Head of Strategy Insight: 8 steps to marketing your ICO or cryptocurrency brand effectively
Normally, stumbling across a cryptocurrency article means you’re about to be peppered with investment advice. This isn’t one of those articles.
This article will explore the marketing side of running a cryptocurrency brand, Initial Coin Offering (ICO), or blockchain technology firm.
Because these are such new technologies, and because the brands in this space differ dramatically, applying a strong content marketing strategy can help ensure potential investors fully understand what you’re trying to achieve.
The strategies outlined in this article will use cryptocurrency as an example, but the rules can generally be applied to most businesses.
If you’ve managed to get to this point of the article and have no idea about cryptocurrency, you don’t need to stop reading. You’ll be hearing a lot about cryptocurrency in the next few years so you should take the time to learn what all the fuss is about.
You can also use this information for your non-cryptocurrency brand, and the following should help you understand some industry-based terminology.
What are cryptocurrencies?
A cryptocurrency is a digital currency that uses cryptography techniques to ensure the data is secure and transparent.
The primary use for cryptocurrency is to replace traditional fiat currencies. It can easily be sent to anyone in the world, and the technology behind it ensures that the ledger cannot be manipulated.
In recent times, many uses for cryptocurrencies have been created that aren’t meant as currencies. Some examples include supply chain solutions (tracking goods through transport), provably fair casino games, data storage, and even decentralised internet access.
A list of the top cryptocurrencies can be found here.
What is the blockchain?
In the banking world, a ledger may be stored on a centralised computer. If that computer gets hacked or has other issues, it’s possible for the data to be lost. Cryptocurrencies use a public ledger (the blockchain) that is unable to be hacked or maliciously edited.
What is an ICO?
An ICO is similar to an IPO (Initial Public Offering) where a company looks for initial investors. In return for their investment people are rewarded with tokens or coins (think shares).
Before you start…
As with anything people are looking to invest in, there is plenty of skepticism. Given the decentralised nature of cryptocurrency, there are plenty of scams skinning people of their life savings.
This fact has made people want to scrutinise every detail of a cryptocurrency they are looking to invest in.
That means your marketing efforts should focus on one key area – trust.
Building trust is the number one key to successfully marketing your cryptocurrency brand. Since investors don’t have any government or regulatory protection, they need to be sure their funds are safe. Many documented scams have put a black cloud over the industry, and it’s your job to make sure your legitimate project is seen for what it is.
If you are running an ICO, you need to focus on trust more than if you are an established cryptocurrency project. People are blindly investing in ICOs and if you want to raise as much funding as possible, people need to know you aren’t running away with their money.
This is a legitimate concern as many projects go for a quick money grab. The graph below (from ICOdata) shows how quickly the amount of funding pumped into ICOs has risen. December 2017 saw 118x more money pumped into ICOs than February of the same year.
Step 1: Create your whitepaper
A whitepaper will be your most important piece of content. This is where you explain your concept in as much detail as possible. For a project without a working product, your whitepaper will do the talking.
There are two key elements to a successful cryptocurrency whitepaper:
Your whitepaper should be as in-depth as possible. This includes all technical details of the project, and a plan to make it successful.
It’s not uncommon for a whitepaper to be 50+ pages long due to the complexity of the project. If this is the length it needs to be to properly describe your project, then you should do it.
The more questions you can answer in the whitepaper, the better it bodes for your project. Your investors will want to know as much as possible before investing. Many will ask questions that can be answered, but many will decide to move on to another project if they can’t immediately see their answer.
It also ensures full transparency. If you leave out important details from your whitepaper, potential investors will wonder why.
Nano has a great example of a technical whitepaper that explores the project in full. Nano offers free and instant transactions on the blockchain using a unique technology. Due to it being a direct competitor of Bitcoin (the current ‘king’ of cryptocurrency), it was important that they fully explained how they can compete.
While the Nano whitepaper has a lot of detail, it clearly lacks a modern design.
When you have a lot of technical text, it’s important to make sure people actually read it! This can be done with some basic design.
Layout is the primary design element to explore. Make sure your whitepaper is an easy read. It’s amazing how the exact same text can be absorbed much more effectively just by having a nice layout.
Another key design element is using custom graphics to explain difficult concepts. The use of graphs and charts can help the reader visualise what you are trying to convey
ClearPoll (an Australian-based blockchain project) has a well-designed whitepaper. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but the use of app imagery, flowcharts, and diagrams break up the whitepaper nicely and ensure the reader is very clear about the details of their project.
Finding a balance between detail and design is the key to an effective cryptocurrency whitepaper.
Step 2: Setting your goals and objectives
When we talk about setting your goals and objectives, we’re not talking about what your blockchain project is trying to achieve, but what you want visitors to do on your website.
This will depend on what stage you’re at in terms of getting your project up and running. Here are some stages with some typical goals and objectives:
At this stage, no one knows about your project so it’s important to raise awareness. You want to convince people to invest in your project, as well as find a way to continually market to them.
Common tactics include having a very clear communication channel as well as trying to build an email list. The email list can be built by giving visitors a good reason to sign up. For example, suggesting they leave an email address so you can inform them ahead of important dates.
During ICO or token sale
At this stage your website becomes a focal point of your project. You need visitors investing, so you must make it as easy as possible to do so.
Your goal here would be the action of investing. This pathway should be as clear as possible, allowing visitors to invest with as few clicks as possible.
Launch (and thereafter)
Once your project is up and running, your website is now an information hub. Most of the communication and community engagement will be off-site (I cover this later in this article).
Your goals and objectives include sending people to your various communication platforms, building email lists, and constantly building trust through regular content.
You should also have a roadmap you’re constantly updating. While this applies to all of the above stages, you generally won’t have this mapped out in detail until post-funding. Nano has a great example of a detailed roadmap. Step 4 below explores some more graphic-focused roadmaps.
Step 3: Have a good-looking, well-functioning website
Now that you have your whitepaper and have mapped out your goals, it’s time to put it into practice through your website. This step will explore the elements you should have on your website, as well as some great cryptocurrency website examples.
Fast loading time
Blockchain technology is the future. Your brand is trying to demonstrate its technical expertise.
There is nothing worse than having people visit your site and having it take a long time to load. It can damage your brand much more than you might think.
Why would anyone invest money into a cryptocurrency brand that can’t even manage a quick website?
Similar to the first point, falling short here is something that can do a lot of damage to your brand. Yes, in a lot of cases, the genius behind your cryptocurrency idea isn’t a website developer or someone with a good user experience eye. But this shouldn’t show.
You don’t need to go overboard with the styling, but ensuring that it’s modern-looking and that the style formats correctly across computer, tablet, and phone browsers is important.
Easy and clear navigation
You want people to be able to find the information they are looking for on your site. You don’t want questions left unanswered as they leave your site looking for another ICO or cryptocurrency to invest in.
Don’t get too fancy by hiding your menus, and just have a clear navigation menu with links to all important pages of your website.
Detailed team pages
Asmentioned multiple times in this article, trust is a huge factor in getting investors on board.
Knowing who is running the project is a must, and is at the top of all investor checklists.
Investors will use this information to further research the team and make sure that they exist (yes, this is a legitimate concern!), and they have the qualifications and expertise to deliver what they have set out in their whitepaper.
Don’t let your visitors figure out what to click on – lead them.
Having compelling calls-to-action (CTAs) will result in visitors interacting with the parts of the site you would prefer them to.
Examples of these site sections might be links to social media pages, downloads, the contact us page, or to where they can purchase your tokens.
Depending on what your project actually does, you might need to cover off some legal requirements.
We’re not experts in what you specifically need to do here, so our suggestion is to seek professional advice and cover all bases.
Here are some examples of good-looking cryptocurrency websites. They might not be perfect, but they definitely check most of the boxes and have a very trustworthy feel.
Step 4: Create easy-to-understand graphics
Blockchain technology is extremely difficult to understand, even for a highly technical person.
If you limit your investors to people who understand the technical details of your project, you simply won’t raise any money. This is where graphics come into play.
Creating unique, high-quality, informative graphics can make a huge difference in the amount of funding you are able to raise.
With these graphics you want to decipher the technical details of your project into something everyone can understand. Take this gif for example (courtesy of this Reddit post):
One of the main selling points of the OmiseGo project is the number of transactions per second it will be able to process after launching its Plasma network. This graphic is an extremely effective way to compare that number with its competition.
Another complicated area of investing in ICOs or blockchain projects is the funding. Each project might have its own unique funding model that can be confusing for a typical investor.
The below token distribution model from Neon Exchange clearly shows how their token will be split. This creates transparency without having to read a more technical version in the whitepaper.
Pieces of information like roadmaps also work really well as graphics. They can be shared very easily, and allow people to introduce them into discussions about the project. Here is a basic example of how Oyster have turned their roadmap into an easy-to-share graphic.
I would strongly suggest speaking to someone who might struggle with the technical side of your project. If they can’t understand it easily enough, consider turning to graphics for help.
Step 5: Set up social networks
Communicating effectively with the community is another method to build trust and gain further investors while continuing to drive brand confidence.
This section will look at the key channels and how you should work it into your strategy.
Register a subreddit for a place where the community can post and discuss your project. Reddit has one of the biggest cryptocurrency communities, and if you don’t set up your project here yourself the community will do so.
In certain cases, it might be better for it to be community-driven, but in most cases you will want control. This will ensure people are not spamming or spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that can damage your brand.
Make sure to have active and fair moderators who can control the content without hiding any facts. It’s important that any serious concerns about your project are discussed. It’s always possible that the community has ideas you can feed off.
Telegram & Discord
These networks are used for real-time communication within the communities. They are similar, so use whichever you are most comfortable with.
You can use it to make announcements that are pushed as notifications directly to people who are part of these groups.
As a founder of an ICO or crypto token, you should be active in these communities. One of the best examples of effective communication from a founder is Jez San from the FunFair team. Jez is constantly discussing the project with the community in the official Telegram channel. He isn’t afraid of criticism and has even discussed the project with competitor projects in this public setting
While LinkedIn isn’t necessarily used as a communication channel, it’s important that all members of your team have their work history and experience fully detailed. As previously mentioned, it builds trust and doubles as a way for other corporate professionals to easily get in touch.
Tip: Enable 2FA!
2FA (Two Factor Authentication) is a setting you should enable across all social networks. This means that if your password is compromised, it’s not enough to allow someone to log in to your account. You will have to confirm you are the account owner in another way (email, SMS, authenticator apps).
In recent times there have been a few cases of Twitter accounts getting hacked and posting spam links. A recent example of this is Vertcoin who have since regained access and deleted the malicious tweet.
Step 6: Promote on social media
Recently Facebook banned crypto advertising on its platform in what is seen as a very controversial move.
Where possible, promoting on social media should always be explored as part of your cryptocurrency strategy. Unfortunately this is looking increasingly difficult, but ensure news on this topic is on your radar.
Step 7: Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a great way to build brand recognition and trust, but you need to be very careful about how you do it.
People hate being deceived, especially when their money in on the line.
When your project is relevant or associated with someone well-known in the industry, it might be a good idea to reach out and try to get some kind of promotion happening through them.
When an industry leader mentions your project, it will gain attention and have people looking into it. However, this can go really bad if you choose the wrong person.
John McAfee, the controversial founder of the anti-virus software, McAfee, has been quoted as asking for $105,000 per tweet to promote an ICO or crypto brand. The first few times he promoted brands, the token price skyrocketed. People were even setting up trading bots to automatically buy any token mentioned in his tweets.
Once it was obvious that he wasn’t actually recommending these tokens, but instead being paid to promote them, the validity of his tweets dropped dramatically. So much so that many brand are actively avoiding any mention of their project by McAfee.
Bitconnect, which was a widely known pyramid scheme using its own cryptocurrency token, has had many promoters run into legal issues following its collapse. Various YouTube personalities who heavily promoted the scam are being sued by people who lost a lot of money.
Any tokens associated with these personalities prior to the Bitconnect collapse will always be questioned.
For those who still defend the validity of Bitconnect, the below video should help…
Step 8: Ongoing content
This step is one that never ends. Continuously creating content means you are staying ahead of the competition, as the majority of crypto projects fail to produce regular material.
Too many brands follow the first 7 steps of this guide, and then just leave it alone – that is a big mistake.
You can build trust with regular videos. I’m not talking about explanatory videos (those are great too), but instead interviews or vlog-style videos. The idea here is that a key team member can talk about a topic in detail in video form. Showing your face proves you are real, and if you ooze confidence that can be a big plus.
Regularly updating your blog is important. Not everyone will be part of your social networks and discussions, and many investors will be new to your project. Having a full blog allows them to read back through the history of the project, and look into the insightful topics that you cover there.
Constantly posting on social media shows that the project isn’t dead. As ridiculous as it sounds, this is another worry for investors in the crypto world.
This doesn’t need to entail major project updates, just simple posts like a photo of the team working in the office, or something topical. This humanises the team and again gives confidence to investors.
To end this article, let’s look back to the theme of this guide – trust.
Every piece of your crypto content marketing strategy needs to continually improve trust in order to get investors on board.
Given the decentralised nature of the space, there is generally no regulatory body overseeing these projects. This may change in the future, but you should play the game as if it won’t.
Before making any content marketing move just ask yourself “will this help build trust?”. If the answer is no, you should rethink your idea.