(By Troy Price) I am amazed by the rewards that some podcasters offer at the top tiers of their Patreon levels. I have a background in professional fundraising and through my professional lens I see this trend as something alarming for the long-term stability of the support for some of my favorite shows. If you see a good deal of flux in the number of patrons at your upper levels every month, you are suffering what I am talking about.
Here is what I am trying to say in a nutshell: People give most frequently when they feel they are part of something larger than themselves. They find value that their contribution makes the show they love possible. They are the ones that give month after month, even when money may be a little tight for them. There are other people who give because of the rewards offered. They may give more for the perceived value of the swag or experience, etc., but they always need to receive that reward and if they become bored or dissatisfied with their reward, they give their money elsewhere for different rewards. What you want are people that give at your upper tiers of support who are giving to be part of the show and not because of the rewards. That way your show is receiving the most contributions in the most consistent manner.
There are time-tested approaches to this that will give you this result. Unfortunately, this is a process that does not offer quick results, but does offer predictable returns in about 18 months. Here is that process in three steps.
The first thing is to greatly reduce the barriers to entry for patrons to receive meaningful (not expensive) rewards at your lower levels. Think about granting full access to your back catalog or additional content at the $1 to $5 level. Allow those that offer you minimal support to more fully engage with your content. Having a large base of donors at your lower tiers offers more stable support with the potential of greater future support than committing to create new merchandise more frequently for those giving at higher tiers.
The second thing to do is cultivate all your current donors. Thank your contributors personally regardless of the tier at which they give. Mention them as much as you can on your show. Share how much their support means to you. Try to reach out to your donors at least quarterly with patron-only information.
The third thing is to ask the people who are giving to you already to simply give more. If you have people that are happily giving five or 10 dollars a month that feel good about the contacts they have received from you (they feel good about how you have cultivated them) about 25% of them will move up to the next tier of support if you ask them to. This response rate is not for the blanket request you put out on your regular show, but is a meaningful email or contact with the individual asking them to become a $20 dollar patron, for example. That response rate should also apply to all of your Patreon levels, if they feel good about how you have cultivated them.
Let me put this another way. Let’s say you have Patreon tiers of $1, $5, $10, $25, $50, $100. Of all the people in the world, who do you think is most likely to be you next person to sign up as a $100 patron? The answer is they are someone who is happily giving at the $50 tier now. Your next $50 patron is most likely a currently happy $25 patron and so on down the line. And these patrons are more likely to stay around than the patrons that jump in at the higher tiers for the sweet, sweet swag.
So, here are the takeaways from this. Incentivize people to join your lowest tiers on Patreon. Cultivate all your patrons with personal outreach. Then specifically ask them to move up to the next tier. This process will create a stable base of support of true fans motivated by the value of their support. These patrons will give you more support in the long run than fans motivated by the value of your swag.
Have any thoughts or questions about this? Feel free to comment below and I will respond!