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9 Tips For Communicating With Your Kickstarter Backers

Published by Salvador Briggman. Find him on Twitter.

One of the little-known ugly truths about running a crowdfunding campaign is that it doesn’t always go as planned. In fact, I can almost guarantee you that something unexpected is going to happen throughout the course of your Kickstarter project.

Maybe there are delays when dealing with the manufacturer after you’ve been successfully funded.

You might find out that your backers really want you to offer a particular reward, but that it would mess up your entire budget.

world mapHeck, something terrible could happen, which makes it impossible to fulfill the rewards that you’ve promised hundreds or thousands of backers.

The good news is that frequent Kickstarter backers are familiar with delays and unexpected events. Supporting a crowdfunding campaign is a far more raw and uncertain transaction than purchasing a product from an ecommerce store.

But, there is a specific protocol that they’ll expect should you run into any mishaps.

There is a right way to communicate appreciation, updates, bad news, and rally backers at the close of your campaign, when they only have hours left to get in their pledge!

I hope some of these tips prove helpful and feel free to ask any questions in a comment below or on the forum.

1. Always be transparent. Always.

Transparency means updating your backers, should troubles arise.

Transparency means clearly explaining the risks involved with your project.

Being “transparent” is another way of saying that honesty is always the best policy, with regards to your team, abilities, expected fulfillment date, and anything that you promise to your supporters.

As a precaution, I always recommend that creators set low and realistic expectations, so that it will be easy to exceed them.

Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. I won’t name any names, but I’ve seen several projects get funded early, promise certain stretch goals or add-ons, and find themselves unable to meet those promises.

2. Set a regular communication frequency.

The longer that you go without communicating to backers, customers, or investors, the more likely they are to fill the big mystery boxes with answers of their own. They’ll begin to raise questions like:

“Is this project a scam?”

“Does the creator really care?”

“If he’s busy working on the product, why is he posting on ___.”

“Why haven’t I gotten my reward yet! I want a refund.”

You don’t want to give your backers the option of even briefly thinking about the worst-case scenario.

Not only does it damage the relationship that you’ve built up with them, but one might get little antsy, post on a message board, and it will hurt your brand.

Regular communication, even if it’s basic and simply serving as an update, will set minds at ease and reassure backers that your project is on track.

While your project is live, regular communication is the most basic way to keep your project at the forefront of each person’s mind, which makes it more likely that they’ll mention your campaign at a party, while out for drinks, or share the actual page on Facebook.

3. Pinpoint how backers want to feel.

If you were backing a Kickstarter project, how would you want to feel? Here’s how I’d want to feel:

  • Like my opinion is heard and taken into account.
  • The creators cares about the project and is working hard to deliver on his promises.
  • I’m part of something big. A cool new project that’s going to change the world, even in a small way.
  • I will get the vision I bought into and a copy of the product.
  • I’ll be able to brag to friends and celebrate the success of the project.

Your expectations may differ when you support a Kickstarter project, like one of the creators on our forum, but these are mine.

If I didn’t feel like my opinion was being heard, I might try to get heard by posting on a message board, writing a blogger, contacting Kickstarter, or posting a frustrated tweet.

If the end product wasn’t what I signed up to support, I might ask for a refund or get angry if the creator hasn’t acknowledge that fact.

Once you determine how backers want to feel, it will be easier to set the bar for how they should feel about crowdfunding and your project in general.

For example, if you know that your product is half-baked and there is the possibility of slightly altering the product before it gets in the hands of your backers, then set that expectation going in, so that they aren’t surprised and angry further down the road.

Any incongruence between how a backer wants to feel during the process and how they actually feel as news or updates come to light can be softened with good communication, honesty, and transparency.

4. Emotion trumps information.

This could be why Donald Trump (punny?) is always in the headlines, because of the emotions that he stirs up.

When it comes to backer relations, emotion trumps information.

Always be thinking about what emotion you’re conveying with a particular update, comment, or email.

Are you coming across as begging, desperate, or annoyed? Or are you coming from a place of enthusiasm, optimism, humility, and respect?

Often times, forgetting to be mindful of how we sound can come back to haunt us later down the road when future backers or customers bring up our Kickstarter page and look through the previous comments we’ve made or updates we’ve written.

Each time you communicate with a backer is an opportunity to convey information and associate a particular feeling with you or your brand.

5. Experiment with shout outs.

Part of building a relationship with a community is making sure that individuals feel heard, part of something larger than themselves, and that there is a camaraderie with other members who are enthusiastic about something similar, like 3D printing or graphic novels.

Shout outs can be used to highlight community members who have gone above and beyond to help your project, shine your spotlight on happy backers, or deal with ongoing concerns.

6. Never get in an argument.

Getting an argument serves no purpose, whatsoever, other than to stroke your ego if you “win” and alienate the other person if they “lose.”

Arguments online are also magnified when other backers read what you’ve written, which sours the community as a whole.

Rule of thumb: Be polite, humble, and compassionate. Just because a backer or customer brings up a concern, doesn’t mean that they are the only ones who have that concern. Likely, others do also, they just haven’t said anything yet.

7. Relationship = Personality + Promises

I don’t know about you, but I was always taught by professors and employers that you should always conduct yourself in a professional manner, write formally, and take life and business very seriously.

When it comes to indie creation and online marketing, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

People connect with people, not brands or products, especially if it’s their first time purchasing from a new business.

The best way to build up your Karma or credibility online is to simply make good on your promises.

The second way is to interject a bit of your own personality into the mix, which will make it easier to develop a positive relationship with your backers. They will get a sense of who you are and what you’re about.

Here are a few fun ways that you can show your personality:

  • Make an inside joke. This works best if all of your backers share the same profession or interests.
  • Reference and comment a neutral current event.
  • Write in a conversational tone (read your text out loud) and use idioms.
  • Tell a compelling or funny story.
  • Share a relevant personal fact about yourself.

You shouldn’t make the majority of an update, comment, or email about yourself or your personality, but one or two sentences can help bridge the gap between you and these strangers that have discovered you online.

8. Consider multiple mediums and platforms

No doubt, video and audio are a far richer medium than text (That’s why I started a killer podcast with interviews like this).

You can use video and audio to further develop a relationship with your backers. You can also tell your story or share updates on multiple platforms like:

9. Nail down your call to action

Simply put, a call to action tells your backer what to do next after reading your update, watching a video, or seeing your email.

You have their attention, now what do you want them to do? Leave a comment? Choose an add-on? Up their pledge to a higher tier? Share your project?

Call to action messages are frequently used in marketing and are also an important part of converting website visitors into Kickstarter backers or, after your campaign is successful, to direct visitors to a particular website.

Here are a few ecommerce-related call to action examples from Shopify.

So why is this important?

The chief currency online is not money. It’s not even eyeballs, followers, or backers.

It’s relationships and credibility.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffett

In a world where everyone has a voice, a positive message can spread like wildfire, be shared on Facebook, and go viral.

A negative message can do the same, and hang around for years to come.

I hope some of these tips help for managing yours!

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  • Sebastian’s Odyssey

    Each community is very special and requires specific attention. Reddit communities are highly specialized and they really know what they are talking about. Other communities might be more casual. So it’s important to get to know your communities collective voice.

    • CrowdCrux

      Well said!

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    This campaign was active on August 8, 2015.

    • CrowdCrux

      I’m not sure what you’re asking?

      • This is my campaign at Indiegogo. Before the campaign started, I am very confident that I will reach the goal. Many see my campaign but they still contribute to my campaign. 🙂

        What is your suggestion that my campaign can reach the goal?

        If my project fails then perhaps there is no one who has a unique and crazy idea like me. And the world will never get a story that is very very interesting like this again. ha … 7x

        Thank you.

        Lord Jesus bless you.

        Amen.

        P.S. Have they never read the previous gamebooks? Ha … 7x Teens now does not know what it gamebooks because gamebooks golden era is over.

  • NBarfield

    How often should one use a call-to-action? It seems like if you use it too much then it becomes whiny and incessant; on the other hand, if you don’t do more “call-to-action”s, then you risk your project not getting funded. What’s that magic number?

    • CrowdCrux

      That’s a good question. I don’t think there’s a magic number. If it’s a communication that’s going to be received multiple times over an extended duration, like a video or blog post or email, then always would have a call to action. If it’s more relationship building activities like comments, then the CTA matters less because it’s more relationship building.

      The way I look at it, the message that proceeds the call to action either gives you the right/permission to include a call to action or it doesn’t. If the update is entertaining, informative, or in-depth, people are more willing to accept a self-interested call to action. If it’s a short update and then you just say “now please do ….” you’re going to come off as begging and like you only care about people DOING something for you. It’s more spammy.

  • Just launching my Kickstarter today I am happy I found your article. Needless to say I am extremely nervous. Some of the problems that you mentioned such as delays in getting the Kickstarter finished, are real things that I have faced. You make some very good points I plan on using this article and other information I have gathered to have a successful campaign. Thank you for all you do to support creators like my self.

  • Katie Anne Clark

    I started my Kickstarter 13 days ago . I was very excited to launch and now I feel I hit “go” to soon. By reading articles on your site, I am learning many important lessons, after the fact. This article here and the multiple mediums/platforms point indicates my reach is not broad enough. I also must take your point on “call to action” and change my tone. Thanks so much for the real information boost, rather than another sale on services.