Project Update #3 – Setting a Project Timeline

Set an honest project timeline, or else… brace yourself for the pitchforks!

Multiple studies of Kickstarter campaigns in the past have demonstrated that the vast majority of backer rewards are delivered very, very late. A study conducted by CNN Money showed that a staggering 84% of projects shipped late.

So why is this? And why aren’t creators trying to do more about it?

As creators, we are prescribing “Estimated Shipping Dates” for each reward level. The tradeoff that occurs when you end up delaying shipment is that you now have to deal with the mob of once-enthusiastic backers, that have now turned on you!

Suit up and stick to your guns because it is worth it in the end, to deliver what you promise the first time, even if it is a few months late.

Even Kickstarter’s co-founder and CEO Yancey Strickler himself addressed the issues surrounding lateness on Kickstarter and its effects on the community. Focusing on Kickstarter project lateness:

  1. Causes creators to take shortcuts – By the mounting pressure of delivering on time, creators may feel that to justify being on time to cut corners.
  2. Ignores the fact that Kickstarter is unique because it’s about watching a project come to life – We live in a consumer-driven society, where e-commerce is increasingly propelled by instant gratification. Unfortunately, the Kickstarter ecosystem is not like that at all, and really backers forget that they need to be patient and projects are coming to life as time continues. To counter this, you should communicate through regular project updates about any delays or issues that arise. Backers would rather know the bad news, instead of remaining left in the dark.
  3. Kickstarter is not a store -Getting funding is only the first step. What I love so much about Kickstarter is that it’s about creation and harnessing the power of backers willing to put trust in you to deliver what you promise. Some people forget that. Kickstarter is not a store.

Words to live by – Underpromise & Overdeliver, DON’T Overpromise & Underdeliver (or face death by your own sword)

One of my closest mentors in this campaign told me to Underpromise & Overdeliver.

In other words, be very conservative with your timeline and promises. No one likes to hear bad news, but if things go better than timeline, ship early and everyone will be happy! Give yourself a little wiggle room. Plan for the unexpected power outage, damaged goods, or a shipment awry, by giving a little buffer in the form of time.

So for our Freewheel Precision Gyroscope project, to alleviate our timeline concerns, we have partnered with a company who has been there, done that with full-scale manufacturing, packaging, and fulfillment.

The good news about our project:

  • We aren’t overconfident. Or at the very least, we are trying to stay grounded as much as possible. By this, I mean that we are planning to be successful, possibly overfund. In preparation, we are learning everything we can NOW about supply chains, handling backorders, and fulfillment. I know I can’t do it alone, which is why I have a great team on my side.
  • We have planned means to scale our project, if necessary.
  • We are pricing our product fairly & correctly. This is to ensure that there is enough to work with to prevent delays and also losses.
  • We refuse to take shortcuts. That’s a promise. We will not deliver subpar quality at the expense of time.

In addition, our promise to you is that we will communicate honest, conservative timelines. We will not take shortcuts in quality. We will communicate with you when there are issues. We will treat every backer with the highest level of consideration and customer service. (Email us anytime at backers@topspinusa.com to address your specific concerns!)

The final word: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

One of the MOST important rules that I’ve learned through my experience in program management and leadership as an officer in the US Navy is that communication will make or break success.

Effective communication requires both a positive transmission of information on one end (you, the creator!), and a positive receiver on the other end (an engaging backer!).

When you keep your backers in the dark, it promotes feelings of distrust and in some cases, even anger. It results in misunderstanding and negative reviews. The best recommendation possible is to be as clear with backers on the timeline as possible.

The Freewheel Precision Gyroscope Project Timeline (Last updated Dec 2017)

As with any project, timelines do shift and I will keep this up to date as we go! Thanks for following along. As always we aim to be transparent and dignified with our backers as we make progress on our goals.

  • October 2017: The idea is formed, creation begins. (Complete!)
    • Conduct preliminary product research, market evaluation, and patent search. (Complete!)
    • Draw and describe the product – a clear and concise message. (Complete!)
    • Contact product development companies. If you want to learn about this process, we covered this in a past post! (Complete!)
  • November 2017: Product design initiatives & social media seedlings planted. (Complete!)
    • Select the right product design partner that was the right match for us. We went with KickrDesign from Atlanta, GA. (Complete!)
    • Establish a budget. Product design, Marketing, Patent filing, and Unexpected costs. (Complete!)
    • Start social media accounts – FB, Twitter, IG, Pinterest, Youtube, Reddit, etc. (Complete!)
    • Form the Facebook group where the most involved backers can help contribute to the project. (Complete!)
    • Define the target audience and avatar. (Complete!)
  • December 2017: Refine our online presence, refine product functional specifications, and continue CAD design (In progress!)
    • Launch our shell of a website. Content in the form of photos/videos coming soon. (Complete!)
      • Integrate Mailchimp, Manychat, and EZtexting to the website for multiple ways for people to subscribe to launch notification. (Complete!)
    • Perform multiple iterations of product aesthetic design revisions. (In progress!)
    • Solidify sourcing of components and focus on design for manufacturing by reducing the number of parts (In progress!)
    • Plan out the layout, aesthetics, and user experience of our Kickstarter campaign page. (Complete!)
  • January 2018: More research and prototyping (In progress!)
    • Target and track influencers in my target market.
    • Begin prototyping.
    • Refine the prototype.
  • February 2018: Influencers, Social Media, Prepare the video and photography
    • Take my product to the streets! Get input from strangers to evaluate my product and provide feedback on pricing, design, and viability.
      • Allow them access to the website to collect e-mails.
    • Update the website, social media, and start the marketing campaign.
    • Start building the launch audience through e-mail addresses and social media.
    • Hire a professional video production company and photographer.
  • March 2018
    • Finalize the website, get other creators to evaluate the landing page, from the Facebook group “Kickstarter Best Practices”.
    • Narrow down the list of influencers, bloggers, journalists.
  • April 2017
    • Finalize the Kickstarter campaign page.
    • Get other creators to preview and give critical reviews of the page for improvements, from the Facebook group “Kickstarter Best Practices”.
  • May 2018
    • Write and refine the press release.
    • Establish the press release kit with logos, photos, videos, and more.
    • Start running FB and Instagram ads.
  • June 2018
    • Send the first cold-pitch emails to influencers.
    • Follow up with influencers 10 days later.
  • July 2018
    • Early in the month, plan a Thunderclap event.
    • Start a countdown & LAUNCH!
    • Blast the e-mail subscription lists.
    • Follow up with influencers within first 3 days of the launch.
  • August 2018: Campaign Ends, now the real work begins!
    • Funds are received 2 weeks after the campaign ends.
    • Open the website for pre-orders.
    • Place the first purchase order with the manufacturer.
  • Post Campaign timeline to be updated. Stay Tuned!
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