Is it worth dealing with the PR and marketing of an ICO in Russia? How much money should be invested to ensure the tokensale success? How to get published in the most popular media on this topic? Kirill Bezverhi, the author of the Telegram channel FinPR, discussed this with the CEO of Digital Finance, and COO of Waves Lab, Vitaliy Tsigulev.
How did you start promoting ICOs?
The ICOs boomed in 2017. We cooperated with the Waves platform at the time, and it offered the token issue and the ICO launch. Waves was approached by projects that wanted to run the ICO and needed promotion. We became involved at this stage. We have conducted 7 successful ICOs, including the ICO of Starta, in 2017 and the beginning of this year.
The ICO for Simdaq, a service for cryptocurrency traders, was our recent successful project. Against a falling market and within 26 hours we raised a Hard Cap of $5 mln, just at the end of January this year. A total of 2 thous. people participated.
How much was invested in PR and marketing of the Simdaq ICO?
I cannot disclose this data, but what matters is not the size of the budget, but the way it is allocated. I saw cases when $300–500 thous. and more were spent, and very little was raised. Vice versa, there were cases when a great result was achieved with a very small budget through bounty programs and community involvement.
This is what happened to the Simdaq ICO, where we used cooperation with private and local communities and closed investor pools, in particular.
What do you mean about “private communities”?
I am talking about funds that people from the venture industry won’t even call funds. But cooperation with them yields great results. For instance, it could be an opinion leader, or a leader of a community with 200 investors in a chat group. We approach them through their partner and present our project and answer questions. The startup founders are involved in the conversation, if necessary.
If everything goes well, they jointly buy tokens. As a rule, we pay the community leader 5–10% of the amount raised, aside from the discount. The number of such pools has been growing lately, and this is a real trend.
Talking about PR, what crypto media yields the best conversion?
Cointelegraph and Coindesk — but only for those who are there on a free basis. The most efficient publications are organic, when an editorial is published mentioning your project. Even if there is no link to your website in the content, it is much better than paid placement in terms of brand recognition. A good example would be a case mentioning our customer’s brand, for example Starta, in Cointelegraph.
Is it really possible to get a free publication in Cointelegraph?
It all depends on the project.
Believe me, some of the media are ready to cover you for free if your content is interesting. You need to know how to pitch journalists, so having established ties would be perfect.
If an ICO startup has a big PR budget, I would advise allocating most of the money not on paid publications but on cooperation with local PR agencies in the US, Asia, and Europe, depending on the project targeting. A monthly subscription fee for them can start from $5K, and the most popular ones charge $20–25 thous. per month. Much depends on the region, though. In Korea, you can find an agency for $3–4 thous. per month.
The remaining smaller part of the budget — no more than a few dozen thousand — can be spent on paid publications. Some crypto media do not work on a free basis at all. However, I would not advise buying a placement in the largest media. It is better to place in 20 different, second-tier media instead of in one article in Cointelegraph.
How do you manage to get free publications about the ICO?
In most cases, working on the customer’s PR starts from obtaining the introductory information, preparing the first press release, and then sending it to a great number of crypto and business media. After sending it out, we collect feedback and analyze what was catching and what was not.
Another way is to choose an interesting topic and ask the author of the project to tell about it. We make up the theses and the plan and keep targeting the media in a similar way — for instance, with the aim of publishing the author’s column.
Another format is approaching current columnists of major media — like Forbes. We find columnists who specialize in our topics, contact them via Twitter, tell about ourselves, and offer content. However, in this case we often have to offer money under the table, as the Americans say, that is, unofficially.
Does it make sense to promote the ICO in Russia?
There are many ICOs of Russian teams, and many of them intuitively want PR in their homeland. Some of them set up a Telegram chat in Russian, get published in DeCenter, Forklog, Bits.Media, and attend conferences in Moscow and Saint Petersburg in order to raise capital.
However, the practical economic benefit is not high. I would not advise anyone to spend more than 10–15% of the total budget on promoting the ICO in Russia.
What role does interaction with the community play in the ICO success?
It all depends on the kind of investors the startup is looking for. If the team aims to raise most of the money from private investors, via crowdsale, then the community plays a key role. PR, online marketing, traffic purchase — all these tools will be secondary, as they just help involve people in the community.
If the startup initially aims to raise money from funds and institutional investors, then PR would play a key role. This has been true since the venture market. It has always been a good courtesy to make a great article about your business with a journalist from a major business publication. This article could become a kind of presentation of the company containing the description of its financial model, background, pictures, and profiles of team members.
We went for it with the Russian Forbes. As for the format, it can be an editorial or an interview, as we did with Waves for Forbes.
This works out great when you write to an investor and add a link to the article. The publication in the major media is a confirmation that the startup has passed some filters and can be considered.
What marketing tools will you advise using?
I would turn your attention to AirDrop. It is when someone performs certain actions and is rewarded with free tokens. Such tasks can include, for example, joining a Telegram chat, writing a comment somewhere, or some other simple actions.
I would also note purchasing various positions on relevant blockchain-related websites: a service for monitoring the cryptocurrency capitalization — Coinmarketcap, a signal aggregator for investors — Cryptopanic or, for example, a blockchain explorer in Ethereum — Etherscan. Publications of banners or contextual advertising there bring good traffic to the website.
What trends can you see on the ICO market?
One of the most global trends is shifting from crowdsales that involve masses of small investors to working with funds and venture capital.
Besides, it is difficult to miss the tightening of the “rules of the game”, when Facebook, Twitter, MailChimp, etc. ban ICO advertising.
The same is for regulation. For instance, we used to work with one contractor in Korea. When we wanted to attract him to a new project, we sent him a letter, but he replied, “Are you crazy? I will go to jail because of you. Don’t contact me again!” It turned out that the legislation had been changed there. However, after some time, another contractor agreed to cooperate without problems. Many markets see such uncertainty now.