As a backer in a crowdfunding process, you can expect the project creator to actively communicate with you. This level of communication and interaction is high during the campaign, and drops post campaign, but there should still be some communication at all times.
- There are different types of communication with varying frequency from the project creator during the campaign.
- The level of communication from the project creator influences backers’ interest and commitment.
- The lack of communication from the project creator can point to issues with the project.
- The types of communication methods change once the funding campaign has ended.
Communication from the project creator
The types of communication and interaction requests include:
- comments about the product;
- email correspondence;
- updates, including commentary on the status of the project, any new design to share, status of the overall funding campaign, updates on stretch goals etc.;
- asking the backer to help with the social media campaign.
The types of communication and level of interaction with backers vary depending on the stage of the funding campaign. This can be represented as follows:
Overall, I expect that the project creator has mapped out his communication and marketing strategy for backers, and if this was well done, it enhances the crowdfunding experience, and helps me to better understand the risks and rewards from backing the project. I am not saying that a high level of communication from a project creator implies that the reward will get shipped; I am saying that a high level of communication indicates a sophisticated funding campaign. And if the communication decreases during the campaign, this could be a warning sign for backers.
Communication during the funding campaign
Communication during the funding campaign is a key indicator that backers use to gauge the level of interest and involvement from the project creator in his campaign.
Backers rely on communication from project creators because of information asymmetry and because, currently, there is no mechanism to rate and review project creators in a public forum.
If there is a low-level of communication, especially in replying to comments or emails, backers immediately notice and publicly ask the project creator to respond. If there is still no response, backers start to warn other backers away from the project. The underlying assumption is that if project creators cannot offer or respond to communication, that there is something wrong with the project. These warnings do not only appear in the Comments section of the project page; indeed, I have seen warnings from backers about projects on external forums if there is a low-level of communication from project creators.
Personally, I am also not comfortable with backing a project with very few updates from project creators, especially if the project funded well within the funding campaign’s timeframe. Although, my reaction to the level of communication is balanced by the type of project backed. If the project is wrapping paper, fewer updates are fine. If the project is a board-game, and two weeks into the campaign there are only three updates, I get very worried.
As a backer, you need to pay very careful attention to the wording used by project creators when communicating. Let’s look at three examples to understand how the words used by project creators influence our backing decisions during the funding campaign.
Assume that a game board project is near the end of the funding campaign, and the funding goal has not been reached with a great likelihood of not being reached. What would be your most likely reaction to a project creator posting the following message about the project’s reboot campaign in an update:
“We have some ideas that should help bring the overall goal down as well as some other tricks up our sleeves for the next reboot.”
My immediate reaction is a) the rewards are over-priced in this project, and I feel scammed, b) the project is not of the best quality promised throughout the campaign and I feel scammed, and c) I will be extra cautious when looking at the reboot project.
Assume that a game board project is near the end of the funding campaign, the funding goal has been reached and all but one stretch goal have been unlocked. The project creator posts the following in an update:
“I hear you on more stretch goals. The problem with adding more dragons is we are at the limit of what we can pack into the box because of shipping. However, we can do an oriental dragon and an alternate art Battlefield card (so 3 new cards in all) for $2 more if we hit $92k.”
As an existing backer, or new backer reading this updated, what would be your most likely reaction? Yes, I would also increase my pledge.
Assume that a game board project is two weeks into the funding campaign, and has already been successfully funded as the game looks really good. The project creator posts the following update in the Comments section:
“We understand your concerns and want to let you know that we have recently hired a copyright attorney who has dealt with Warner Brothers in the past and is currently looking into your concerns.”
What is your most likely reaction as an existing backer, bearing in mind that because the project funded, some backers are locked in? Yes, as an existing backer, I would also feel that my pledge is at risk and I would expect to lose the maximum amount of the pledge.
And what is your likely reaction as a potentially new backer? As a new backer, I would watch the project and see what happens before committing any money.
Communication post the funding campaign
Communication and interaction with backers drops post the campaign. The main reason offered by project creators is they are now moving into the next phase of the project, namely finishing up design or starting manufacturing.
Ideally, I would expect that project creators to have communication strategy post campaign, This includes a company email address that backers can use to contact project creators, Facebook, Twitter, other social media sites or company websites. Project creators also have to let backers know that they are now more ready to reach via these communication methods, instead of via Kickstarter.
For some of the projects I have backed, during the post campaign stage, the project creators for some of the projects send through an update fortnightly. A fair number have gone silent, which is worrying, and one is contradicting the product quality offered during the campaign in his post campaign communication, which is even more worrying.
Because my money is locked in the campaign and my right to refund is predominantly dependent on the project creator’s ability to fulfill the reward, there is little I can do at this stage, unfortunately. But, this post campaign interaction and communication with project creators will influence my future backing of projects, and any negative experiences are magnified when I considering backing any other project.
Overall, I expect that the focus of the project creators shift post campaign, but project creators should not forget their backers. After all, the project creators have taken my money and as a backer, I have certain expectations of project creators in return.