4 March 2013
I did something for my Viticulture campaign that was a bit crazy, and it may not be for you. But I’d like to bring it up for your consideration as we move past launch day into the meat of your Kickstarter campaign.
I sent each and every one of Viticulture’s backers a personalized thank-you message within 24 hours of their pledge.
Why did I do that? The primary reason is right there in the subject line of this lesson. I wanted to treat my backers as individuals, not numbers. Someday soon, Viticulture will be in game stores everywhere, and I’ll have no idea who buys it. But for the people who chose to trust me with their pledge back in September and October, I knew exactly who they were. They were Julia from Washington and Cliff from Massachusetts, Smoox from Taiwan and Rupert from Ireland. These are real people who connect with your passion and your dream, and they’re pledging to support you in exchange for something cool. Why not thank them for their support?
The really neat thing about Kickstarter is that you know more than your backers’ names. When you get a new backer, within one click you can look at their profile to see where they’re from, other projects they’ve backed, and (if they’ve written it), a personal bio. This is all great information you can use to connect with a new backer and show your appreciation for their pledge.
Now, you’re probably thinking that you’re not going to have time to thank backers individually. To that I say that it’s simply a matter of how you choose to spend your time. Viticulture ran for 44 days and accumulated 942 backers during that time. That’s about 21 backers a day. It takes a few minutes to write a thank-you message, so let’s say that I spent about 42 minutes a day writing thank-you notes. 42 minutes well spent, in my opinion.
I should stop and say here that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with not thanking your backers individually. I’ve backed 60 projects, and I’ve received exactly 3 personalized thank-you notes. It’s not a dealbreaker by any means. I think the only time it stands out that I didn’t receive a thank you is when I’m one of fewer than 50 people who have backed a project. If less than 50 people have backed your project, you should be doing everything in your power to spread goodwill about your project. If you’re sitting back, refreshing your project page instead of engaging your existing backers when you’re far from funding, you’re not doing enough as a project creator. On the other hand, if your project is massively successful and you have 2,000 backers by Day 5, it’s going to be impossible to thank everyone individually. Perhaps then you could focus on individual thank yous to the higher-level backers.
It might be your inclination to send a generic cut-and-paste thank-you message to backers, but I put that in the same category as mass e-mails (see my thoughts on those on the Launch Day entry). They’re just so impersonal and insincere when it would literally take you 15 additional seconds to personalize the message.
However, I’d recommend a hybrid solution to make thank-you messages feasible en masse (again, this is similar to my Launch Day mass e-mail solution): Write a few e-mail templates and save them as drafts in your personal e-mail. I had four of these depending on the type of backer, and I updated them once a day so they were topical and relevant. Whenever I received a new pledge, I’d usually wait about an hour before copying and pasting the applicable e-mail template into a message to that backer, and then I’d personalize the e-mail based on any information Kickstarter had about that backer. I usually asked a question to get their feedback about my project or other campaigns. (The question is key–it’s an open door for engagement.)
Not everyone replied, nor did I expect them to. I didn’t keep track, but I would say about 30-50% of backers replied in some form. And I have to say, I never regretted sending one of those messages. The fruits of that labor were tremendous–I made some incredible connections to influential people, I got some great feedback that shaped the Viticulture campaign in a positive way, and I laid a foundation of communication that paid off down the road with many people.
One thing I found that surprised me was that a lot of people asked for things that weren’t clear on the campaign page. For example, one backer wanted several cards with custom images on them, but on Kickstarter you can only choose one reward level once unless you create a separate account. If I hadn’t opened the door for him to ask questions about that, he may have only gotten one copy of the game or even none at all. But because the door was open for him to ask questions, he asked away. I think he ended up with 3 copies of the game.
Regardless of whether or not you decide to thank backers individually, I would highly encourage you to find a way to treat backers as individuals, not numbers. Find the way that feels right to you to connect with them, especially if this is your first Kickstarter project.