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Running a minimalist campaign

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We’ve run a huge project before and it turned out to be a lot more expensive a lesson than we could have ever imagined (see here).

After The Name of the Wind (NotW), I was really skittish about doing a large project with a ton of add-ons, so we tried a different tact: Dragon Crate. Five pledge levels and that’s it.

Not the size in terms of dollars that NotW was, but it also won’t take a year of our lives to complete and leave us in debt.

Which brings us to The Goonies Playing Cards. After handling both kinds of projects, we decided to go with the minimalist approach again. We knew it wouldn’t bring in big numbers like NotW, but knowing that going in made it much easier to plan.

Here’s what the project looks like:

This is basically a combination of three different products: A limited edition deck, a standard deck, and a coin.

The Cons

  • Less Money: The final number will be substantially lower than what we COULD have raised with more items.
  • Less Hype: There is a certain amount of frenzy that goes with adding new items, crushing previous funding records, etc. that feeds a project and helps it get more traction.
  • Fewer Updates: Other than leaking images of the cards, there isn’t much to update about. And updates help promote engagement with your project.

The Pros

  • Higher Profit Margins: Making more money doesn’t mean you are making more profit, it’s actually the opposite for us. The more items we create, the more we lose economies of scale.
  • Faster Turnaround: With only three products to manage, we can execute on them much faster to fulfill rewards. There is also less risk of a bottle neck when all of the artwork has been completed before the project began.
  • Easier fulfillment: Every time you add an item to your project, you substantially raise the number of permutations for order fulfillment. This can create thousands of unique orders that can be screwed up by human error. However, having 1000 of the same order is what fulfillment centers are good at. And you’ll thank me later if you do it yourself and you can just print out 1000 labels because the weight is exactly the same on all of them (as well as customs forms if you’re doing international).

Sans International Shipping

The Goonies has given us a chance to try something that we always wondered about. What would our project look like if we didn’t offer international shipping?

We never tried it before because we had already figured out the best way to ship these (short of international distribution centers). It also didn’t make sense to upset our international customers.

We aren’t legally allowed to offer international backers our product because of our licensing agreement, so here’s what we’ve found so far.

The Cons

  • Disgruntled Backers: You can see in Facebook comments and messages that we receive that many international backers feel slighted. Those that didn't read the fine print think we're shutting them out on purpose.
  • Less reach: People are far less likely to talk about something if you’ve given them a chance to be excited and then taken it away because they can’t have it.
  • Funding: Roughly 20% less overall. Given our past projects, we’ve found that international backers normally account for about 20% of the total funding.

The Pros

  • Easier Fulfillment: No separate spreadsheets or customs forms.
  • Shipping Cost: It doesn’t matter what you charge for international shipping, someone is going to complain. International shipping is expensive and it sucks, but it’s not going away any time soon. No international shipping makes this a moot point.
  • Shipping Time: International shipping takes forever. We end up spending hours every week answering emails about why a package hasn’t arrived after 2 weeks (the process we use for shipping normally takes 4-6 weeks after a notification goes out, more if customs holds onto it).
  • Customs and taxes: Ever have to deal with a backer that didn’t realize they had to pay customs fees and taxes on top of their pledge and shipping? It’s not fun.

Summary

There are tradeoffs for running a project with fewer items and without international shipping. There is a steep opportunity cost on your time for adding more products, complexity, and shipping options so make sure that they are worth it.

While we wouldn’t mind offering the international shipping, the fact that we can't on The Goonies project has sped up our turnaround time significantly. While the project has a November estimated date, we’re actually shooting for something closer to August. This would allow us to run about eight projects a year instead of one or two like we did while waiting on The Name of the Wind.

Hopefully our customers are happy that they only have to wait 3-4 months to receive products and we’ll be able to create a much more diverse offering every year. The goal is to make something that everyone can get excited about. 

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