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How to Tell Your Backers About Shipping Delays

Delays are common for crowdfunders. As a new entrepreneur, it can be hard to predict how long it will take to mass produce, package and ship your product. Backers are usually pretty understanding to shipping delays — but that understanding comes with a condition:

You have to update them right away!

Indiegogo requires campaigners to send updates once a month, because keeping backers in the loop is crucial to keeping them happy. Campaigners who post regular updates raise 286% more than those who do not. But this becomes much more important when you think you might be in danger of missing any delivery date or deadline you set. The moment you think you’re going to miss your estimated shipping date, send out an update about it.

After all, people take part in crowdfunding not just to get an end product. They take part to help make something that’s never been made before. They understand you’re working the kinks out of your process. But going silent on them is a surefire way to make them frustrated, and their support will decline. You don’t want backers to post negative comments on your campaign page or ask for refunds, both of which will hurt your ability to grow your business.

There are creative and fun ways to keep your backers engaged even if your product is delayed. In this article, we use examples from successful crowdfunding campaigns to illustrate a few of the best ways to use updates to talk about your delays.

How should you tell your backers about a delay?

There are a few important things to include in your update when telling your backers about a delay. We talked to Rainfactory, a marketing and crowdfunding consulting company, for their tips on how to put together an update about your delay:

  • Clearly communicate a reasonable new timeline.
  • Address the specific steps being taken to prevent further delays.
  • Explain what is new and unexpected about production. Don’t be vague.
  • Take ownership of the delay. Don’t make excuses.
  • Give a detailed product update and highlight your accomplishments.
  • Thank your backers.
  • Offer an extra incentive or feature that is now possible thanks to the delay. (Is your product now more reliable? Will it be better quality? Can you 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.
  • Do NOT ask backers for more money. This puts unnecessary strain on them.

Tell backers as soon as you’re in danger of missing your ship date

Backers need to feel like they can trust you. If you wait until it’s the month you said you were going to ship to tell backers you can’t make good on that promise, you are already too late. The most critical time to update is when you realize you’re not going to deliver when you thought.

When the Prepd team was testing their beautifully designed lunchbox, a product that raised nearly $3M during its crowdfunding campaign and went on to sell on the Indiegogo Product Marketplace, they discovered a problem with the magnetic latch. They alerted their backers right away and let them know that, because the latch was an essential part of their product – namely, in keeping lunches inside the lunchbox – they decided to hold off until they got the problem fixed. They provided an updated delivery timeline as well as a reminder about how long shipping would take once the items left the warehouse. They were transparent, honest and owned up to the error without making excuses for it. Most important, they were quick: they sent their update within 48 hours of learning about their delay.

Be transparent about your production

Because you’re sending out updates once a month, you’re keeping your backers abreast of every stage of the journey. But what exactly do those sorts of updates look like?

Branto, an innovative smart home system that raised over $110K during their crowdfunding campaign, crafted their updates like to-do lists by cataloging what they’d done and what still had to be done. By sharing a development timeline in every post, their backers always knew what to expect. And bonus – their backers got insight into production, learned about what it takes to build a new product from scratch, and felt more connected to the process. These types of updates make bakers feel included. This is why backers support crowdfunding campaigns in the first place — to be part of the journey. They want to be there for all of the ups and downs.

HOVR does something similar with their monthly updates. HOVR is an exercise machine that goes under you desk so you can use it while you work. It has raised over $563K and continues to raise funds on Indiegogo InDemand. When HOVR sends their monthly updates, they always detail how manufacturing is going. By being transparent, their backers never feel surprised by major developments nor do they ever feel left out of the process. For example, check out the update below. They put a shipping update right at the beginning, and then provide even more in-depth information about manufacturing at their factory.

Provide value for your backers even if you can’t deliver your product yet

Just because your product is delayed doesn’t mean you can’t still thank your backers for their support. Some campaigns offer their backers so much more than a physical product: they offer a path to stronger exercise regiments, healthier eating habits and deeper sleep. Try to keep in mind what you ultimately want to give your backers to figure out what you can offer even if you’re running into production hiccups.

When the SmartPlate team experienced delays in delivering their calorie-tracking plate, they released its associated app in advance of the hardware. SmartPlate allows users to automatically track what they eat by simply putting their food on the electronic plate and taking a photo of it. Even without the plate itself, backers can use the app to take photos of their meals and get a rough estimate of their calorie and macronutrient intake. Backers started reaping the benefits of their support much sooner, despite not getting the actual physical perk when expected. 

Frame delays as a way to improve your end product

One of the best strategies we’ve seen thus far is framing product improvements that were requested by backers as the reason for a delay. The team behind ROAR framed their delay as being in the backer’s best interest. In their previous update, they released a demo video of their product — a safety necklace that sounds an alarm at the push of a button. (They raised over $310K during their crowdfunding campaign). They asked backers if they thought it was loud enough, and over 90% of their backers (who responded) said they thought it should be louder. In their next update, they reported that they had researched the feasibility of making it louder and then shared the delay as good news. They only got two refund requests, despite the delay.

Another great example of this sort of delay update comes from Pilot, an in-ear translator that raised almost $4.5M during its crowdfunding campaign. When Pilot’s head of engineering was visiting their factory, he realized that they could significantly improve their translator’s capabilities by modifying the microphone placement and the antenna. So, in favor of better product quality and improved translation accuracy, they decided to make changes even though it would delay shipment. They relayed this information with a detailed updated manufacturing timeline.

You need to talk about delays

No matter how you decide to frame it, it is critical that you send an update to your backers alerting them to any changes in your timeline the moment you realize it’s going to slip. If you’re looking to build a business, it’s essential. Your backers trusted you and supported your project in its earliest phase. They are the bedrock of your business. Keeping them in the loop as you work to bring your product to market will help keep them happy, which in turn will help build relationships and bring word of mouth support to your campaign long beyond your initial crowdfunding campaign. But if you let them down and fail to be honest with them, then your chances of building a business will suffer. Your backers will support you and accept setbacks — as long as you update them.

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