How three creators ran successful Special Offer campaigns

By Mary Kinney

Photo by Jeremy Cohen featuring Jacqueline Chen of Chibird

By launching Special Offers, these three creators grew their membership and increased their monthly earnings. Get tips from a musician, an illustrator, and an astrophysicist on how to run a successful Special Offer campaign.

For singer-songwriter Rebecca Loebe, running a Special Offer was a way to meet a goal for her creative business: growing her loyal community on Patreon to 300 members. If done effectively, Special Offers — or, limited-time benefits — can dramatically increase your membership and engagement, something Rebecca found to be true. After offering exclusive enamel pins to her members, the musician reported a 23% increase in overall earnings.

To help you dream up what shape your Special Offer might take, find out how Rebecca and two other creators — astrophysicist Paul M. Sutter and illustrator Marshall Short from PrintableHeroes — approached their Special Offer campaigns.

Choose an enticing reward

A Special Offer can be anything you think your members would appreciate and find valuable enough to pay for, be it a special-edition piece of merch or something more experiential, like a social media shout-out or an invite to an exclusive screening of your next film. You know your community, fanbase, and personal capacity better than anyone, so take it all into consideration when deciding your Special Offer reward. What benefit would be fun for you to design? Do your fans love to feel a part of your practice? Add their names to the acknowledgement section in your upcoming book as a benefit. Or do they prefer something physical to show off their membership? Consider an exclusive badge, sticker, or merch. Whatever you choose, keep these tenets in mind as you plan your own Special Offer.

You know your community, fanbase, and personal capacity better than anyone, so take it all into consideration when deciding your Special Offer reward.

Offer exclusive access

Rebecca’s members already get special perks from her Patreon, including producer credits on her videos and seasonal postcards from the road. “They are the first to hear and react to my new work, they are an engaged group of truth tellers and soothsayers who inspire me to do my best work and then help me figure out what to do with it,” Rebecca said. “[They] get early — and sometimes exclusive — access to the newest things I create.” So, she needed to come up with a benefit that would feel different and extra-special.

She decided to offer a unique enamel pin for anyone who joined her $5 membership level. For the design, Rebecca used the logo from her most popular T-shirt design: a human heart with the words “Be Nice Dammit.” Plus, the pin had the bonus effect of signaling fandom. “It’s so fun to see people wearing their pins at shows,” Rebecca says, “like they’re part of a special club!”

The only way to get one of these pins was to join her Patreon, and this is one of the most effective strategies for Special Offers: offering a benefit that fans can’t get anywhere else.

Tap into seasons and holidays

Marshall, who designs print-ready miniatures for table-top role-playing games (like Dungeons & Dragons and others), has long been committed to keeping his artwork free for anyone who wants it. “I love table-top role playing games, but gathering up all of the materials you need to play can be a pretty daunting task,” he explains. “So I wanted to make that part a bit easier for people and create some fun art in the process.” Think printable cut-outs of zombies for your next game, artful trees to evoke a forest setting, and dungeon map tiles to build out your players’ next crawl.

Marshall had been shying away from the idea of exclusive content. But the Special Offer feature piqued his interest and he realized that for his niche, seasonal content would be alluring for his fans. “I didn’t want to go against my mission statement; I really enjoy creating and sharing my art for free,” Marshall said. “But, seasonality is a thing in my world, so it made sense that I could do a seasonal series, for example: offer Halloween and harvest-time-themed artwork, retire it after the holiday or season has ended, and bring it back again to celebrate next year.”

Marshall also had another element holding him back: his time commitment. So, he decided to use what he already had in his toolkit: his relationship with passionate members and superfans. As part of his Special Offer, he invited all of his members, regardless of tier, to comment on a Patreon post with their seasonal miniature suggestions like Halloween-themed monsters or whimsical wintry characters. The result? Many of his followers signed up to be members in order to make suggestions.

Listen to your community

Your fan base and members are people who get you and already support what you do, so consider the actions and messaging that excites them. If the opportunity to contribute to your next work of art would delight them, consider a Special Offer that gives them creative freedom, like the opportunity to add a minor character to your next game design. When Paul promoted his Special Offer, he made sure to say things like “Shows like ‘Ask a Spaceman,’ ‘Space Radio,’ ‘Song of the Stars,’ and more wouldn’t be possible without your kind-souled support,” because he knew it was meaningful to them to participate in the creation of his varied podcasts and videos. If your members would be interested in collecting all of your limited-edition merch, offer lines of exclusive collector’s items that they can sport at your next event. The possibilities are endless as long as you keep the interests of your fan base in mind.

Time your Special Offer with personal milestones

An astrophysicist by trade, Paul had been making videos and podcasts to share his love for and knowledge about science with as many people as possible. His Patreon page has clearly defined tiers to set expectations and foster community, and he was enjoying a slow but steady growth. He was actively promoting the release of his then-upcoming book Your Place in the Universe when he realized a Special Offer could accelerate his growth on Patreon by growing his number of members, and, in turn, his income.

Paul realized that he could turn his impending book release into a Special Offer in and of itself. Building on the promotions and engagement he was already doing for his book release, fans who became members and maintained membership from October through December would receive a signed copy of his book, plus the benefits that come with their chosen tier. Instead of competing with the milestone of his book release, his Special Offer added depth and connection to the project he was already actively marketing.

Instead of competing with the milestone of his book release, his Special Offer added depth and connection to the project he was already actively marketing.

Know what excites your fans

Marshall’s Special Offer was an opportunity to invite fans to participate in the art-making process using their creativity and passion. Because he knew his members and followers loved to actively participate in the creation of his minis, he posted his favorite fan suggestions and let members vote. Even more members signed up simply to be able to vote. Then, he started creating the miniatures and released them to his audience as he normally did, promoting the new art to his greater audience on his social feeds and networks. “I looked at this as an opportunity to create content I normally wouldn’t tackle, like jack-o-lanterns or snow monsters, things like that. It was a fun way for my fans to get involved in my decision making,” he said.

Promote where your audience is

The key to Special Offer success? An effective marketing plan. The idea of marketing yourself like this may feel a little awkward, but when you communicate what you are offering effectively and authentically, it won’t feel awkward to your audience—and it will get you the results you’re looking for. Your fans already love what you do, so think of a Special Offer as a way for them to get even more content or participation in your work. If you’re stuck on how to do this, consider how your peers promote their work and take inspiration from them. Remember: What you’re offering is valuable, and you can do this!

Spread the word across all your channels

Paul had been promoting his book on his social media feeds, his Patreon, his podcast, and his videos quite regularly. Once his Special Offer launched, he shifted his marketing to be about the signed book benefit. “I did all the things I’m already doing, but I focused the message on the book offer.” Paul says. “I told [my members], ‘Hey, in December, I’ll be carving out time for you as I sign your book, to thank you for joining me on this mission.’ Which offered an even stronger connection for my fans who are emotionally motivated.”

Consider a “surround sound” approach to membership marketing, using Patreon posts, podcast promotions, and all of your social media platforms so that both members and non-members are aware of your limited-time benefit.

Plan your promotions and messaging with care

Worried about messaging fatigue, Rebecca paused posting about her Patreon page on social media for a few weeks prior to launching her Special Offer so it wouldn’t get lost in the ether. Once her Special Offer was active, she made sure to regularly and heavily promote it on both her Patreon page and her social media accounts.

In the time before your offer launches, try mysteriously mentioning something “special” or “new” dropping on a certain date so folks know to keep their eyes peeled. Never underestimate the power of a countdown timer! Running a daily countdown to a special announcement on social media can be an excellent way to get your audience amped for your Special Offer.

Analyze your outcomes and plan ahead

After her Special Offer launch, Rebecca experienced a banner month garnering 38 new patrons (up 9%) and an almost equal number of increased pledges from existing members. While Paul had promoted his $10 tier Interplanetary Traveler tier, his Special Offer also led to new and existing members upgrading to the $25 Galactic Explorer tier, and even a couple of new $100 Universal Meta Consciousness tier members — earning $553 more per month. Marshall saw a 6% increase in members and $648 more dollars a month, and it gave him the proof he needed that he was onto something, and that his audience was enthusiastic about his work, from his Ask a Spaceman podcast to his book launches.

Because of their impressive results, each of these creators have started adding Special Offers into their rotation of promotions. Paul offered a second Special Offer the following May with success, Rebecca planned to launch another Special Offer once the first phase of her album release ended, and Marshall is hoping to recreate his success with some regularity for future holidays and seasonal events, using the same basic structure as his first Special Offer.

These three creators all tackled their Special Offers in different, yet effective ways, but they all took their audiences’ interests and needs into consideration and consistently and successfully promoted their limited-time offer. Inspired to try it yourself? Build a plan to launch your own Special Offer—one that’s right for you and your audience.

For more inspiration and tips for getting started, read about how to launch a successful Special Offer.

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