As the ICO market continues to build up momentum well into 2018, commercial and retail investors are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of putting their money into the various projects popping up across the blockchain ecosystem. With software giants such as Telegram gearing up for their own multi-billion ICO’s, it seems as if the time couldn’t be better for offering a token for a round of public fund-raising.
Yet that’s far from the whole story. By the end of 2017 around three ICO’s every day that were closing down, unable to meet their funding requirements. For every successful and profitable launch in the marketplace, there are just as many stories of teams failing to reach their soft cap. Companies that are serious about breaking into the marketplace with a new token need to give up on the “Garage ICO” mentality and become serious with their fundraising efforts.
For those of you seeking to do such a thing, here are a few things to keep in mind when marketing your initial coin offering to the world.
Getting The Foundations Right
The backbone of any crypto-tech proposal is the white paper, the main document that investors read to decide if your idea has what it takes to succeed. Your white paper, alongside your one-page summary, website, and other materials need to communicate a professional, investor-friendly image to readers with the intent of making the project more attractive and promising to them.
As 2018 goes on and ICO’s draw the increased attention from players of the traditional financial world, an increased standard of professionalism will become expected of these projects going forward.
Another beginning step that ICO organizers need to undertake is to make sure that they place information about their upcoming token releases on special calendar sites. There are countless resources online where you can publish your planned ICO schedule.
Just some of these ICO calendars include;
Know Your Buyer Personas
With all that set, the next hallmark of a successful marketing campaign, whether in the blockchain space or the brick-and-mortar business world, is understanding who your potential investors/buyers are. Called a buyer persona by traditional marketers, it’s vital to know the motivations and pain points of your end-users as well as their interests and even the sites they visit. This information will be used late in conjunction with other marketing efforts to best target and entice prospective investors to learn more about your project.
Traditional Marketing Versus Growth Hacking
When marketing an ICO to the public, it’s important to keep in mind what we should not be doing. For one, a traditional marketing mindset is one where you’re trying to make others want your products as opposed to making a product people already want. Traditional marketing is a world dominated by large companies with extensive marketing budgets and paid advertisements across dozens of different media channels.
For the ICO that’s trying to secure funding, simply throwing money at your marketing department is a game that you can’t win. Instead, guerilla marketing (or growth hacking as it is also known) is the idea of losing low-cost or free alternatives to traditional methods, stressing data-driven decisions, viral marketing, and clearly defined sales funnels for a much more cost-efficient solution.
Within the context of an aspiring ICO, a guerrilla marketing approach will take advantage of several different strategies that cost much less than traditional advertising.
The Inbound Approach
Almost every company serious about increasing its web presence, SEO rankings, and organic lead generation will utilize some form of inbound content marketing. The idea is that by producing quality, content over a consistent period of time, a company will receive a compounding level of organic traffic. This content can be published on a company’s blog or it can be displayed on content sharing platforms such as Medium or even other Blockchain websites.
Social Media Marketing
Getting involved in social networks and the various cryptocurrency communities are invaluable for a successful ICO. Below are the bare essentials for any project to be actively involved in.
Facebook, with its user base of over 2 billion accounts still remains a significant tool for social marketers. With the ability to evaluate the various sizes, statistics, and demographics for various keyword searches, it’s easy for data-driven growth hackers to find out which specific groups of people to target for the greatest return on investment.
The only snag is that Facebook recently announced that they are dialing down on advertisements for cryptocurrency projects, binary options, and ICO’s, described by Facebook Product Management Director Rob Leathern as services “that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive practices,” according to a blog post on the topic.
Some companies have been getting around this restriction by specifically avoiding terms which are forbidden. Advertisements that mention “c-currencies” instead of “cryptocurrencies” are able to skirt this restriction, however, it’s up to individual teams to decide whether this tactic is skirting on a morally grey area.
Telegram is another major social media and messaging platform that has become a major player in the blockchain community. With over 100 million active users and 15 billion messages daily, Telegram’s channel allows businesses to send marketing messages with no limit on contact list size, as well as letting a company track how many customers are viewing their messages – perfect for the guerrilla marketing approach.
Google Adwords is an advertising platform within Google that displays your ads at the top or bottom of search ranking pages. As a direct form of paid advertising, Adwords can become costly in the long run, and for the budget-strapped ICO, it would be smart to use paid marketing strategies as a supplement to a smartly implemented, holistic marketing campaign.
Free Coin Offers
When an ICO is first starting off, it’s hard for it to build up an initial investor-base that’s excited about what the project can do. It’s also a big challenge to acquire enough early network participants so that you can kick off the positive effects that a token needs for long-term sustainability.
Enter the concept of the “airdrop.” The basic premise is that a blockchain project will distribute free tokens to the crypto community for the sake of raising awareness of their project. It brings otherwise unknowing members of the community into contact with the ICO, and if targeted to the right people/community, can lead to a viral effect where new fans of your product go on to inform their own networks of their newfound tokens.
Another idea that encourages community participation in your project is token bounties. These are rewards (such as free coins) given by ICO start-ups to individuals who perform various tasks such as pointing out bugs in the website, spelling errors, promoting an ICO on social media, or some other contribution. In a way, bounties and airdrops help cut costs on paid promotions and aid the development a loyal community of supporters who, hopefully, will go on to be evangelists for your product.
Working With Influencers
Influencer marketing is an idea that has been around for decades. Celebrity endorsements of products have the power both raise awareness as well as influence others to make purchasing decisions, as marketing executives have found out so long ago.
In the context of marketing an ICO, the influence of a potential influencer for your project really breaks down into two separate categories – reach and credibility.
Reach would be described as how popular or far-ranging their influence is. People such as Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, and most recently, Floyd Mayweather would all be described as having a far reach and are able to put their message out to millions of people. But at the same time, just because Floyd Mayweather endorsed an ICO doesn’t mean that you will listen to his opinion. Especially considering the recent SEC charges against the ICO endorsed by the champion boxer, being popular doesn’t mean you are necessarily an expert, which brings us to the second component of influence…
Credibility. Experts, gurus, and industry veterans in the blockchain world are nowhere nearly as popular with mainstream society, but their opinions certainly hold much more weight within the community.
Although it’s tempting for ICO’s to seek out the immediate impact of a wide-reaching influencer (and the massive spike in interest that comes from that), that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s best in the long run. It’s arguably better to play the “long-game”, earning the respect of the various industry experts and veterans who will then share their opinions with their networks. It might also be harder to get in touch with a wide-reach influencer and certainly would be more expensive as well.
As the blockchain community continues to grow, evolve, and adapt to the changes that are sure to come throughout the rest of 2018, ICO’s striving to market their new projects should know that they will need to take things to the next level in order to compete for the funding they so earnestly need. With a professional image and a smartly executed approach, a successful ICO launch can still be a realistic expectation, rather than an overambitious pipe-dream.
Also published on Medium.