What Are Some Key Marketing Strategies for ICOs?

It’s a brave new world out there in the cryptosphere. Everything is new and exciting, with an infinite realm of possibilities and unlimited potential. People can be forgiven for thinking that crypto is the new Gold Rush or dot-com bubble.

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It’s a brave new world out there in the cryptosphere. Everything is new and exciting, with an infinite realm of possibilities and unlimited potential. People can be forgiven for thinking that crypto is the new Gold Rush or dot-com bubble. It does, after all, represent a seismic economic shift in the way we think about and attribute value to everything from assets and commodities to data.

And yet, no one is really going to buy into an idea just because it exists. Ideas need to be sold. People need to be convinced of their value and potential. And these claims to future value need to be backed up by some form of empirical evidence. This can be either a set of use cases, early-stage software, network development, and usable applications, or Social and Human Capital, as Alex Yamashita, Founding Partner at TLDR, explains:

“We talk about value in terms of Social and Human Capital. Essentially it comes down to the team. How strong is the team? What have they done in the past that gives you a belief that they can execute on what their vision is? And on top of that is the Social Capital: How can they bring in participants into the network?”

So how does a crypto project begin to determine its value? A well-conceived marketing strategy is a good starting point; helping ICOs establish and celebrate their Social and Human Capital. Another TLDR Founding Partner, Graham Friedman, is more shrewd in his assessment of a crypto project’s marketing needs:

“Even if you do manage to achieve amazing organic growth, it will be necessary to devise a thought out marketing approach in order to bolster your tokens on the secondary market.”

Are Summits, Conferences and Events Key to Marketing an ICO?

Building in a human layer of trust is critical to an ICO. In order to sow the seeds of that Human Capital, many projects join the crypto conference circuit, traveling the globe in search of potential investors, advisers, and opportunities to promote and share their vision with like-minded people. But it’s important to remember that the aim of gaining Human Capital is to build trust and raise funds, not break the bank on travel and all-access conference passes. Graham has some handy tips on saving money, whilst still making the most of the opportunities afforded by these conferences and events:

“While a physical presence in the crypto world is vital, there are many ways to participate without breaking the bank. Most of the action at conferences is happening in the periphery. Private meetings over coffee, dinner with potential investors, and the many, many events that surround your standard crypto conference. For the most part, you can find great success posting up in the lobby and shaking hands.”

The workshops and keynote speeches are great, and tremendously interesting if you’re keen to keep abreast of developments in the space, but ultimately, they’re not that great for networking — unless you happen to be presenting or featuring on a panel, then that in itself can help you and your project establish some serious traction.

Eugene Kan, TLDR Partner heading up branding and marketing strategy, believes preparation is key if you are to make the most of a conference:

“I see a lot of value in attending conferences, but you can really set yourself up for success by doing homework beforehand. Set up meetings and figure out how to best utilize the opportunity to connect with people. Social validation is still critical and showcases and signals to the people you met that either, one, you’ve won the trust of some respected people, or two, you’ve put in some real work to get things going. There is no one strategy that rules them all, but it’s about how do they all interconnect.”

This is a sentiment echoed by Graham who believes that focusing your attention on smaller pockets of crypto enthusiasts is by far a better strategy than getting lost in the crowds at a major conference:

“A more potent strategy is for the founders to engage in local community events. Both coasts of the US host great meetups on a regular basis. China has a dozen cities that are buzzing in the sector and would love to learn more about your decentralized product. Japan, Korea, and pockets of Europe have all been bitten by the crypto bug. It’s a better use of time for an early-stage project to engage with the core crypto crowd, rather than the onslaught of conference warriors.”

Are dApps Necessary to Market a Project’s Potential?

Personalities and investment networking aside, a fundamental element in creating a belief in the team behind a project and their ability to deliver on their vision, is the availability of some proof of concept or use case. If you want investors to buy into your vision, it’s important to show them that it’s more than just a pipe dream. Having something tangible and functional will always improve your credibility. However, as Graham aptly puts it, dApps aren’t necessary for all crypto projects:

“This question is specific to platform projects. To make it more broadly applicable to the market I’d like to rephrase dApps to functionality, an active mainnet, or fully operating product. 2017 presented us with a lot of promises, but 2018 is becoming more ‘prove it or lose it’. Most projects are going to need to show off an active platform to raise proper funds moving forward. Therefore, if you are a platform, then yes, dApps are necessary. Where the developers go, the investors will follow, and platforms need to show that people will build on them.”

Does Marketing Need to Be Expensive?

We’ve already established that money spent on traveling to and attending blockchain conferences can be saved and routed elsewhere with enough forethought and planning. A strategic approach to event networking could save you money that can be funneled into other elements of the marketing mix. And this is a mix that can prove costly if you want it done right, which Graham acknowledges. But it doesn’t have to be that way:

“Marketing will generally cost you in either money or time. We have recently seen projects like Shopin, that have completed their raise without a marketing spend. Likewise, we are seeing many successful projects that put enormous financial resources behind growth hacking and marketing campaigns. The clear path to success has yet to be written, so any good idea still goes. I personally believe that the DLT space revolves around networks, and therefore projects should engage their networks with great regularity. This can cost money, but consumer engagement is priceless.”

Eugene shares a similar opinion on the time cost versus the monetary cost of marketing an ICO:

“Strategy is ‘technically’ free but it’s expensive in terms of time. So yes that’s a critical consideration. Time is arguably one of the most expensive things and not recognizing the current climate and what strategies are relevant can delay you and/or result in suboptimal outcomes.”

TLDR Partner, Martin Adams, is a firm believer in the value exchange. With consumer engagement being the ultimate goal, Martin believes that businesses need to take the time and invest in the resources to present the consumer with something of value, and nurture that relationship:

“Companies need to treat audiences with genuine respect, try and nourish them with the content that they make, rather than just relying upon the technologies that used to allow them to get in front of those audiences regardless of the value of the content they created.”

As with many elements within the crypto space, the true value and cost of marketing are yet to be established. The market is still in its relative infancy and significant changes and developments happen almost daily. Uncertainty still reigns strong, and Eugene is quick to highlight the implications of this:

“One thing that’s uncertain is the price of marketing. A more mature market means more service providers, but also, the lucrative nature of ICOs generally carry an ‘ICO’ tax to do similar services for non-crypto industries (i.e. graphic design or party planning). Likewise, there’s still uncertainty around the price of advertising in the ICO space, I suspect it can result in a very hotly contested market.”

Ultimately, a marketing strategy that works today may already be outdated by tomorrow. But having a strategy that is flexible and founded upon creating a human connection with investors and consumers, seems to be the tried and tested foundation upon which to build the rest of your marketing efforts.

The TLDR Recap

  1. Investors won’t buy into a project based on an idea. They need to be convinced of your project’s value and potential.
  2. Value in the crypto space is measured in terms of Social and Human Capital.
  3. Don’t break the bank going to every conference. For those that you do attend, do your homework ahead of time.
  4. Focus your attention on meeting up with smaller pockets of crypto enthusiasts.
  5. Marketing will generally cost you in either money or time.
  6. Businesses need to present the consumer with something of value.
  7. Creating a human connection with investors and consumers is essential to a successful marketing strategy.

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This article is based on views and information held by TLDR on publication date and may be subject to change, although TLDR does not undertake to update them. Nothing contained herein constitutes investment, legal, tax or other advice, nor a recommendation or solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made or given by or on behalf of TLDR as to the accuracy and completeness or fairness of the information contained in this article.