Stretch Goals Are Haggling

February 28, 2024 business crowdfunding

One of the biggest complaints new creators have is that they hate dealing with stretch goals. it’s a common customer complaint too, because if you do stretch goals wrong (you are), you’ll overburden your project and put yourself behind schedule, over budget, and cut your profits to nothing.

So why have stretch goals? What’s the point?

You’re doing stretch goals wrong

Stretch goals are not cool stuff we can do if we get extra money.” They’re not bonus content. They are a key part of negotiating the price of your project with your customers. What does that mean?

Let’s say you back on the first day (thank you — a backer on day one is worth more than one on day, two, etc. We’ll talk more about that later), this basically means you saw the value proposition of the project (“Get a book for $30) and you were sold. No negotiation, no haggling. You thought the deal was a good deal and you took it.

But what about everyone else?

For everyone else, there are stretch goals.

Stretch goals nudge customers off the fence

With every stretch goal the value of your product changes. It’s now not just a Book for $30. It’s a book + a patch. Or a 200 page book instead of a 100 page book. With every stretch goal, the value of your product increases and more customers get off the fence and take the deal.

This process is most obvious if you’ve ever backed a miniatures campaign. If you’ve ever thought to yourself This campaign comes with 100 extra minis. I’m basically losing money by not backing!” then you’re seeing that negotiation process at work.

And here’s the thing: many customers want to negotiate. Particularly with unproven products, which most crowdfunded campaigns are.

Design your product around the stretch goals

Most creators think of stretch goals too late in the game (like the week before launch). You should be designing your product with stretch goals in mind from the beginning. Not only to reduce time on the backend once you’ve funded, but also to create a more compelling negotiation.

Is there a block of content that would really make the book sing, but it’s not part of the minimum viable product? That’s a good candidate for a stretch goal. There’s an art to this: make your stretch goals too small and they don’t feel like earnest negotiations (“What if I gave you… $1 off?”), make them too big and they’ll feel unrealistic or unattainable (“What if I gave you a second car… for free?”). Good stretch goals are about making a good product great.

Content vs. Quality Stretch Goals

A trap you can fall into is to make all of your stretch goals about the quality of the product: thicker card stock, a bookmark ribbon, more illustrations. These can work, but when done intentionally feel like an admission that the core product is kind of shitty.

Content stretch goals, however, are exciting. They are a new thing. New minis, new chapters, new products, etc. They really do feel like the customer is getting something for nothing. It’s a great feeling.

My rule of thumb is to have one content stretch goal for every quality stretch goal. This has a good tempo during a campaign and gives you a little bit of room to work, particularly if your campaign is doing well. Because for you, quality stretch goals are likely easy, they’re often just a single e-mail to your manufacturer. But content stretch goals (particularly if you haven’t been designing them from the beginning) can drown you in work while you’re already navigating the difficult logistics of a crowdfunding campaign.

Why No Stretch Goals” Doesn’t Work A lot of creators try to reframe the entire argument. That they’re keeping this campaign simple, that they’ve given you the best possible product up front, that they’re being more responsible this way. And I’ve never seen it work.

Usually it’s just that the creator is a little nervous, or has had a bad crowdfunding experience with getting in over their head with stretch goals and doesn’t want to deal with it again. This happened to us after the success of Two Rooms and a Boom. We tried cutting out stretch goals on That’s Not Lemonade! and it fell flat. It forced us to rethink our entire approach to how we handle stretch goals.

But when you don’t use stretch goals it kills a campaign’s momentum. Your backers don’t have a reason once the product has funded to promote the campaign. You’ve hamstrung your ability to create a groundswell of hype, both organically and (if you’re doing them) through advertising. There’s no reason for backers (or prospective customers) to check the campaign again. Once they’ve seen your offer and declined, there’s no new information to convince them to back. You basically get one shot at every customer before they move on.

The Bottom Line

If you know you’re going to be crowdfunding your game, design your product intentionally around the tools you’ll have at your disposal. I don’t mean you should design your game around stretch goals. I mean specifically the product manifestation of your game.

For example: When Alan and I talk about components for a board game, we talk about things like what components will feel premium but not add too much cost. Are there cards that can be tokens? Are there tokens that can be plastic or should they be card stock? I’m talking about doing the same thing with your stretch goals (and pledge levels and add-ons and pre-orders, etc.). Just think about it when you’re putting the package together. You’ll have a better idea of what you’re aiming at and why, and you’re much, much more likely to pull it off.

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