A conversation on the Kickstarter Best Practices Facebook group inspired this post. Please comment if you have questions or new ideas to add!
Lesson 1: Your time is more valuable than you think.
They say you can learn a lot from your failures, so let’s start with one of our own.
In the past, we’ve advertised BackerKit as the software platform that can save crowdfunders from countless hours of menial work, leaving them free to spend their time working on the more creative aspects of their project.
But when we talked to prospective customers, this wasn’t the strong selling point we’d hoped it would be. Our platform still caught their attention, but for an entirely different reason—smart project creators saw value in our add-on system, which allows backers to continue their financial support of a crowdfunded project long after the campaign has officially ended.
In other words, the prospect of additional funding proves more attractive than significant time savings.
This would come as no surprise to economists (which we aren’t). It turns out that most people tend to undervalue their free time. Just as some project creators are willing to devote hours to updating convoluted backer spreadsheets, other people are happy to drive for an hour and half and battle crowds to reach a Black Friday sale, or wait in a really long line for that free cheeseburger.
And yet you can make stronger economic choices when you realize just how valuable your time really is. Once project creators begin using our platform, they make good use of the timesaving tools at their disposal, and they clamor for more—which is why we’ll keep building what they need.
Even as we do, project creators are constantly finding their own new ways to save time and make their journey an easier one…
Lesson 2: The Ultimate Hack—backer happiness.
Backer happiness is vital to your project’s success. We view it as the Holy Grail of the crowdfunder’s journey, something to be coveted and highly treasured.
If you can consistently delight your backers, they will become your most loyal fans and ambassadors, offering their support long after your first campaign.
Project creators have gotten wise to the fact that connecting with these backers requires a focused marketing effort. Early and effective promotion of your project can often mean the difference between successful funding and a failure to launch.
There are all kinds of ideas for hacking your way to a rabid fan base, from gamifying your campaign to outsourcing your marketing work for maximum impact.
But beware of any marketing scheme. There is a fine line between evangelizing your creative vision, and transforming your campaign into the kind of spammy, tone-deaf marketing machine that alienates friends, family, and strangers alike.
If you really want to connect with potential backers, the key is to stay honest, and lose the hype.
Some have compared a crowdfunding campaign to a dating game—it’s all about learning how to communicate with people who share your passions.
Lesson 3: Hack your way from funding to fulfillment.
Once the dust settles after the wild dance of a funding campaign, a project creator is wise to seek advice from other successful crowdfunders.
But always remember—when you read about a crowdfunding project, you are probably only hearing half of the story.
Project creators are compelled to put their best face forward. With the eyes of their backers upon them, they are reluctant to share their mistakes, and often whitewash what they say about their campaign. Rest assured, that mighty crowdfunding wizard is actually just a man (or woman) behind the curtain.
There is no magic here; blood, sweat and tears are an inescapable part of every successful project. And crowdfunders often have difficulty handling the post-funding mayhem that a campaign is sure to bring, especially if they have raised more money than anticipated.
Still, many crowdfunders have responded to these pressures on the fly, and cobbled together a wide array of hacks. Here are a just a few examples:
In the course of a running a project, keeping an open channel of communication between you and your backers is absolutely essential, but notoriously difficult. The repeat crowdfunders behind Stonemaier Games found that you can hack the standard crowdfunding messaging system and reach backers more effectively by segmenting your communication stream.
You can certainly make use of your crowdfunding platform’s messaging system, but you can also enlist a blog, Twitter, Facebook, and an email management service to help target your communications.
Merging your backers’ information into your chosen email service, as Indiegogo suggests, is another way to help segment different groups of backers.
One communications problem that all crowdfunders face: backers are not static.
In the months that it takes to fulfill your project, many of your backers will move, or request changes to their address information. And if they don’t receive their rewards due to bungled shipments, it becomes a time sink for all parties involved, poisoning the trust and faith your backers have in you.
One hack to fight this inevitable problem is to carefully schedule several address update emails to make sure backers aren’t lost amidst the confusion of fulfillment.
And speaking of fulfillment…
As we’ve said before, fulfillment can be an alternate universe. Doing it yourself can be a full time chore, but no-frills companies like Stamps.com and ULine can help you save time and stay on top of your packaging, labels, and postage game. Another excellent hack? Just have your dad do it.
The alternate way to hack fulfillment is to utilize a full service house, such as Shipwire, Fullfillrite, Amplifier, Shipstation or Amazon. You’ll need to send them accurate shipping information, and you may have to fork over some hefty fees, but they have established networks, warehouses, robots, and small spaceships at their disposal to get your stuff wherever it needs to go.
As you conquer fulfillment, you’ll also need to figure out how to offer rewards to the latecomers who want to support your project.
If you are producing a good as a project reward, presale platforms such as Celery, Shopify, and Shoplocket can make your life easier. They can allow you to take orders from new customers, saving you the time and expense of building your own online storefront—in exchange for a cut of the proceeds.
As you explore other storefront and sales options, be sure to remember Lesson #2. Backer happiness trumps all. Offering deals or discounts to new customers may increase your funding, but it could alienate your most loyal fans: the backers who’ve been with you all along.
Lesson 4: Even if you have mastered these hacks, don’t be surprised when something explodes.
The beauty (and agony) of crowdfunding is that every project is unique; when you start a new project, you are sailing into uncharted waters. No one can tell you exactly when you’ll encounter calm seas, stormy weather, or even the occasional Kraken. So, what advice can we offer?
Stay flexible and your project will remain robust.
Regardless of how you choose to hack your project and build out your crowdfunding stack, we’ve learned from experience that project creators need flexibility.
Even if you have been fanatical in your preparation, you may find you need to run another survey, adjust your reward tiers, restructure international shipping, add credits for that one special backer, or slice and dice data for export to a different fulfilment center.
And as the wildly successful Machine of Death project found out, it is simply unbelievable how many backers will need to change their shipping address at the last possible minute.
At BackerKit, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to keep both crowdfunders and their backers happy. One of our goals is to build flexibility into our platform, so you can configure it in multiple ways, utilizing whatever services your project requires to succeed.
With the right tools, your project can bend, rather than break, as you encounter unexpected obstacles.
We think it’s possible for you to hack your project and still keep ahold of its reigns. Stay close to your backers, but give them the freedom to manage themselves.
Thanks for reading. In upcoming posts, we’ll delve deeper under the crowdfunding hood and share more of what we have learned. We’ll shed the hype and talk about what isn’t talked about in the crowdfunding community. We’ll get down in the trenches with project creators. Let us know if there’s a topic you’d like to see us address.
Love, Team BackerKit