Guest Post: The Importance of Updates
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Dave Laituri and his son Calvin are responsible for several projects to-date, creating, launching, and fulfilling each from their garage. One thing their projects all have in common, aside from being in the Product Design category, is that they've consistently shared amazing updates with their backers. We asked Dave and Calvin to talk about how and why to use updates in the best way possible.
After running six projects of our own and helping out on about ten others, we’ve learned that project updates are much more than a broadcast tool to deliver your project's status information to backers — they’re an important component of the product you are creating.
We’ve learned from our backer’s feedback that being part of the process and having a behind-the-scenes view are a big part of what they like about backing projects on Kickstarter, so we put extra effort into making sure they learn a lot through our updates. After all, most backers are not necessarily creators themselves and appreciate whatever interesting bits of background information that you share.
Given their value, it’s worth taking some time before launching to plan out the sequence of your update topics in advance — it’s always good to be prepared! For some update topics beyond the obvious (but important) "thank you" or "shipping updates," consider these:
Most project ideas come from multiple influences — dig them up and share them! Help backers understand where your ideas come from. Whether there was a classic eureka moment, or just a lot of trial and error, every project has an interesting origin story, a first sketch, or an inspirational photo. We always show one of our first rough sketches to get things rolling.
Prototypes, tests & failures
It might seem odd to talk about failures, but it’s reassuring to backers to show that you've tried out a few things before settling on what you are launching your project on. On our Brdi bird feeder, for example, we made a couple of rough models that were complete disasters. Fat medium-sized birds landed on the feeder and they immediately tipped over… they would then jump off spraying seeds everywhere, and we ended up feeding more squirrels then birds with those. A re-think on the string placement and we were able to solve the problem. The only way to learn this was through trial and error.
How it works, bits & pieces
Depending on the project category (we’re in the product design space), sharing the mundane mechanics of how your project actually works is always interesting. Remember, most of your backers aren’t experts like you are, so they're always appreciative of even the smallest insights, even the ones that you might think are boring. On our 1Q project, we regularly shared photos of plastic parts and assemblies as they showed up from our manufacturer. It assured our backers that we were making progress, and they learned a bit about plastic injection molding, too.
Meetups and local get-togethers
Another way to build enthusiasm is to host a local meet up for people in your area to meet you and see, touch, and try out the prototypes, ask questions — and of course, get their photo taken with the creator. Backers seeing other backers interacting with the product makes it that more real. We helped out our friends at Lunar Design on their Belle-V ice cream scoop project, and mid-way through the project, they held an ice cream social in San Francisco where backers could try out the scoop in real ice cream, meet the team and see some of the early models.
Updates don’t need to be long essays — sending one about once a week seems to be about right and every project will have a different, interesting story to tell. Most important, though, is to use your updates as part of the awesome ‘package’ that you offer your backers supporting your project. By keeping them deeply informed, you are also investing in your community – whom you may need to call on later in the project if things don’t go as planned.