Viral Marketing: What Potato Salad Can Teach You About Capital Raising

What does potato salad going viral have to do with institutional capital raising? More than you'd think.

So, when a guy with a self-proclaimed love of potato salad was looking to raise a few bucks to make his very own, he turned to Kickstarter. A week or so later, he had shattered his $60 “stretch goal” by over $60,000.

Fools and their money? Nah…Just another example of the power of clever marketing.


See, most in our industry still cling to the notion that investors are all about performance. Sure, that has to be there. But you wouldn’t be in this business if you didn’t perform. And…as our colleague, Kyle Dunn likes to say, there is almost no marketing value in performance. Just like there is almost no marketing value in trying to sell fuzzy blankets. However, there is a ridiculous amounts of marketing value in selling blankets with built-in sleeves and a cute name like, “Snuggie”. So, what’s the attraction with potato salad? Absolutely nothing! It’s not actually that good and often gives you gas. So why has this guy gone viral and more importantly, why should you care?

1. A pleasant surprise. When someone goes on to Kickstarter, they have become accustomed to expecting a hyped-up product description and another emotionally charged “story”. Maybe compelling - but probably much the same as the last four stories that they have read. Potato salad is completely unexpected and exactly the opposite of what everyone else is selling. What would happen if the next time you call a prospective investor, you give them anything but what they are used to receiving from every other salesperson looking for their money. If nothing else…they’ll at least take notice.

2. The no sales pitch sales…entertainment style. Hard to get worked up about potato salad. Particularly coming from a guy with such a relaxed tone and good sense of humor. The takeaway – we take ourselves way too seriously. Worse – we rarely make calls unless we are trying to make a sale. “Always be closing” for used car sales and low ticket items. This is a long-term business that does not close in one meeting. Even when you don’t think they can tell that you are trying hard to sell them something…they can tell.

3. Interesting content always finds a market. We all know that momentum just sparks more momentum. But…being “first to be second” is sickeningly common in our industry. So, how do you get off the ground? Content is a great start. If you provide folks something of value – a good blog post or an interesting email that starts with, “I saw this and thought of you….”

If you don’t have the time, the desire or the inclination to write your own stuff – get on to Google Alerts and have it ping you when something potentially interesting about your client, his strategy, the market, or whatever hits the tape. Since you can only provide so many monthly updates…this is an easy way to stay relevant.

And – if you are really want to keep people’s attention, look for the stuff that is either truly useful or truly off the wall – like a guy raising money to make potato salad.

By JD David