Kickstarter Advice: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Truth. Issue 5: Early Birds.

Over the last few years many projects have shown us that being an early backer can come with some extra benefits. For creators, early bird pledge levels have proven themselves as an effective marketing tool. So why do so many current projects lack this feature?

In this series of blog articles I take a closer look at Kickstarter creator practices, and asses the value of advice given to creators by backers and crowdfunding observers. If you’re a prospective project creator, or a backer interested in taking a peek behind the curtain, you’re definitely in the right place.

Early bird pledge levels are limited offers that expire before the end of a Kickstarter project, usually allowing backers to get a better deal on their reward, or to receive some limited or exclusive content with their pledge. As a tool, early bird pledge levels are still used in many campaigns, but the fact that they are no longer an obligatory element of every Kickstarter also proves that the practise is not without its own shortcomings.

Offering a time or quantity limited deal within a Kickstarter encourages prospective backers to pull the trigger faster, by adding a financial incentive, which is independent from any merits the actual future product may have. Furthermore, an early bird is yet another way to thank those of our backers who are actually the early adopters among early adopters – not only ready to pledge, but also ready to pledge on day one.

Incentivising backers to pledge early can also help ramp up the first and second day pledges, making the project more successful in a period that can often make or break a campaign. And since success breeds more success on Kikstarter, early birds are a tool that can be seen as essential by those seeking a best possible opening for their project.

Regardless of how important the first few days (or even hours) of a Kickstarter project may be, a project creator should remember that they have a whole project to manage – not just its first few days – and that in the end they will end up with a product that should enter distribution after its manufactured and delivered.

Similarly to exclusive contents, maxed out early bird pledges can alienate those prospective backers and fans who did not have a chance to get in on a better deal, or (despite pledging on Kickstarter, and being a part of the process so early on) would not be eligible for some exclusive content, ultimately damaging a relationship with at least a part of the creators fan base.

Table top Kickstarters are booming these days, and that means backers have much less time to spend on every single project than they used to. Time and expendable income usually do not expand for a single backer, which means that competition is more fierce, and prospective backers also change their habit to adapt to these new conditions.

An early bird is an incentive, and the better deals are often snatched up on day one by backers on the go: people looking to secure a possibility of backing the project on better terms, but leaving actual research for later. Since Kickstarter allows you to withdraw your pledge at any time, the only risk here is that the backer will miss the end of the project, and will be thus stuck with an uninformed purchase. The actual decision is thus made days later, which often results in a cancellation – one that usually comes at a time when a campaign naturally slows down.

Thus, early birds are becoming more of a marketing stunt than a reliable way to get more people interested in your game. Backers incentivised exclusively by a better offer are not backers at all, they just make the project look better on day one, but there’s usually a price to pay for this later on.

An analysis of the funding process of our Kickstarters that had early birds proves one thing: most of daily cancellations on projects with early birds come from the early bird backers. Now, cancellations are a norm for every project, but with the best ones you’ll only notice them if you watch the campaign as a hawk, for the process of receiving funds outpaces the process of losing them.

Nonetheless, the day one boost always come with a price of a deeper slump mid campaign, and every creator should be ready to face the consequences of early bird pledges these days. One of those consequences is that inflating the size of the campaign beyond what would otherwise be its natural pace can damage its image significantly when the early birds start backing out.

Consequently, our solution for the last five or so projects has been simple: we do not offer early birds. On the one hand it’s a choice that allows prospective backers to see the true popularity and potential of our game. On the other hand, it allows us to more realistically plan for the future of a project, which in turn makes it possible to adapt to its actual (not inflated) pace, and that is something both us and our backers can benefit from.

Do you have questions? Would you like to know more about a specific facet of Kickstarter project creation? Shoot us a question in the comments, or visit our Strawberry Kickstarter services website to get the insight and help you need with launching your own successful campaign.

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