Backers Decide: Kickstarter Survey vs. Third-Party Pledge Manager

12 October 2014 | 41 Comments

Today’s post is completely focused on what backers (not creators) prefer: The built-in Kickstarter survey software or third-party pledge manager software like BackerKit, PledgeManager, or CrowdOx. I have my preferences and biases as a project creator, but I want to put those aside and learn about what backers like most.

I’ve compiled a list of pros and cons of these two platforms from my perspective as a backer, and then I’ve included a poll for you to anonymously share your preference.

Kickstarter Survey

Pros:

  • It’s easy. You already have a Kickstarter username, and you’re probably always logged in, so filling out the survey usually takes less than a minute
  • You don’t have to type out your address or any credit card information because Kickstarter already has that information
  • You always know where to find your survey data–you don’t have to hunt around on various pledge manager platforms to find it
  • You can change your address after filling out the survey if the creator

Cons:

  • It’s hard to see exactly what you pledged for if you pledged for some add-ons
  • You can’t add on more stuff through the survey
  • The survey can’t prompt you if you haven’t calculated your pledge correctly for shipping or add-ons
  • Every question requires some some of a response (creators don’t have the option of making a question optional)

Third-Party Pledge Manager

Pros:

  • It enables you to pay for (or confirm a payment for) the exact amount for shipping to your specific country (instead of being lumped in with a bunch of other countries to which shipping isn’t as expensive)
  • It helps you remember what you paid for, as it might have been months since the project ended when you get the pledge manager
  • It allows you to add on extra stuff after the project ends (if the creator has enabled that feature), and it can store your credit card information for subsequent projects
  • If multiple projects use the same pledge manager, you don’t have to create a new account after the first project, and it stores your information for all of those projects
  • It’s easy to change your address at any time
  • It makes it easy to obtain your digital rewards without having to pay attention to project updates

Cons:

  • It costs the creator money. Of course, this doesn’t impact the backer unless the backer feels bad about costing the project creator extra money.
  • It adds extra steps to the process. Kickstarter’s survey is one page (usually 3-5 questions, depending on the creator), while most pledge managers are more elaborate
  • It can’t credit card (Amazon payments) info from Kickstarter, so you have to retype that information

If I’m missing any important pros or cons–again, from the backer perspective–please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list. The poll is below.


Also read: Kickstarter Lesson #42: The Backer Survey

Story of the 3 Little Pledge Managers

41 Comments on “Backers Decide: Kickstarter Survey vs. Third-Party Pledge Manager

  1. “It can’t import your address or credit card info from Kickstarter, so you have to retype all of that information”

    We import in address/survey information within PledgeManager, and I’m pretty sure BackerKit does as well. In terms of the CC info – I don’t think it’s technically possible to import in the CC info from either platform as IGG uses paypal, and KS uses Amazon payments, can you? I can’t imagine Amazon would release actual CC info, and I know PP doesn’t – unless I completely misunderstand what you mean by “credit card info”.

    “It adds extra steps to the process. Kickstarter’s survey is one page (usually 3-5 questions, depending on the creator), while most pledge managers are more elaborate”

    For simple projects, this may be true. I find it frustrating to get a 3rd party tool invite when the project shouldn’t require a complex user experience to just confirm my address. Even more so if it’s a digital product. If I don’t owe anything, just send me my digital goods. I don’t even need a survey or invite – and you certainly don’t need my mailing address.

    However, for complex projects with multiple options (like mini’s projects), or projects with non-trivial shipping scenarios, a flat survey is crippling as there is no data validation for the backer information that is put in – the project owner is left having to manage and reconcile the data on their own.

    As a backer of many mini’s projects, many of whom use a variety of custom and 3rd party tools, having some way to know what exactly I’m getting and where the costs vary when I add and remove various options is a huge benefit. Having to calculate all those options by hand using some table in a project update is not a fun experience and certainly doesn’t endear me to sending you even more money after the campaign if it’s a painful process.

    “It costs the creator money. Of course, this doesn’t impact the backer unless the backer feels bad about costing the project creator extra money.”

    Granted, sometimes viral success leaves you scrambling for tools to help you, but if you work with a solution pre-campaign, you can bake those costs into your project so you’re not left skimming even more off your margin after the campaign is over.

    I’d be interested in backer-related feedback as well, as the entire purpose of PM was to improve the backer experience with a 3rd party system just as much as helping the project owner.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I’ve corrected the bullet point about importing address info (it sounds like the only information that needs to be manually entered is payment info).

      I certainly consider the point you make above about pledge managers to be a great pro for complex projects. Do I need to highlight that point better in the entry?

      Does PledgeManager have a website I can link to here? The only website I can find only has a landing page and a “contact us” link (www.pledgemanager.com).

    2. Agree with your points. I actually wouldn’t want a third party to import my CC information as a backer. That would concern me as the free passing of my information between services. They need to stay isolated. However things like Amazon payments makes it easy (no data-entry) if you have saved info with them.

      1. Absolutely. I wouldn’t want to store that type of data as a service provider either. The PCI liabilities would be insane. Plus there really isn’t a need to store it from our perspective. Knowing what came in from the project is enough.

    3. Good point about: “It costs the creator money. Of course, this doesn’t impact the backer unless the backer feels bad about costing the project creator extra money.”

      This is not a backer concern, so it really shouldn’t be on the list. KS also costs the creator money, but I don’t see that as a concern being raised. If this is focused on backers, than that isn’t a valid ‘con’.

  2. Neither Kickstarter nor the third party pledge managers have a quick way to edit info you’ve input that’s the same across projects. Updating my shipping address when I moved was a huge pain, even for surveys that weren’t locked yet. I’m a frequent backer, so I had a number of projects to go through and check the surveys and updates (to see if they used a third party) to figure out whether or not my address was accurate. There was a fair bit of back-and-forth between Kickstarter, third party sites, and email. Some of the third party ones were already locked to prevent people from ordering more items when production was underway, which is understandable, but then they also didn’t allow me to edit my address, despite not being due to ship for over a month.

    One advantage the third party sites have is that I can see from one screen which projects I’ve submitted information for. Kickstarter has the notifications to tell me when I haven’t done one, but there’s no quick way to tell from your list of backed projects which ones have sent out surveys or not, much less which ones used a third party or whether it’s in place of or in addition to the Kickstarter one. I ended up missing a project that used both Kickstarter and BackerKit because it was four months overdue and I’d forgotten about the second survey. I’d only updated Kickstarter, which was not the address they used, so now I have to track down my package which is in possession of a former roommate I’m not on good terms with.

    Obviously, part of the unpleasantness is a result of my own actions, but I can’t help but feel a little punished for being a high-frequency backer.

    1. Adrienne: Thanks for sharing your thoughts about these various survey types.

      You mentioned that a nice thing about third-party sites is that you can see the screens for which you’ve submitted your survey info. But if I’m reading that correctly, wouldn’t that mean that all projects would have to use the same third-party platform? As it currently stands, you still have to flip between various platforms to figure out which surveys were sent through Kickstarter (or not sent) and which surveys have been sent or not sent through various third-party platforms.

      1. I mean, when I log in to BackerKit (which is itself kind of a pain as a backer since I have to go to a specific project page and log in from there rather than the site’s homepage), it has a list of the ten projects I’ve pledged to that are using BackerKit and I can immediately see there’s one survey I haven’t responded to yet. Kickstarter sort of has that in that when I’m logged in, there’s a notification at the top when I haven’t submitted a survey, but there’s no central screen for accessing all the surveys that are available.

        Your last sentence is precisely one of the things I find tiresome about the different options. Personally, I don’t mind having to visit 3 or 4 different sites. I’m sure plenty of people feel the opposite, but I’m used to multiple email accounts, social networks, finding reviews for the things I use for entertainment, any kind of online shopping, etc; it’s figuring out which pledge managers I need to go to that I find frustrating.

        What I wish Kickstarter had the ability to do is show survey status from the list of my backed projects – whether or not the creator sent it out yet, whether or not I’ve answered it, and if a third party one was used instead. Even if I have to check boxes manually the way I do to indicate when I’ve received my rewards, I would consider that a huge improvement. Right now I have to click on “View More Pledge Info,” then the “Survey” tab, which may be perfectly adequate for most people, but I’ve pledged to over 100 successful projects over the last few years, which make those two clicks add up when I have to check on everything I haven’t received rewards for yet.

        1. Adrienne: Thanks for elaborating. I think this is brilliant (and much needed): “What I wish Kickstarter had the ability to do is show survey status from the list of my backed projects – whether or not the creator sent it out yet, whether or not I’ve answered it, and if a third party one was used instead.” I would really, really like to see Kickstarter implement that.

    2. Ironically enough, this is exactly why I built PledgeManager. As someone who’s also backed a lot of projects – I’d moved and had a whole slew of packages ended up going to my old address for over a year even though I’d told all the project owners that I’d moved. One of the main pieces of functionality in PM is as long as the project hasn’t shipped, you can change your address on a project with a single click, and on the flip-side you will be able to see any projects that are using a specific address from your address book (and change them).

      Hit me up if you’d like to help test some of these features. I’d love your feedback from a fellow mega-backer.

    3. @Adrienne, we actually just rolled this feature out to let you log into a single account. If you’ve made a single account with BackerKit before, try logging in with that, and you will get a list of all of your pledges. We are working on batch editing shipping information as we speak, along with lots of goodies like aggregating tracking numbers as well as getting statuses for all of your in progress projects.

  3. I hate complex rewards and external backer survey tools SO MUCH that I have mostly stopped backing projects that use them. I’ve gotten screwed by them. The Hegemonic coins campaign has been over for quite a while and I *STILL* don’t have all my coins, and the Conquistador people didn’t get me their pledge manager link and never made personal contact that I’ve seen despite me pledging over $200 and still no product there even though they have been shipping to other backers. It should not be MY job to track THEM down, though it appears that this is exactly what must happen for me to get anything.

    Let me say it again: I HATE confusing surveys with a million add-ons and ways for a project creator to make me pony up more money for rewards I’ve already paid for SO MUCH that I am mostly NOT backing projects that use them. In fact, I was so angry about this that I stopped backing projects on Kickstarter COMPLETELY for months; the Treasure Chest brought me back but I am still feeling burned.

    I’ve backed over 300 projects in over three years… I’m a technical project manager and technical communicator with 25 years’ experience… I’m not a n00b in any way… it should NOT be so damn hard to collect my address (which hasn’t changed since July 2007 except for projects that insist on shipping to a commercial address) and a few details.

    This is NOT aimed at you, Jamey; your surveys have handled the almost-complex information you’ve needed quite elegantly, and I like your use of Google Forms and surveys to collect feedback and other non-mandatory information. I wish more campaigns would take a page from your “keep it simple” book.

    1. Julia: Thanks for your input about this. I usually don’t add on much at all to projects I back, so this perspective from the other side is really helpful for me to read.

      I do try to keep it simple–and I think most creators would benefit from doing that–but I should add that I spend a LOT of time with my spreadsheets. There’s potential for human error in what I do, and it’s not scaleable. So I understand why some companies have moved towards more comprehensive solutions, but it’s unfortunate that it comes at the cost of good customer service.

  4. As a backer I am nearly always left with the impression that the third-party manager is there, not to make my life easier as it is often pitched (it doesn’t: it’s something extra I have to do and each time I have to figure out what’s going on), but to sell me extra stuff. In my opinion the project page is there to sell me the stuff and if I’d wanted to get an add-on etc I would have done so already.

    For those backers who do want to add on something after the end of the project, leaving a window of time for them to email or message the creator direct is a much more preferable option. It’s the personal touch where the third-party manager is impersonal. I don’t believe the number of backers wanting to use this opportunity will ever be unmanageable.

    The only time I have found a third-party system to be acceptable was with Impact Miniatures’ Chibi Adventurers, where it was there to let the backer make their choices of which miniatures they wanted. It was perfect for their project and the way they had set it up.

    1. Lloyd: That’s an interesting perspective. I like the differentiation between the personal touch vs. the impersonal nature of a third-party survey. And I can see how it would work well for a project that offers a lot of different choices on the back end.

  5. For me, the worst is with the 3rd party manager, it is yet another system I need to create a login and password. There is really no benefit to me for using the 3rd party, but I have another system I need to create/remember/manage a password for and another place storing our data that is vulnerable.

    1. Nick: That’s a great point. I trust that BackerKit and PledgeManager are secure, but they are yet another system to deal with, and it seems like any website is hacker-vulnerable these days.

      1. Our tool doesn’t require a login, just a valid email so we can send you the invite (or re-send it if you need it). As far as I know, unless they’ve changed things, BackerKit doesn’t require this either. The optional user creation step on PM only gives you the ability to manage all your projects in your personal console. But again, that’s purely optional.

  6. I would love it if backerkit could create a single account for backers, and allow us to pre-fill our address data, and update across all backerkit projects at once…not to mention link to amazon payments or paypal, instead of requiring a CC…

    kickstarter surveys annoy me on projects with add-ons.

      1. You have to go to a specific project page in order to log into BackerKit, and from there you can click on “Your Account” to see all the projects you’ve pledged to that are using the site. There’s no way to update your shipping address for all the open surveys at once, it merely shows the address you put in most recently.

  7. I’m finding this a remarkably difficult question to answer! The problem is, while I’m actually pretty ‘meh’ on which approach I use, I can’t seem to write about the survey without it turning into ‘bitching about the survey’ instead. The thing is, while its’ quick and simple, its’ also confusing, and when a project reaches past ‘simple’ becomes confusing and annoying to deal with.

    That’s not to say it can’t do everything a pledge manager can do. To say what I want, I can answer 50 questions about ‘Do you want this one’, ‘How about this one’, or write in a single massive box the assortment of things I want. To get extra stuff, I can just write in an answer that I want it, and the creator can email me a paypal payment request (Which is easy enough to work with for me as a backer, but has to be a pain for the creator).

    But why? Why do I have to deal with all that. In a pledge manager, such as er, Pledgemanager, I get a ‘storefront’ like approach. I can click each of the addons I wanted and it neatly shows me a running total and how much credit I have from backing the project. In addition, I get to add extra things with absolutely zero effort, just a couple of clicks and there we go, extra copy for a friend.

    Ok, so there’s problems too with the pledge manager approach. One being that it separates where your info ends up. I’m yet to find that a big deal, as I’ve only ever used 3 PM’s (A custom one for Myth, backerkit for a few, and pledgemanager for 3 recently), and if I need to change my information I can just check the latest update or two on the project page to see where I need to go (Presuming they aren’t spamming non-fulfillment crud, but that’s another topic).

    So er…Sorry if that was a useless reply, I started writing it 5+ times and er…well I’m too lazy to try again =P In short, its’ best to go with whats’ necessary. To put numbers on it, <5 Pledge levels & <10 Addons, the survey is ok, but 5+ levels/10+ addons, please use a pledge manager, its' so much easier ^^. (In fact to be precise, use 'Pledgemanager', nicest one of the 3 I've used ^^).

    1. Chris: Your comment is far from useless! :) I think you make a good point that the KS survey might be best for simpler, streamlined projects, while a pledge manager might be needed for more complex projects with lots of choices and add-ons.

  8. I think the key to making a third party manager successful is making it *easier* for the backer to use than Kickstarter’s own tools (as well as creators.) When we ran our first campaign on Kickstarter we found their own tools and the communication process *just to get enough info to ship* was a disaster. Other options at the time weren’t any better and more complex (BackerKit.)

    We ended up building our own (https://crowdox.com/)

    We’ve built our platform around simplicity for both the creator and the backer. Especially for projects where the complexity of what you need answered is hard to do in the simple survey that they offer. Something as simple as choosing between multiple options is easy to get wrong on the survey and the lack of validation doesn’t help. Instead you can see 3 images of the options and it becomes simple again.

    There also needs to be a balance between simplicity for the backer and getting what the creator needs (valid addresses and all the questions answered.) Kickstarter hasn’t completely solved this with their own tools and it’s a hard problem to solve universally for all projects. Third party tools, in general, should make it better for both parties.

  9. Jamey, Have your thoughts changed since originally posting this article? Did you use a pledge manager for Scythe? For Steampunk Rally I found using excel to be a massively inefficient waste of my time… so I’d like to try a pledge manager this time around.

  10. Hi Jamey,

    Thanks for all the great info. It’s great to see the polling results all here along with a clear and concise list of pros and cons. Quick question, in your update, the link seems to either be down or no longer available. Is there another link or perhaps the Backer Support is no longer a feature/option. Thank you!

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