product itself needs to be exceptional. When we were starting the Volterman campaign, the first prototype or the first version of the wallet wasn’t the only wallet that has a power bank and a Bluetooth alarm system in it. With some quick research, we understood that with this functionality it will not be exceptional and we will not make this an exceptional campaign. So, what we did, we started to work on the product itself. We started to improve it. We looked at the market and we tried to analyze what functionality like currently, all people want. Basically, we added a couple of really cool features like global GPS tracking, a camera that photographs, a global WIFI hotspot, etc. So, we made the product a really good one and we paid a lot of attention to the design. Finally, it was ready for crowdfunding. And when we had a really good product, we understood that this is something that can overcome everybody in the market.

The other thing that is the most important thing about crowdfunding is the preparation. Most people fail at this stage. This is why the success rate is so low now in crowdfunding. It’s less than 30% now. So, 70% of people that go to crowdfunding basically fail to raise the money they want. The main reason for that is preparation. We put a lot of time and resources on our preparation activities. We have prepared more than four to five months before the campaign. Basically, that was something that drove us to success and we became that most funded wallet campaign ever in crowdfunding industry.

Me: What does preparing successfully look like?

Narek: I differentiate three main dimensions that one should pay attention to in the preparation stage. First of all, there’s the video. Then, collecting subscribers. Then, the PR part. We will address each one separately and try to give a couple of hints on how to win in each of these dimensions. Basically, your video should be really cool. This is nothing new but it really works. If you have a viral video and people want to share it. We really paid a lot of attention to our video. We tried to underline some messages which we were using a couple of times in the video to make it memorable. We were trying to make the video cool, a video that people really would like to share. We got, overall, more than two hundred million views on our video. We are comparing all the Facebook pages that shared our video. This is a really cool way to drive traffic to your campaign page. In here, if you have a really cool video, you can approach Facebook pages that have a big number of likes and you can address them to share your video on their page. Here’s a pro hint in here on how to succeed. You can pay a couple of pages to share your video and guarantee you a million views. There are these kind of pages that give you this kind of service. Then, what you should do, you should take this post and approach other pages and say “well, you know, I have this viral video which raised like a million views in this page and you can share it too and get this engagement, etc”. This really works. So, what we did, we have a big team of four to five people who were bombarding all of the Facebook pages with our video and, as a result, I think we got covered in most of the biggest Facebook pages out there. This is about the video that needs to be viral and you need to address the key messages very carefully in the video.

Our podcast series aim to empower you with tips on crowdfunding, marketing and entrepreneurship

Our podcast series aim to empower you with tips on crowdfunding, marketing and entrepreneurship

The other aspect is subscribers. Basically, subscribers are one of the most important elements or factors that drive success to the crowdfunding campaigns. What, typically, successful campaigns are doing, and we also did that, is that we create a landing page and start to collect subscribers, start to drive traffic via Facebook to this landing page and try to collect as many subscribers as we can. To extend the number of subscribers and make it more effective, you should use referral programs which will help the subscriber base bring additional subscribers to your campaign. We’re using two referral tools on our landing page. One is called UpViral. Basically, when a person is subscribed a popup appears which says “if you bring five more of your friends you will participate in a free giveaway.” Twenty percent of our subscribers really did, they invited their friends and this way we almost doubled our subscriber base. Then, prior to launch, when we already had more than 20,000 subscribers on our list; what we did was send this tool that I really love, it’s called Queue. This is a great tool which makes all this referral contest very interactive and I really recommend to use that. So, we sent out an email to our list which says that basically you can compete with each other, bring more people to this content page, and the winner will get a free wallet and the first five places will get a free wireless charger, etc. Basically, this was one of the incentives also to increase our subscriber list. Another pro hint I can give in here is that the most accessible reward in our case was engraving to the wallet. Engraving itself, there’s no value in there, so basically you should buy a wallet or back a project to get a reward. This is kind of a mechanism to incentivize the winners to become your backers so you can give them a reward which doesn’t have any value without your core product. So, they come and back your project. So, this is what we did with the subscribers and we got a really big number of subscribers prior to our launch.

Another thing is the PR. We paid really good attention to PR. We started collecting emails of journalists who wrote previously about wallets and we were using some tools to get the emails of journalists and had a really big list prior to our launch. We had more than 5,000 emails from journalists who wrote an article about smart wallets, wallets, etc. Basically, they were a targeted contact. When we started our campaign with the subscribers we raised all our goal ($45,000) in one day. Then we started to approach all these PR contacts because we already had the credibility of a good campaign and we started to approach, almost one by one, without spamming to all the journalist and trying to convince them to write about us. It worked and we got covered in many big media and I think more than 1,000 media coverage. This is kind of a brief snapshot of how it looks like, the preparation for the campaign.

Me: Do you have any tips on how to keep up momentum throughout a crowdfunding campaign?

Narek: That’s the biggest issue for most of the campaigns and they have this big start and big ending but in the middle they absolutely don’t know what to do. Here’s the secret, again it comes from preparation, if you have a big list of journalists (more than 5,000) it will take some time to pitch to everybody. Pitch to all these journalists, not only the top ones. A lot of people make this mistake when they target only journalists from TechCrunch, from Mashable, from CNet, etc. But, they don’t take into account that there a lot of websites which, maybe nobody has heard about them but they will give you a lot of convertible traffic. You need to secure yourself with these middle and small websites to keep the momentum.

Basically, we started to pitch actively all the websites. Both, medium and small ones as well. We actively used this Facebook pages trick as I told you. We started to pitch them with our video and started to get traffic from the biggest Facebook pages out there which actively shared our video. We started to dig and approach to websites which bring convertible traffic and here is where we got to Gadget Flow as well. We got really big and good traffic from The Gadget Flow. I think we raised more than $11,000 only from Gadget Flow. This was one of the best websites, I would say, that provided very convertible and relevant traffic to our page. This is basically the secret. You should work the whole time.

As they say in football; the game is 90 minutes, not less. So you should work on it fully and start to pitch everybody which you think can have a relevant audience for your campaign. Things get a lot easier if you are well prepared. So, you have a big list, a big number of websites which should be enough for thirty days or something to pitch. They help you to keep the momentum.

Me: Do you have any tips on how to create valuable incentives for a crowdfunding campaign?

Narek: The key is communication, it’s the communication with your backers. We used that really well. When we started, we started to communicate with our backers. We started to get feedback and we got a lot of great ideas from the backers themselves. We even changed our strategy that we were using. We even changed our product during the campaign to make it as customizable as possible to the needs of backers. This is really key and we came up with a final product that really, everybody wanted. Like with their color, size, functionality, etc.

What we are doing, we are sending a survey to the backers and saying “what would you like to see in our campaign?” And we got so many great ideas that we even pivoted from ours we had before and shifted to the ones we got from backers because they were coming from the right audience. This way, we created a really good product and something people really wanted. So, the key is communication. It’s understanding your target audience, what it wants. If you really understand what basically your customer wants, your backers want, you can create incentives, you can create a product that is really demandable and really people want.

Me: Are the shifts that you’re changing more to those incentive to backers?

Narek: What we did is that we didn’t change our original video but we introduced another video on the page. We introduced another video like we tried to keep the communication as much as possible and we openly said that, for example, at first we were thinking that this wallet should be only brown but based on your feedback we decided to provide also the black option. We see that people really wanted that and they became excited that we also took this decision based on their feedback. This is really good, to keep the communication with your backers and not address them as customers but address them as a team member.

So, basically, you are one big team and you are bringing a really good innovation to life. And when they feel that, that you are communicating with them not as a customer but as a team member they become much more engaged in your campaign. They share it openly, they invite their friends and imagine you suddenly have a team of more than 1,000 people. That they all are interested in helping you out, to bring you good ideas, to share your campaign, and you are getting the snowball effect.

Me: One piece of advice to someone starting their first crowdfunding campaign.

Narek: I would have many pieces of advice but the key is to start with the product, I think. To do research, a good research on the product itself because there are products which don’t do well on crowdfunding and despite your marketing skills people just don’t want it. This is something that people don’t want it. So, I advise people that start to go to crowdfunding to first pay attention to their product, on the functionality, on the design, on the competition aspects making sure that there is an audience in Kickstarter on in Indiegogo for their product. They can see similar campaigns and basically get an idea about it.

And then, after that, after they feel that their product is really demandable and there’s an audience for their product the next thing is the preparation. They need to prepare. They need to start collecting subscribers and, basically, it will take some time for them to get ready for the campaign. It is hard but the good thing is that it’s doable. If you take into account everything it’s very much possible and it’s a great place to be.

Me: Where should people find you?

Narek: I have my website (blog) where I share some tips and advice in the www.thecrowdfundingformula.com. Basically, people can find a lot of articles and a lot of advice in there which will help them also to prepare well. And they can contact me if any question.

Meet Alex Sugg

Alex is a content creator living in New York City.

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