ICO Marketing | 10 Tips for 2019

Raising a significant amount of funds through an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is getting harder.

In early 2018, all it took was a solid whitepaper, an exciting industry and the potential for a huge return.

Today, the hype around crypto has cooled and many ICOs fail to reach their softcap.

Having worked with agencies, blockchain startups and ICOs, I've been lucky to tackle many of the challenges that token offerings face. Below I have listed the ten most important things to keep in mind.

Let's go.

1. Launch a powerful bounty program

Your bounty program is one of the most powerful weapons in your marketing arsenal.

A bounty program comprises valuable actions that are rewarded with a payment. As an example, you might say that a Youtube review of your ICO is valuable. In order to incentivize users to create this kind of content, you could have a bounty program which rewards high quality Youtube reviews with X amount of your tokens.

You'll be surprised by how many people will start creating content for you. As more and more bounty hunters publish content, the visibility of your ICO will skyrocket, providing a nice bump across your metrics.

Of course, Youtube reviews are just one form of content. Others include:

  • Creating original blog posts about your ICO
  • Tweeting with your ICO hashtag
  • Telegram & Reddit activity
  • Sharing your posts on LinkedIn
  • BitcoinTalk Signature Campaign
  • Whitepaper translations
  • Bounty hunter referrals (ie. you receive a bounty if you refer a new hunter to the bounty program)

As always in crypto, you need to be ready to fight fraudulent behaviour. To keep things simple, I suggest asking all bounty hunters to register with you first. This can be done quite quickly through a combination of Google Forms and Google Sheets.

Nevertheless, tracking your bounty hunters and approving their actions is time intensive. Consider outsourcing this to one of the many excellent Indian and South-East Asian agencies.

As your bounty hunter community grows, you will have to dedicate time and resources to communicating with them. I've found that the best way is through a dedicated Telegram Group, just for bounty hunters.

Finally, it is crucial to announce your bounty program effectively in order to maximize awareness. Make sure to:

  1. Announce it on BitcoinTalk (like this)
  2. Announce it in your Telegram Group
  3. Add it to your Pinned Message in Telegram
  4. Announce it across Social Media
  5. Send out a press release
  6. Announce it in dedicated Facebook and LinkedIn Groups (search for "affiliate marketing" and "bounty hunters")
  7. Send a dedicated email to your contact list
  8. Create a dedicated landing page or blog post and link to it from the homepage
  9. Mention your bounty program and link to it on your thank you page (so that people who have invested see it)
  10. If significant amounts are being earned, announce total earnings across all channels

Following these ten easy steps will allow you to leverage your community and drive exponential growth.

2. Visibility through partnerships

The cryptocurrency space is full of young startups with large communities. Partnering with some of these platforms is a very cost-effective way of raising awareness around your ICO.

If you pick the right platforms, you can ensure that your message reaches a highly relevant audience, which will consequently produce a healthy conversion rate.

The depth of the partnership is up to you. In some cases it makes sense to pursue a strong integration if it adds a lot of value to both parties. In other cases it makes sense to keep the partnership a little simpler.

Once both parties have figured out the details, I would recommend some joint marketing activities:

  • Publish a joint press release
  • Promotion across social media (including tagging and hashtags)
  • Feature each other in a Newsletter
  • Post on each others blogs (guest posting)
  • Publish an interview with a member of the management team

These measures are straight forward and typically produce good results. Get started by creating a spreadsheet which details relevant platforms along with the size of their Telegram and Social Media communities. Then it's simply a matter of reaching out and pitching your partnership idea.

3. Get listed on a reputable exchange

The moment you decide to launch an ICO you need to start thinking about cryptocurrency exchanges. More specifically, you need to find at least one reputable exchange which will agree to list your token after launch.

(Unless you're using Stellar which has its own decentralized exchange)

This step is absolutely crucial because without an exchange lined up investors will rightly fear that the purchased tokens prove impossible to sell. As a result, they will not invest in your ICO.

The best digital asset exchanges are Coinbase, Binance, Kraken, and Poloniex. Getting listed on any of these platforms will be very time and cost-intensive.

Keep in mind that they require monthly reports to show the progress you're token/platform is making. If growth stalls or you hit choppy waters, it is not uncommon for these platforms - especially Binance - to de-list your token.

For most projects, a smaller exchange is also fine. Lykke, Tidex, Bancor and LATOKEN are good examples of reputable exchanges that are significantly easier to get listed on.

Whichever you choose, make sure to research each platform carefully and look for unnatural trading patterns between pairs - big red flag. Don't trust the data from CoinMarketCap either as this is often wrong.

Make sure to read this report. It offers shocking insight into the fake trading volume manufactured by many exchanges, but also shows you how to identify the legitimate players in the game.

Another thing to keep in mind is that all exchanges charge a large listing fee. Additionally, you will have to transfer a significant amount of your tokens to provide liquidity on the platform. Expect the total cost to run into the hundreds of thousands.

It's also worth mentioning that getting listed on an exchange has a much bigger impact than just providing a place to buy and sell your tokens.

It enhances your communities trust in your abilities and makes for a nice press release. As the trading volume grows, so will the interest from traders - which can then have a positive impact on the token price.

Most exchanges will also include some marketing activities, giving your project some more visibility among their user base. If the exchange has an engaged audience, this can have a great effect.

4. Grow your Telegram Group

Telegram Groups are both a blessing and a curse. They are a blessing because they provide a direct communication channel with potentially thousands of investors and future users of your project. Then again, they are a curse because growing and managing a Telegram Group is incredibly time intensive.

Keep in mind that you will have to maintain your Telegram Group forever, as shutting it down would crush your communities trust in your project. This should not be taken lightly.

To get started, I suggest writing a brief summary of your rules and pinning them in the Group. This will allow new users to easily find answers to the most common questions.

Next, make sure to add a few Telegram bots to help you manage spam. Miss Rose Bot and Group Butler are particularly good in this regard, as they can be configured to send automated welcome messages, delete spam and ban malicious users.

Here are four steps to help grow your Telegram Group right now:

  • Link the Group on your website and include it in your automated email communication.
  • Incentive others to join by offering Airdrops and discount codes to Telegram members.
  • Promote your Group on Reddit and ICO listing sites.
  • Launch Adwords and Facebook campaigns linking to a landing page inviting visitors to join the Telegram Group. Make sure to target mobile devices and focus on keywords like "airdrop" and "free tokens". For particularly low CPAs (around $0.02), target your campaigns on Vietnam and Indonesia.
  • Add Papaya Bot to your group to ramp up engagement. The more active your Group the more likely others are to add others.

Follow these steps and you'll see steady flow of people coming in.

Keep in mind that the size of your Telegram Group matters.

Groups with less than 1,000 users fail to inspire confidence and are a red flag for potential investors.

5. Work with the right marketing agencies

You will notice that there is a plethora of ICO marketing agencies - most of which are frankly not worth the exorbitant fees they charge. Some however, are worth the money.

The key to finding the right marketing agency is twofold:

  1. Ask for references and get in touch with them. They will give you an honest appraisal of the work that was done.
  2. Negotiate for a large performance-based component of the fee.

You can minimize a lot of the risk by following these two steps. The references will provide insight into the abilities of the agency, while the performance-based fee will ensure they have "skin in the game".

This is crucial. There are many agencies out there who will ask for €50,000+ and deliver ZERO results. To mitigate this risk, keep the upfront fee as low as possible. A marketing agency worth their salt will be happy to take a performance-based fee as well.

If you're currently in the process of launching an ICO and want to employ a specialised agency, I recommend getting in touch with Konfidio. I've had the pleasure of working with them and have been impressed by the results.

Regardless of which agency you choose, make sure that they can introduce you to an impressive network of larger investors. Investor dinners and boutique panel discussions are a great way to secure significant investments for your ICO.

As interest from retail investors continuous to decline, attracting larger investors should be a vital component of your ICO marketing strategy.

6. Diversify your message

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is defining one marketing message and rigidly sticking to it. I've seen multiple ICOs fail to reach their soft-cap because they focused exclusively on a very niche investor market.

Having a unified message makes intuitive sense, but you will need to tell many different stories in order to generate a significant investment amount.

To illustrate this point, imagine you're platform targets the gaming industry and is now launching an ICO. Often the message will focus on disruption, saying something like:

"PLATFORM will disrupt the $XX billion gaming industry. Join the revolution."

This is not necessarily a bad message, but it only appeals to a very small percentage of investors who might be interested in the gaming industry. Instead, try to find new perspectives - ideally focusing on individual stories. This could look something like:

"PERSON is a female gamer whose dream has been made possible by PLATFORM. Join now."

With a little bit more thought and time, I'm sure you can do a better job than this - but it helps to get the point across.

By focusing on female gamers - in this example - you can appeal to a completely different type of investor. A feminist perhaps who doesn't care about gaming but wants to see young women succeed.

As mentioned previously, this is just one example and you can focus on many different aspects of your ICO. Investors, philanthropists, tech enthusiasts, industry professionals and many more personas should be targeted.

In order to do this effectively, be sure to create custom landing pages, blog posts, banner ads, email copy and A/B test as much as possible.

7. List your ICO on the best ranking and tracking sites

The importance of tracking and ranking sites has declined significantly in recent times. At the beginning of last year, getting listed on the ICObench for example was a game changer. Now the impact is often mixed.

On the one hand, the larger ICO ranking sites still have the power to drive a significant amount of traffic to your project. On the other hand, a lot of that traffic is relatively low quality and will likely not convert.

Nevertheless, ICObench and TopICOlist are still worth the listing fee, although it's always worth negotiating as much as possible first.

Once your token launches, you should also endeavour to get listed on CoinMarketCap. This will drive a vast amount of free traffic to your website and raise awareness of your project.

I also recommend submitting important roadmap events on CoinMarketCal. Here prospective investors can track your progress.

8. Nail influencer marketing

Getting influencer marketing right is similar to finding the right ICO marketing agency.

In order for influencer marketing to work you need a fair price, an engaged community and an influencer with "skin in the game". Keep in mind that startups regularly fall into the trap of paying an influencer €20,000 for a 10 minute video that generates ZERO results.

To avoid this, make sure not to get distracted by vanity metrics like the number of subscribers/followers. Instead look at engagement rates, comments, community feedback and the quality of the content.

If everything looks good, research the influencer on Social Blade to see if their following is bought or earned. Large random follower spikes followed by months of stagnant growth or even decline are signs that followers are being purchased. Steer clear of influencers with purchased followers.

As with marketing agencies, always make a part of the payment performance-based to mitigate the risk of disastrous failure.

Finally, make sure to have an effective way of tracking performance and ideally give the influencer a unique offer to promote to his/her audience. Discount codes are a good way of doing this - a topic we will be covering next.

9. Discount codes

Discount codes are a great way of attracting new investors, tracking campaign performance (in addition to UTMs of course) and even incentivizing your own sales team.

ICO Marketing is at its best when it leverages basic human instincts. All of us, for example, have a strong in-built fear of missing out on something awesome.

Discount codes allow you to offer your tokens at a more attractive price for a limited time only, and therefore leverage the FOMO we all carry within us (FOMO is the reason every ICO launch shows a countdown).

To get the most out of discount codes, I suggest creating 3 variations - offering discounts of 1%, 3% and 5%. The 1% discount is best used in the middle of the subscription period to mark special events. Your marketing message might read something like:

"To celebrate getting listed on XX exchange we're offering 1% off all token purchases for the next 24 hours. Use GREATCODE at the checkout."

You can obviously do a much better job than this, but you get the idea.

The 3% discount works best for influencers and events. So if you're organizing a shoutout from someone with a large Social Media following, be sure to DM them a unique code giving their followers 3% off. Offline marketing activities like billboards and letters are also a great place for the 3% offer.

To onboard larger investors I highly recommend that a few team members get on the phone and talk to them. The 5% discount code is just for these occasions - a special discount to help you get sophisticated investors (€5,000+) over the line.

10. Move Investors down the funnel

The final tip, is to build a sophisticated acquisition/conversion funnel.

The biggest problem you will face is "cart abandonment". In other words, investors will sign up to your whitelist, complete the KYC, commit an investment amount, but then fail to pull the trigger and not send the funds.

These individuals are your most valuable cohort and you should dedicate a significant amount of time and thought into guiding them down the funnel.

The first step is to target them with specialised banners using Remarketing in Google Adwords and Facebook. Banner Ads and short, targeted Videos work best.

Next, be sure to use specialised solutions like customer.io and Intercom to send automated emails corresponding to the users stage in the conversion funnel. If you are seeing alarmingly high abandonment issues, use Hotjar or Yandex to record user visits. This will shed light on how your customers are interacting with the onboarding flow; information you can then use to remedy any issues that arise.

Finally, it's a very good idea to provide emails, landing pages and banner ads in several languages. Of course, nobody has the capacity to create marketing material for every country in the world, but try to identify your top 3-4 countries in Google Analytics and make sure that you guide them through the funnel in their native language. Convincing investors to dedicate significant funds when they can't fully comprehend your service or requirements is an impossible task.

Conclusion | ICO Marketing

And there you have it. My top 10 ICO marketing tips for 2019.

This was a lot of fun to write and there are plenty of great tips that didn't make the list. What do you think? Did I miss any obvious ones? Let me know on Twitter.