Changing (and Grandfathering?) Reward Levels

I’m not sure why it took me so many months of watching 90% of my pledges come in at the $1 and $2 level to figure this out, but I think I set up my reward levels pretty badly at the beginning of my campaign. Basically, what it comes down to is this: Most of what I have to offer my patrons - most of what I have the ability to “withhold” from them in order to encourage them to pledge at higher levels - is already available to people at the $1 level, so that’s where people are stopping. I post full photosets, of anywhere from 10 to 100 photos, for all patrons, and everything in the rewards for higher pledges is “extra” - calendars, “behind the scenes” photos, etc.

So naturally, I’d really like to “correct” the problem by resetting the reward levels, so that $1 patrons will only get a few select photos from each photoset, and you have to pledge at higher levels in order to get the full photoset. I would adjust the other reward levels upward appropriately, or perhaps mix and match; but the upshot is that I want people to pledge at least $3/month to be able to see full photosets.

But here’s the problem: I’m concerned that everyone who’s at the $1 level right now will be upset that I’m moving the goalposts, and taking away from them something to which they believed (correctly) they were entitled. So I have two related questions: 1) Has anybody done something like this before - “devalued” pledges to encourage higher sponsorships - and if so, what reactions did you get from existing low-level patrons?

And probably the more important question: 2) Is there some way to “grandfather” existing pledges, so that only new patrons have to pledge $3/month in order to see full photosets, and those who got in on the ground floor still get them at $1? That’s not my first choice, since I feel like it’s still leaving a lot of money on the table, but I do feel like it might be the “kinder, gentler” solution than just pulling the rug out from under everyone who’s already been at $1 for a while.

Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks!

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Hi there, ‘toplessinnewyork’

If I may offer my opinion:
I think having $1, $2 AND $3 tiers is not necessary. If you offer $1 and $3, with a clear value jump from the former to the latter, you might find more people are willing to pledge $3 than you had thought.

If you clearly explain to your current patrons why you want to offer more value at higher pledge levels, I imagine they will understand, ya know? You may lose a few, but better to do so now, then wait until you have many more patrons who would be affected by the change!

I notice you include all previous rewards in each tier. Perhaps you can just include the new rewards and say ‘Includes all previous rewards’ at the bottom? Sorry, that might not be clear. I’m doing that on mine, you can see there if that feels good for you: http://patreon.com/natemaingard.

Wishing you all the best, thanks for doing your bit for the liberation of our bodies!

Warmly
Nate

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I had a similar issue when I wanted to get rid of a $10 tier altogether. I was really concerned I would lose the two people at that level and potentially also lose the one at the highest level who also got that reward. Once I explained that the tier was not cost or time effective for me and that patrons could adjust their pledges as necessary, I was surprised that two stayed as is and one actually increased her pledge. I had to do it again when I ditched my $2 tier, but I put the rewards into the $1 level and gave them a heads up. The two at that level maintained their $2 pledge. Better to potentially lose a few now and possibly have some move to the higher tier to balance this out, than to have to figure it out at a later time.

I agree with Nate in all of the above. You might consider one weekly photo for the $1 tier, half of the photo set for the $3 tier, and a full photo set for the $5 tier (Plus the things you added exclusively to those tiers). There is a perception of value that goes along with different prices. If you see a photographer with a $1, $2, and $3 tier and another with a $1, $3, and $5 tier your mind automatically devalues the former and gives more worth to the second even if they are doing the exact same thing.

I also agree with adjusting your wording to make your tiers more concise. If you say “Includes everything at the previous levels PLUS:” then it is easier to find the allure and see the added value of the higher level.

Best of luck and let us know how the adjustments go!

Everything that has been said is spot on. I’ve had my Patreon for a year and a half now, and I’m in the process of changing my pledge reward tiers for the second time. As long as you explain to folks what you are doing and give them ample opportunity to adjust their pledges as they wish, they aren’t going to be upset. And if they are, they’re supporting you on Patreon for the wrong reasons, IMO.

Hi, gang - first of all, I always forget to sign off on these things because my username doesn’t include my actual, y’know, name. :relaxed: So, please call me Jeff.

Thank you for the valuable feedback! It really has eased my mind somewhat, and I do think that the overall theme here - that people will understand, if they don’t they’re not here for the reasons I thought they were, and I should do this sooner rather than later - is a pretty solid one. I may get some blowback, but I’ll deal with it as (and if) it comes.

I do also appreciate the suggestion to simplify/declutter my rewards by commenting that each reward level includes all the rewards from the levels below it, but at the moment, that’s not actually true. For instance, $250/month gets you the right to give input for a shoot, $500/month gets you a meet’n’greet after a shoot (but not the input), and $1,000/month gets you a ride-along on the actual shoot (but neither the input nor the post-shoot meet’n’greet). Even at the lower levels, there are some rewards you see once but never again - e.g., the “one full-size electronic photo” disappears once you qualify for the dozen photos from one shoot.

I might try to standardize that a bit as I do the tightening and devaluation that we’ve discussed, but I’ll have to see how it looks as I go along.

Thank you again - you really have been helpful!!

Jeff

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Oh, while I’m thinking of it - @Lochy and @kenna, can I assume you sent an email to your existing patrons when you changed your reward tiers, rather than posting a message for all patrons to see (where it would be memorialized for future patrons as well)?

And if you did, is there a chance you’d be willing to share the text of that message with me, so I can get a sense of how you expressed it? I have some thoughts, but I also don’t want to reinvent the wheel if you already did it well. I hope that’s all right. :smiley:

Jeff

(And if you don’t feel comfortable sharing it here, “publicly,” please feel free to email it to me at ToplessNewYork@gmail.com.)

I’m pretty sure I just IM’d the people it affected in the first instance because it didn’t affect many, but I did post it for anyone to see when I dropped the $2 tier. Here’s the link to that post.

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I also posted it in the feed (and messaged it via Patreon’s messages). Here’s that post:

Starting in December, the Modern Soapmaking Patreon campaign is being updated. You’ll notice changes on the Patreon page in relation to the introduction, sign-up process, and content that is posted.
The reward levels and milestones are also getting a change: most notably, all premium content on Modern Soapmaking will be able to be accessed here on Patreon without having to reach milestones.

Pledge Levels

Here’s the new pledge levels that will go into affect before January 1st:

$1 a month - Hey, Thanks!

You are a rockstar, and I can’t thank you enough for helping to keep Modern Soapmaking alive! You’ll snag access to the Patron feed where you get to weigh in on Modern Soapmaking content + projects, and get exclusive updates.
$2 a month - 100% More Awesome

A dollar is great, and two is even better! Join in on the monthly Live Discussion where you can Ask Me Anything (AMA) you want about business, soapmaking, or whatever you can think of. (Read previous Q+As here.)
Add in the above rewards, too!
$5 a month - Early Access

Get your hands on a monthly worksheet, business lesson, or soapmaking recipe/tutorial before anyone else!
Add in the above rewards, too!
$10 a month - Premium Content

Load up your learning superpowers by grabbing all of my premium content from http://ModernSoapmaking.com - like ebooks, templates, workbooks, and more! (See the master list of available downloads here.)
Add in the above rewards, too!
$25 a month - Suds & Success Workshops

Take a seat every month and get your Suds & Success on before anyone else. Suds & Success Workshops focus on successfully running a soap company, from someone who has been there done that, with handouts, hours of video instruction, and live Q+A sessions on each topic. Plus, you’ll get access to all previous workshops in the archives. (See the schedule + archives here.)
Add in the above rewards, too!
If you would like to change your pledge reward level, do so before January 1st! If you signed up after December 1st, but before January 1st, you do not need to do anything - these changes were applied to your pledge.

Milestones

Previous milestones were related to releasing premium content on Patreon. With the reward tier changes, all that content will be released moving forward.

The milestones will be changed to actual income level goals for Modern Soapmaking:

$2,250 Patreon fully funds Modern Soapmaking’s current expenses except my salary, including website hosting, email services, social media managers, guest contributors, studio rent, and accounting services.

$3,000 Patreon funds hiring a part time virtual assistant to help manage Modern Soapmaking. While I have been able to focus more on content creation because of Patreon, a part-time VA will help even more by handing off tasks like moderating the Facebook group, answering generic and support request emails, editing and scheduling blog posts, and filling up the social media queue. These tasks still take up about 30% of my time every week.

$3,500 Patreon funds expanded guest contributor content, allowing for current contributors to write more content and be paid more for that content, or bringing on new contributors.

The excess income from the Patreon over the budget of Modern Soapmaking and any sales from Modern Soapmaking’s website itself are put towards several things, including:

a new website for Modern Soapmaking (min: $10,000 needed)
more guest contributors ($100 per additional contributor)
savings for Modern Soapmaking (15% of sales)
my salary ($2200/month)

Monthly Posts

Here is an outline of what to expect on Patreon on a monthly basis in 2017:

One or more posts where you can weigh in on a topic, blog post, project, survey, giveaway, etc.
A Patreon Progress report
A Biz Lesson, Worksheet, and/or Soapmaking Related Piece of Content
A Live Discussion AMA (or two)
Suds & Success Workshop Related Videos/Webinars (two to three)
In the Roundtable discussion last month, some Patrons mentioned not caring about the Patreon Progress Report. I write these reports for two reasons:

Some folks do want to know where the money goes, so it’s a matter of transparency
There is always a business lesson to learn from under the reports: what works and what doesn’t, mistakes I’ve made, etc.
Most months there is more content posted here than the above, but like the Progress Reports, I think it’s important to be transparent and let y’all know what to expect!

On a side note, a very small number of Patron Exit Surveys (the survey Patreon asks you to fill out when you cancel a pledge) indicate disappoinment in the amount of content on Patreon. This is valuable information to me because it tells me that I have not marketed the Patreon campaign appropriately!

The goal of the Patreon content is not a lot of extra content or freebies, the content and freebies are extras as a thank you for supporting my work on Modern Soapmaking. Modern Soapmaking’s website and related content are why the Patreon exist. I understand that the Patreon methodology goes against the grain of typical structures. It’s my hope that you are a supporter on Patreon because you like what I already do and want to help ensure I can keep doing that. The description of Patreon being a “digital tip jar” is very apt!

I also post any updates and new articles here so that you can find all things Modern Soapmaking in one place.

And the message I sent to all Patrons:

Hello, lovely Patrons!

I wanted to send a quick & direct update in case you have missed recent posts. I have updated the Patreon Reward Tiers and Milestones, and they will go to effect on January 1st (or immediately if you change your pledge level or are new!). If you missed the update about these changes, please see here: patreon.com/posts/upcoming-patreo

The current content related to your current pledge level will remain in effect until December 15th. So, for instance, if you currently pledge $3 and have not downloaded the related ebooks, you will want to do so before then. On December 15th, the old $3/month tier will be deleted, and all related Patreon posts will be updated.

If you choose to update your pledge to the new $10/month level where you snag access to ALL premium content, you can do so at any time. The new releases to Patreon include two new class handouts, Pricing for Profit, and the new 50 EO blends compilation (totaling $118 in ebooks!). The total value of ALL content awarded for this new pledge level is over $330 - still quite a steal! If you wish to update right away, the new download is available here: patreon.com/posts/upcoming-patreo

The new Suds & Success Workshop tier level is the same pledge amount, but will result in more higher quality content than previously, and is no longer limited to 75 supporters.

If you choose not to edit your pledge level, it will not change automatically. Please check out the new pledge tiers and stay up to date! If you are unsure of how to edit your pledge, Patreon’s help file is located here: patreon.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/arti

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! I hope you all are having a fabulous month!

Kenna

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Thanks so much, @kenna and @Lochy, I really appreciate the further help!

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I just wanted to bring folks up to date…

On December 19, I sent a message to all of my patrons under the $5 level to let them know that rewards were about to change:

Good afternoon, kind patrons of the Topless New York photo series!

I wanted to let you know up-front that the rewards structure of my Patreon campaign will be different going forward. I take full responsibility for not getting it “right” the first time; in short, I overestimated how much patrons would value extras, and undervalued the main point of the series, which is the photosets themselves.

So henceforth, $1/month patrons will see a handful of photos from each photoset as I post them a few times a month. $3/month patrons will see a larger portion of each photoset. Only $5/month (and up) patrons will have access to the full photosets. Most other rewards will remain the same, but it was also clear that “shout outs” and the like were not all that important to anyone.

I don’t want you to view this as some kind of “bait and switch,” or as pressure to increase your sponsorship levels. I simply wanted to make sure in the future that new patrons would understand how much I emphasize the work of the photography series itself, and how crucial it is that I have the ability to continue doing that work of art and advocacy.

Thank you for your kind and generous support in the past, and in the future - and happy holidays!

Jeff
Topless New York

Then I did in fact change the reward levels - made them more meaningful as far as access to content, and standardized them so that (as a few of you had suggested) I would be able to say, clearly and succinctly, that each new reward level included everything in every reward level before it.

I didn’t get any responses by email, or comments on posts, as I thought I might. However, the same day I changed the reward structure, I got a new $10 pledge from a new patron. Within a couple of days, one $1 patron had withdrawn their sponsorship, but their “exit survey” indicated their financial situation had changed, and I’m not going to strain myself reading tea leaves.

Since I made the changes, I’ve also made several posts - the $1, $3, and $5 versions of each of two photosets, so that it’s clear how much more you’re getting than people at levels below you (and strongly implied, at least, how much more people at levels above you are getting than you are).

Yesterday, I got a brand-new $5 pledge; and today, the best news of all (at least in context with this discussion) is that a $2 patron increased to $5. So I think this strategy was effective, and thanks to some help from you guys, well-executed and relatively pain-free.

Thank you again for all of your support!! :grinning:

Jeff

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That is fantastic news, Jeff! Thanks for lettin’ us know how it went. :smile:

Just in the last few days, there was also an increase from $2 to $3, an increase from $1 to $5, and two new pledges of $1 and $5. So I have grown more in the past few weeks since making the change than I had in the previous couple of months, and I’m really grateful for all your patient guidance and suggestions!

Jeff

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SO happy to hear this, well done!

Well done!

So I’ve been thinking about changing not just the tiers, but the actual rewards themselves, i.e. removing some rewards and adding some different ones while also changing up the tiers. Our Patreon’s been active for 3 years, and a lot of stuff has changed since then!

So… does anyone have any experience with a dramatic reward change like that? Am I going to drive everyone away? Is there a way to avoid driving everyone away? Thanks!

@jc1 I used to have a $20 reward that gave players an opportunity to choose a scene for me to add to the game. I found that it ended up taking too much time away from working on the core content that matched my vision for the game, so I decided to end it.
I made sure to give plenty of advance warning including PMs to all patrons at that tier and I implemented the reward up to the cut-off point.

Once the reward was removed, almost all of my $20 patrons dropped down to lower pledge levels so it ended up reducing my patronage by maybe $100-$200/month. Still, no-one seemed angry or upset about it, I don’t recall getting any complaints and I think the $20 patrons all kept on supporting my work, albeit at lower reward levels.

Overall, I think it was the right decision - the financial hit wasn’t crippling and it was worthwhile to get back more creative control.

My advice would be:

  • Talk over the changes in a patreon post before committing to them. Set out what you intend them to be and your reasons for wanting to change, and let patrons give feedback on the changes.

  • Give plenty of advance notice - probably a few months would be ideal. You want everyone whose reward tier will change to have the opportunity to change or cancel their patronage before the changes are made. Make sure to use PM so people get email notifications.

  • It’d probably be a good idea to have a refund window for a few months after the changes are made, so that if someone’s disappointed with the changes but doesn’t check Patreon often and doesn’t realise they’re happening until it’s too late then they can get a refund for those last few months and aren’t out of pocket. Offering refunds might sound like a risky move, but I’ve found that if patrons are pleased with your work overall then they won’t ask for them even if you offer - I don’t recall ever being asked for a refund because someone was unhappy with my work, only when they’ve run into financial difficulties or if they accidentally pledged when they didn’t mean to.

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Lots of really useful advice here. I think a few months’ notice would really help. And including the patrons in the process via pre-commitment posts would also be a great way to help get this over.

I feel like the rewards are the least important thing in the drive – people seem to just want to support our site for intrinsic reasons – but I don’t want to disappoint any of the people who have been sticking up for us.

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