Business & Finance Entrepreneurs

What Entrepreneurs Should Know About Crowdfunding

"If you want to understand change, you have to live it," explains thought leader and author Joseph Jaffe in the wake of the success of his Kickstarter campaign for the new book Z.E.R.O. - Zero paid media as the new marketing model. He adds, rather cheekily: "You can't read about it in a book, unless of course it's mine."

But his crowdfunding success story is one worth learning from as self-publishing supplants more traditional routes for the most entrepreneurial among us.

As a sought-after marketing consultant, speaker and thought leader, Jaffe has a long track record bringing innovative thinking to organizations such as The Coca-Cola Company, Panasonic, Kraft Foods and H&R Block, Target, Verisign, Anheuser-Busch InBev and General Motors/Onstar.

With his latest project -- Z.E.R.O. -- he wanted to go a decidedly different route, and so, working with his parter Maarten Albarda, Jaffe decided to launch a Kickstarter to fund the publication of the book.

Jaffe has plenty of experience with traditional publishing. He is the author of "Life After The 30-Second Spot: Energize Your Brand With A Bold Mix Of Alternatives To Traditional Advertising" (Wiley/Adweek, June 2005), where he presciently explored some of the trends that would reshape marketing and become what we now call user generated content and social media. Other books include Join the conversation: How to engage marketing-weary consumers with the power of community, dialogue and partnership" (Wiley, October 2007) and Flip the Funnel: How to use existing customers to gain new ones(February 2010).

The Z.E.R.O. acronym covers essential items to master within a new marketing paradigm, including:
  • Zealots -- Harnessing the advocacy of your fans and followers
  • Entrepreneurship -- innovation
  • Retention - Customer service, custom experience, customer centricity
  • Owned Assets -- Brands moving from being a tenant to being a landlord and using marketing as a revenue generator vs. a cost center.

It was critically important for Jaffe and Albarda to practice what they preach with this effort, Jaffe explains. "We wondered what would happen if we self-funded the self-published book, so if someone asked us, how much did the book cost you, we could say zero."

Of course, Jaffe has a long history of exactly this type of immersive approach. "Use New Marketing to Prove New Marketing," or UNM2PNM, is a concept he's explored previously and is keen to demonstrate with this campaign. "By kickstarting Z.E.R.O., we're actually turning Z.E.R.O. into its own case study." The final chapter of the book will include a look at how Jaffe and Albarda achieved their success with the crowdfunding platform.

But the experience has already been a proving ground for the principles Jaffe has honed in his book. "In a perfect world, your paid media budget would be zero," Jaffe says, explaining that instead of "buying" attention in the form of ads, TV commercials and sponsorships, brands would do well to "pay" attention, and harness the affinity their existing fans and customers bring to the table. He credits a strong fan base as the reason the Z.E.R.O. campaign met its initial funding goals within five days.

To the objection that brand-new startup may find customer affinity hard to source, Jaffe points to the incredible value of word of mouth. "Everybody has customer," he says.  "You could put a lemonade stand on the corner, and to the first five people you say, 'I'll give you the first sip of lemonade if you bring a friend back.' So if you are an new entrepreneur with a new venture, you still have a Rolodex, an LinkedIn profile," and various other ways of cultivating and activating your "zealots."

On the topic of writing and self-publishing a book, he says: "Anybody can but that doesn't mean everybody should. But if you have a great idea, and you have the passion, it is a painful process but you can do it."

He underscores the need for great content that connects to an audience need: "Great content will always rise to the top -- a great idea, even a self-published great idea, should beat a mediocre top-heavy, lethargic book in the bookstores. Dont' fear the ebook. Experiment with all of these new digital formulas. There are just such amazing things to do."

Check out the Jaffe/Albarda Kickstarter here. And read more from Joseph Jaffe at

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