ICO Marketing Basics That Work
Ensure your blockchain project’s fundraising efforts achieve maximum ROI, grow your user community, and accelerate adoption of your token.
As the operator of Japan’s top ICO directory, CoinJinja, we get the opportunity to review a broad variety of blockchain projects seeking to raise funds. Over time, we’ve observed patterns that are common to the most successful projects and through to compile them into a guide for those beginning their fundraising journey.
For those of you who have already set up most of these items well and are ready to explore opportunities in the Japan market, you may find our guide to Marketing Your Blockchain Project in Japan useful.
Here is a common-sense approach that many projects sadly ignore. It’s much easier to stand out if you go about things the right way.
- Start ASAP: Get a communications specialist on your team ASAP and start building out your online presence as early as possible. This way, by the time you are ready to begin the crowd-funding push, you will already have a following and organic traffic.
- Document, Don’t Create: A strategy attributed to marketing legend, Gary Vaynerchuk. Rather than trying to “sell” people and look like a massive global operation from day one, you should instead focus on authentically telling the story of your team’s journey and sharing your progress.
- Don’t Be Annoying: Avoid pop-ups, giant banners, slick-looking advertising, spamming, and paying “influencers.” Instead, mine your team for nuggets of wisdom and interesting stories. This makes you relatable and believable — in stark contrast to the many projects trying to hype their way to the top.
- Focus on Your Strengths: If your team has at least one member who is charismatic, prepare to use them as the face of the project through photos, videos, and audio content. If you’re all introverted, no problem, focus more on producing thoughtfully written content.
Before you can start building out your online presence, you need to make it memorable. Start cheap, and you can upgrade it later.
- Name: You don’t want to get overly hung up on this stage, but do try to choose something unique and do a rough check on Trademarkia to ensure you’re not violating someone’s trademark. You want something that people can easily spell if told it over the phone. Google your chosen name to see if it doesn’t mean something unpleasant in another language!
- Domain: Grab a domain name on a registrar such as GoDaddy or the website builder of your choice. You’re unlikely to get a dot-com, so go with one of the other extensions. Try to buy the same domain with other popular suffixes to partially protect you from scammers who will try to copy your site and publish it on a similar domain.
- Usernames: Try to make your usernames on the various platforms you sign up to similar to your domain name.
- Visual Identity: Don’t waste time and money on hiring a designer at this stage. Use a quick and cheap solution such as Logojoy or Tailor Brands to whip up something. You need a brief document and files with your logo, slogan, fonts, and colors as the foundation of all your visuals so that you look professional and are easy to recognize. Share it with all team members who create content that will be seen publicly.
This is the centerpiece of your promotions. However, rather than trying to outdo the hottest ICOs on earth from day one, take a lean approach and iterate over time.
- UVP (Unique Value Proposition): A one-line summary of your value proposition. Ideally, incorporate some visual element that is understandable at a glance.
- Explainer video: You’ll want to update this as your project matures, so keep the first couple of iterations cheap.
- Whitepaper: Get a writer and designer to help you polish these into something people will actually want to read. Write for everyday people and minimize the use of jargon, buzzwords, and hype. From this, produce a One-pager.
- Newsletter: A form for subscribing to newsletters. Social platforms can change overnight or suspend your account if they perceive you as overly promotional. An email list gives you direct access to your community. Make your signup form prominent and tell people what to expect from your emails (why they should sign up and how often you plan on sending).
- Links: To your various social media profiles and listings on ICO tracker and rating sites.
- Team: Bios with good photos and working links to properly filled-out LinkedIn profiles (and Twitter if any of your team are on it). Don’t add people who aren’t relevant. Investors don’t need to see a huge number of people — just those who are genuinely adding value.
- Media/Press: Once you have at least a couple, add this section.
As for the tech side of your website:
- Platform: Just use a low-cost, consumer-grade website builder like Strikingly or Wix. You should be focusing on the content. Avoid the temptation to build something complex that will need to be continuously maintained with software updates and tweaks because it can be a huge distraction.
- Analytics: Either your website builder’s built-in stats, or Google Analytics can help give you insights on the kind of traffic your site is receiving and help you optimize it over time.
- Newsletter: Popular platforms include Constant Contact and iContact. They can generate a signup form which you can embed in your site.
Your Communication Channels
Before you go about registering your ICO on all the various directories or sending out press releases, cultivate the workflows so that you can function as your own PR outlet. Here are the platforms that we see as essential for any ICO.
- LinkedIn Company Page: Set this up first because each team member’s profile will need to link to it. Share the same updates that you post on Twitter here too and make use of hashtags.
- LinkedIn Profiles: Each team member needs a properly filled-out profile with a decent photo. Have your team’s best writer help with editing and have your best photographer take profile shots in a consistent style. You’ll use the same photos in the team section of your website and in your white paper. This is a key platform for blogging and building the individual brands of your executives.
- GitHub: This is crucial to prove you have built something. Nobody wants to invest in just an idea. Make sure yours is well organized and the English polished.
- Twitter: You need to be tweeting something meaningful daily. Tell the story of your progress, share your team’s thoughts on various issues related to your project’s mission. Be mindful that it is very easy to get banned from Twitter, so avoid overtly promoting your ICO and stay out of conflicts. Read Twitter’s Terms of Service and the Twitter Rules for more information.
- Medium: This is where you can post long-form updates and share in more depth. Create an official account and start a publication (a collection of posts) and have your member who is the best writer manage it. Read the rules because many crypto projects get banned from Medium for being overly promotional of their ICO. Try to post at least monthly.
- Newsletter: Try to send out at least one update monthly, and weekly at the most.
- Telegram Group: This is the central place where your community will interact with you. Since you’ll be starting from scratch, just be sure to share all your updates in here.
- YouTube: You’ll want to have an explainer video under two minutes. Other items to add are recordings of any speaking sessions and a monthly update from the founders.
There is no single right way to go about this. You can learn from looking at how the most successful projects in your niche are doing it and adapting the relevant parts of their approach to what you are doing.
Drop the idea that you need to be super polished and slick. Focus on being authentic and communicating clearly to your audience. Your production quality and polish will come over time.
There are many directories where you can list. Rather than registering everywhere, we recommend focusing on the top three sites in each category and ensuring your information is kept up-to-date.
- ICO Directories: Top ICO List, ICO Bench, ICO Drops. For non-English speaking markets, other sites might be more popular. For example, ours, CoinJinja, is number one in Japan.
- Startup Directories: Angel List, Crunchbase, Product Hunt
- Wikis: Wikipedia is tough, and your entry will be deleted unless deemed noteworthy. Try alternatives such as Bitcoinwiki and others relevant to your project.
Once you get into a groove, you’ll find you get more ideas for content than you can possibly execute. But, here are some to get you started.
- Progress Updates: These are crucial. Prospective and current investors want to know what your team is doing and that things are moving forward.
- Investor Interviews: People are attracted to projects in which others have already invested. Interview your investors. If they are charismatic, and resources allow, try producing a video. Otherwise, try transcribing the interview and publishing it as a blog post. You can take the best quotes and use them on your website.
- User Interviews: If your product or service has been trialed by some early adopters, try interviewing them and presenting them as case studies.
- Team Member Interviews: In addition to documenting the journey of your project overall, you want to be showcasing the expertise of your team members.
- Lessons Learned: Do not be afraid to talk publicly about your failures and what they taught you and your team. People will appreciate the authenticity and humility. It also shows that you are gaining experience and expertise.
- Events: If anyone from your team gets a speaking session or participates in a round-table panel discussion, see if you can take a video. You could also interview attendees who are relevant subject matter experts.
Doing this properly is a full-time job, and technical founders are not always the best people to be doing it. It may make sense to bring someone on if you can afford to. They need to be socially savvy and understand your project in depth.
- Tumbleweeds: You’ll be starting from zero, but persist and learn how to gain organic reach through the correct use of SEO, hashtags, and engagement.
- Nuisances: Once your community grows, it will attract scammers, spammers, and trolls. Be sure to ban, block, and report them on each respective platform.
- Engagement: Otherwise known as being social! This is labor intensive, but authentic engagement on each platform with your target audience will make you stand out, as it is so rare these days. So many projects are trying to game the system with bots. Don’t do this — anyone with half a brain can see such tactics for what they are.
There is no shortcut or hack for the successful promotion of an ICO. That said, taking a strategic approach can help you avoid many of the common pitfalls. If you have been doing a good job and working consistently since the inception of your project, then you should have attracted a community who are keen to participate in your ICO once you announce it.
Founded in November 2017 and headquartered in Japan, CoinJinja’s mission is to inform, educate, and connect the global cryptocurrency community while removing barriers to making transactions.
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