There’s nothing more exciting than having your idea take off. After months (sometimes years) of hard work, false starts and begging your friends to beta test iteration after iteration, the rush you get from having strangers all around the world fall in love with your idea is incomparable. So take a moment and bask in the excited comments flooding your campaign page.
Okay. Back to Earth.
Cultivating a community around your product is vital to your long-term success and keeps it from becoming a one-and-done transaction. But, a passionate fan base can be a double-edged sword. I guarantee suggestions will come in before your first backer can even enter her payment info. Some of these are incredibly helpful, providing insight that wasn’t possible when your idea was only known to a select few.
Other suggestions, while exciting, can stretch your resources thin and put you on a path to failure. “It’d be so cool if you added this” “You should do what X campaign did and switch to this.” When the backers start flocking in, it’s incredibly tempting to keep them happy and engaged by showing them “Yes, I’m listening!” and incorporate their ideas into your campaign. These suggestions generally come in the form of Stretch Goals or Additional Backer Tiers, and they’re fraught with risk.
Stretch goals can be a valuable way to keep new backers flowing in during a campaign as well as incentivize current backers to up their pledges to hit a new incentive goal. But it’s critical to know what you’re willing (and able) to add on to your original idea ahead of time. Give your project sliding scope; what’s the minimum viable product? That is, of course, your minimum funding goal. If you made not one penny more than you were asking for, you would still be able to deliver a product you are proud of?
On the opposite end of the funding, if money were no object, if you received 100x your funding goal, what is the pie-in-the-sky way to deliver on your promise? Then work from both ends of this spectrum to make realistic stretch goals that add value without appearing to lock content or features behind an additional pay wall.
To illustrate what I’m talking about, let’s look at the infamous campaign for Mighty No. 9, a colossal failure and cautionary tale. If you peek at their original campaign page you’ll find a hilariously long graphic of “Stretch goals,” many of which should have been included in the original scope, rather than piecemealed out as a carrot to dangle in front of backers. It’s clear that their minimum viable product would never have been made for their original funding goal, and fans quickly soured on what appeared to be nickel and diming.
What Business Do You Want To Be In?
When I’m helping creators put together backer tiers I always ask them “What business do you want to be in?” Looking at many campaigns, you’d be forgiven at asking “what are they trying to sell me?” The first few tiers that offer nothing more than your product are overshadowed by dozens of “rewards” and add-ons that get backers further and further from your core idea. So ask yourself a question like “Am I in the board game business, or am I in the t-shirt/poster/action figure business?” Some of these add-ons can help build a brand, but if they aren’t given the same care and consideration as your product, then they’ll just end up causing heartache for you and your backers.
Again, looking back at the Mighty No. 9 campaign, you can see the mountain of crap they added to each tier (many at the request of their backers) to get people to bump up their pledges. When it came time to deliver, the extra products and tchotchkes were rushed and given minimum consideration. They were rightly ridiculed online.
There are questions you need to ask yourself: Does this stretch goal help sell my story? How does it add value for my backers? Do gold-plated game pieces make my campaign more shareable? Do people even want a t-shirt from me?
And there are also the practical concerns; how does this affect my production timeline? Do I need to hire a separate production or fulfillment partner for this single piece? How does it affect the bottom line?
As you can see, these are questions best asked (and answered) before you go live on your campaign, not fielding them from a crowd of hungry, excited backers.
How to Interact With Backers
So now you have a plan, and you’re doing your best to stick to it. How do you keep backers engaged without caving to their demands and suggestions?
Though a vocal minority may want you to change or add to your campaign, remember that most people who back you are buying into your original pitch. Let people know that you’re focused on delivering the best product possible in your promised timeline. Graciously accept their eager suggestions, but hold firm to what you originally promised.
“This is definitely something we want to look into, but given our timeline it might have to wait until V2.0.”
“We’re hoping to add T-shirts to our website after the campaign is funded. Stay tuned!”
“We have a few stretch goals in mind, but for the time being, we’re focused on delivering on our vision as we’ve forecasted out.”
“We’re currently exploring partners to help fulfill something like this, if anyone has any experience we’d love to hear from you!”
You can be gracious while still subtly letting backers know that you’re determined to launch a successful business.
Remember to keep your eye on the prize. That prize?
“Congratulations, your campaign is funded!”