Image by John Tenniel.

Image by John Tenniel.

I was recently contacted by the founder of a startup that was in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign. He wanted to raise funds to mass-produce a cool new product and needed help promoting it. During our conversation, he confessed that aside from making a promotional YouTube video, the startup hadn’t spent a dime on marketing, opting instead to put all its money into product development.

He assumed that if he built it, they would come. He assumed that launching the crowdfunding campaign was promotion enough. If things lagged at the start, he thought, they could always ramp up their marketing efforts.

If money and resources aren’t on your side, you can go a long way with good timing.

A week into the floundering campaign, it began to dawn on him: People need to know the campaign exists before they can be convinced to donate.

With two weeks left, less than 10 percent of the company’s fundraising goal had been pledged, and with few-to-no resources, the chances of reaching their target were as small as their budget.

It didn’t need to be this way – and it doesn’t have to happen to you. If money and resources aren’t on your side, you can go a long way with good timing. Here’s how.

Be prepared

Do not be like the startup above. Take the time to put a marketing plan in place. It doesn’t need to be complicated, it just needs to be there. Items to consider include:

• your marketing purpose;
• in-depth knowledge of the product or service you’re marketing;
• a profile of your target customer;
• a list of the promotions, communication and overall positioning you will use to attract these customers;
• the channels you will use to reach them and, if applicable;
• the price point for the product or service.

Combine these with the following considerations and you should be well on your way to a well-timed campaign.

Pick suitable dates

Image by Nick Holroyd via The Noun Project.

Image by Nick Holroyd via The Noun Project.

One of the most critical components of a successful campaign is the start date. Start too late, as the startup above did, and you’ll be dead in the water. Start too early and you risk wasting valuable resources. That said, if you have a tight budget, it’s better to start marketing your product or service well in advance of its launch date to give the campaign enough time to build up steam.

Keep in mind that different campaigns will have different priorities. For instance, a retailer doesn’t need to be as picky about a start date for a general brand awareness campaign as when launching a Valentine’s Day promotion.

Choose your channels

The timing of your campaign is linked to the channels you decide to use. For example, if it’s a new product or service you’re offering, you can begin content marketing, inbound lead generation and social media efforts as early as two years in advance of the launch date. But put off your big TV ad campaign until much later – as late as launch week.

It’s also worth thinking about the kinds of people using the channels you decide on. For instance, if your target customers are males aged 18 to 25, you’re better off marketing on the less widely used but male-dominated social network Reddit than on the more popular but female-dominated Pinterest. The best part about doing this research? It saves you time.

Be an opportunist

HRC logo red

HRC’s red logo became the profile photo for millions of social media users earlier this year.

Some brands have enjoyed great success thanks to a little opportunism. Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) took great advantage of an upcoming Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. On the eve of the ruling, the organization launched a Facebook campaign featuring a red version of its logo, which aptly includes an equal sign.

Within 24 hours the image garnered 10 million impressions. Millions of Facebook users set this version of HRC’s logo as their profile photo and millions more shared it on other social networks.

Your company doesn’t have to be big to make an impact. For example, during a San Francisco transit strike this year, a number of peer-to-peer ridesharing startups seized the moment by offering discounts to stranded commuters.

All in good time

Had the startup that contacted me done its homework, its chances of crowdfunding success would have skyrocketed. Instead, the company had to cancel its crowdfunding campaign before things could take off. It also learned a valuable lesson: Sometimes bad timing happens to good products.

What timing considerations do you take into account when planning a marketing campaign?