Whose Stock Should I Buy?

It’s not every day you get an offer to buy some stock. Then two crowdfunding campaigns popped into my email feed on the same day.

It’s not every day you get an offer in your email to buy some stock. Maybe there’ll be some vague and/or shady promotions, though I don’t remember ever getting a single one from a company I could feel comfortable with.

Until last week, that is. Two equity crowdfunding campaigns popped into my email feed on the same day.

To be on the safe side, I checked to see if I had missed any like these before. Nope.

Both of these efforts are from retailers. So, I wanted to see how they go about persuading customers to become owners.

Xero Shoes
Xero email
This company manufactures minimalist footwear. Its founders appealed for funding on ABC’s Shark Tank, but rejected the deal offered by Shark Kevin O’Leary.

This email’s subject line: “Want to own a piece of Xero Shoes?  A special opportunity for you…”

Thanks to changes in SEC rules, the company can now offer stock to a broader range of investors.

A letter from Xero’s folksy founders (who are pictured) appears in the body of the email. It invites customers to “become part of our future.” And it provides a link that goes to a special page on their website.

There, a video explains a lot more about the company and the available investment.

Mi Ola
Mi Ola emailMi Ola sells women’s swimwear. Its subject line stands out a bit, beginning and ending with a wave emoji. “Invest in MI OLA!” Short and sweet.

But unlike the Xero Shoes offer, it takes a little longer to get to the point.

First, it runs a few pictures of women in swimsuits to remind the customer of why they’re a customer in the first place.

Then there’s some copy that starts with a quote by Warren Buffett: “Invest in what you know.”

It talks about how the customer knows how good their swimwear is. It says that women make better investors in start-ups. Nothing wrong with some flattery and girl power and … that’s about it.

It uses a link and a call to action button to get the investor to the company’s page on the StartEngine website. And that’s where there’s so much more, like a video, a heavy focus on the product, the company’s accolades, and individual team members.

Both sites require a deeper dive. Of course, there are many factors that affect how a potential investor may respond to offers like these. Thanks to the StartEngine platform, Mi Ola’s is flashier, maybe a little more impressive.

But there’s a lot to be said for Xero’s effort as well.  I like the pioneering embrace of this new funding method, and how it can be used for building community around a company.

I’ll keep an eye on both retailers, and maybe invest some money of my own.

Fan Funded: The Most Exciting Thing in Marketing Today

There’s a type of marketing being done today that is changing the way companies are built, and not nearly enough people are talking about it.

The Site:1 speaker from Princeton Audio was marketed and launched entirely through social media and crowd funding.

There’s a type of fan funded marketing being done online, especially on social media, that is actually changing the way companies are built, and not nearly enough people are talking about it.

One of the things that’s really worked well to get my attention as a consumer has been Facebook ads. Marketers have been able to dial those in to my personal interest with shocking accuracy. A lot of the time companies reaching me via Facebook are ones I’ve never heard of before. And often, they don’t even have a product to send me yet. … But they can still sell it to me!

That’s the really exciting thing to me. Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow companies to launch without a product, without a lot of funding, and essentially presell enough product (with add-ons and kickers to boost order value) to guarantee the success of their first product.

In fact, one of the most successful of those for me has been for a product that doesn’t even exist yet, but I was very ready to spend $300 on: The Site:1 speaker from Princeton Audio in Wisconsin.

I didn’t actually end up buying one of these speakers, but only because the best speakers I currently own are probably the ones in my TV, so I’m not the kind of audiophile who can justify (to his wife) spending $300 on a speaker.

The marketing was done entirely through social media, Indiegogo, and word of mouth, and it had me totally sucked in. I was an inch from pulling the trigger, and I still might.

That marketing campaign created over $62,000 in funding, all of which represents various kinds of presales of the main speaker and various perks/upgrades. That’s more than enough to reach their goal and launch the company.

Think of what Princeton Audio did there. Too often we look at crowdfunding as nothing more than a donation engine. But that’s not really what’s happening here. This is the new face of social marketing, call it “fan funding,” and it is so powerful that it can actually let you use marketing to launch the company.

That’s really a 180-degree turn on the traditional way start-ups grow. Usually you come up with an idea, bring in a partner, bring in angel investors, then venture funding … all the while trying to develop your product and make some revenue on it. Marketing is secondary because your early goal is to get investor funding.

Fan funding lets you do the opposite. Instead of investors, you attract a fanbase, and that’s a marketing foundation that can carry your company for the long run.

The power of the fan funding/social media marketing platform in this case was enough to get to me, a guy who sees thousands of ads a day and doesn’t even own a stereo, to seriously considered buying one of these high end speakers. (I would love to know what in my Facebook profile tugged their ads in my direction.)

Princeton is hardly the first company founded on crowdfunding that’s gotten my attention, either. Just a few months ago I did buy into a product called Cthulhu Wars by a man named Sandy Petersen.