How to Talk to Crowdfunding Backers About a Delay – Kickstarter & Indiegogo Advice for Creators
**Update March 13, 2020: Rainfactory is releasing this article on crowdfunding delay messaging management amid the Early 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic. We have added one Coronavirus-specific delay messaging example, and hope that you can use it to become a better communicator with their backers! Please Contact Rainfactory if you’d like assistance with community management, communications, social, and crisis handling. **
Delays happen. It’s more common in crowdfunding and certainly of developing any new products. For most crowdfunding campaigns, there is no set roadmap for success, even though there are Indiegogo Certified Experts and the Kickstarter Hardware Studio. Some may have shipped on-time before, but even then, each campaign is different. You’re going to have new backers, new timelines, and lots of new problems. Some of those problems might even delay the shipment of projects to the people who want it most.
How you deal with such potentially catastrophic, outward-facing problems will say a lot about you, your company, your product, and your campaign. Rainfactory has seen its fair share of delays in the campaigns we’ve run. With experience comes our expertise—expertise that we’d love to share with you—that helps post-crowdfunding eCommerce Growth, even in the face of adversity.
Recommendations – our list
Following is a list of recommendations from Rainfactory about how to develop your communication strategy, should you find yourself in a less-than-ideal situation regarding the release of your product. Try to include most, if not all, of the following pieces within your delayed shipment update.
- Perception is everything. Even if the product doesn’t exist in its entirety, you want to give off the idea that it does.
- Give back to the community
- No apologies — only forward-looking statements
- We’re giving backers what they need, even though the timing isn’t ideal
- Directly from the Founder: personal, real
- Behind the scenes look at HQ and the team
- Proof that testing is happening, proof that product exists, proof that product is being built and improved
- Proof of accomplishments — press, investments, milestones, etc.
- Transparency of the company
- Show the product prominently — hold it, and have it nearby
- Photos of the production
- Use a Video Format: Short and sweet, engaging, light audio playing over moving visuals to keep attention.
- Release this via backers-only update first, and email backers to test reaction, then roll out publicly if received well.
- Most importantly, a longer testing phase is a great reason for delay. This means increased safety or features for all, with no sacrifices on quality.
Here’s a solid step-by-step list you can use to develop a written communication and a video script:
- Thank the backers
- Give a detailed product update, highlighting accomplishments
- Communicate what is new and unexpected about the production timing
- Address the specific steps being taken to adjust this course
- Clearly communicate a reasonable new timeline
- Offer an extra incentive or feature that is now possible thanks to the delay
E.g. more reliable, better control, better quality, or throw in a free upgrade
- Reaffirm your commitment to open, honest communication
- Open up a channel for feedback – an email address, a comment section, a blog post, etc.
Definitely DO NOT just apologize and move on.
When you communicate only with apologies, you put the project at risk for making backers feel like they’ve been lied to. You should be as confident, thankful, and reassuring as possible. Most backers will understand this. If they do not understand, then it is your duty to offer a refund or come to an agreement for compensation. This will be hard for everyone, but you should focus on being strong and pressing the project forward.
Definitely DO NOT ask the backers for more money.
This puts unnecessary strain on them, and they are already going to be uneasy about the situation. However, the ONE exception is for backers who want to pay for Air Freight to expedite their shipping. This ended up working very well for a previous campaign Rainfactory has run.
Learn from others.
We know this can sometimes be a bit abstract if you’re running around, trying to stamp out fires with your face because the world is falling down around you. Calm down, take a breath, and check out these well thought out examples below:
Sample Posts: Names have been blanked out.
[EXAMPLE 1]: Coronavirus-related delays
March Update: Choosing Action Over Fear
We want to thank you for all of your support. We are excited to deliver [PRODUCT] to you. Your amazing response has humbled us and in turn, we strive to deliver a product that will exceed your expectations.
We’re writing this currently working from home, safe and sound but also making sure we do our part to keep our community safe. Any work-from-home tips welcome!
SOME POSITIVE NEWS
To start off with some positive news, [PRESS FEATURE ADDED HERE]
Still, we are going at full-speed and have managed to drastically reduce the size of the device by 8.7 cubic centimeters. Curious how we did that? We simply wrapped the antenna around it, similar to the iPhone 5 when they pioneered that technology.
SHIPPING UPDATE & CORONAVIRUS
If you read the most recent update, you’ll know that our plans have been slowed down by the Coronavirus outbreak. Unfortunately, we have not been able to get any production samples and the production is now projected to be starting in June.
We still want you to have your [PRODUCT] as soon as possible, so we have been looking into producing it in the USA, Malaysia, Vietnam, or Thailand.
We are making the best use of our team’s time. We’ve already improved the user interface and experience. After several field tests, we decided to update the design. This change will improve the usability & durability of the product as well as optimize the production while removing any chance for additional delay after our manufacturing team is back online.
We won’t let our backers be impacted financially by this decision, so we will continue to absorb these costs on top of the already steeply discounted [PRODUCT] pre-order pricing.
We will work around the clock to make any potential delays as short as possible. We will be notifying you as soon as we are ready for shipment, so keep an eye out for our next updates.
[EXAMPLE 2]: Clearly communicating timeline
WHAT IS NEXT FOR [PRODUCT]?
As you can read in our updates, we have been hard at work building a product that delivers the best customer experience: from fabric selection and testing to firmware and hardware iterations. [Product]’s experience is seamless and we want to ensure that every detail of the product meets the highest standard for our backer community.
Our original timeline stated that the product design and engineering would be finalized by [DATE]. But we have faced one major challenge in the design of the product: the washability of the [PRODUCT] in the washing machine. The current design of the product is less durable during a wash cycle than we originally expected. This recent discovery has shifted our focus back to redesigning part of the cover’s sensor array to withstand the pressure and force during a washing cycle. We are committed to delivering the very best product to you and we see this as a necessary step to make the Luna a long-lasting product of value.
We must sort out the details for the washability of the cover before moving into the next stage of manufacturing validation tests which was originally set for May. This means that shipping dates for the [PRODUCT] have been pushed back a couple of months.
Together with our manufacturing partners we have worked out a new timeline that, while aggressive, puts us on track for a first shipping later this year. This is what the adjusted timeline looks like:
- July: Final product design and engineering
- August: Manufacturing validation tests
- September: Production
- November: First batch of [PRODUCTS] ship
We have taken key steps to work towards this deadline, including working with an external prototyping firm and fast tracking the vetting and final selection of our manufacturing partners looking at both options in the US and China – as manufacturing in the US saves us time in shipping the units.
We are working tirelessly to get every detail right and make Luna the best product possible. We thank you for your continued support, understanding, and extraordinary patience.
Please email us at support@[COMPANY].com with any questions.
[EXAMPLE 2]: Sincere, directly from voice of the CEO
We wanted to provide you, as one of our early adopters, several updates on the program and [PRODUCT]’s delivery. Because we wanted you to see the progress (instead of just reading about it), we prepared a short video just for our campaign contributors.
In the video I will share with you a couple of our favorite aspects of the program as well as the latest on [PRODUCT] delivery timing. Rest assured as one of the earliest adopters, you enjoyed a significant price advantage, and will be among the first to welcome [PRODUCT] to your home.
[EXAMPLE 3]: Sincere, clear, and directly from the CEO
We Need a Little More Time.
We have been working hard developing the revolutionary [PRODUCT] for two years and as you know, we have been pre-selling on [KICKSTARTER OR INDIEGOGO] since last summer. It has been an exhilarating ride, generating much interest around the world. Safety is so incredibly important to us, and we refuse to deliver a product that is anything less than the safest [PRODUCT] possible. Because of this, we took a little more time than we initially thought to run through safety testing, and as a result we need a little more time to ship mifold to you.
In our campaign, we estimated a March shipment date for the first deliveries. As of today, we need a couple more weeks to be able to get those [PRODUCT]s into the mail. We expect to begin shipping in April. Specific delivery dates will be based on your location, when you placed your order, and how soon you choose your color.
[EXAMPLE 3]: Technical, Specific, with Clear Actionable Steps
Hey there [PRODUCT] family,
Over the past several months we’ve made tremendous progress getting [PRODUCT] ready for production. We’ve solved more challenges than you’d ever care to know, but every day presents new obstacles to overcome. Most are anticipated, but every once in awhile something unforeseen pops up and forces us to make a difficult decision or revise our schedule. This update is devoted to one of those recent unforeseen challenges that will force us to start shipping [PRODUCT] in September, two months later than the plan we last communicated.
While moving the ship date back is annoying, our primary responsibility—and one we take very seriously—is our commitment to deliver you a product that you’ll love using everyday. Our standards are extremely high and uncompromising because we care deeply about the investment you’ve made in us and the [PRODUCT] experience you’re eagerly awaiting.
Thanks to extensive beta testing efforts in February and March, we discovered that [PRODUCT]’s infrared performance—its ability to control IR devices at different angles—was underperforming. This antenna lets us know where [PRODUCT] is located in 3D space and, like all antennas, is quite sensitive to anything metal being in its way. As a result, [PRODUCT]’s LED, which has metal components, had to be placed further from the tip. The position of the LED combined with our original IR window and light guide design was preventing the IR signal from being emitted at full strength.
Given the constraints of our antenna position, the best solution was to simply expand the size of the infrared window and add a second LED. While these modifications and improvements may not seem like a big deal, they actually required us to redesign the entire exterior shell of the [PRODUCT], which delayed our ability to start making production tooling and molds.
Getting a chance to redesign [PRODUCT]’s outer shell also allowed us to make some great improvements:
- Superior IR Performance: [PRODUCT] will now offer the best IR performance of any [PRODUCT] on the market.
- Enhanced Durability: [PRODUCT]’s exterior shell is now significantly stronger and more shock absorbent thanks to our move to a bi-injection molding process. We’ve added a protective soft touch silicone coating to the entire remote and a protective lip around the entire screen. All these extra details will protect [PRODUCT] from accidental drops and eliminate the need to include an accessory silicone case.
OK, that’s all for now. Thanks again for your ongoing support. We look forward to sharing more progress with you in our next update in the beginning of June.
[EXAMPLE 4]: Unexpected spike in demand as cause for delays – pay attention to overall structure & flow
Hi, I’m [NAME], the founder of [COMPANY].
I wanted to thank you for your amazing support. Over 5,000 of you have backed the campaign, proving that there is a true need for a small, simple to use and reliable locating device to find anyone or anything important, anywhere.
As we near the end of the campaign, it’s our goal to not only keep you informed, but to also involve you in helping make key decisions. This is why we sent out the survey last week – to learn how you plan on using [PRODUCT], and what’s most important to you.
So where are we with [PRODUCT]? We are very excited with our current development cycle. We have a world-class group out of MIT designing a next-gen antenna and a team of incredibly talented Radio Frequency, cellular and firmware engineers designing and building the device. Having seen what they are building, I truly expect that [PRODUCT] will not only live up to, but exceed your expectations.
One thing that we did not expect, however, was the level of demand for a product like [PRODUCT]. We’ve dramatically exceeded our goal with this campaign. While we are beyond thrilled by this, the reality is that this requires changes to the production side of things. We need to order considerably more components and tool a larger line – all of which takes time.
It also means that we need to increase our testing and quality control to ensure that [PRODUCT] works, no matter what it’s attached to, anywhere in the world. With customers in 75 countries, we need to make sure it will work to the best levels possible anywhere.
This has lead to some incredible opportunities. Since we are tooling a larger line, we are super excited to announce that the battery will be almost 20% larger than the one we initially planned. The majority of you said you wanted more battery life, and we are happy to report that we’re able to incorporate this larger battery without making the device any thicker, while only increasing the length and width by 6 millimeters. This still makes [PRODUCT] small enough to clip, wear, attach or mount.
Given the unexpected spike in demand, lead time for various components, and the extra certifications we require to ensure the device is 100% what you expect, it’s not realistic for us to promise a July delivery. We’re working as quickly as we can to deliver [PRODUCT] to you, but I refuse to allow the team to sacrifice quality and performance. As such, I asked for a realistic and revised delivery date, and have been told October this year, at the latest. Given that we have been working on [PRODUCT] for several years, another ninety days to ensure we deliver a device that exceeds expectations is worth it.
This manufacturing problem was only recently brought to our attention, and we have spent the last week and a half doing everything we can to ramp things up and lock down delivery dates for you. I personally received the updated schedule Wednesday and wanted to communicate this small change as quickly as possible. Hopefully you agree that 20% more battery life and a solid performing device is worth a short delay.
We remain open and firm in our commitment to you, our early backers, to keep you informed every step of the way. I promise to keep you updated throughout this process with both the good, frustrating, and even slightly amusing.
Thank you again for your patience and support. If you have any further questions, please send me a note at hello@[COMPANY].com.
Remember, it’s not the end of the world! All of these companies above managed to navigate significant delays and still deliver amazing products. You can, too!