Everyone is competing for the same space.
The internet has become an endless stream of audio and visual stimuli. With so many brands fighting for user attention, the competition has become much tougher than it used to be.
And with the blockchain space getting more crowded by the day, things are only going to get harder. Every year, 100 million startups are launched all over the world — that’s over 11,400 per hour. And the failure rate is a whopping 90%.
With all that said, certain markets have become overwhelmingly lucrative, especially for the businesses that got in early.
There is perhaps no better example than the blockchain marketing business. As more and more ICOs occur, the service providers helping these companies acquire funding and develop their products are seeing major returns and extraordinary growth. One of the most known in the blockchain space is Verma Media.
Over 650 companies reach out to them each month, and they surpassed the $150M mark in money fundraised for their clients in their first year of business.
More astonishing, they have a 4- to 6-week waitlist for new clients — and that’s assuming your project gets picked. More than 80% of projects are turned down.
That’s right: you have to go through 3 to 5 meetings just to get a formal proposal from the team, and most companies either don’t have the budget or have the right idea to get selected.
While the company’s marketing plans are for the most part customized or confidential, I was able to get the team to give me a 30-minute breakdown of what companies that can’t afford a marketing firm like Verma need to do to give their ICO the best chance of success. Here are the main takeaways from my conversation with their executive team.
The first thing people do when faced with something that piques their interest is look it up on Google, which means a website is a non-negotiable necessity.
The first page that pops up in the search results is critical, according to Dylan Dedi, Chief Brand Officer at Verma. Ideally, the first site in the results is your website, followed by some positive material about your company. Additionally, blockchain companies live by the whitepaper — the primary document that outlines the roadmap and architecture of a project.
“It’s the one thing everyone should look at before throwing any money into a company, yet it’s the one thing nobody really likes looking at,” Dedi says.
“And the aversion is completely understandable. It’s a long paper with lots of technical details that not many have the patience or time to go through. In fact, not many will even understand everything in it.”
According to Dedi, this aversion gave birth to the “litepaper,” a concise, reader-friendly, ultra-simplified version of a whitepaper. The litepaper can be used to understand the “what” and “why” of a project. The whitepaper adds the “how,” which is where you’ll find most of the technical jargon.
Some require materials even more concise than the litepaper, aimed at those who have the least attention to spare yet whose attention you need the most.
“They’re a tougher crowd. No amount of sales talk will magically make them say yes. They want straight-to-the-point substance. So you should deliver the most important points within a page or two, max,” says Dedi.
Verma has experimented with a few solutions for this issue, but it usually boils down to a “two-pager.” This is basically a double-sided executive summary with a list of the team members involved.
One of the biggest signs a project may not be legitimate is if the founders are shady, or their online histories are nonexistent. For this reason, it’s important that companies create an solid online presence. There are several reputable channels founders can use to their advantage, such as Medium. It also helps to contribute to tech websites, offer expert insights on issues through interviews and connect through presentations and speaking engagements.
“Medium is a great place for ICO projects to become thought leaders in their respective space,” says Dedi. “It’s a safe zone to add personality to the project and show the community you genuinely care about what’s going on.”
Simplifying communications is also high on Dedi’s checklist.
“You don’t just jump into tech jargon. It’s an already complex field as it is. You have to make it easier for people to listen to what you’re saying.”
Blockchain and cryptocurrency companies have occasionally been shut out of Facebook this year, but the conversation is alive elsewhere. Bitcointalk has been the go-to forum for Bitcoin since the early days. Reddit and Twitter have also been hotbeds for heated (and sometimes ugly) debates between industry big names.
“Keyboard warriors aside, social media has become a primary channel through which brands communicate to users. You’ll see brands posting even the most critical messages, such as instances of hacks,” Zachary Dash, CMO at Verma explains. “This tells you something: they’ve built up their social media well enough to rely on them for circulating urgent messages.”
Dash points out the importance of keeping a solid relationship with the community, citing Telegram as Verma’s channel of choice for real-time communications. But he stresses that they don’t use bots.
“Although automated bots definitely have a purpose, we believe it’s important that you establish a responsive and non-automated relationship with your community. They’ve supported you through the project; the least you can do is interact and show your appreciation for their trust in you.”
The blockchain sphere has demonstrated some very effective growth hacking tools, among them airdrops and bounties.
In the world of blockchains, “airdrops” are a surefire way to quickly gain followers. In exchange for token giveaways, a company can require users to join their community through Telegram or similar channels, and send out referrals to friends.
Airdrops costs next to nothing at first, according to Dash. And they can jumpstart the creation of a community around a project. They give holders a feeling that they are part of it, and the community will then build up the project through word of mouth and referrals.
“Airdrops are pretty good bait. And then from there, you need to work on maintaining the relationship with the community you’ve built,” Dash says.
It’s also common practice for blockchain organizations to launch bug bounties, in which they call on the public to hack their code so bugs and vulnerabilities can be identified and solved before the network goes live. This saves the startup from a potential meltdown later on, which can be damaging to their reputation, as well as extremely expensive.
The highly competitive space requires some aggressive growth measures. After a project has identified their vision and achieved “project market fit,” many ICO expenditures go toward paid acquisition and adoption, according to Dash.
“Fortunately, Facebook has eased up on its cryptocurrency ad ban, so that’s one additional platform where blockchain companies can soon start building up their brands again. Love it or hate it, Facebook is a powerful tool for business, and will be for many years to come,” Dash says.
According to Dedi, SEO is an underutilized weapon for marketing, primarily because even SEO professionals fail to properly analyze how people conduct their searches on Google. Yet the benefits are high: making it to the top of search results means you’re usually the first page users click on.
“You know that meme saying ‘If it’s not on the first page of a Google search, then it does not exist’? It’s kind of true for most people. They normally won’t scour through the next pages. The first page on Google search is critical — because the next pages usually don’t get looked at,” Dedi says.
He adds that high-quality content and communications are some of the biggest factors determining whether a startup can grow fast and survive. And it’s in this arena that great marketing firms set themselves apart — the part Verma plays in helping startups thrive.
For those looking for a more in-depth guide for ICOs, Verma Media has put together a document to guide you through your ICO journey.