Anatomy of a Viral Kickstarter: Managing the Aftermath

October 16, 2015 by Jennifer A. Diffley

The conclusion to our three-part series on how to launch and maintain a viral Kickstarter campaign.

So you're successfully funded. Now what?

Here's the conclusion to our three-part series on a viral Kickstarter campaign. The first article discussed how Travis and Nick Peterson conceptualized their neverending musical greeting card and located a manufacturer. Part two tells how they launched a successful campaign, raised over $90,000, and prepared to send out their first batch of greeting cards. Now we'll go into how Joker Greeting managed the logistics after the campaign ended. 


Once your Kickstarter is successfully funded, companies will begin crawling out of the woodwork offering everything from fulfillment services to more marketing. Travis soon found that navigating the world of shipping and logistics was much more complicated than it should be. "It was never a flat rate. They'd charge by the number of items in an order. So if they had to 'pick' more than one item, you were getting charged for it. And it got expensive."

That's the kind of overhead that can quickly take you from black to red. After Kickstarter takes out its percentage of fees and after the manufacturer is paid, money for shipping gets tight. Travis realized the cheapest option would be to mail the cards himself. He kept the product in his garage and spent his days and nights shipping joker cards to his backers. 

International shipping was another beast, but Travis found that by offering international shipping, he was able to score backers everywhere from Iceland to India. It turned out to cost $13/card, but Peterson dropped the shipping to $11 and ate the other $2 to keep his customers happy.

If you don't have the time or capability to ship out product yourself, negotiate. Get bids from as many companies as possible, and use those bids to determine the best solution. 

Managing Customers

With so many backers, complaints were inevitable. Travis mitigated misunderstandings by being prompt in his replies and being as transparent as possible. Granted, electrical engineers aren't normally known for their exceptional customer service skills, but when handling backers, it's important to follow Travis's lead: "I tried to, in every single message, say 'thank you for contacting us.' Whether it's good or back feedback, I try to be positive." 

One customer contacted Travis to let him know that he'd received the card in the mail, but it had been damaged, and he included a picture of the bent card. He wasn't angry, but Travis sent him a new card anyway. The customer thanked him profusely and told him he hadn't expected such great service. 

On the other hand, there's always going to be someone out there looking to cheat the system. "Everyone says the customer is always right, but there are some situations when they really are cheating." For instance, one customer moved several months after Travis mailed him his reward card. The customer contacted Travis and told him he'd never received the card, even though he'd verified his address. The customer was most likely trying to get an extra card or two out of the deal. Travis was respectful while standing his ground, and even mailed him a new card. As Travis said, "The best answer is you try your best and you hope that by overserving them, it will pay off."

In anticipation of the (very) small percentage of people looking for free product, figure that loss into your bottom line. Know that some shipments will get lost and some customers will demand replacements, warranted or not: by accepting this inevitability and writing it into your profit margin, you'll avoid headaches and surprises down the line. 

Images like Gob's Final Countdown above kept backers excited about the cards.


Video Responses

No one reads FAQs, which is a problem because most questions simply echo each other. Travis came up with a solution: "If we heard one or two complaints, we'd make a video about it. Once we posted the video, we saw the complaints either go away or diminish." 

Customers watched the videos--which were imbued with the same sense of humor as the rest of the campaign--and maintained engagement with the company. It's an example of how thinking outside the box can be beneficial for both the customer and the company,

Hidden Benefits

You may not become a millionaire with your Kickstarter campaign, but that's not why Kickstarter exists. Where Kickstarter really succeeds in addition to gaining funding for small businesses is in the information it provides. For instance, Travis was able to gauge the popularity of his Merry Christmas card versus his Happy Birthday card based on his backers' preferences. Once he expands, he'll have an approximate ratio of how many cards to order based on the built-in Kickstarter sample group. You may, for instance, have a product that comes in five colors, but find during your Kickstarter campaign that only two colors sell. That kind of insight into your customer base is priceless.

Customers also provide valuable feedback and suggestions that can be incorporated into future products. They'll tell you what works and what doesn't work. 

People still wonder if Kickstarter was necessary for Travis to start Joker Greetings. After all, cards are relatively cheap. "What we couldn't have done without Kickstarter is achieve scale," says Travis. "There's no way I would have gone out and bought 20,000 cards without knowing if anyone would buy them. Plus, I didn't have the capital."

But now, Travis has the information he's gathered from the campaign as well as enough money to propel his business forward.

And there's another benefit few people realize: Kickstarter provides very good SEO and Google search results. "Because it was on Kickstarter and then got on so many blogs, it put us on the front page of a lot of Google searches. Over the long run, the marketing could be the bigger win." Since his campaign launched, Peterson hasn't had a single day without selling a card. Impressive for a company that didn't even exist six months ago.

Launch Yourself

So there you have it--you can start your Kickstarter campaign prepared. Plan it out, be brave, think outside the box, and market yourself like crazy. Investigate shipping now, prepare for a margin of error when fulfilling orders, and maintain positivity. Know that running a Kickstarter campaign is something of a gamble, but if you're successful, the rewards are impressive.