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Kickstarter Lessons 1: Backers vs. Customers

Now that the physical copies of Outlive Outdead are being printed and shipped, I will be taking some time to review my Kickstarter experience in hopes of helping other publishers/gamers make good decisions. Plus, I like to talk about myself. First up, what to call the people who give you money.

In my opinion, this is very important. If a friend tells you the new guy in the office is a cutthroat bastard, you will be more likely to ignore his emails (or at least wait longer to open them). If your friend instead tells you the new guy is fresh out of college and very green, you will be more likely to expect mistakes from him. Labels shape how we react to people.

So what labels do we have for the fine folks who will (hopefully) give us their money? Kickstarter uses the term backer. A backer is someone who supports you, financially or otherwise. But is that accurate? Giving good advice is supportive. Taking you out for happy hour when you’ve had a rough day is supportive. These people are giving you money in return for a reward. In simpler terms, they buy your stuff.

That’s why I prefer the term customer, because that’s really what these people are. They aren’t Renaissance aristocrats offering patronage. They are paying money in return for your product and the rewards associated with how much money they give you.

Is this just splitting hairs? For me, no. It shaped how I reacted. By viewing these people as customers, I felt an urge to provide for them. Maybe that’s just because I spent years in retail and worked hard, but I think everyone will act differently, even just a little, if they viewed backers as customers.

Besides, it also reframes your role in the process. Designers don’t work with customers; small business owners do. By viewing yourself as a small business owner, you will be more likely to approach the marketing, sales, production, and distribution of your products professionally and with a drive to satisfy the customer.

During the Outlive Outdead kickstarter campaign, someone emailed me with concerns about the rewards. What do they look like? Can he get some rewards instead of others? The unasked question was. “How flexible will I be to satisfy this person’s desires?” Since I framed this whole experience as a business owner selling a product to a customer, I knew the answer instantly: I would be as flexible as necessary to make the sale. We talked and came to an agreement. Does an artist talk to and come to agreements with a patron?

There you go. My first piece of advice is to think of people as customers to put you in the right frame of mind. Next up will be about how we chose rewards.

Category: HBG News