Page Four: Reward/Reward your patrons (Part 1)
Who doesn’t like to get cool stuff? As a Patreon creator your job (at least on Patreon) is to make sure that your patrons are being taken care of and receiving value from the things that you create. Every Patreon page and fan base is unique, but there are some general guidelines that you’d do well to keep in mind.
Do you know what kinds of rewards your patrons would like to receive? If not, you may want to ask them. You may be surprised by what you learn, and get some ideas that you’d never thought of!
That said, not all ideas are good ideas. While it’s important to make your patrons feel appreciated, it’s also important to offer rewards that you are able to easily fulfill (rather than rewards that are going to take too much of your time/energy/money). Let’s consider what some good and bad rewards look like.
- Things that are digital
- Things that are scalable (able to be fulfilled regardless of the number)
- Things that don’t take too long to produce and distribute
- A Twitter shout-out or follow
- A crowdcast/hangout with multiple people
- Live, interactive feed of you in your creative process
- mp3/pdf/etc. files
- Behind-the-scenes footage
- Credits (by name) in videos that you produce (for higher levels of patronage)
- Titles (yes people are using these, and yes they work in certain communities!) A patron is given an honor (bronze level, silver level, gold level; private, major, corporal – or something more creative) for being a patron at a certain level, or for a certain amount of time
- Advertising on your website (or through tweets, etc.)
- Advance access to releases (also, while being a reward to your fans, you can also use this initial release to get feedback – what do they like about it? How could you make it better?)
- Coupons for merchandise
- Desktop wallpaper
- Access to your back catalog
- A link to your website
- Rewards that take too long to create/give out (personal videos, one-on-one chat sessions, things that you have to ship, etc.)
- Physical rewards, generally
How many reward tiers should you offer? How should you differentiate each one? I wish I could say that there are easy answers to these questions, but there aren’t. I’ll offer some suggestions for where to start and you’ll have to experiment with what works best for you and your patrons. Note that most fans are patrons at the $1 – $5 level, so these are the tiers that you should probably be most concerned with. That said, there are almost always super fans (or, at least generous fans with deep pockets) and I do think that it’s a good idea to create high patron tiers for these people (if people really want to help out, why not let them?!)
That said, there are very successful Patreon creators who prefer to keep things simple, and to focus on pledges/rewards as direct compensation for the work that they are already creating. In this scenario, you would not use reward tiers, but simply allow patrons to pledge whatever they’d like (again, either per/piece or per/month). My hesitation with this approach is that there are nearly always wealthier fans who are looking for an excuse to super fund your work! The reality, however, is that even wealthy people would find it difficult to “justify” pledging $100 (for example) for a podcast episode that they’re already getting for free. The higher reward tiers help people justify their support (it’s an interesting thing, but people always feel better doing something if there’s some reason (regardless of the validity of this reason!))
For those of you who are interested in reward tiers, let’s take a look at a number of possible tiers and what some rewards in each one might look like:
$1 – Possible Rewards
- General: Access to the patron-only Patreon activity feed, exclusive Instagram photos, access to a patron-only Twitter or Instagram feed
- Music: Digital downloads of mixed and mastered songs (perhaps before they get a general release)
- Web Comics: Advance access to comics that haven’t yet been published
- Video/Vlog: Transcripts of videos, early release of videos
- Podcast: Ad-Free podcasts, bonus shows
$3 – Possible Rewards
- General: Twitter follows
- Film/Video: Behind-the-scenes footage
- Music: Access to any demos, covers, etc. that you aren’t going to, or haven’t yet released, advance access to concert tickets, higher quality downloads
- Visual art: Digital wallpapers or other digital art
$5 – Possible Rewards
- General: Discounts for merchandise, digital copy of a book/something tangentially related to what you usually create
- Film/Video: Accept suggestions for future videos/projects
- Music: Behind-the-scenes tutorials explaining how to play your songs, karaoke/instrumental tracks for fans to sing along to
$10 – Possible Rewards
- General: Access to a monthly patron-only webcast where you answer questions or just hang out with your fans, behind-the-scenes insight into your creative process
- Music: Project stems and/or bounces with certain instruments muted (so the patron can play/sing along)
$50 – Possible Rewards
- General: Credit (by name) in the art that you create
- Music: Invitation to a meet and greet at a concert
- Film/Video: Producer credit in videos
$100 – Possible Rewards
- General: An annual personal video (for patrons who have been patrons for a year) for a birthday, anniversary, whatever, invite patrons to become part of your creative process (by asking for their feedback, whatever), email correspondence about anything
- Music: Write a song on a subject suggested by high level patrons (once a year, perhaps)
- Film/Video: Produce a video on a subject suggested by high level patrons (once a year, perhaps)
$1000 – Possible Rewards
- Music – A house concert next time you’re in town for a concert
- Film/Video – Executive producer credit in videos
- You will probably have noticed that most successful Patreon pages include all rewards for previous tiers in the higher tiers (so, if you are a $5 patron, you also get the rewards from levels $1 and $3). It’s important that you mention this on your rewards page (it should be spelled out in black and white, don’t expect patrons to assume!)
- If you can find meaningful images, it could be helpful to include unique images for each reward tier
- Again, giving each tier a name (bestowing titles upon patrons) can be effective depending on your community
- If you change the rewards in a tier, your patrons will not be deleted, but they will need to re-pledge to a new tier
- If you raise the dollar amount for a tier, patrons already pledging will continue to pay the old rate, while new patrons will pay the new rate
- When you post rewards to the Feed, be sure to mark them as “rewards,” to remind your patrons that what you are posting are the rewards that they have paid for
- For the really high tiers, you might want to consider including copy along the lines of, “Whoa. Seriously? I was kind of kidding, but I’m honored and humbled.” For most people, $1000 is a lot of money, for some people, it’s pocket change. You can pre-empt any possible negativity by suggesting that you created the high tier just for the fun of it.
Capping Reward Tiers
There are a number of reasons why you might want to limit the numbers of patrons you accept at any given level (this is usually done for the highest levels – $100 or more). Depending on what the reward is, you might only be able, practically, to fulfill a certain number of these rewards (a private concert at their home, for example). Another reason is that if you don’t put a limit to the numbers, you may find that you don’t convince any fans to jump in at this level. Why? Because of scarcity. When you limit the number of slots that you give out, an incentive is created for patrons to buy in while they still can. As long as you deliver on your promises, you’ll likely have a patron for life – once a patron (that can afford it) has managed to get into an elite club, they’re less likely to want to leave.
Once a reward tier is full, patrons will be able to get on a waiting list. This does not guarantee a spot should one become available, but it does mean that they will be notified once a spot opens up. Then it’s up to the patron to sign up for it. Also, you can open up more spots at any reward tier whenever you’d like.
What if You Make a Mistake?
As with any business undertaking, running a Patreon page entails a good deal of experimentation. What seems like a good idea one week may prove to be a terrible idea a few weeks later. Some early Patreon creators found out the hard way that the rewards they were offering were not good ideas (often, the rewards ended up taking too much time to fulfill).
So, what should you do? The first thing, obviously, is to do your best to not get into this situation in the first place (if you follow my suggestions, above, about good and bad types of rewards, you should be fine). If you are already stuck in this situation, however, how do you get out?
As with most things on Patreon (and, usually, in life), honesty and transparency are the best solutions. Admit to your fans that you made a mistake and ask them for help in figuring out a solution. Your patrons want to see you succeed, that’s why they’re supporting you! As with most relationships, showing humility and vulnerability, while difficult, often enables you to take your relationship to another level of trust. (Not that you should manufacture this situation, but this is true, and is one of the ways that good things can come out of difficult situations.) Another hidden benefit is that this will give you the opportunity to ask your fans what types of rewards they are interested in.
Ready to learn about the the Patreon thank you message & video?
Do you have suggestions for rewards that I could add to the above?
Other questions or thoughts? Please comment below!