Originally Published at Entrepreneur.com on November 20, 2015
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Ever since Regulation A+ became the law in June, I have been inundated with calls from companies excited about the prospect of raising up to $50 million in new capital online through a Mini IPO (initial public offering).
Potential clients I speak to understand that Regulation A+ offerings need approval from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and require an investment of legal, compliance and accounting fees. But when I explain to them that committing to a full-blown marketing plan is likely required to raising significant capital, I usually get blank stares. Once the silence subsides, I generally hear something like this:
“Why do I need a marketing budget? Can’t I just put my Mini IPO online and people will invest?”
With a Mini-IPO, unlike full-blown IPOs, there is no Goldman Sachs or Merrill Lynch instructing thousands of their brokers to push the IPO stock out to clients. With a Regulation A+ offering, nobody is promoting the stock to potential investors except the company raising money, and whoever they hire to market the offering. Without a marketing effort, chances are few people will find out the company is raising capital.
To the general public, a Regulation A+ Mini IPO listed on Bankroll or any other online funding website will look and act like a rewards-based crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. A lesson learned from rewards-based crowdfunding campaigns is that the highly successful ones require pre-planning, significant time investment in marketing and often the investment of significant funds on ads, public relations, social media and traditional media outreach.
A Mini-IPO will require the same kind of planning and marketing to be successful. A similar marketing approach to those that allowed the Coolest Cooler and the Pebble Watch to raise millions through rewards-based crowdfunding, will be required to raise tens of millions through a Mini-IPO.
Most people have no idea how much money is spent to market high-end rewards-based crowdfunding campaigns. To give some perspective, I met Steve Lebischak when a spoke about the JOBS Act and equity crowdfunding at the Wharton Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C .a few months ago. Lebischak's company successfully raised $648,691 from 1,296 backers on Kickstarter in a rewards-based crowdfunding campaign for the 1964|ADEL line of earphones that deliver richer sound while minimizing risk of hearing loss. Steve told me that they spent $65,575 in marketing, video production, advertising and public relations to market their successful Kickstarter campaign.
This is not an unusual story. And according to Kickstarter, only 128 campaigns to date have raised $1,000,000 or more, which is about one-tenth of 1 percent of all successful campaigns. Crowdfunding experts know that the grand majority of those high-end campaigns had significant marketing budgets, or they never would have raised the money they did.
The same will hold true of Regulation A+ Mini IPOs. A company has to drive people to the online campaign and get potential investors excited about their company in order to bring in significant investment dollars. When people get excited, they tell other people, they share on social media and they drive more traffic to the offering, and therefore more investments to the company.
The marketing experts who actually help people raise money through crowdfunding agree. Joy Schoffler, founder of Leverage PR who works with crowdfunding campaigns says that companies wanting to effectively use Regulation A+ need to develop the right marketing strategy. In her white paper, Schoffler suggests that well before launching their funding campaigns, companies need to take steps to ensure management is committed to the marketing plan and has dedicated time and resources for editorial opportunities, content creation and brand development.
Roy Morejon of Command Partners is one of the top crowdfunding marketers in the world and has an 85 percent success rate of campaigns reaching their goal, more than double the average success rate on Kickstarter and eight times the average success rate on Indiegogo. Morejon says that Regulation A+ offerings will need to be marketed very much like a high-end Kickstarter campaign.
"The goal is to get your investment opportunity to a large, but targeted, percentage of the general public," Morejon notes. "You simply cannot just rely on word of mouth. You need to use tried and true public relations and marketing methods to drive that traffic to the Mini IPO offering in order to raise millions."
Economical solutions also exist. For example, companies like Krowdster help affordably market online funding campaigns. Josef Holm, Krowdster's founder and a pioneer in marketing Regulation A+ offerings, says Krowdster provides marketing tools to quickly building a targeted crowd on Twitter and offers access to media lists from a database of more than 23,000 journalists in 170 crowdfunding categories, all in an affordable web app as an alternative to expensive crowdfunding consultants.
The bottom line is that marketing will be an essential part of every Regulation A+ campaign, just as it has been for rewards-based crowdfunding.