Often people say they really support the work that we do, and although I like to be complimented as much as the next person, I am secretly thinking this:
It’s sort of like hashtag activism. While tweeting, “Help our schools #education” probably makes a few teachers feel better, it is not at all equivalent to volunteering at a school or bringing in some pencils so teachers don’t have to choose between buying them out of their own pockets or have kids not do work. And yes, I do both of those things. I’m not a hypocrite.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with my cousin, Lynn, about investor funding, crowd funding and start-up life in general. It may or may not be related that Lynn has had a very successful career in corporate finance, but she made several comments that I think were the perfect example of the right things to say and do to encourage anyone at a startup. In order …
HOW TO BE HELPFUL, COURTESY OF LYNN
She started out with:
“I backed you on Kickstarter….
- Buy their stuff! If you have a friend who has a store that sells doughnuts, don’t just tweet out Dan’s doughnuts, #yummy! On your way to work, stop at Dan’s Doughnuts Delight and buy one. You don’t have to cater the local high school graduation, but just spending five bucks buying your coffee and doughnuts at Dan’s instead of Coffee Corporate Overlords probably means a lot more to your buddy than you think it does. We did two Kickstarter campaigns and I was very encouraged by the number of people who backed us, even if it was only for five or ten dollars. I knew those people didn’t have closets stuffed full of money, and the fact that they gave us their hard-earned cash to build something is one of the things I think about to keep going when the road seems all uphill.
and continued … because I think you are meeting a real need, for students in general and particularly for the First Nations people, what you call Native Americans, who have been treated abominably. And you have data to show that it works to help people learn
2. Take an actual interest in what your friend is doing. That company is their baby and everyone likes it when you think their children are interesting. I find it amusing how many close friends and family members tell me what a great job we are doing with 7 Generation Games and I ask have they actually played the games, and they say, “Well, no.” We have a free demo, for heaven’s sake! I don’t really get mad about it. I have lots of traits that annoy my friends and family, too, I am sure. Well, lots may be an exaggeration. Maybe one or two.
Then she said, My friends that I told about it who backed you were all teachers, people who had an interest in education.
3. Tell your friends. You may not think of yourself, yes, you, reading this, as an invaluable resource for marketing but you are. The biggest obstacle small businesses have to overcome is anonymity. I don’t believe that if you build a better mouse trap that the world will beat a path to your door if no one has ever heard of Maria’s Mousetraps or knows that you’re located in Coos Bay, Oregon. Email them or text them a link to Maria’s website, hand your friend with the rat-infested house a flier. If one of my friends tells me, “Hey, you should check out this book/ newsletter/ game/ shoe store” , I’m several thousand times more likely to actually look at it than if I get a random email. That’s the difference between friends and spam. My friends know what interests me, and I respect their judgement.
When a business is getting started, having friends and family who promote and support it can be a key difference between success and failure. It’s been crucial for us at 7 Generation Games. All of you who backed us on Kickstarter, who helped with our Youtube videos, who bought early, early versions of our games when we were just getting started – you know who you are – have I told you lately how awesome you are?
Back to making these games even bigger and better!