The Importance of Planning
A successful crowdfunding campaign gives your business a remarkable head start. You know for sure that your product has a market; you’ve already got a loyal base of supporters who have trusted you enough to put money before a product is rolled out; you’ve got tremendous experience running marketing; and you’ve obtained funds without compromising on your idea or going into debt.
Don’t squander these advantages. Plan ahead properly.
As you’ll read in later chapters, the campaign is not something that you can put up overnight. Every successful campaign requires a good video. In a sample of the most successful design and technology projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Shopify has found that the average page has 3500 words of text and 20 high-quality visuals. And don’t forget that you should have a prototype of your page prepared.
Three of the four successful project creators that Shopify interviewed reported quitting their previous jobs so that they can put together the campaign page on a full-time basis. None of them took fewer than a month working full-time on their campaign before they launched.
Spend time creating your video, your visual assets, and your page. Don’t forget also to spend time deliberating your rewards and your timeline. Luckily, this guide provides guidance on optimizing each of these. We want to make one more addition to something to prepare for before you launch:
Getting press. Successful project creators are nearly unanimous when they tell people that press is important. And you shouldn’t wait until you launch before you start contacting reporters.
Instead, you should line up press coverage so that you have articles about you on the day of launch. That’s a strategy that maximizes momentum. Take a look at Chapter 8, which is all about how to reach out to the press.
Don’t Be (Too) Late
In an analysis by Kickstarter and the Wharton School of Business, 65% of backers agree with the statement that rewards were delivered on time. However, that same study found that 9% of projects failed to deliver at all.
Your supporters aren’t going to be happy if you’re late or never deliver. While Kickstarter discourages funders to think of the platform as a marketplace, most people are still disappointed to see months of delay or a total failure to ship.
Some of these reactions can be extreme. One project creator has seen former supporters show up at his home because they’ve been frustrated by persistent delays.
Once you have a revolt on your hands, then you’ve squandered your fanbase. These former supporters won’t be silently disappointed; they’ll be quite vocal about it. You’ll soon start hearing public complaints.
Pebble Time, Kickstarter’s most-funded project, and Oculus Rift, the company purchased by Facebook for $2 billion, both ran into heavy manufacturing difficulties which resulted in huge delays. If delays can happen to them then it can happen to you.
Luckily, funders are often quite forgiving. So you have to do your best to avoid mass disappointment. One way to do so is to make a good plan.
Planning for the Product
There are so many things that can go wrong. The most important include not locking down a manufacturing process; underestimating the difficulty of scaling from a prototype; running out of money because of you’ve mis-calculated the costs; and underestimating the success of a campaign, which increases the level of complexity.
Every project will be different. It’s impossible for us to give you concrete advice on choosing manufacturers and setting up timeframes, but there are common themes and questions for everyone to consider.
Costs: Building 1 unit of your product is different from building 100 units, which is still different from building 10,000 units. A rough rule of thumb offered by Noah Dentzel of NOMAD is to add up all the units you’re offering as rewards and ask for 5X that for your business; that should approximately be enough to start you off on a firm footing. Asking for a comfortable amount of money improves a great deal your chance of shipping on time.
Manufacturer: You need to be communicating with your manufacturer, especially since a great deal of project creators go overseas for manufacturing. A majority of shipping delays are caused by manufacturing delays. There are so many things that can go wrong. A prototype may not be scalable; your design is actually more complicated than the manufacturer thought he could handle; certain materials are actually more difficult to find than you thought; and manufacturers tend towards optimism, just as creators do; language and time differences may be significant obstacles when you’re shipping overseas. And are you sure that your design has been perfected? A frequent piece of advice given by crowdfunding veterans is to create a reasonable timeline, and then double it to get your shipping date.
Shipping: There are two aspects of shipping to consider. First, make sure your manufacturer is able to ship to where you are; if this is his first time shipping your country, you should to make sure arrangements are sound before making promises to your supporters. Second, make sure that you yourself are able to ship products en masse to your supporters. Have you selected the right carrier? Have you got a labeling system? Are you sure that everyone is accounted for? There are tools around like BackerKit to help manage fulfilment, but do keep these issues in mind while you make reward levels.
There’s almost no such thing as too much planning in a crowdfunding campaign. Before you launch, figure all these things out. Make the disappointment of fans your own, and avoid it by setting more than generous expectations.
But if you find yourself running into strong headwinds and must delay, don’t forget one important thing:
Be Transparent About Your Delays
Your supporters understand if unexpected things happen. You can’t plan everything. The Apple Lightning Charger was an iPhone charger that was first rendered obsolete by an Apple design change and then forbidden by Apple to be a licensed accessory. Rich Burlew was on his way to finishing up his comic book series when his tendons, nerves, and an artery were sliced in his drawing hand by a shattering glass canister. His hand had to heal before he could draw again.
Things happen beyond your control. You need to update your supporters. When you’re honest and transparent about what’s happening with the production process, your supporters are much more likely to remain supporters. The worst is when you blow a deadline amidst long periods of silence. That’s when people start getting suspicious.
Delivering a project on time is really hard. Creators naturally tend to be optimists. Supporters, meanwhile, hate missing their products.
The solution is to plan as much as you can before you embark on your campaign. If delays do happen, be transparent.