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Kickstarter Lessons: How to under-promise and over-deliver

Last week’s article delved into creating reasonable and manageable stretch goals for your Kickstarter campaign. This week we’re going to talk about another very important concept: How to under-promise and over-deliver.

We’ve all experienced disappointment in our lives. Sometimes it’s with a purchase or investment we’ve made.

You open the box and the thing you ordered is smaller than you anticipated. Or not the right colour. Or not even close to what you expected.

Maybe it arrived late. Or damaged. Or it didn’t arrive at all.

Nobody enjoys any of these experiences. So, let’s look at ways to avoid delivering an underwhelming experience for your Kickstarter backers and instead find ways to bring them joy through under-promising and over-delivering.

It’s All About Setting Realistic Expectations

If you promise the moon, be able to deliver it.” — Byrd Baggett

If you know you can’t possibly deliver on a promise, it’s one you should never make. Even if there’s a reasonable chance you won’t be able to fulfil this, don’t make that promise.

You’re far better off doing the research and figuring out what is doable and what isn’t and then setting realistic expectations.

You can’t add everything your backers suggest. You can’t re-create all your assets in a week’s time. Some suggestions are good, but are more suitable for a later edition or expansion, when you have more time to develop and test these ideas.

Sure, you might want to get your game manufactured and delivered to backers in 3 months with realistic metal coins and miniatures, but that’s just not going to happen. These things take time. Even more so if this is your first time, as there will be steps in the process you weren’t aware of, 3rd parties that need to be involved (that run on their own timelines and have a queue of projects already ahead of yours), and more work than you originally anticipated.

One of the best things you can do is give yourself much more time than you think you’ll need.

Leave Yourself Some Wiggle Room

Most tasks take longer than you’d expect. The fact is, we are often overly confident in how quickly we’ll be able to learn a new program or achieve some goal.

If you’re learning something new, it will almost always take a lot longer than you anticipated. So, it’s always a good idea to leave yourself some wiggle room.

This also goes for other individuals you’re working with.

Your artist says, “sure, I can put that together next week for you”, but another project runs long and you don’t get the assets until the end of the month.

Your graphic designer takes ill and you have to find a replacement.

Your rulebook editor finds an edge case that you have to spend weeks testing and working out.

Your manufacturer has trouble sourcing a vital component.

There are so many steps in the process of creating a physical board game and so many chefs in the kitchen that there’s something that’s bound to take longer than expected, no matter how well you planned. Your best defense is giving yourself a buffer and adding some additional time into your schedule for these potential delays.

The file submission process for Relics of Rajavihara, which I expected would take weeks, ended up taking months. There was a lot of back-and-forth with my manufacturer, illustrator, and myself, ensuring everything was just right before going to print. Then a sample was made that needed to be shipped to me for evaluation, and then this process was repeated again for the mass production copy.

This ended up delaying my project and ensuring it would be delivered later than expected. However, with good communication and transparency, my backers remained very supportive.

Ask Yourself “How Can I Make This Experience Even Better?”

The next time I run a Kickstarter campaign, I am going to ensure I have all the print files completed and proofed by my manufacturer in advance. I may even arrange for the sample to be created and sent to me for evaluation, to ensure I am a bit further ahead in the process than I was for my last campaign.

At the same time, I want to leave myself some flexibility should a really great idea come up during the Kickstarter campaign. Still, most of the game should be finalized and ready for printing shortly after the campaign wraps up.

It would be wise to set your expected delivery date 2-3 months later than you expect. This will give you a cushion for things like production delays, shipping delays, holidays, and other things that could go wrong or delay delivery to your backers.

But beyond delivering on time (or maybe even early, which can definitely be a delight for backers), what else could you do to over-deliver?

Here are some ideas:

  • Include a thank you card for backers
  • Send out a free PNP version of your game or an expansion for the game
  • Downloadable rules translated into other languages
  • Upgrade your components
  • Include something extra that wasn’t mentioned in your campaign

Whether it is something extra or a little personal touch to say “thank you”, your backers will remember this gesture.

By giving people something that goes beyond what was on your Kickstarter campaign page or what you said would be in the box, you have just over-delivered, and hopefully this will bring a smile to the face of your supporters.

What is one campaign that you witnessed the creator under-promise and over-deliver? What was that experience like for you?

Please leave a comment and let me know!

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