Success with Pins as Promo Item?

I know I missed the boat on the alpha testing of Special Offers, but I’m working away at preparing a special offer for if the beta offering comes around soon (or to do a manual special offer).

Anyway, I was hoping those who used pins as their Special Offer promo faired with them?

  • Were pins motivating to your current patrons to bump up?
  • Did pins lead to higher than normal patron growth?
  • Did you find this worked particularly well with a certain demographic?
  • Any hiccups along the way? (in presenting artwork to potential patrons, to ordering the pins, or whatever)

For context, it’d be awesome to know:

  • What you create? and
  • At what pricing level you offered the pin to patrons?

For more than a decade, I’ve published a website on trail running. It grew from a personal running blog to a magazine’s mix of content every month as well as a source of on-the-ground coverage of the sport’s most competitive races. We launched on Patreon last December and it’s been a huge boost. It’s really changed the lives of the two full-time employees.

We’ve got big jumps in patrons at the start and when we’ve covered a couple of our most followed races, but I hope to use a special offer in our current long break between a big race we covered in early September and a year-end fundraising push. I was thinking of offering the pins at our $10 tier, but am hesitant at how motivating such a small item might be at that price level.

I’d love to hear any thoughts and experiences!

Happy trails,
Bryon

Ps. I’ve read through every single post in the Special Offers Community Forum and it’s already been incredibly helpful… and inspiring! :smiley:

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Hi @irunfar - I’m so sorry to have missed this post of yours last month! I wanted to chime in, and would actually love to hear if you went ahead with the promotion.

A few creators that I saw use pins well were @rebecca and @rppr and @steve. Maybe they can chime in here to talk about fulfillment and cost! Rebecca offered limited-edition lapel pins that were adapted from her other merch to patrons at a $5 level. Steve also had the pin at $5, but I’m not sure about Ross.

However, I don’t think $10 will be too high of a cost, but maybe you could add in another element to the promotion, like “$10 lets you vote on the pins and we’ll send them to you.” That way, there’s a build-in element of engagement that is also valuable.

One thing Rebecca also talked about was messaging her lower tier Patrons to let them know about the pins, and really rallied her community around the special offer. I think this is a great way to upsell patrons, and including patron testimonials and patron thank you’s throughout the process can be great ways to motivate without “selling.”

I think what’s most important is talking about it, sharing your goals with your community, and bringing them into the excitement of your offer. We’re coming up against the end of the year, so you could add this to part of a “year in review” and thank you to patrons to wrap up 2018. Let your fans know what you have in mind for this next year and talk about the big picture.

Let me know where you’ve landed! Sorry again for the delay here.

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Pin cost $1.65 per pin ($330 for 200 pins and I have some left over for future promos)
envelopes $0.16 per
mailing $3.50 domestic - pins are too tall to fit through an envelope slot so you have to use package costs.
I already had labels, which I printed out at home.

$5.31 to fulfill one $10 backer. Maybe 5 hours of work to ship out ~100 pins.

I had about 20 international backers and shipping was far more expensive (and varied from $10 to $25 or so depending on country) but each international backer was at the $25 level or had been a backer for a long time.

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I set mine at the $5 level as well and mitigated the costs a few ways…

  1. To reduce the per-pin cost, I created two versions of the die-struck metal pin - a golden one for patrons and a silver one for sale from my web site and at conventions. (I’ve wanted to create this bit of merch and wanted to create something really special but also wanted to have it available to monetize in the future - hence two versions. )

  2. I had just wrapped up a Kickstarter which involves me mailing many of my patrons anyway. So that eliminated the postage costs for most patrons.

  3. I let my few international backers know that I’d need to charge them extra for shipping (unless they were Kickstarter backers).

  4. It worked out that the deadline for my Special Offer was close to the end of the month. I use Charge-Up-Front which meant new supporters would be charged a second time very quickly so if the total production + packaging + shipping exceeded $5, it would likely be covered unless they dropped their support immediately (none did).

  5. I’m mailing ALL my patrons one of the pins. I hate hate hate when Comcast or some other service rewards new customers but not loyal, existing ones and I feel that people who have supported me at a $1 a month for two years should get a pin too. Only MBA’s think a new customer is more important than an existing one.

  6. By rewarding all my patrons with the pin, I can run this promo again in six months, rewarding only new patrons (existing patrons already got one so we’re good there) and enticing new on-the-fence fans to jump on board.

I’m thrilled with how the Special Offer turned out and am looking forward to running another one next year!

— Steve

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Thanks for the insights @steve! Sorry for my delay here, but this is an awesomely helpful breakdown of your process!

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It’s been a while since we ran our pin promo in late October, but I’d say it went very well. I can’t recall exact numbers, but we offered the pin at the $10 level and both a bunch of new patrons as well as a number of patrons move up to the $10 level. A few have left since them, but no mass exodus.

We offered a nice hard enamel pin to every one who joined at, moved up to, or was already a $10 or greater level. Including existing patrons greatly increased cost and time commitment. From a direct benefit side, it surely would have been better to limit the special offer as an inducement, but we felt it important to include all our higher level patrons. In the end, that meant sending out pins to nearly 250 patrons!

One little wrinkle that worked really well was that as we saw really good initial reception, I set a reach goal at which point ALL the qualifying patrons would get two pins rather than one. The pins only cost ~$1 each, with shipping being more expensive and the time commitment being costly as well. Including an extra pin in the package took negligible time. The promotion did, however, result in a big bump in signups.

The pins turned out awesome and, as noted above, were only about a buck each. Pin Game Strong delivered an awesome hard enamel product. A very small percentage had bent backs, so I’d suggest over ordering by 5%. (Not that so many were damaged, but to be safe. Also, while I did want to send previously damaged pins to our patrons, I felt comfortable giving them to folks who support us in other ways.)

I used these shipping instructions - https://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/196322/dmosinee-s-guide-to-convenient-cost-effective-pin-shipping - and I’ve not had a single note about a patron receiving a damaged pin. I used these “EcoSwift 100 Size #0000 4x6 Small Kraft Bubble Mailer” from Amazon and preferred bubble wrap with ~1" bubbles… far better than the tiny bubble bubblewrap.

I printed shipping… one by one on PayPal. It’s a bit cheaper than paying at the Post Office and you can do it from from. You can create custom shipping labels with postage here on PayPal - https://www.paypal.com/shiplabel/create/ . I do a bit of shipping for our online store and the Dymo Letterwriter 4XL is AMAZING for printing self-stick US mailing labels… that exactly fit the Size #0000 envelops noted above. Unfortunately, international pins need to be printed on a normal printer, cut out, signed, and then taped on.

Shipping two pins in the US was something like $2.20. Shipping internationally was gulp $13.30!! No bueno. We’ve got a lot of international patrons and this hurt. Total cost for one $10 per month international patron was $16, plus the 10-15 minutes of labor to do the label, customs form, and packaging. I’d hate to exclude international patrons from anything, but this would make me strongly consider not doing a special promotion… or any other physical reward bigger than a postcard or simple envelop with a couple stickers.

Also, while the packaging method described above worked amazingly well… it takes time, time that quickly adds up. There’s cutting the cardboard strips, cutting the bubblewrap strips, QCing each pin, placing the pin(s) on the cardboard, carefully placing the bubblewrap over the pins, taping all of that together, making each label, putting the label on, putting the pins in the envelop, and then sealing the envelop. It took myself and my other coworker a couple days to get these out the door. I suppose we’re at an odd size for something like this. If we were smaller with fewer patrons, well it’d just take less time. If were were much larger, we’d almost certainly have administrative or customer service staff or an intern or someone to take on that work, at least in part.

Long story short: We gained a large number of $10 patrons with the special offer. It was a low cost (<$5) of provision and fulfillment for domestic patrons. It was expensive (>$15) for provision and fulfillment for international patrons. It was A LOT of work to create labels for and package all of the pins. All in all, I’d say it was worth it, but (1) I’d be hesitant to offer a special offer internationally that would require more than standard envelop packaging (unless the special offer started at $25 or higher) and (2) I’d be hesitant to offer up any item for special offer that was difficult to package.

Patron Feature Dreams:

  1. Ability for a creator to correct a patron’s address. (Even if they’d receive a message that required confirmation.)
  2. Integration of Patreon’s patron address list with PayPal or USPS or another very easy option. Manually entering 250 addresses in PayPal to create labels… not so fun (but better than handwriting that many addresses… and later having to buy that many odd postage amounts at the post office).
  3. A pay Patreon to fulfill option… stickers, shirts, pins, posters. Stuff that Patreon could figure out how to ship cheaply and effectively. Long ago, I used a short-lived platform WeMailStickers to send stickers… and it made my life better. :slight_smile:
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This was so interesting to read! Thank you so much for sharing @irunfar and taking the time to write out all that you learned. I really liked your reach goal where everyone would get 2 pins instead of 1 and I think your patrons will feel proud wearing the pins out on their runs. I also think this point is something a lot of Patreon creators struggle with:

I’ll pass on your feature dreams to the product dream team :smiley: