Crowdfunding and Communication
After you finish getting the word out, communication is pretty much a non issue when it comes to crowdfunding. The point is to get the money, right? Then all those saps.. I mean, backers can just leave you the hell alone while you get to it, right? Right?
Some creators may see the process that way, but experiencing the creative process, from conception to completion is a big draw for many backers, including me.
It surprises me just how many projects screw up the whole talking-to-their-backers part of the equation. The porridge is often too hot or too cold.
Peak below the fold for some helpful hints on how to get it just right.
I admit that as a backer of a great many projects, I might be a bit more sensitive to communication issues than some others. I think that I get about 40 Kickstarter related emails a week. Some of them are important, and some of them are interesting, but most of them are just a waste of my time. I’ve recently had to start manually muting some projects on the Kickstarter page because it has gotten so bad.
Let me explain. It is important that you communicate developments both good and bad with your backers. If you have something important to say, if you want to to include them in the creative process, or the plan has changed in any significant way, then please do tell us what’s going on. If they send you a message or make a comment on the project then you should definitely respond; failing to communicate is even more damaging that over communicating in that sense, but either is a turn off to backers.
A couple of my biggest pet peeves in this area are:
- The Mailing List: Sending me an update about the new project you are starting to the people that backed your last project. If the two are related then this is perfectly fine – even savvy – to send a message or two to persuade your fans to support you again. If I backed your comic book though, and your next comic is for the local Brony Con you are trying to fund, then perhaps this is not the best use of your time or mine; all you are doing is ensuring that I won’t see the request to fund your next comic book by blocking this channel.
- The Solitary Artist: The further you are off track, the more you should be telling me about what the problem is. Assimilation is a good example of a project that has done a good job with avoiding this particular pitfall. That project is now 7 months behind, but I look forward to it’s updates because they are always full of pictures and the trials and travails of the creative experience. I’ll get my minis someday I’m sure (but not soon,) and until then I will get a biweekly exploration of what is like to sculpt and cast minis. I’m okay with that.
Many other projects that fall behind, fall off the map. I think that roughly half all projects I have backed are now behind, but only half a dozen (perhaps a hundred dollars) are in danger of not fulfilling. Tell your backers what is going on – they are much more forgiving of failure than of the cover up that follows.
- The Center of Attention: If you are sending out more than an update a week, you might want to think about it before you hit the send button. Does this update look quite a bit like your last update? Have there been any changes this week, or any benchmarks met? Then maybe you should hold off until you meet one. Through personal experience I have found that backers don’t start asking for an update for about six weeks, but I find a good rule of thumb in this area is to update us when you have something cool to share, no more, no less.
Not all projects screw up communication. Stonemaier Games’ has found basically the perfect rhythm for updates on it’s second project Euphoria. The updates were a little too frenetic on their first project in my opinion but settled out nicely. I always open them because a) they usually have some interesting tidbits and pictures and b) they almost always have good news about when my game is going to get here (next week.)
I think the best communicated project out there though has to be Project Eternity (now Pillars of Eternity as of its most recent update.) I almost didn’t back this one because I wasn’t convinced that the creators really needed my money. I’m glad I did though. A big part of the reason that people back projects is to gain insight into the process and progress of the creators. The team behind this one has shared so much. I look forward to these updates almost as much as the finished project – a rare experience on Kickstarter even though it shouldn’t be.
So what do the rest of you think? Am I being too hard on projects? Is the spam I receive my own damn fault for backing too many projects? Let me know what you think.
I have to admit, I’ve struggled with this on my project. Because I’m basically “curating” the project for the group, I’m in a weird position where I don’t KNOW what’s going on over there. I know they’re in the busiest part of their year, and it’s slowed things down, but that should have been factored in. And now I’m taking the hit for it. They’re finally starting to move on shipping things, so hopefully they’ll get it done quickly, and then I can get out of the Kickstarting game. Clearly, marketing is not my strong suit.
I think you are doing a fine job. As a Baker of your project I do nor feel like I’ve been left in limbo. The only improvement toy could make would be more pictures and details of the process. Afterall, the people that backed your project did it to support the organization, not to get the swag. Show them who they are supporting!
Thanks for the reminders, David. While I haven’t launched a project yet, as you know I’ve spent the past 5+ months preparing to do so (longer if you count all the research) and as I’m about to launch in a few weeks, this post was timely advice indeed. I back several projects and only read a handful of updates for some of the reasons you mentioned. Sometimes the updates don’t say much worth reading.
I’ve actually created a Backer Forum where we plan to communicate with our Backers and even hold some contests, early previews and try to create a sense of community and openness, to share a love for the larger scope of what our first Kickstarter fits into. We’ll still need the Update system, however, as not every backer will use our forum. My only concern is duplication of some info. We would go over things more in the forum than in the updates because people will likely chat more about them in the forum, but we’ll make sure all the most important stuff gets into the updates. Hopefully that’ll work out well. Thanks again for the post!
I missed out on Project Eternity, but I did back Euphoria and I agree that Stonemaier Games has been doing a truly outstanding job through all phases of the Kickstarter campaign. I don’t know if it’s a case of them having fewer issues than most other campaigns or if they’re just on the ball, but Stonemaier really seems to be a high-water mark for other Kickstarters to aim for.
Magnus, thanks for your comment. I actually think you touch upon something that I haven’t discussed in my Kickstarter Lessons–the idea of not running more campaigns than you can manage over the duration of the campaign (not just during the time it’s live on Kickstarter). That also a big part of the reason why I will be focusing on Stonemaier Games full time from now on. I want to be able to run more than one campaign a year, and it’s just not possible for me to run every element at the standard I think is fair for backers if I have two full-time jobs and more than one campaign in motion.