Raising $1.3 Million In 26 Hours: Marketing Augur

Today is the second day of Augur’s Reputation Token crowdsale and I’m proud to say we raised $1.3 Million dollars in the first 26 hours of the crowdsale. Augur is the first app (or dapp) to be released on the ambitious Ethereum platform, ambitous and also known for having the third most successful crowdfunded projectof all time with $18,439,086. Since that crowdsale in 2014, many others have happened that were nothing more than scams, making the choice to utilize a crowdsale something viewed very negatively and to diminishing returns.

I joined Augur in January because I like projects of this nature so much so that I host a podcast called decentralize.fm that highlights cool projects in this space. I’m always keeping my eyes peeling for cool ideas, it turns out that many of these cool ideas need marketing help badly. Since I started at Augur, I was able to instill a simple and clear marketing strategy that separated us from the litany of crowdsales while also utilizing our other strengths to stand out from the crowd. The first decision was realizing how important transparency and honesty were throughout the process, a goal shared by the team which made this part very simple.

Many view marketing as a dirty word, the truth is that it’s all about how you execute your strategy that will make it viewed as dirty. The difference between a $1.3 million dollar in 26 hour success and going nowhere is that one word, MARKETING! Most open source decentralized projects fail to understand this and that is why most ultimately fail and gain no users. Here are a few things we did at Augur that helped us have such a successful start. Obviously these are just a few recommendations, but I can’t give away all of my secrets for free!

The first and ultimately most important question to ask yourself is how good/original is the project itself? Is this something hoping to find mass consumption or is it a niche tool with a very limited potential audience? I’m assuming most want advice for mass consumption so assuming that and that the project is both good and original, then we can proceed. Only a very limited amount will proceed though, as it’s rare a project meets the two most important qualifications of quality and originality. Unfortunately, many projects lack both of these and instead rely on putting forth tons of effort or tons of money, both of which are almost always wasteful and unsuccessful.

Augur is a great project, the idea was original as hell and from meeting the core team I could tell the product was going to be something of quality. The first focus on any project should be these two things because without these two things, it’s next to impossible. This isn’t all negative though, because with those two things this is VERY SIMPLE!

Regardless of how much private investment a project may have, wasting money on paid advertising is something that should be avoided at all costs. Money spent on a publicist, quality video/graphics and hiring talented people are all significantly better investments in your project than paid advertising. There are some very rare exceptions to this rule, but if you aren’t experienced enough to realize what they are, then just pretend they don’t exist.

It’s important to have a social media presence, but it’s even more important to realize how useless social media numbers are when it comes to actually driving attention to your project. If you are tempted to hire a “social media consultant” or an agency to handle your social media, run for the hills because they know nothing of your project and will do everything they can to get you low quality followers that mean absolutely nothing. Social media is a communication tool and the more you remember that, the more likely you will be to have success in using it. If it’s just one person monitoring all social media, there is absolutely no reason to be on every platform so just pick one or two and make sure you are extremely focused on those (I suggest Twitter, but there are other options). When someone is interested in what you are doing, if they see an active and real looking social media profile it will give your project much more credibility than an artificially inflated user count, more importantly it will ensure that people who care about what you are doing are the ones who hear about it.

If you have any sort of a real budget, take $5,000 to $10,000 and have a professionally made video created that explains what you do in the clearest manner possible. Choosing the right company or person to handle this is extremely important, I cannot emphasize that enough. The shorter the better, but if it’s a complicated concept or technology, it’s more important to take time and do a good job rather than be brief for being brief.

A recent example of this is the “How Augur Works” video we created for Augur. I reached out to my friend Country Singer Shooter Jennings, an innovative entrepreneur, SiriusXM Radio Host & decentralized-tech supporter who did a fantastic voiceover and hired the right person in Jonathan Mayo-Buttry of JBC Motion for the animation (we even featured him on decentralize.fm). The video was released about 2 & 1/2 months ago and has about 125,000 hits, making it by far the most successful video about prediction markets in the history of the Internet. After that last hyperbolic statement it’s also great to mention that just because that many people saw it, doesn’t mean they all care about what we are doing, remember that.

So now you have paid money for a video, created one or two social media channels and are wondering what to do next? Any person in marketing who recommends spending money now is someone you shouldn’t take advice from, in fact if that’s anything but their absolute option, they are most likely full of shit. The next thing to do is associate yourself with people who are influential in the field of what you are creating. Cold contacting is generally not recommended as an introduction means more and will always make someone take you more seriously, but if you lack the network it is acceptable. Either way be brief, polite and thankful….just never sound fake. It’s also good to avoid copy and pasted canned messages if possible, real recognize real.

Let’s keep going and now pretend that you have some money to spend and you may as well spend it or it goes to waste. The best thing you can do is hire someone to be your communicator with the community, there are all kinds of hip names for this but I just say someone in Marketing and let them create their title. Finding someone interested in your project and understanding of what good customer service means (former corporate call-center types are perfect as they appreciate the laid back atmosphere and often are overlooked for this type of job, they will bust their ass). Don’t limit yourself by location, but also be aware of the problems that do come up when in different areas.

So with this person on board and a great video that is explaining a great and original product, the next step is actually doing it. Overthinking strategy is a terrible idea that ultimately will lead to a great plan but little manpower or actual resources to execute it well. Start by introducing yourselves and your project in relevant online communities and subreddits. Find people who have worked on similar projects in the past and reach out for advice and/or feedback. It doesn’t matter who you are talking to about what you are doing, just make sure you are spending time actually talking to people instead of coming up with a plan you will never execute.

Something to also avoid in addition to paid advertising is paying for a presence at a convention or conference. No matter how cool it sounds to go to SXSW, you will be one of thousands startups trying to vie for very limited attention and it will almost certainly not be worth attending. What should be focused on are speaking engagements and startup competitions that allow you to demo your product along with a presence at the conference for free.

The “How Augur Works” video was used to submit Augur into CNBC & Singularity University’s Exponential Finance XCS Challenge in New York City. This conference features some of the most influential and important attendees, to the extent that a ticket starts at $4000 and the event sold out at least a week before it began. I submitted Augur to this and the next day received an overwhemlingly positive response letting us know we were in and getting all of our information. The event itself gave us an amazing opportunity to introduce our project and network with one of the most impressive lists of names I have ever seen. We ended up being named a “Breakthrough Technology Finalist” and the only Blockchain project to make it in the finals of the Breakthrough category. The networking and press we received was invaluable and the cost was only for the transportation to the event and lodging.

When coming up with some of this, I wanted to be able to show demonstrable examples of why I have said something. Augur is still a tiny project in a vast sea of them, but I see so many other projects that are doing so much wrong, it really was something I felt I needed to share.

There are so many interesting projects that I’m interested in and many of them need someone who understands what to do and how to do it. So many think overdoing it is the right idea and maybe it was 30 years ago but people have so many messages being aimed toward them that cutting through that noise is difficult. Remember Less is More.

Please check out my LinkedIn for more information about me, follow me on Twitter @TonySwish and send me an email if you have any feedback.