Crowdfunding Checklist: Step 12, Production and Fulfillment
Many crowdfunding campaign creators find the gap between fundraising and fulfillment to be the widest and the most difficult to cross. After all, creators tend to be more invested in developing a great idea than in managing the operational side of things.
With any luck, you’ve recruited an operations rockstar to your campaign team, and they had the details on lock from the moment your campaign went live on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. But most campaign creators wind up managing the production and fulfillment of their products largely on their own.
Who’s going to make your stuff?
Source: Kinshofer via Wikimedia Commons.
This is both easier than ever, due to the proliferation of specialized production facilities that you can find and contract from the comfort of your home or local Starbucks, and trickier than ever, because it still falls on you to vet any third party you choose to work with. A production facility that isn’t up to the task may be the reason your shipments are delayed, but it’s ultimately your responsibility for choosing them in the first place.
You should have done extensive research to prepare for production before your campaign even went live. Nothing sinks a campaign more easily than unattainable promises that were made before you understood the complexities and challenges of getting a product created at scale.
However, you may find that your original plan isn’t quite so appropriate when you were expecting to fulfill a third of the pledges you eventually received. You may have also discovered that the manufacturer you’d counted on to make high-resolution miniatures for your board game won’t have any capacity to mold those miniatures for months. There are any number of problems in the production process, which is why it’s helpful to have a Plan B, and C, and maybe even D if you want to be extra careful.
The crowdfunding space is large and mature enough that some companies now specialize in providing manufacturing services to crowdfunding campaigns. Both Kickstarter and Indiegogo have recognized the criticality of this issue and have established partnerships with trusted manufacturers.
These partnerships are intended to smooth the transition from fundraising to production and to ensure that successful campaigns actually are successful all the way to fulfillment, but they’re not so simple as “click here and get it made.” You’ll still have to do the necessary legwork to ensure that your product is a good fit for the manufacturer you’ve chosen, both from a production standpoint and on price.
Now, who’s going to get your stuff to your backers?
Source: Secom Bahia via Wikimedia Commons.
So, let’s say you’ve got your production squared away, and your manufacturing (or printing) partner is ready to fire up the plant as soon as you give the word go. How are you going to get all those shiny new… things… to your backers?
Some campaign creators might want to try to ship everything themselves, but unless you’ve only got a handful of backers, this isn’t advisable. You’re probably not a fulfillment expert, just as you probably weren’t a production pro when you started your campaign, either. Stacking up boxes of stuff in your house or apartment and making sure everything has every component ordered by each individual backer, and that you’ve got the right address, and that you have adequate packing materials, and that everything is sealed up and professionally presented for that new-box experience… the demands add up fast, and they’re not trivial demands, either.
We’ve previously published guidelines for picking the right fulfillment partner, and it’s still true today. Choosing your partners deserves a checklist of its own, and you probably won’t get a do-over if your partners screw things up. Take your time to research your options before agreeing to work with anyone, and check the crowdfunding community for advice and recommendations as well. You’ll need someone who can address these concerns, at the very least:
● How will they handle inventory storage?
● How will they address pre-shipment packaging requirements?
● Where are they located?
● Do they have experience handling international shipments?
● What’s their procedure for returns or exchanges?
● Have they worked with products like yours before? How often?
● And finally, what’s it all going to cost you?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. Location matters primarily when it comes to keeping costs down on the final shipments. If 95% of your backers are in the U.S., you don’t want to work with a U.K. fulfillment center, no matter how highly-recommended they might be. The cost of sending 95% of your packages to your backers through international parcel post won’t be worth it.
On the other hand, a fulfillment center that can address the legal and regulatory issues with the countries where the other 5% of your backers live is invaluable. An hour saved on ensuring customs compliance for a box you were planning to mail yourself is an hour you can spend communicating with backers, designing new features, launching an Amazon storefront, or even catching up on the sleep you probably skimped on during your campaign.
And it’s also worth keeping in mind that a fulfillment center that knows its way around the board game industry is great -- unless your product is a drone that you fly with hand movements. Even if your product is stunningly innovative, it’s likely to be close enough in form and function to any number of things on the market that a good partner will know how to package and ship it in a safe and cost-effective way. Pick partners that have worked with products like yours many times before.
How to do less while getting more done
If you’re working with CrowdOx to manage your backers and raise additional funding, you can also be assured that our system and/or data integrates seamlessly with most reputable fulfillment companies. Getting backer information from our system to your fulfillment service could be as simple as clicking a few buttons.
Like the one below.
If you’d like to give your crowdfunding campaign all the tools it needs to succeed, and if you’d like to spend more time on creating and doing, and less time on packing and shipping, click that button.
It’s right down there. We’d love to hear from you today, so let’s get started!