Almost $6 billion was raised from Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) in 2017, and the 2018 figure already looks set to dwarf that. Of course, with all the hype around ICOs, the market has become much more crowded. ICOs are definitely still in their ascendant phase, so there’s room for your coin out there, but expect to face some stiff competition. Multiple ICOs open and close each day, and to make your ICO stand out, good marketing is essential.
Of 902 ICOs in 2017, 142 failed before their offerings, and a further 276 failed somewhere further down the line. That’s about a 48% success rate. Those aren’t insurmountable odds, but it’s important to bear in mind that the success of your ICO is far from a dead certainty.
Again, having a good marketing strategy will help you lengthen those odds and give your ICO the best chance of succeeding. You might have the best product in the world, but if people don’t hear about it, and they’re not convinced by it, then your ICO is going to be a flop. It’s as simple as that.
So, how should you go about ICO Marketing?
Know the rules and regulations
Just on a brief note, it’s important to start by familiarising yourself with local rules and regulations before you launch your product. Not part of a marketing strategy per se, knowing the rules and regulations is nonetheless a crucial part of your overall launch. Needless to say, if your ICO isn’t compliant, it probably won’t go far.
So before you embark on your marketing strategy, do some research into ICO rules and regulations in your geographic area. For example, if you’re in the US, make sure to check with the Securities and Exchanges Commission whether or not your ICO is considered a tradable security.
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Research Your Market
Once you’ve established that your product is compliant, it’s time to research the market. Market research is the first step in the marketing process for any product, and ICOs are no different.
There are essentially two options when it comes to ICO marketing – outsourcing the process to an agency, or attempting a DIY job. Both options will cost you, but hiring professionals obviously cost substantially more. This guide assumes that you’re attempting to market an ICO yourself, or with a small team. Even if you’re hiring a team, you should read on; when hiring it’s still useful to be familiar with the process and have an idea of the workload involved.
Doing it yourself will involve a lot of market research. Any marketing strategy entails conducting its own specific market research, but if you’re coming at ICO marketing fresh, you’ll need to do a decent amount of homework beforehand. Even before you carry out targeted market research, you should read up on ICOs. Start with every Subreddit you can find on Blockchain and ICOs, and follow the research trail on from there.
After the background research, you should start with some more specific research on investors. Make contacts and conduct interviews. Carry out surveys on populations of potential investors using a free tool like Survey Monkey. You can carry out scientific market research if you like, but even getting a subjective sense of your market will help with planning your strategy.
Plan the strategy
Once you’ve researched the market generally, along with your targeted market, it’s time to plan your marketing strategy. Beginning to market your ICO without having a marketing strategy is like charging into battle without a battle plan.
There are various strands and aspects to ICO marketing, so to plan your strategy, it’s best to start with an overview of all of them. For a start, your website is the foundation of your ICO marketing. As with any product in the digital age, the website serves as your anchor and constitutes the most visible aspect of your product from the investor perspective. It’s therefore vital to the longevity of your product that you lay solid foundations in the form of a well thought out website.
Your website is where people read your message and where trust is first built, so make sure not to cut costs or skip corners. Your message should be broadcast in the form of a clear, transparent white paper. It’s important to write at least a first draft yourself, but if you’re not a natural born writer, make sure you hire a freelancer to tidy up the text. It’s also important not to copy text from other white papers. By all means, do your research, but ripping off another ICO white paper is a cardinal sin and a sure fire way to guarantee the failure of your ICO.
The website itself should be sleek, well-designed, and professional looking. Again, if you’re not confident in your front end design skills, hire a cheap professional from an online platform to give the site a once over. Your website should feature pages or sections describing your vision, a roadmap, your schedule of events, and a clear call to action. You should also feature an easy email sign up and link to all your social media accounts. If you feel like you can pull off a professional looking video, then that’s a great extra feature to include on your main site.
Your ICO website should of course be search engine optimized. SEO is crucial for any website, and your ICO is no different. SEO is often ignored as a part of ICO marketing, but it shouldn’t be – good SEO is the key to a healthy, flourishing website, and is therefore also key to the longevity of your product.
Once you have your SEO optimised website up and running, you should focus on media outreach and PR more generally. This is the heart of marketing and there are hundreds of ways to promote your product and reach your audience.
Press releases are important
Again, these should be professionally written and 100% polished. Nothing says amateur more than a poorly written press release, so don’t skimp on time and money when it comes to writing these crucial documents. You can certainly find good free listings, but to feature on top-tier sites, you really should expect to pay. When planning your budget, allocate a good chunk of money for paid listings. Coin listings on top-tier sites also cost, but in the long run, being listed on a trusted site will pay off. If you only feature on free sites, you’ll be setting your sights fairly low and shouldn’t expect massive interest.
Guest posts and articles are a great way to spread your message and gain access to captive audiences. Do your research and find sites that might be interested in an informative, well-written article linking to your product. Again, do make sure that the article is actually well-written and informative.
Social media marketing is obviously another important aspect of your marketing strategy. The crypto community is usually very well informed, and their support can make or break your ICO. Gain public favour by knowing your stuff and being highly engaged in the community. This should be a dedicated, 24/7 job – if you can afford to hire someone – great, but if not, allocate a large chunk of your time to managing your social media presence. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are important, but you’ll find a more discerning audience on Reddit, Telegram, and on specialized forums.
Pay per click (PPC) ads and email marketing are more problematic aspects of ICO marketing nowadays. MailChimp has banned ICO marketing, and Google is banning ICO advertising later this year. There are still opportunities out there, but ICO marketing in 2018 will require more out of the box thinking. In terms of email marketing, it’s important to build a quality opt-in email listing through your website.
Finally, you should consider the physical aspect of your ICO marketing strategy. Even in 2018, and even with cryptos, the non-digital world remains an important realm for marketing. ICO marketing, more than any other type of marketing, is about building real trust. In a risk-laden market, you are trying to convince strangers to trust you, and nothing builds trust like face to face interactions. LinkedIn can aid your networking efforts, but the best route towards building a solid database of investors is to attend crypto related events in real life. These events are ticketed and can cost, but as long as you are fairly confident in your people skills, they can really pay off.
Keep momentum after pre-sale
The last thing to bear in mind, is that ICO marketing doesn’t simply stop with the pre-sale. Remember the statistic from the top of this guide? 142 ICOs failed pre-sale, but a much larger proportion failed after pre-sale. The pre-sale functions primarily as a signal to main buyers; it by no means spells the end of your marketing strategy.
Make sure you remember that ICO marketing isn’t just for the process leading up to pre-sale, it’s for life! Keeping momentum after pre-sale is the key to guaranteeing the longevity of your product.