Launching an ICO is one thing, but making sure that it reaches its funding goals is another.
A common reason most of the genuine ICOs — that propose to solve a problem “non-blockchain” tech can’t tackle — fail is this: the lack of an ICO marketing strategy (and proper, timely execution).
Many dapp teams get so caught up in the logistics of the project that they fail to use the time leading up to the ICO launch to create buzz around it. And so when the token sale finally happens, very few people know about it. Which results in poor token sales.
While there’s no formula for a successful ICO launch, a few ICO success factors are prominent in all ICOs that sell out. Before we see what these ICO success factors are, let’s first see how you can generate the funds you’ll need for running your ICO.
Generating funds for running an ICO: Running presales
Running successful ICOs that raise millions takes anywhere between a couple thousand dollars to about a 100K or more. This cost includes everything right from the planning and execution of the ICO and its marketing, the costs needed for achieving the needed compliance to the listing fees on the different token exchange platforms.
Pre-sales — which is opening the token sale and selling some percentage of the tokens at a discounted rate before the main sale — is a common way to arrange the funds required to run and market the main ICO. Running a pre-sale might be useful for you if you have higher financial goals with your ICO.
Also, with a pre-sale user base, you don’t just get the funds to run a better ICO, you also get invaluable feedback and insights from your pre-sale user base you can use to improve your project before it opens up for public sale during the ICO.
Alternatively, you can go for an Angel funding round to generate the funds for launching your ICO.
With that, let’s now see the different ICO marketing tactics that will help you sell out your ICO token offerings.
1. A living breathing demo
A few years ago, blockchain projects could raise funding with just a slick whitepaper and a presentation.
But today, investors want to see more than this.
They don’t want to lose their money on a project that looks good on paper or in a presentation but doesn’t make a good “real” solution. They want to get a feel of the project before they decide to invest in it.
To run a successful ICO and convince your potential ICO investors that you’re serious about your project, you’re now needed (expected) to show your investors a demo (or at least a visual prototype) of how your project will function.
While a whitepaper details the functioning of a project, it’s never enough to help investors visualize how your solution will actually work.
Acorn Collective, a blockchain startup working toward its ICO event has placed the creation of a demo on the top of its list of ICO success preparation action items:
We recognise how important it is for our supporters to see something visual and tangible when it comes to our platform, and how its going to work. Our developers are already hard at work to produce and present you a prototype of the platform in the near future.
In another instance, ICOBuffer highlights how the availability of an almost workable product helped Tezos in meeting its ICO financial goals: “When the ICO was launched, the developers presented a practically ready project, which was ready to go into circulation from day to day.”
Ideally, your demo should be ready about a month before your pre-sale begins. This gives you enough time to market it to your pre-sale as well as general target audience.
Once you have the demo or a visual prototype of your product ready, here are the next few things that will ensure your project’s successful ICO funding.
2. Stellar marketing channels and collateral
Even a disruptive dapp idea and a talented team can fail to raise a successful ICO funding if they don’t communicate their message clearly and regularly. To secure this part, it’s important to create beautiful and easy-to-understand marketing collateral and a coherent communication strategy. Here are some of the different marketing channels/contents you need to work on to earn the interest and trust of your target crypto investors.
Website – Most dapp teams build great websites. But often it’s cluttered with jargon. It’s best to get a copywriter to clean up your copy so your cypto investors can clearly understand what it’s about and what problem you’re proposing to solve. Also, don’t forget to optimize your website for SEO. (Read point #7 for more on this.)
Whitepaper (Lite paper, Yellow paper, etc.) – A whitepaper is the single most important marketing collateral for an ICO. Unless you can write one in a way that answers all your users’ technical as well as commercial questions, it’s best to outsource the writing part. Also, be careful about not using too much jargon as it causes poor readability.
Blog – Your blog is where you’ll update your investors on the status of your project – for example, you can share news like getting listed on a platform. You can use your blog to explain decisions like choosing a particular blockchain over others or choosing a particular ethereum token standard over the alternatives. You can also use your blog to make announcements like the launch of bounty programs (and subsequently for announcing the winners).
Many blockchain teams also use their blogs to introduce their team members, explain exits, explain delays if any (or any change in the schedule of the ICO), post sections of their whitepaper, talk about the industry and so on. Most dapp blogs are hosted on Medium as it’s popular with blockchain enthusiasts.
Using a blog is a great way to boost transparency around your project development and helps prevent investor pushback in case of any delays or issues.
Social Media Profiles – Profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn help with content distribution. You can use these channels to share updates from your blog and other relevant company/industry news or engaging stories. In its efforts to find the factors of a winning ICO, cypto company RAD Lending Inc. found that successful ICOs have a Twitter/Facebook following in the range of 4000-5471.
Community/Forum Profiles – Reddit, Quora, Telegram, Bitcointalk.org, Bitcoin.com – Profiles on these forums and channels also help with distributing your company news and updates. They help with reaching and engaging with your potential investors. The number of Telegram followers is usually the most important from an ICO perspective as it’s the preferred communication channel for most crypto investors.
Email Newsletters – Collecting emails from the potential investors who visit your website is a great way to build an audience. An email list is a ready-to-market audience that wants to hear about your company updates and news about your ICO. Most ICO teams publish their newsletters on Medium as well, just so they can reach their followers who haven’t subscribed via email.
Having multiple marketing channels helps you reach different sets of audiences and build a rich user community for your ICO. And the more you communicate and engage your root users, the more investment you’ll attract.
3. PR Campaigns
PR campaigns help you place articles that talk about your ICO/project on leading blockchain websites. As many blockchain publications reach millions of readers every day, featuring on these publications lets you break into this audience, quite a few of which might be your target investors as well.
Running PR Campaigns is the fastest way to get your ICO exposure before audiences you don’t have direct access to.
But many ICO founders don’t believe PR to get any tangible results for their ICO (or project). But they can’t be more wrong.
Anti A. Danilevski, founder of KICKICO (with a successful ICO raising —- millions) says that hiring PR later in the ICO launch run-up proved a costly mistake. Danilevski didn’t start with PR campaigns soon enough as he always found himself wondering if PR actually worked: “How does PR actually work? Do articles in major, relevant media really drive any results?”
He found the answer too late after actually getting some PR done:
The answer is now crystal to me: Yes. After each major article about KICKICO was published, we saw tons of new people visiting our chats and groups. When I answered someone in the chat and saw 10-20 people come in at once, it became clear that someone had written about us somewhere.
Sure, running PR campaigns is expensive, but with a mix of coverage on a bunch of popular and niche blockchain publications, you’ll build massive brand awareness about your ICO and project and generate interest prompting people to join you on your Telegram or whitelist. And eventually investing in your ICO.
To start with PR campaigns, you can either engage a freelance PR person or a blockchain-specialized PR agency. Because the investment is huge, make sure to have a secure contract in place.
4. ICO audits
Getting your ICO audited from independent auditing companies/advisories or professionals makes it more trustworthy to your potential investors as they view as a seal of being a “non-scam”.
ICO audits don’t just inspire trust and confidence in the investors but also uncover any potential issues with your ICO.
At Kapitalized, when we perform ICO audits, we look at the following parameters among others:
- Whitepaper readability
- Commercial due diligence
- Legal structure examination
- Review of your token economy
- Financial model and forecasts
- Team member identification
- Business plan review
- Legal structuring
- Governance and oversight
After we audit an ICO, based on our findings, we tell if an ICO is genuine. And whether it’s backed by real people who have the experience to build the proposed solution.
We also ensure if the token economy structure makes sense and if the legal and governance structures are complied with.
From the investor standpoint, we investigate if investing in the ICO actually offers a large and disruptive opportunity.
A certification from a third party like ours reassures potential investors of their investment. Audited status gives a marketing boost to an ICO as it doesn’t just attract more investors and but also encourages the current investors to invest more.
To build greater trust and transparency, many blockchain companies publish their audit reports on their Github repositories directly. Here’s an example of the real estate dapp Brickblock publishing its ICO’s technical audit reports on its Github channel.
Consider getting your ICO audited and adding more transparency to it.
5. Conference marketing
When it comes to offline marketing, the best way to generate buzz about your ICO (or project in general) is to meet people at events or conferences and talk to them about your project. Meeting active blockchain folks helps you build a real following for your project.
In addition to helping you connect with real future users/investors of your project, you also get mentions in all post-event coverage. For example, many attendees and journalists of publications publish about (or quote) the speaker sessions on their websites. This helps generate more buzz for your project.
While many ICO founders (or teams) attend and speak at national and international conferences to bring more exposure for their ICOs, they often miss the local opportunities.
Local blockchain communities are also great places to find investors and evangelists for your projects. In fact, you’ll be surprised to know how the people you meet even locally can represent you at the other more famous events they attend.
To start with event marketing for your ICO, check out all the upcoming blockchain events here. Also, check out Meetup.com and find the blockchain meetups happening in your city. If you have a remote team, encourage all your employees to attend the meetups in their cities so they can market your project and ICO — this alone can 10X your results.
6. Bounty campaigns
Running bounty campaigns allows you to recruit an army of blockchain enthusiasts to market your ICO. Such campaigns add an element of virality to your promotions and can be really effective in bringing more people to your ICO website and social channels.
Marketing bounty campaigns include getting the participants to:
- Write and publish a blog post about your ICO/project
- Create and publish a vlog about your ICO/project
- Follow you on your social channels
- Join you on Telegram
- Prompt more people to join your Telegram channel
And so on.
Bounty programs might not look so effective but they are. For example, any time you search for a topic on blockchain, you’ll likely find at least one or two Steemit or Medium results on Google’s first page.
Now, here’s the kicker: A lot of these posts are actually posted by bounty program members.
Even though a Steemit or a Medium post on a profile (with few followers) might not be so valuable, but it’s good ranking will help you with exposure.
You can get great results with a bunch of such content bounty programs.
Forum marketing and social media marketing bounty programs are also popular with ICOs as they get blockchain enthusiasts to actually start and engage in discussions about your ICO all the while getting you more exposure and token sales.
Here’s a simple three-step process you can use to run a successful bounty campaign for your ICO/dapp. Just like bounties, even airdrops can help spread word about your project. See if you can run airdrops for your ICO.
7. Organic reach
Search engine optimization (or SEO) helps you get more exposure before audiences who are looking for the kind of blockchain solution you’re building. Or at least before people who are following the blockchain development in your industry.
For instance, if you offer an ICO running platform, you should optimize your website for the keyword “ICO running platform.” That way, when a dapp entrepreneur who is looking for an ICO platform to host his or her upcoming ICO and sell tokens, your website will show up in the search results. All these organic visitors are great potential investors for your ICO.
In addition to attracting investors, SEO also helps you get more coverage. Here’s how: Suppose you have a blockchain solution that offers KYC.
If you optimize your ICO website for the keyword “blockchain KYC,” people who want to learn about the term will be able to discover your solution with Google searches.
Now, if a journalist from a popular cryptocurrency publication decides to write about the blockchain KYC solutions, it’s very likely that they’ll discover your ICO website via Google and include it in their article.
If you don’t have the time, consider hiring an expert for a fixed number of hours to fix your website’s SEO.
Building organic reach for your ICO is even more important now with so many restrictions on running ICO ads.
8. Listings on ICO platforms (and calendars)
This one’s a pretty straightforward option but it gets great results. Blockchain enthusiasts routinely hang out on ICO listing websites to discover the latest ICOs. Most of these platforms have an “upcoming” ICOs section where you should list your ICO. Here are three such ICO listing websites that also offer free listings:
Many of these platforms also let you boost your listing’s visibility for an additional fee and get anywhere between good to great results.
Here’s a list with 100+ free and premium ICO listing platforms to list your ICO on.
Most of these platforms and other ICO blogs also have ad spots for sale. With most social media platforms blocking ICO ads, it might make sense to post ads on these websites as they have a relevant audience.
9. Online reputation management
Once the news about your upcoming ICO is out or after you’ve listed your ICO on the different listings platforms, you’ll notice some people posting comments or questions about your ICO or reviewing it.
These discussions about your ICO could happen anywhere on the internet and by anybody right from a Youtube blockchain enthusiast vlogger to an ICO platform reviewer.
Also, not all of this review/feedback content is genuine or positive. But this content ranks well when your potential investors look for keywords like “Your ICO name + review.” Which means, if a bad review (that’s also incorrect) goes without a response from you, your potential investors will feel less likely to participate in your token sales.
Quite a few ICO founders ignore such content.
Some dapp founders don’t even verify their profiles on the different ICO listing/reviewing platforms.
Needless to say, these things plant doubt in the heads of the investors.
To fix the first issue, you need to stay on top of what’s published about your ICO. To do so, set up a bunch of Google Alerts. With Google Alerts, you’ll get notifications each time your ICO is mentioned on the internet. Depending on the content posted, you can decide if you must respond, clarify, or simply thank for the exposure.
For the latter, if you get emails from the different ICO platforms to verify your identity, do so. It shows that you’re willing to listen to what people have to say about your project.
Besides, these platforms are great sources of feedback that you can use even post-ICO.
10. A good ICO platform
At the heart of a successful ICO token offering lies a solid ICO launching platform. It’s the linchpin of a successful ICO campaign that helps with the ideation, customer acquisition, and a successful token issuance and trading.
An ICO launching platform brings together the different people it takes to make an ICO a success — for example, token offering advisory and blockchain consultants, marketers, legal and compliance consultants among others.
You can certainly choose NOT to use an ICO launch platform but that would need you to work with a bunch of technology silos. You’ll lack a central dashboard for your campaign and will most likely struggle to get the different tools to speak to each other.
With the right ICO launching platform, you get access to the best technical, legal, and marketing resources and support you need to generate the funding. You’ll also have all the technical features you need for the ICO sale like the creation and issuance of tokens to assistance with listing on the different exchange platforms and helping with token liquidity.
BlockToken, an ICO platform we’re working on, built on the EOS blockchain network, offers such a holistic solution for running successful ICOs:
With our ICO launching platform, we want to help dapp entrepreneurs like you with:
- Issuance of security and utility token tokens
- Fractionalising and tokenizing assets
- Connecting with a global audience of crypto buyers
- Marketing the ICO offering through partners, brokers and media
- Complying with the regulatory solutions
- Integrated token liquidity and trading solutions
Check out BlockToken’s whitepaper on their EOS ICO Platform here.
Wrapping it up
Most ICOs with successful fundings hit their soft cap in a few weeks. A few sell out within minutes of launching. And a select few hit the hard cap as well in just a few hours. In contrast, some very promising projects don’t reach their funding goals at all.
So there’s no standard as to how much of your goals you can meet or surpass. Or, how long you’ll take to do the same. Every dapp is different as it solves a different problem, caters to a market, and markets to a different market size.
At Kapitalized, we’ve helped dozens of blockchain companies with their go-to-market strategy for their ICOs and more. And one thing that we’ve found to work always is a great use case coupled with a talented team. With the right marketing efforts, this combination always connects with the investors and raises the needed funding. If you’ve a dapp idea or if you need help with creating and executing your ICO marketing strategy, check out how we can help.
Also published on Medium.