13 September 2015
Last week I had a date at a restaurant in a busy neighborhood a few miles from where I live. As I turned into the neighborhood, I checked the clock in my car–I was on time, but not early. I prefer to be early for dates.
I idled past the restaurant, looking for a place to park. At dinnertime in this area, it’s very busy–there were no parking spaces in sight.
That is, until I saw the paid parking lot. $2/hour for the first 5 hours. Not bad. I almost pulled into the lot…before deciding at the last second to keep driving and find free street parking.
I had a moment of introspection as I drove on. You see, I almost always find street parking. I only choose paid lots if I have no other choice. Valet? No way.
Yet a part of me really did consider the paid parking before my date. So I asked myself, “Why would you consider doing something completely out of character and paying for parking? And in general, why do people pay for parking when there could be a free parking space close by?”
My first thought was just that I’m really cheap. But I quickly shot that down. I’m frugal, but I spend money on plenty of much more frivolous things.
The answer hit me as I walking to the restaurant (this was around the time that I got a text from my date saying that she was running a few minutes late): Certainty. If I pulled into that paid lot, there is a 100% chance that I will have a parking spot. Not only that, but I’m certain that the parking spot will be close to the restaurant.
Conversely, there’s a lot of uncertainty if I keep driving in search of street parking. It’s a big question mark. I could be driving around the block in circles for 10-15 minutes. The spot I eventually find may be really far away. Or it may not. I really have no idea.
This is a very long introduction to my main point: Certainty is very powerful. I think it has a strong impact on crowdfunding backers, especially given that we creators put projects on Kickstarter many months before backers get any tangible benefit. There’s a lot of uncertainty there?
So how do creators create certainty in an uncertain environment? How do we make sure that potential backers don’t keep driving by our paid parking lots? I’ll give a few examples.
- Predefined costs (reward and shipping). I ran a poll a while ago to see what backers thought about paying shipping costs via a pledge manager after a project ends instead of during the project, as it’s only then that you can calculate the exact cost of shipping based on the final weight of the product (assuming you have stretch goals that add weight. 65% of respondents said that they did NOT like the idea. A number of people commented that they worried about being surprised by over-the-top shipping fees. So I recommend that creators always have backers pay shipping fees on Kickstarter, even if it means overestimating on weight a little bit.
- Unbiased third-party reviews. One of the big questions I ask when I’m looking at a project is, “Will I like this product?” It’s really tough to tell. This is where unbiased third-party pre-production reviewers can provide amazing insights for backers. They can never provide 100% certainty that you’ll like the thing they like, but they can usually give you a pretty good idea.
- Examples of art and graphic design. Just yesterday someone asked me about this after I spoke on a panel at a local game festival (Pixelpop). They asked how much art they needed before launching their project. My answer for first-time creators who ask this is: At the very least, have a few marquee examples of art and graphic design that convey the look, feeling, and creative direction of the game. That’s almost always enough for backers to know for sure–no uncertainty–if they’re going to like the look of the final product.
- Money-back guarantee. What’s more certain than a money-back guarantee? Okay, it’s not 100% certain–some backers might doubt that a creator will follow through on that promise. But it’s pretty close to removing all uncertainty for a potential backer. If they’re on the fence about a pledge, knowing for sure that they can return the product within a month of receiving it for a full pledge refund is a big deal. Stonemaier even pays for return shipping. So far, out of 21,000 rewards shipped, we’ve only had 7 backers return their products for a refund. I say this not to brag, but rather to assure other creators that the risk of returns is quite small.
- Creator history and track record. At first glance, this may seem like something that’s out of your control. You can’t help if you’re a first-time creator, right? That’s true. But you do have the power to choose your first project. Perhaps consider starting with a small, humble project, enabling you to create a respectful track record before you launch your white whale project.
Those are just a few ways to help creators establish certainty in an uncertain environment like Kickstarter. If you can think of some other examples, I’d love to hear them in the comments.