Okay, so the title is not entirely true. Call it click-bait, call it misleading or inaccurate. Call it whatever you want, but it is exactly what marketing around ICOs looks like. If we break it down the statement can be easily proven to be true, however in the grand scheme of things it is completely false.
Surely most of the techniques used in promoting new projects derived from traditional digital marketing. Tried and proven methods that have been around for a while. Those methods, however, were pushed to the extreme. Why? Well for one it has to do with the longevity of the project and the marketing strategy built around it. Most ICOs were not looking long term, 3-6 months of hardcore, bold marketing and then stealth mode. The other reason is the necessity to push the message out as fast as possible and tailor it to a massive audience which was segmented with one single question – does this person have an interest in cryptocurrencies? Some will say, yes, but 2017 brought in a lot of new participants to the market, and they will be correct, but if we take a look at how these new participants came about buying into new projects we will see that for the most part, they would buy in through other cryptocurrencies, primarily ETH which was in turn primarily bought for BTC, the true driver of new users to crypto was and still is Bitcoin. Factor that into your marketing and you have a small but easily segmented group of individuals as your potential buyers.
So what has this craze for crypto brought to the marketing world?
To answer this question let us take a look at some of the challenges that companies faced and are still facing today.
- Trust – trust is usually something that a brand builds over time, meticulously following best practices of customer service, introducing new products, supporting old releases and responding to the most asked for requests by its users. ICOs were and at large still are very young projects, at times with nothing more than an idea. The challenge is to build trust quickly, prove you are capable of delivering on your promises and convince users to buy into your dream.
- Community – a robust community is something every company strives for. We’ve all seen the apple vs android “wars”. This is probably one of the best examples one can look at in terms of strong community standing behind a brand and relentlessly protecting it from any criticism. Communities are also great drivers in sales, every user in the community is your potential sales rep., a miniature brand ambassador if you will. The challenge with ICOs was to build so much trust with its users that they would preach on behalf of the project everywhere they went. The larger the community the more trust a project would gain.
- Transparency – Inherently “old-school” companies were and remain closed from public view. Sure some chose to show a bit more than others, but for the most part, unless required by law, any enterprise, organisation and business tries its best not to display the “ins and outs” of itself, keeping secretive, working on products under a cloak of invisibility and then unveiling innovation. This all has to do with competition, for the most part, everyone is trying to stay ahead, leave as little room for having pulled one over themselves. ICOs however, due to their nature of being very young, and requiring insane levels of trust from vast amounts of people, could not exercise this secrecy. Marketing departments were forced to change the paradigm and instead of looking at transparency as a disadvantage turn it into an advantage that would hopefully increase trust within their growing communities.
- Scalability – it takes years for traditional companies and traditionally funded startups to introduce their products to new markets. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies carrying the message of being borderless, distributed and accessible to all, forced ICOs to work on a global scale right off the bat. For one, being a form of crowdfunding, marketers can not afford to reject potential customers and secondly the overall market being mostly early adopters there may simply not be enough people in a select region to get the project going.
- Influencers – so this one is not as radically different from what you would typically see in a B2C marketing plan. However, the four challenges above, increase the importance of this exponentially. The choice of advisers, influencers was and remains so convoluted that a lot of the ICOs simply paid little to no attention to who they were actually getting in touch with. First, everything was going great, you could gather a big team of advisors, reach out to anyone who spoke about crypto and you are done. But as time went on, a lot of these individuals would go on and tarnish their reputation with scam. Today getting hold of influencers and advisors for an ICO is a task that should be addressed with extreme diligence.
These hurdles became the main drivers for progress in marketing within the niche of blockchain related projects, hopefully, some of these techniques will transition to more traditional markets and even more so, hopefully, more innovation will come further down the line.
Here is a list of the most important out-takes that we can thank ICO’s and their marketers for.
The whitepaper has changed, you’ve all gone through them, I’m sure. If you look closely, however, and compare a whitepaper from mid-2017 with the ones coming out today you will notice some very distinct differences. Although it still remains a great marketing tool to help potential buyers grasp the essence of the project. There are far fewer projections and promises. Little to no financial information and more facts than fiction. This has to do with projects trying to stay within the boundaries of legal compliance and with financial regulators tirelessly tightening up rules and regulations it is becoming very hard to do so.
What more traditional businesses can grasp from this is that a Whitepaper can and should be incorporated into a project’s content strategy. Perhaps rather than keeping everything to yourself and only providing in-depth information about your company you should think in broader terms and realise that a publicly available document may have more reach than targeted reach out to investors for example.
A series of public or private events with potential partners, investors, business representatives and sometimes general buyers. Roadshows were taken to the next level with ICOs, with events happening all around the world on a weekly basis, with a big enough team and budget ICOs could spend most of their time travelling and pitching. Surely this attracted a lot of pseudo organisers that would organise events that held no real value and were mostly attended by naive projects and fake investors with no intent or possibility to invest.
The outtake for traditional businesses is this. Connections are keys to success. Having travelled a lot with our clients, we found a lot of hidden value from most conferences that we attended be it new opportunities for collaboration or introductions to investors and potential buyers, conferences and events are necessary and very valuable. Furthermore, they are a great way to show that you are actively working on reaching your goals. Encorporate your travels and meetups within your content marketing plan.
If you are looking for guerilla marketing techniques for your startup or SME look no further. Bounties and Airdrops are both creations of the ICO world. Both are ways to interact with your community and reward them for various tasks in order to increase the reach of your project. Now, ICOs would give away their tokens or coins in return for simple taks through airdrops and slightly more complex tasks through bounty campaigns. A traditional startup may not have coins to give, but there are always opportunities to reward your users. Freebies, extended subscriptions, limited edition items etc. Quickly localising your homepage to every language within your market reach, registered users, code-reviews. Be creative and utilise the power of the crowd. Moreover, bounties and airdrops show potential investors you have the knowledge and ability to communicate with diverse communities and have a conversation about your product.
Creating and maintaining a community of likeminded individuals sharing their passion for your product and supporting your brand. This is something everyone is striving to do. ICOs mastered this technique through constant open communication and well-implemented marketing strategies. Due to the fact that most of the time an idea is the actual product, there was and still remains a great need to drive and retain attention of potential buyers. Startups and SMEs can learn a lot from this technique and drive some of their traffic to common chat-rooms where hidden marketing techniques can be applied to advocate for the product and educate potential customers. Keeping a 24/7 line of communication in an open forum is a daunting task but returns from such activities can be great both in short term and in the long run.