Lessons on Crowdfunding with Good Beer Co. Founder.

Crowdfunding. Everyone’s doing it – but how do you pull it off? James Grugeon, founder of the Good Beer Co., has just completed a 60 day long crowdfunding campaign to secure preorders and support for the first Australian social enterprise beer company’s first beer (Great Barrier Beer) to be made in, sold in and benefiting of Australia.

James figured that in a nation where drinking beer is not just an enjoyable social practice, but a key aspect of our cultural identity, helping people to drink great beer while helping to look after the iconic Reef would be a pretty popular concept. And he was right!

At least 50% of the profits from Great Barrier Beer will go to the beer’s charity partner the Australian Marine Conservation Society. So basically, by buying a Great Barrier Beer you’ll be helping the to protect and conserve Australia’s beloved Great Barrier Reef.

By the end of the crowdfunding campaign (on a Friday, naturally, crack a cold one!) the Good Beer Co. had raised $37,000 in pre-orders for Great Barrier Beer. Three days later, that number had gone up to $51,000. Why orders trickled in so late in the campaign was one of the lessons James took from the experience, along with several others. James admits,

I’m really proud of the campaign that we ran, but you learn a lot from these processes…

And the lessons, it was apparent, began before the campaign even started. James was planning to run the campaign on the Start Some Good platform. He had been in discussions with the team there and was feeling confident. He explained that the guys at Start Some Good understood that he was a rookie crowdfunder and would need advice and support throughout the process, which they provided a lot of.

Unfortunately, improvements were scheduled for the Start Some Good platform during the time James wanted to run his crowdfund and so, just one day before launch, he made a quick decision to switch platforms (to Indiegogo) to ensure that there were no technical hiccups during the campaign. These events taught James a series of lessons on crowdfunding:

Lesson 1: Choose the right platform. [GoodBeer_SocialMediaContent19]

There are a number of crowdfunding platforms available and James recommends you do your research before settling on one. Consider the level of support you will need, your ideal customers and how they will interact with the platform, the profile of the company and how well it is known and trusted it is in the country you intend to raise funds.

James identified 3 primary audiences he wanted to reach with the Good Beer Co. campaign:

  • Individuals: who wanted to support the Good Beer Co. as a social enterprise, drink Great Barrier Beer or support the protection of the Great Barrier Reef (or all three!)
  • Companies and organisations: ranging from big companies like Qantas, Virgin and Carnival Cruises, to smaller companies that might order beer for Friday night drinks or for corporate events they run.
  • Beer stockists: pubs, bars and venues that serve beer

Considering these audiences, most people would immediately assume that the big bucks would come from the second and third targets. But when numbers were checked it was revealed that 90% of orders on the crowdfund site came from individuals (some $33,000). James explains that this was because individuals were more comfortable using the crowdfund website, whereas companies and bars etc. weren’t accustomed to ordering alcohol in this way.

James’ experience should highlight to crowdfunders the importance of considering carefully the consumers you are trying to reach, their purchasing preferences and habits, when designing and implementing your crowdfunding campaign.

James also suggested researching other crowdfund campaigns being run successfully, not just for beer but for other similar kinds of social enterprise projects. He looked at how two very successful social enterprise beer companies, one in the UK called Two Fingers, and one in the United States called Finnegans Breweryinitially launched their business and how they used crowdfunding.

In fact James was very well researched. He just wasn’t quite prepared for the switch at the last minute, or for the craziness involved in trying to raise $100, 000 in two months that take in Christmas and New Year and the Australian summer hoidays! And so we arrive at…

Lesson 2: Be prepared. [GoodBeer_SocialMediaContent26]

James recommends planning your social media and advertising on a day by day basis throughout the campaign. He explains that this is because people need to see the campaign up to 7 or 8 times, whether that is via email, on their Facebook feed, in the news media, or through other digital advertising platforms, and says,

You’ve got to be relentless as well, you’ve got to be in people’s faces… you’ve got to be shameless in terms of your self-promotion recognising that you’re asking people to do a good thing!

The Great Barrier Beer Campaign also achieved fantastic media coverage, the story being picked up by radio stations, UK, New Zealand, national and local media alike, as well as specialist media in the brewing and business industries. The attention helped to legitimise the God Beer brand, increase awareness of the campaign, drove people to the Good Beer Co. website and the crowdfunding site, and provided James with a platform from which he can spruik his cause. But don’t be fooled, none of this came easily. James warns,

It’s a really hard slog and you’ve really got to commit – You’ve got to be working every single day.

Which, for James, happened to be over the Christmas and New Year period. Bringing us to…

Lesson 3: Timing is everything. [GoodBeer_SocialMediaContent20]

James knew that if he held off from launching his campaign at the start of December he would have to wait until March until as many people would be disconnected and holidaying over January and most not up for thinking about drinking in February. It turns out, even December wasn’t the roaring success he hoped for. Great Barrier Beer was promoted as a Christmas present, but because the budget to promote this on social media and digital advertising was very low, not enough people jumped onto this idea.

The take home is: carefully consider when your crowdfunding campaign will gain the most traction. Consider vacation periods and public holidays that may assist or sabotage your efforts and make sure you’re prepared with appropriate funding for social media and digital advertising campaigns. Also keep in mind the typical crowdfunding cycle, which James affirms rings true.

The first week will look really positive (people are excited!), then there’ll be a lull (people forget or it loses the initial spark of interest), and in the final few weeks things will pick up again (with the sense of urgency you create). James suggests keeping this in mind when planning your advertising budget. By working with the pattern you can try to boost transactions during the boom times and extend them a little longer.

In spite of all this room for improvement, the James is proud of the success of the Good Beer Co. campaign. In his words,

If you’d said to be before the crowdfund campaign launched you’re going to land at $51, 000 by the end of the campaign, I would have been absolutely delighted and said, Yes Please.

The first batch of Great Barrier Beer is going to be available in venues in Brisbane, Airlie Beach, Sydney, Melbourne and NSW soon. Full details will be up on The Good Beer Co’s new website to be launched soon: www.thegoodbeerco.com.au

Good Beer Co. has also signed up as a partner of the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne, and James will also be serving Great Barrier Beer there for the first time next month (Friday 12th –Sunday 14th February) – you should definitely head along to have a taste and a chat!

If you missed out on ordering your Great Barrier Beer during the crowdfunding campaign, or if you’d just like to order some more, you can do so on the Good Beer Co. website. Click here to order.