Original post by Stefanie Yu, Global Campaign Marketing Strategist at Indiegogo.
The COVID-19 (aka novel coronavirus) outbreak has impacted millions of lives throughout the world, and our heartfelt thoughts go out to members of the Indiegogo community who have been affected.
Beyond health and safety, the outbreak has also significantly impacted businesses worldwide.
You might find that your campaign’s shipping timeline is affected by the outbreak. As with any fulfillment delay, early and transparent communication is key. You should let your backers know as soon as possible if you think the COVID-19 outbreak is going to affect when backers will receive their perks.
Here are some strategies to get you started.
How to communicate delays caused by COVID-19
- Be upfront with potential shipping delays. Building backer trust is at the heart of crowdfunding. Make sure you are transparent.
- Explain how the current outbreak of COVID-19 is affecting your business. Not everyone is aware that the outbreak is a public health crisis worldwide and that it has a significant impact on daily operations in factories and logistics sectors.
- Announce the new schedule. Backers ultimately want to know when they’re getting their perks. Be sure that the new timeline you share is realistic.
- Express your commitment to fulfilling and delivering backers’ perks. Reassure backers that you appreciate their support and are working hard to address the issue.
- Change the shipping date on your campaign page. Check the perks on your campaign page. Make sure to change any posted shipping dates to reflect your new timeline.
- Update your FAQ section. Post any new information about how the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting your fulfillment schedule.
- Give backers a way to contact you. Provide an email address or other contact information so backers can follow up if need be.
- Be empathetic and compassionate. Backers will likely be disappointed to learn that they won’t be getting their perks when they expected. Take care in your wording and show backers that you care about their feelings.
What not to do
- Neglect to explain the current situation. Staying silent is the worst thing you can do with any unplanned fulfillment issue. Communication is key!
- Claim the situation is “out of your hands.” This is something in particular to avoid. It might be hard to predict what’s going to happen over the next few weeks, but you should be staying up to date on the issues affecting fulfillment. Show backers that you are competent, knowledgeable, and thinking about solutions.
- Fail to provide an upcoming schedule or potential solution. The new timeline is the most important part of your update. If you don’t share a new timeline, your backers will definitely notice, and they won’t be happy about it.
- Be non committal about fulfilling perks. Your backers chose to back your campaign because they trust you. This is the time to show them that their trust is not misplaced.
- Write your update poorly. Don’t send out a dry, terse update. Craft your update carefully. Take your time to give your backers the attention and consideration they deserve.
- Forgo details. Explain the situation and give your backers context. Many backers choose to crowdfund to get a window into the production process. They will appreciate elaboration on the circumstances around the delay.
Take a look at how these two campaigns handled their coronavirus updates and see what you can learn from them.
Here’s an example of what not to do
Hi backers –
We’ve been working post-campaign to build the [product] and have some exciting updates for you.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 outbreak the Chinese New Year holiday has been extended and factories and shipping companies aren’t allowed to open until early February or later.
This matter is out of our hands, as we don’t have control over the virus or the government’s decisions.
We hope you understand and thank you for your understanding and patience!
This update fails to provide a new timeline and says that the situation is out of the campaigners hands. Their update is terse, and it lacks empathy and consideration.
How backers reacted to a “bad” update
SERIOUSLY??? You guys will just use every excuse to delay shipping the stuff we rightfully paid for!!!!!! What other excuse are you going to throw at us?!?!??!
Here’s an example of how to do it well
Now, for contrast, here’s an example of a *good* update. You should model your own updates after this one.
Further Delay in Shipping due to the Outbreak of Coronavirus
Dear Acme Backers,
Once again, we want to start the conversation by saying “Thank you” for backing us and supporting us.
We had shipped a few units before the Chinese New Year holidays and by today, several super early backers already got theirs. We have reached out to ask help from them to post unboxing photos or videos if they can. Hope it can give all of you some confidence in us and also show our determination of delivering and shipping all the contributions.
However, the previous shipping plan of ours has been disrupted by the public health crisis – the outbreak and spread of coronavirus in China – completely unexpected. As many backers know, Acme Product is manufactured in Shenzhen, China, just like all other major consumer electronic products.
The Chinese government has announced an extension of the Chinese New Year holidays until Feb 10 to keep people staying at home, instead of traveling publicly back to work, as well as the closure of transportation ports, including international flights.
In the past few days, we have been trying to confirm a few key information, so we could shift our timeline accordingly –
> Our manufacturing factory will be back to work Feb 10th, if no sign that the virus continues to rise rapidly or spread nationwide and worldwide;
> Workers who traveled to Hubei Province, the state where the city Wuhan is at, are required to stay at home and not come to work until the isolation ends; This means all the workers who come to work are healthy and clear from the contagious virus.
> Production will most likely not be delayed too much – we will update the date once we hear a solid timeline for the assembly lines;
> Delays in shipping are expected due to postage shutdowns while the virus is being dealt with;
> At this point, we hear that all the international packages are hoped to be collected at the end of Feb. or early March, but this could be further delayed if the virus situation is still severe by that time.
This means the majority of backers will not have your Acme Product in any time soon, except for those who already got tracking info and an email tells you that “Your Acme Product is about to arrive.”
We are really sorry for keeping you waiting for so long!
However, we want to once again let you know our strong intention of fulfilling and delivering your Acme Product. We produced the product, coded the apps, and you will have what you pledged for guaranteed.
We are trying our best to limit the adverse impact on nation-wide logistic disruption and will try our best to sort out a solution. Soon we will release an update to announce a new, rough shipping plan and hope this public health challenge on China, and now worldwide, could pass soon.
We hope you could choose to stay with us, as we do intend to ship and build a smart doorbell that many of you want. Please, please give us some more time, because we are in this together.
Thank you in advance for your understanding!
See what they did differently? They thank backers, explain the situation in detail, provide an updated timeline, and assure backers that they are working to rectify the issues.
How backers reacted to a “good” update
Glad to read your latest update. Totally understood and accepted the inevitable delays due to the viral outbreak. It’s not just your company that is affected, but the entire country. Supply chain and logistics are all badly affected this period and its unprecedented. Shows how reliant the world is on China (being the world’s manufacturing hub). Stay safe and take care you guys!
Just wanted to say thank you for the update! You have nothing to apologize for, especially with this unforeseeable virus. The delay is completely understandable and I very much appreciate the detail in your latest update.
Communication is key
It doesn’t matter if the change to your fulfillment schedule is big or small: Under any circumstances, changes to your fulfillment schedule should warrant an update. This particularly holds true for a big event like the COVID-19 outbreak. Customer service, communication and transparency are key to your business’s long term success. The outbreak is unpredictable and difficult for everyone, and this is the time to show your backers that you won’t let them down.
Got any additional questions? Please join us for an AMA webinar on Friday, March 13th at 12:00 pm PST to talk about our suggested best practices on how to communicate with backers. Register for the webinar now.