Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) were the talk of the town in 2017. There were 435 ICO projects deemed successful in 2017, raising an average of $12.7 million. In total, over $5.6 billion was raised in 2017, a 40-fold increase from the $96.3 million raised in 2016. ICO’s are rapidly replacing the traditional forms of venture capital raising and already hundreds of ICO’s are scheduled for 2018.
Yet not every ICO is a success story. Only 48% of ICO’s raised the capital they set out for and the 10 largest ICO’s represented 25% of the total money raised in 2017. There are over 1,500 cryptocurrencies being traded on over 200 exchanges. In an increasingly competitive and regulated world, how you market your ICO in 2018 will be the difference between success and failure. It is not unreasonable to say that your ICO marketing strategy is more essential to your projects’ success than the actual product itself. After all, your product may well change, but you can never change a first impression.
Your website as a shop window
Your website should be the centre point of your ICO marketing strategy. It represents your project and very often, provides that all-important first impression. Your website must be clear, easy to navigate and present as much information as possible about your project and the team behind it. People want and expect transparency, it builds trust. Short explainer videos are a nice touch, but the white paper, team, roadmap are a must and without them the ICO might be “attacked” by crypto experts and or investors. Without a solid serious professional white paper, team and a clear roadmap, the chances for a successful ICO are very low.
The website should also have a clear CTA (Call-to-Action) that attracts investors to become whitelisted (‘an exclusive list’ of potential contributors) or invest in any pre-sale. Don’t make promises you are unable to keep and don’t rush into building a website. Carefully plan the layout, the content and the message and make sure the design matches the expectations of a cutting-edge product. There should be a lead capture form on the website, which must also be optimized for SEO.
Start your ICO SEO strategy from day one
The SEO strategy should be the bedrock of your ICO marketing campaign but often gets wrongly overlooked in the immediacy of an ICO. An intelligent and researched on-page and off-page SEO strategy will have a clear path from day one on the routes needed to ensure a good long-term source of organic search traffic.
Your branding, your online reputation management, and SEO strategy can be managed with intelligent content generation and a well-researched link building plan. These, of course, all can be performed in-house but is not recommended. As more and more restrictions get applied to ICO advertising, the need for a professionally done long-term on-page and off-page SEO plan as part of an ICO marketing strategy becomes increasingly important in 2018.
If there is no SEO optimization or strategy is in place, it is a sure sign there is only a short-term focus for the ICO. This will ring alarm bells to the more knowledgeable investor, which is something you definitely want to avoid. Too often there is only a focus on the now when it comes to marketing an ICO, but for your ICO to be a long-term success, you have to think beyond the ICO launch and invest in ways to deliver quality and growth post-ICO. A professionally SEO optimized website with an intelligent off-page link building plan together with a strategy for online reputation management will ensure continued viability and visibility long beyond the launch of your ICO project. A well-researched and carefully implemented SEO plan must feature prominently in any ICO marketing campaign.
PR and media outreach
So, the website is up and now you are faced with the task of telling the world about your ICO. Press releases are a traditional but very effective method of getting your message across and providing wide-reaching exposure for your ICO project. They form an important part of an ICO marketing strategy and although there is a DIY approach possible, the only way to really optimize this essential channel is through the use of a professional PR agency.
There are a number of top-tier websites where you can get your press release published, some very specific to the crypto sphere. Whilst there are some good free sites, the best sites will charge a premium amount to publish your press release, but overall press releases should be budgeted for and be part of any ICO marketing strategy.
Guest blog posts published in the popular crypto and news media outlets are another great method of publicizing your ICO and getting SEO backlinks. There are many outlets, some top-tier, that will publish quality, well written content that adds value to their own site for free, but in many cases a premium is charged for the exposure.
The PR and media outreach is best handled by the professionals. They know how to get your message out there and what the message should be. It costs a premium but the expertise in communication they bring to the table could be invaluable to your ICO.
Social media and community management
An integral part of any successful ICO marketing strategy is in the community and social media management. How your ICO is communicated and to whom can make or break an ICO, such is the power of social media and community channels. The most popular and powerful channels that are free are:
Reddit: The Reddit community is probably the hardest nut to crack. Knowledgeable and unforgiving, the Reddit community offers a high level of exposure which can be tapped into with quality subreddits or commenting on other threads.
Facebook: Although no longer able to advertise your ICO on Facebook, there are numerous groups and pages that discuss all things blockchain, cryptocurrencies and ICOs. Facebook also presents a great opportunity to build and regularly update your own community,
Quora: Providing quality well-written content on Quora and keeping active in threads has proven to be a good, targeted source of high exposure. Threads such as https://www.quora.com/topic/Initial-Coin-Offerings-ICO gets your message in front of the right people.
Specialized Forums: There are plenty of forums or internet discussions to tap into and specialized forums can prove to be a great method to communicate your ICO to wide, interested audience.
LinkedIn: Groups on LinkedIn covering the whole blockchain, ICO and cryptocurrency spheres with tens of thousands of members can be tapped into free of charge. Groups such as https://www.linkedin.com/groups/6580131/profile give you direct communication with your target audience.
Twitter: Similar to Facebook in that you can no longer advertise there, Twitter is popular with the crypto community, with targetable Twitter influencers with followers running into hundreds of thousands.
Telegram: The new kid on the block as far as technology is concerned but getting larger and more influential as each day passes. Telegram was warmly embraced by the whole blockchain and crypto communities from its very outset and an important channel for exposure
One of the more conventional methods of marketing that can be an effective part of an ICO marketing strategy still in 2018. Sending unsolicited emails ‘spam’ could do more harm than good. It will damage the reputation of your company, incur a financial penalty and hamper your ability to send emails in the future.
The restrictions seen in social media are being seen more in email providers, Mailchimp is one of the higher-profile mail service providers to ban crypto and ICO advertising. However, there are other providers are still supporting crypto and ICOs and an email marketing plan should still form part of your overall ICO marketing strategy.
Building your own email list takes time, but in the long term provides an interested base in which to communicate to. Agencies provide opted in lists which can be a good, often highly targeted, source of exposure.
Having already been banned on Facebook and Twitter a ban on ICO advertising by Google is set to come into effect in June 2018. There are still plenty of crypto sites, relevant blogs, news sites, and networks that offer banner advertising with package deals for banners, content and emails offered by some larger networks. PPC (Pay Per Click) was big business in 2017, but with just a few months of Google PPC available, other banner placement channels will need to be explored and expanded in 2018 and beyond.
Getting bounty programs right
Based on incentives and rewards, ICO Bounty programs are forming a central part of an ICO marketing strategy. They are an effective method to attract investors and keep stakeholders, with strategies need for pre-ICO and post-ICO.
Free tokens, or Airdropping, can boost an ICO marketing strategy, but should be handled carefully. No rewards or too little and you may not be optimizing your campaigns. Give away too much, your ICO could be viewed as a scam or a project that isn’t financially viable
Listing your ICOs
Top-tier sites will list your ICO and provide high level exposure in the all important pre-ICO stage. The most popular sites charge a premium to be listed but there are still plenty of sites you can get your listed on for free.
Events and conferences to communicate your ICO in person
Blockchain and cryptocurrency conferences and events are popping up all over the world and a great marketing channel to communicate your ICO face to face. The costs of conferences and events, sponsorship or attendance, can be quite high especially if there is a lot of travel involved, but overall events and conferences usually generate good ROI within your ICO marketing strategy.
It is highly recommended that the founder(s) attend many conferences and events before the ICO and during the ICO as possible. Getting in front of people is the best way to build trust and communicate your message. Big deals are closed at crypto conferences, road shows, and events. By not attending, you are not giving your ICO the best opportunity to succeed, so, make sure that within an ICO marketing strategy, there are resources allocated to crypto and blockchain events. Without a visible presence in the events calendar, put simply, your ICO is doomed to fail.
Challenges and opportunities
ICO’s are quickly becoming a multi-billion-dollar industry. More and more ICOs are being planned and launched in 2018 and the competition has never been fiercer. The battle to get your ICO the attention it deserves is made harder with regulation changes and advertising restrictions. The expertise needed over so many channels to successfully market your ICO pre and post-launch, make the services of ICO marketing agency, who can formulate and manage a multi-faceted marketing strategy, an expensive but justified investment.
There is, of course, the DIY approach, but with such a fine line between success and failure in an ICO, could you afford not to make that all-important first impression and optimize your ICO project potential.
On Yavin is co-founder and CMO at Cointelligence.