Advice

A Guide to Crowdfunding Fulfillment

By Rosanna Yau · March 10, 2016

Fulfillment is a major component of crowdfunding that often gets pushed to the backburner until it rears its ugly head and derails production on the thing you've actually set out to make. BackerKit founder Max Salzberg and co-founder Rosanna Yau discovered this for themselves and started building software to solve this problem. 

Since 2013, BackerKit has helped over 1,500 crowdfunding campaigns fulfill rewards, manage backer communication, and keep everyone happy. From all of her first-hand experience, Rosanna has written some invaluable words of wisdom on fulfillment to help your product, your brand, and your backers on your next crowdfunding venture.


 A Guide to Crowdfunding Fulfillment

Fulfillment preparation should start long before you even launch your campaign.

Creators need to think out pledge rewards in terms of how much money and work will be required to manufacture and ship each item. Do you want to offer four sizes, six colors, and three designs? Congratulations, you’re now on the hook to manufacture up to 72 different items. 

Think carefully about the essential features you must have and eliminate the rest. You also need accurate manufacturing and shipping cost estimates to make sure that you don't lose money on every item you send out. Don’t forget to budget the amount of labor required. Creators tend to underestimate the number of hours they need to work to fulfill a campaign.

The most common fulfillment mishap is missing the estimated delivery date. 

Figure out your most conservative delivery date estimate then add two months to it for your public estimated delivery date. Most backers will also accept delays of up to three months as long as you’re posting informative project updates and responding to their questions. This will give you time to resolve most issues that will pop up during manufacturing and manage any unexpected fulfillment or shipping-related delays. 

 A Guide to Crowdfunding Fulfillment

Post a project update at least once a month until you ship out rewards.

To build customer loyalty, communicate well during the entire fulfillment process and then deliver on what you promised during the campaign. One of our creators, Hans Fex, posts wonderful updates. Here’s one update devoted to the Mini Museum 2 display box and an overview of the Neanderthal hand axe specimen. 

Active, informative communication is the easiest way you can make backers happy during the fulfillment process. Be transparent and keep your backers informed and engaged. If you’ve encountered manufacturing problems that will cause a delay, tell your backers about it. Tell them about what’s happening and explain what you’re doing to resolve the problem. If you keep backers involved, they’ll support you.

Don’t violate your backers’ trust. Don’t ship to retail distribution before sending out rewards to backers. Backers will be furious if they see your product available in retail before they receive their rewards. If you need to cut features due to budget, involve backers in the discussion. You don’t have to follow everything they say but you have to show that you’re listening and taking their feedback into consideration.

Using custom packaging is a long-term relationship builder. 

Custom packaging is not yet a common practice in crowdfunding. To be fair, most creators are struggling just to get one successful project out the door. It’s understandable that crowdfunding creators aren’t paying attention to custom packaging since they don’t even know if they’ll do a second project or go into retail distribution. Many don’t even know about affordable package customization options.

We’ve started telling our creators about ways that they can provide custom packaging without increasing costs too much by using tools like Lumi rubber stamps and custom tape. Lumi provides a lightweight, non-committal way for first-time project creators to easily customize packaging.

We have worked with a lot of veteran creators that have done multiple projects and we’ve noticed that the most valuable part of running the first campaign is usually the entire learning experience and building your community and brand. If you can do things like provide custom packaging to increase customer loyalty, you’re more likely to see returns later.

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