When Crowdfunding Fails (in-depth case study)

Tom's Note: this is a guest post from Matthew Turner, the indomitable author of The Successful Mistake. I don't normally take guest posts, but Matthew's article hit a nerve with me as I've experienced a lot of failures in my life. If you've ever felt like quitting when things get tough, this article is for you. Read this. Bookmark the page. And then share with people you know.

As I looked at the screen, I knew I wouldn't make it. After all those months of planning...After hundreds of hours crafting emails, coming up with rewards, and writing my campaign copy...

After all the time, money, and energy spent putting my campaign together...

I realised my book crowdfunding campaign would fall short.

I. Would. Fail.

It hurt.

They say you shouldn't take business personally, but I did.

This book is my baby, and I put a lot of work into this campaign. I wasn't one of these people who woke up one morning and decided to crowdfund my book.

I meticulously outlined and perfected my plan, and I did everything I was supposed to do, so why me?

Angry and frustrated and swarming with sadness, I sulked and played victim for a few hours, but it didn't take long for my curiosity to take over...

  • Why did I fail?
  • What did I do?
  • What didn't I do?
  • Where did I go wrong... ?

That's what I hope to share with you in this post, and it's why I turned to Tom, because he succeeded with his crowdfunding campaign, and he's someone I turned to during my own book crowdfunding Project.

If you have a crowdfunding campaign on the horizon, I'm sure you're devouring Tom's content as well. And indeed you should.

But it's also important you see the other side of the coin: what failure looks like so that you can avoid the same mistakes I made. 

I don't have all the answers, but I'm able to look back and appreciate the mistakes I've made.

Hopefully, my own experiences will fill in a few gaps for you and help you find that slight edge that can push your crowdfunding campaign (or any project) to the finish line, successfully.


Crowdfunding is fast becoming one of the mot popular ways to fund and validate a project.

Not just with books, but every conceivable product, service, and business you can think of.

It's fantastic, and, done correctly, you cannot fail.

For instance, The Successful Mistake crowdfunding campaign failed, but the project itself is not a failure. I continue to write the book. I'll still publish it. I've learned a lot, and along the way found new readers and partners.

But it's important you appreciate the obstacles and hardships - because if you didn't already know, crowdfunding takes time, energy, and commitment. In fact, on a site like Kickstarter, 60% of projects fail.

The odds are stacked against you, but when are they not?

Most startups fail.

Most authors sell fewer than 100 copies of a single book in a year.

It doesn't mean you won't, but if you do fall short, it doesn't make you a failure.

So before we get into HOW not to fail during your next project, let's go over what did and didn't work during The Successful Mistake book crowdfunding campaign.

The homepage of The Successful Mistake crowdfunding campaign.
The homepage of The Successful Mistake crowdfunding campaign.
Crowdfunding "share the love" page.
The Share The Love Page I created, making it easier for people to share... well... the love.
Crowdfunding book stats
Behind the stats... who bought what, and the value of each reward tier.
Crowdfunding traffic statistics
It's always interesting to see which sites direct the most attention to your campaign. The Successful Mistake appeared on Producthunt.com = lots of traffic, little conversion.
Crowdfunding and Forbes
Good traffic from Forbes, and several sales in the 24 hours that followed this publication.

To provide context, I've interviewed 163 entrepreneurs for The Successful Mistake (Tom Morkes included). As such, I have a lot of people invested in this book, so I expected a snowball of sorts. I figured this group of people would pledge and share, bring together numerous communities and tribes, which would not only get the ball rolling, but excite the press... strangers... social media...

This didn't go according to plan, and we'll discuss the reasons why soon (and most important, how you can avoid them). For now, let's delve into the numbers after the first few days of launch, and unearth what did go wrong:

  • 904 Page Views in the first four days
  • 219 Click on the trackable Bit.ly link
  • 54% of click have come from the UK
  • 29% via the USA
  • 9 Backers (1% conversion rate based on page views)
  • Facebook provided the vast majority of traffic
  • Twitter, not so much
  • 25 FB Likes
  • 25 Tweets
  • 37 People have watched the main video
  • 24 Visits to the Successful Mistake Share Page
  • A total of $264 raised

Clay Hebert says the difference between a successful and unsuccessful crowdfunding campaign boils down to two aspects: Traffic & Conversion.

If you compare the total number of social shares I received (160) to successful Publishizer campaigns like Jeremiah Gardner's (1,100), Mr. Tom Morkes (324), and Ryan Hanley's (632), it's easy to see why I never built momentum.

It isn't solely about the number of shares, because conversion matters, too, but your first step is to find them.

The fundamental reason The Successful Mistake crowdfunding campaign failed is lack of traffic.

This surprised me because I had 163 people involved in the book who have their own communities and tribes, and with genuine reason to share, buy, help, etc...

Why didn't they?

There must have been a reason, so let's spend the rest of this post delving into WHY they didn't, WHAT I did wrong, and HOW you can ensure you don't make the same mistakes.


Not everything went wrong during this campaign.

Overall, feedback remained positive regarding the Cover Design, the Book's Premise, and the Publishizer Page layout. Appearing on Product Hunt and Forbes brought decent traffic, and although conversion remained small, I sense it was down to a lack of momentum rather than design or optimisation.

Your opening few days are vital because if you fund 25% within the first 5 days, you're 5x more likely to surpass your total.

Tom's Note: I've read similar statistics from Kickstarter that a project that hits 30% funding has a 90% chance or greater of funding...although my feeling is that momentum / velocity is a key indicator of success, which is why the first few days are so important.

This means your early adopters are an imperative piece of the puzzle (whether that means your family, mailing list, 163 entrepreneurs who you feature in the book, etc.), because if they drive enough early traffic, they remove the barriers that keep strangers on the fence further down the line.

Which means all the decent press I received towards the middle and end of the campaign was pointless because I messed up during those first few days.

In fact, it started long before this, which is a good place to begin our analysis:


What I Did For My Crowdfunding Campaign:

The Successful Mistake crowdfunding campaign launched in February 2015.

I spent January touching base with everyone featured in the book, and during this time I re-launched my podcast - inspired by the book and its interviews - and sent the following messages:

Email 1: 6th January = A recap email overviewing my plans and when the campaign would launch.

Email 2:11th January = A Video Email - a personal recording for each person.

Email 3:16th January = A Thunderclap themed email aimed at gathering social shares.

Email 4:22nd January = A Podcast themed email announcing its launch.

Email 5: 2nd February = A Launch Day email sharing the project page.

5 emails within a short timeframe, and this is something I tossed-and-turned over. Trust me, I spent the holiday season going back and forth.

I didn't want to annoy people, but I also knew I had to start this campaign in style.

You can see the emails I sent Tom Here: Email 1   I   Email 2   I   Email 3   I   Email 4   I   Email 5  and for the most part I kept them short and sweet.

Out of 163 people, only two replied saying, "Dude, come on. Enough with the emails!"

I'll be honest with you, something didn't sit right with me during this period, and I ultimately gave into my fear and pushed too hard. But they say you need to hustle and do what you need to do, so I kept true to my plan despite feeling icky.

I should have listened to my gut feeling, because I now realise I treated this group of amazing entrepreneurs poorly, and although I made several mistakes during this campaign, it's THIS that dug my grave

There was a fundamental issue with:

  1. What I asked for
  2. What I offered in return
  3. What I did (or didn't do) during the previous 6 months
What I Should Have Done For My Crowdfunding Campaign (& What You Will Do):

Instead of cramming 5 emails within a few weeks, I should have started this process much earlier.

I committed to running this Publishizer campaign in November 2014, an entire two-and-a-half months prior to launch. This is the moment I should have touched base with everyone featured in the book, updating them about my world and saying, “If I can help you with anything, let me know.”

In an ideal world, I’d have done this six months before launch, which shows how dangerous rushing your campaign is.

Rather than send your typical written email, I encourage you to consider a Video Email, too, for these were the messages that brought the most replies… conversations… and overall good times.

Instead of sending a swarm of messages mere weeks before launch, I should have sent Tom (and everyone else) a message like this in November.

Remember my fundamental issues?

  • What I asked for
  • What I offered in return
  • What I did (or didn't do) during the previous 6 months

A pre-Christmas video like this would have solved all these issues, because I'm reaching out to say hello and to offer a helping hand/support.

I have nothing to sell. I have no favour to ask. It's a genuine and meaningful message, and it's sole purpose is to start a conversation. I'm no longer that guy who gets in touch only when he needs help.

Instead I'm a dude reigniting a relationship and beginning a conversation, a vital point - for once a conversation begins you can discuss your idea/project in more detail, PLUS in a more natural manner. With this in mind, here's what my plan of action should have looked like:

Email 1: November 2014 (ideally sooner) = A Video Email saying hello and offering a helping-hand/support in the lead up to the holiday season

Email 2:January 2014 = A second Video Email asking about their New Year, updating them on The Successful Mistake plans, and if they can help in a specific way (more on this soon)

Email 3: 2nd February 2015 = A launch day email that links to the campaign and asks them to share the love (refusing the temptation to ask them to pledge/buy) I know this sounds time-intense, but it isn't.

When I sent all 163 video emails in January, it only took me one hour each morning for five consecutive days.

Tom's Note: I completely agree with this strategy. The key is starting WAY before you need anything - months or years in advance. I can say of what success I've personally had is due 100% to helping others first long in advance of asking anything in return. Then, when the time came, I didn't hesitate. Yes, it takes time and effort to do this - and many people will take you up on your offer to help, so don't over promise what you can't deliver - but it's worth it in the long run.

I've added a video below that demos how you can do this for FREE and in a matter of minutes.

The point is to use these three emails to start conversations instead of asking for favors.

If you wish to do this by written form, do so. If you prefer to write letters or jump on Skype, fine. The point is to lay your foundations well in advance, offer a helping-hand, and refuse the urge to ask for anything in return.

These pre-launch emails serve a single purpose: SPARK A CONVERSATION!!

With this you'll learn more about the other person, they'll learn more about you, and as launch day ticks closer you're in a genuine position to ask for help.

For reference, here's a video email demo.


What I Did For My Crowdfunding Campaign:

Although the press I received (Forbes, Product Hunt, Copyblogger) didn’t bring the conversion I’d have liked, it did boost traffic and introduced the book to lots of new people.

This is fantastic, but it comes back to the role your early adopters play, because why would a stranger pledge towards a project that’s only 20% funded with a few days to go?

There are too many reasons to say no, which is why those first few days are oh-so important.

If you remember what Clay Hebert says, it’s about Traffic & Conversion. Good press brings good traffic, but conversation only comes if your early adopters lay down the gauntlet.

Tom's Note: I think relevant traffic is key. I've done quite a lot of guest posting. Some for very big sites. I've even been mentioned / featured on sites with million+ readers per month (true story). Guess what drives the most consistent traffic, with the highest conversion (in my case, conversion means signing up for The Resistance Broadcast)? Not the big name websites you'd think...it's the small, niche websites with ENGAGED audiences that always lead to the best traffic and conversion (and, subsequently, best new fans and supporters of my work - woohoo!).

The point I'm trying to make: think about who you're targeting. Don't focus on big name websites or whatever, focus on relevant niche blogs / podcasts with engaged audiences...I promise, it makes a big difference.

As such, it’s important to get relevant press for your campaign, but ideally not in the first few days. You want all that juicy new traffic after your snowball’s gathered speed, but we’ll come back to this soon.

First, let’s uncover what I actually did to get the press to take note:

  • I created a list of Publications I wished to be feature in
  • I outlined specific posts/articles, emailed journalists, followed them up, and kept on pushing
  • I researched podcasts and introduced myself to lots of hosts, producers, and owners
  • I asked those I know (aka: those who appeared in the book) to help

I believe the time I spent researching who to target and where to appear was worth my while, and the way I created specific topics/articles/ideas for each was, too. However, if we look at how I appeared in Product Hunt, Forbes, and Copyblogger, it was via an introduction.

  • Dorie Clark co-wrote the Forbes article with me.
  • Brian Gardner introduced me to the editors at Copyblogger.
  • Paul Kemp helped me get on to Product Hunt and reach lots of like-minded individuals.

Creating a list of relevant and high-traffic websites, publications, and podcasts? Good!

Outlining specific articles, ideas, and topics? Awesome!

Emailing them and following-up and hoping for the best? Not so much!!

This is where my network of 160+ inspiring entrepreneurs could have helped, because many of them write for sites like Inc, Entrepreneur, The Huffington Post, et al... A vast majority know podcasters and journalists and folk with popular sites, and had I started a conversation with them and asked for specific help further down the line... boom!!

What I Should Have Done For My Crowdfunding Campaign (& What You Will Do):

Like I said, there wasn’t much wrong with my planning.

Here are a few screenshots of my Evernote notes dedicated to The Successful Mistake crowdfunding PR Train:

Evernote notes for my crowdfunding campaign
A look inside my Evernote notes for my crowdfunding campaign
Evernote to organize crowdfunding campaign
More notes...

Further insight into my crowdfunding campaign (notes taken via Evernote)

I encourage you to plan and research the most relevant sites and publications for YOU.

I used tools like Buzzsumo and Alltop to hone in on the places that attract my audience, and from there you can craft specific ideas based on their style and guidelines.

You don’t need to create a huge list either, because you only have so much time to write guest posts and jump on Skype. It isn’t about appearing everywhere, rather the right places that offer the most bang for your buck.

Once you narrow this list down, it’s a question of: Who can connect me with the right people?

Some questions that will help:

  • Where have your friends written/guest posted in the past?
  • Who are they connected to on Facebook and Linkedin?
  • Do they have a Blog/Podcast themselves?
  • If they could introduce you to three people, who would they be?

I had 163 people invested in my book, most of whom could introduce me to somebody relevant.

I'm not saying you should reach out to people with an ulterior motive in mind, but it's okay to ask for help so long as you go about it in a respectful manner. This is why starting a conversation is important, because you take the time to warm up before you call in the favours.

It's also a fantastic time to check who those you know, know.

  • Are they friends with a journalist that writes for a publication you've targeted?
  • Have they guest posted on a blog you love?
  • Who are they connected to on Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook?

With this in mind, I should have sent Tom (and everybody else) an email like this:

Hi Tom, hope all is well. How's the first draft of Collaborate coming along? Let me know if I can help at all.

Just a quick favour, because I know you're friends with Dan Norris. I believe The Successful Mistakee and 7 Day Startup share a common audience, and I've one or two ideas I think would be a good fit for his Blog/Newsletter.

Would you be able to introduce me to him? Hoping to have a quick Skype Chat and share my ideas.

Cheers, Tom. Speak soon.

** Click Here to Swipe This Email Template **

I received excellent traffic through a few vital introductions, but I didn't place enough focus on this, instead hoping those I know would introduce me to their own communities. Poor Form!

Tom's Note: I'll recommend doing one even better. Keep it short and sweet like above, but also have a quick 3rd person intro for yourself, something the relevant party (me, in this case) can copy and paste and send to the person you want an intro from. This makes my job even easier, and because I'm incredibly lazy, it's more likely going to happen in a timely manner. Assume most people are almost as lazy as I am, and you'll have a better chance of getting an introduction.

Once you start conversations with people, consider who they know and who they can help connect you with. This aids in your quest for traffic, although it may not provide the conversion you need. For this, we look at our final section...


What I Did For My Crowdfunding Campaign:

I assumed those who feature in the book were my early adopters.

In a way they are, but it’s unfair to expect too much from your family, friends, colleagues, and everyday network…

They will help, but don’t place all your eggs in their basket.

I know this may sound simple, but your true early adopters - those who set your snowball in motion - are those who are part of YOUR community (aka: your mailing list, Facebook group, etc…).

I knew this, so why didn’t I place more emphasis on these people?

Sure, I messaged them and involved them, listened to their feedback in the run-up to launch. I try not to sell much via email, instead using it to share content, value, and build better relationships...

This is fine most of the time, but when it comes to a big campaign these people are your soldiers. These amazing individuals are the ones you lean on, and because they voluntarily follow you (and because you provide massive value 90% of the time), they help you build momentum.

I had everything backwards, preaching and harassing those I know, and passively asking the folk on my email list to buy and share and help. I did so because I was scared: scared people would unsubscribe, leave negative feedback, say no…

Here are a few examples of the emails I sent to my mailing list, and I’m sure you’ll see my fear shine through.

Tom's Note: Yeah, I'm not going to lie. This is a really difficult email to read. It should have been about 5% of the size and gotten to the point (i.e. what I care about as a reader, not the author's story. Take notes here - longer is almost never better.

Email Example 1:

Happy Wednesday to you, The nerves are starting to rock-and-roll here at Turndog HQ. As you know, next week is The Successful Mistake's Big Crowd Publish Launch. I began asking for your advice about this campaign way back in November. I started to write the book and bring the many interviews together in October. But this journey first got underway nearly 1,000 days ago. Almost three damn years. That takes me to a time before Kid Turndog was born. It takes us to a time before we probably knew each other. I blogged back then, but compared to the work I do today, it isn't even close!   1,000 Days Lead To This I've no idea what will happen on Monday morning, or how the following thirty-some days will go. We could raise thousands or mere pennies. People may flock or simply not care. I'm scared and nervous and excited, but above all, proud. I feel lucky to have those around me, and the support I get each day. It's been an incredible ride, and in many ways it's only just begun. I don't have much to offer you in this week's Wednesday email of whimsey, except thanks and virtual high-fives.  Tomorrow morning, I publish a blog post that introduces The Successful Mistake Crowd-Publish Campaign to the world, and I want to share a snippet with you now. After all, you've been here from the beginning, so I owe you a great deal. Here's a sneak peek into tomorrow. I hope you like it...   TOMORROW MORNING'S BLOG POST Nearly 1,000 days ago, I ended my Skype call with my buddy, Arnold, and leaned back in my chair as an idea sparked to life. A rather simple idea which matured, evolved, and transformed into a world-changing project. This idea was, of course, THE SUCCESSFUL MISTAKE, and after nearly three years of interviewing the world's most inspiring minds, I edge closer to sharing it with the world. But before I do, I invite misfits like you to join the fun, and help transform this book from good-to-great. On Monday morning, The Successful Mistake Crowd-Publishing Campaign begins on Publishizer - an up-and-coming platform set to disrupt the publishing industry.Today I'd like to share a preview of what awaits, and offer you a chance to grab advanced access to the campaign - a full 24 hours before the rest of the riffraff. First, let me share the opening story that appears on The Publishizer Page... "Over the past two-and-a-half years, I've interviewed 163 Successful Entrepreneurs about their biggest business mistake, and how they transformed it into their greatest idea yet. As a new entrepreneur myself, I sought the advice of every business owner I knew, because I had no idea what to do. Everything scared me. I worried about failing, and setting the wrong prices, and saying the wrong thing. I had a to-do list as long as my arm, but feared each item on it. The thought of making a mistake crippled me. I brimmed with excitement, and knew I'd made the right decision, but this didn't keep the terror at bay. Maybe you're going through this right now... Maybe you remember it oh-so well... Maybe you've overcome the initial struggle, but this fear rears its ugly head every now and again... I sought the advice of others, because those who had been there and done it would know how I feel. They welcomed me with open arms, too, and shared stories and tips and advice. Only, they didn't focus on their success stories, rather the times they failed, fell short, and made a mistake. 'How odd,' I thought. 'Why would they share the bad times with me?' Because they weren't bad times at all, but important times. They were valuable lessons they needed to go through, and I realised mistakes are often the catalyst to amazing ideas. I thought about my past mistakes, and all those stories about failed inventions that lead to new products and breakthroughs. The Successful Mistake was born out of curiosity, because I NEEDED to hear the stories from those I admire. A book, where I bring over 150 #GreatMistakes together, wouldn't only help me, but countless other new entrepreneurs, too. It isn't just about entertaining and inspiring stories from those who dominate their industries, or the tips and tricks and patterns I've unearthed along the way, or how they can help YOU avoid the most common mistakes. Oh no, It's about understanding mistakes happen, and that if you embrace them, fight them, and are conscious of them, you don't only overcome them, but transform them into your greatest idea yet. Of course, this only scratches the surface of a book like The Successful Mistake…"   WOULD YOU LIKE 24 HOUR ACCESS BEFORE EVERYONE ELSE? We're all set for next week. There's one or two little things to do, but everything's scheduled, ready, and raring to hit the shelves. Jesus, how has February come around so fast? How am I so nervous & excited at the same time?!? Those on The Successful Mistake Mailing List get access to the Crowd-Publish Page a full 24 hours before everyone else. Just because you get these Wednesday emails doesn't mean you're on that list, so if you'd like to be part of it and have a chance to grab the limited edition goodies before the rest of the riffraff, CLICK HERE. If you're already on the list, don't worry. It won't let you sign up again, and I'll send you the important access-all-areas email on Sunday morning.  I'm so excited to have you part of this journey with me, and here's to a rocking few weeks of spreading the word far and wide. I've no idea what will happen, but I suspect there's cool twists await 🙂 Have a top Wednesday, and please hit reply and let me know how your week's going so far. Have you something that's exciting and scaring the hell out of you, too? If so, share it with me. Let's be scared and excited together. Cheers, yo. TURNDOG GRAB YOUR ADVANCED ACCESS BY CLICKING HERE

Email Example 2:

Happy Monday morning to you,EEEKKKKKKK the big day has arrived, and my tummy rocks and rolls and twists and turns. This isn’t my first big launch day. It won’t be the last. Something about it feels special though, like it possesses a defining quality that could determine my future.

After all, The Successful mistake isn’t any old book, but one I’ve spent nearly three years working on. I’ve not only interviewed 160+ successful entrepreneurs, but formed connections and friendships with them. It’s more than a book, because it’s offered as much wisdom as a business school could.

I’ve no idea whether other people will love this, but I do. It’s changed my life, and because of this, I wish to do it justice! It’s why I’m so damn nervous.


I’ll keep this email short, because who has time for a long Monday morning read?

Instead I’ll share two links with you, and let you decide what to do with them:



You’ve listened to me whittle on about this book for months, so you know whether it’s a good fit or not. It won’t take long to peek at the limited edition rewards and decide whether you want them.

You know your friends, and if this is the type of book they’d like to read. If it is, share it with them. If not, no bother.

That’s all there is to it. Thank you for being you, and for reading, and supporting, and being here. I appreciate you, whether this book is a good for for you or not. I hope you have a fantastic start to your week, and I hope you’ll hit reply and tell me all about it.

I’m off to have a nervous breakdown / celebrate. See you on Wednesday 🙂


I’m not saying I should have harangued these people with spam, but I should have taken a more direct route. I should have also spent time building my rather small community, which brings us to…

What I Should Have Done For My Crowdfunding Campaign (& What You Will Do):

As soon as I touched base with my friends and entrepreneurial brethren via Video Email, I should have placed HUGE focus on building my email list, Facebook following, and so on…

There are many ways you can build your tribe:

  • Guest Posts
  • PR Campaign
  • Adverts (Facebook, specifically)
  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Speaking

I didn’t do any of this, instead focussing my attention on The Successful Mistake launch period. This period is important as we’ve already discussed, because Press/Media drives vital traffic.

But none of it matters unless you build your early momentum, and considering your tribe drives this, it makes sense you build it beforehand.

If I could go back in time, I’d have done the following:

  • WEBINAR PARTNERS = This is something I'm currently doing, and it's helped build my email list. The key is not to run webinars on your own, instead collaborate/partner with another business/individual. Consider the brands who already help your audience, and think of ways you can provide added value in the form of a Webinar. They already have a community of people you desire to reach, and this is a fantastic way to reach them.
  • GUEST POSTS = In the same vein as above, connect with those who already reach your audience through a blog,  newsletter, or forum. Something I'm currently doing is writing a Guest Post for those I partner on a Webinar with. Not only does this advertise the webinar, it connects you with their community twice - in two separate, but highly relevant channels.
  • FACEBOOK ADS = Online advertising is a huge game, but I sense Facebook would have brought me the biggest return. However big your budget, Facebook provides an affordable means to reach a specific and relevant audience. A perfect place to build pre-launch momentum.

Of course, this is a balancing act. Writing guest posts and preparing a webinar takes time, and this comes whilst you touch base with your friends via a video email - Let alone the actual campaign you're preparing for.

As such, don't overcommit yourself.

Saying this, I could have easily written a handful of guest posts and partnered with a few brands on webinars. Targeted properly, this could have added hundreds, if not thousands to my mailing list at a time when all eyes were on a single Successful Mistake prize.

Which leads to our next tip, because if you're reaching a whole host of new people all at once, make sure they get the same information via a common gift:

  • Chapter from your book
  • PDF worksheet
  • Video Series
  • Behind the scene content
  • Secret interview
  • Private webinar/hangout

There are numerous ways you can provide value via a content upgrade, but make sure each Guest Post, Interview, Webinar, and Facebook Ad points to the same gift. You can create a separate landing page for each one, and bespoke it slightly for different audiences, but be sure to give all these new people a common product.

Why? Because these are the most relevant people in your community. They may be new, but they came across you whilst you spoke about your upcoming campaign. They're ready and primed to set your snowball in motion, so make the most of it.


If you’ve made it to the end of this post, congratulations.

I wanted to open up the complete process and provide you the keys to the castle.

This is what I did, where I think I went wrong, and what I’d do if I could jump in a time-machine.

I want you to succeed, and hopefully my words help you find that extra 10% of success.

To recap:

  1. Your success centres around Traffic & Conversion
  2. Building early momentum is paramount
  3. BUT your friends and family aren't the ones who necessarily build this...
  4. ... Your own community/tribe is
  5. Start the process early, especially with those in your existing network
  6. Personalise your message and get in touch for the right reasons (consider Video Email)
  7. Help and support them, and begin that all important conversation
  8. Once you start this, ask for specific help further down the line - press & media opportunities in particular
  9. Don't forget to build your Email List at the same time
  10. Create a relevant gift they can download - and prepare/excite them for launch

But please-please-please don't see my campaign as a complete and utter failure.

I made mistakes, fell short of my goal, and let myself down, but I didn't fail. I learned a lot from this campaign, and whatever happens with your project you'll learn a lot, too.

If it falls short, so be it.

Sulk, cry, eat a bar of chocolate...

But then pick yourself up and learn, push forward, build your platform, and make it happen.

This is for you.

This is your baby.

You only fail if you give up, which, of course, you won't do now that you know what mistakes to avoid (at least I hope not).

If you do happen to have any further questions, add them to the comments below. I'm excited to connect with you and learn more about your future campaigns and projects.

Matthew “Turndog” Turner is an author, Brand Storyteller & Speaker who spends each day Discovering, Creating & Sharing Inspiring Stories. His upcoming book is THE SUCCESSFUL MISTAKE: a story about overcoming your #GreatMistake and transforming it into your best idea yet - featuring many of your favourite entrepreneurs.

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9 comments on “When Crowdfunding Fails (in-depth case study)”

  1. Thanks for sharing this post...as a rabid fan I quickly read it because I knew the advice included would be very valuable (proving some of the points in the post!!).

    There are many things that make us stop in the middle of shipping...and most of it leads right back to our fear of failure. With my clients, I ask them if they are also afraid of success - undermining their own work because if they are successful they have raised the bar and need to live up to a new set of expectations, new client needs and more. This is a push beyond their comfort zone.

    This is a bravely written post in the name of sharing and helping others move beyond. I have taken notes and added 6 new points to my plan - most relevant to my situation - reaching out to my current audience to start providing help now.

    1. Hi Lora, thank you so much for your words.

      And I like your take on success, too. Fear of failure is huge, but fear of success can be as well. Like you say, success takes us out of our comfort zone, so it truly is a rocky adventure in its own right.

      Glad you took a few notes from the post. Hopefully it helps both you and your clients moving forward 🙂


  2. Hi Matthew, hi Tom, thank you both for sharing.
    Kind of wow, oh gosh. I am almost right into the middle of my crowdfunding campaign and I feel I can check most of the mistakes you talked about.
    And this is not my first crowdfunding campaign. I thought my main community, the would-be-early-adopters, were going to be the ones that backed the former campaign, plus the people who purchased the product later on or was gifted with it, the vast majority of whom said they were so delighted with it, and asked whether would there be a 2015 edition? We are going to miss it! So well..
    Both campaigns were aimed to crowfund a cosmic calendar, the StoryStellArt. 2016 edition is more complete, more beautiful, more... more. It's also a different product, because it's a different year. I got at least 140 prior backers / product lovers in the specific email list.
    So... why did I lack momentum?
    Still reflecting about it, though in my case, besides some of the mistakes Matthew shared, two stand clear:
    - nobody is thinking about a 2016 calendar at the beginnings of summer. No matter how beautiful, different, or how lovely people think it is. They will purchase it later on in the year. No need to hurry, six months to go. Bad timing then.
    - even though I had some of the paintings and the main concept ideas defined and explained, there was no pic of how the calendar will look when the campaign launched. Because I was still thinking about it, designing and prototyping at the time (and still am, but now there's more to be seen... and tomorrow I will improve it!)
    Here's the link to the campaign (20 days to go on Tuesday), in case you want to check it out: http://vkm.is/storystellart2016. Both English and Spanish.
    In the meantime I'm gonna keep on working in it, learning and improving.
    Thank you again and have a nice summer!

    1. Hi Vanessa, thanks for your comment.

      Lovely calendars, too. You have a fine skill-set. Lovely. Lovely.

      Yes, timing is often the key to everything. It's hard to get in the mindset of 2016 because there's so much life to live between now and then. But the New Year is such a hopeful time for many, that if you're able to tap into that hope and excitement, maybe your backers will start to gather some pace.

      It's hard though, but like I say in the post, and like you say, too, there's plenty of lessons to learn, and I'm sure whatever happens with this campaign, it won't stop you from producing those wonderful calendars.

      At the very least it will be big stepping stone, but with nearly 20 days to go... you have plenty of time to make it happen.


  3. Loving the comments, all.

    Keep them coming, and if you have any questions, let me know. Happy to delve further if you have a burning issue of sorts.