Crowdfunding campaigns are quickly becoming a popular way of funding start-up businesses or side interests for established businesses. In trade for a donation, the a crowdfunding event will offer some sort of incentive. Often the incentive is an item associated with the product the start-up will be offering. People who try crowdfunding are becoming more and more creative with their incentives. Some offer signed books, bulky, handcrafted items or a sample product. While being creative with incentives is a good way to garner donations, once the campaign is over, the nightmare of shipping the items begins. Before you start a crowdfunding campaign, it is best to consider how you will provide incentive fulfillment. Here are some things to think about.
Choosing Your Incentive
When choosing your incentive for a crowdfunding campaign, your biggest considerations should be:
- Will this item entice donations?
- How hard will it be to package this item for shipping?
- How much will it cost to ship this item?
While coming up with an enticing donation may not be all that difficult, the shipping part may have you scratching your head. Remember, items that must be boxed take longer to prepare for mailing and usually cost more to mail. Items that can slip into an envelope or padded envelope, like buttons, postcards, DVDs, CDs or bookmarks are much easier to send out and the mailing costs are much more affordable.
Of course, you can skip mailing costs altogether by focusing on incentives that can be sent out digitally, such as MP3s, videos or ebooks. In this case, you would just need to come up with a fulfillment process that would send out these items using a password system or email address.
Shipping Fulfillment for Crowdfunding Campaigns
After you are sure of your incentives, then you need to plan how to get them out to your benefactors in a timely fashion. Of course, you could always mail them yourself. If you are going to be sending out a large number of incentives, though, there's a chance that you don't have time to bother with incentive fulfillment. Often, doing it yourself can take days, if not weeks. A better solution may be to hire a fulfillment company to do the work for you.
The first problem you will come across when trying to fulfill Kickstarter orders is organizing them. Figuring out who got what, how many items need to be sent, where the items need to be sent, and what orders have already been completed takes a very organized, almost compulsively organized, person. If you aren't someone who loves creating spreadsheets, then you probably won't be able to handle dealing with large amounts of orders. Fulfillment centers use sophisticated software to sort out order details to make sure that everything gets shipped in the right amounts to the right people.
Even if you are able to get all of the right orders in the right mailing envelopes, addressed to the right people, how long will it take you? A month? Two months? Another benefit of using an order fulfillment center is that they will be able to get incentives into the hands of your benefactors quickly. A quick turnaround can keep the buzz of your project fresh and may bring you more opportunities or overfunding.
For argument's sake, say you are able to organize the orders and ship them out. Do you have the time to do it? Organizing orders, filling out addresses, packing and shipping can take a huge chunk of time, and more than likely, your Kickstarter isn't your only commitment. Plus, you want to work on more than just the orders of your Kickstarter project and get the actual idea up and running with your funding. Fulfillment outsourcing will free up your time so that you can do more important things.
Outsourcing orders can be a great thing for your Kickstarter project. If you choose a qualified fulfillment center and let them do their job, your orders will go smoothly and you can get your project sailing forward ahead of schedule.
Planning Fulfillment in Advance
An important thing to know now before you start a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign is to plan all fulfillment processes before the eleventh hour. Far too many businesses think they can plan how to ship an item only after they reach their fundraising goal. Don't fall into this trap, because you'll start to think you can handle it all on your own and then potentially miss your deadlines.
The first decision to be made is whether you’re going to ‘self-fulfill’ or if you’ll use the services of an outsourced fulfillment company. Self-fulfillment means that you’ll be shipping all of the orders yourself. If you don’t have any funds to potentially outsource, you might be forced to use this method. Furthermore, if your overall order volume is low and/or you don’t anticipate continuing to ship products after your campaign, self-fulfillment might be the best option. However, if you do plan to continue to sell your products after the crowd funding, or if volumes will be a little larger, then using a fulfillment provider can take the headache out of shipping. There are companies that focus and specialize on fulfillment for crowd funding campaigns, such as ShipBob. They have great experience with operating these types of campaigns.
Secondly, you’ll need to figure out what your plan is for international shipping. This is a factor that many companies face as quite a few campaigns will garner backers in various countries. If there is a sizeable order volume from a particular country outside of your locale, it might be beneficial to utilize a fulfillment service in that country. If not, it will help you to understand your fulfillment costs and timing to meet everyone’s expectations.
What Will Shipping Costs Be, Including Shipping Time?
No matter how you look at it, crowdfunding is still a business, and fulfillment needs to occur as quickly as possible. You only have one impression to make in sending your products fast to your new customers. Without planning some best practices, a lot of this can go wrong very quickly. Estimate your shipping costs and how long shipping is going to take. Know this weeks in advance before you even start doing any fundraising.
By posting this on your fundraising page, your new customers know exactly what to expect rather than automatically assuming you can take on two-day deliveries.
Creating Communication Portals With Customers
There isn't anything worse than failing to provide communication methods for your crowdfunding supporters. If there are any shipping concerns, they need to talk to you immediately. Every one of the customers who gave you money should get top priority if they message you with a shipping problem. Be sure to open up every possible communication medium, including live chats if possible.
Always respond quickly as well if you rely on emails. Don't make customers wait hours or days to hear back.
Planning the Order File
One best practice that helps operations run smoothly is to figure out how you’re going to translate all of the customer’s data into order information and ultimately packing slips and shipping labels. If you’re running this in house, then you might want to look into some fulfillment and/or shipping software. Oftentimes, these software programs will allow you to upload an Excel or CSV file into the system, thereby generating orders and labels. If you use a fulfillment company, they will be able to take the file and create the orders. Also, fulfillment companies will be able to integrate with your systems so that they can receive the orders over automatically.
Ensure a Pleasant and Powerful Experience
Packaging is a critical component of shipping that many companies forget to pay attention to until it’s too late. When your backers open your rewards, it’s extremely helpful for them to have a great customer experience so that they refer your product or company to others in their network or purchase from you in the future. Powerful and lasting impressions can be made with your backers by using creativity in terms of the packaging of your products. Some packaging efforts cost quite a bit, and this may or may not be in your budget. However, simple and cost effective measures can be taken in order to leave your backers with a smile on their face when they open their orders.
All in all, it takes a good amount of time and effort to plan out and execute a successful crowd funding campaign. By taking the extra time up front, you’ll save yourself a lot of pain and you’ll set your company up for future success.
Find Fulfillment Companies with Crowdfunding Experience
It is important to find a fulfillment company that has experience with crowdfunding campaigns so that you can get the very best service for the best price. These types of fulfillment warehouses are extremely unique, because they handle a very large volume of incentives in a short period of time, all the while accurately shipping them without mistakes.
Not a lot of fulfillment firms specialize in this new area, so even though a company will probably tell you that they can handle your incentives, you want to be sure that they actually can. Ask for references and don't be afraid to contact some of their previous clients. This is the best way to find out if your prospective company will give you the service you need.
With your incentives, processing and shipping planned, you can be on your way to a successful crowdfunding campaign!
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