Andrey Sergeenkov


Let’s talk about the problems of ICO Marketing: 16 opinions

A few years ago, it was only certain business and IT companies engaged in the development or research of new technologies or the implementation of promising projects that heard about ICOs. Recently, this term has been making its way into the lexicon of ordinary people, and an increasing number of campaigns are choosing ICO as a way to attract investment.

The preparation and execution of an ICO is a complex and rather lengthy process, with many potential pitfalls along the way. One should understand that the process can take from several months to a year, or even longer. Also, you need to have a sufficient financial base, at least, to attract third-party consulting agencies and to make advance payments to your employees. The minimum initial budget required is about $50,000 pre-ICO.

You have to take several factors into account: the formation of an international company, the choice of jurisdiction, the market situation, the selection of professionals for your staff, and much more. At the same time, the risk-level is always quite high, as there are many ICO projects fighting for investment funding. It is important to state your objectives clearly, and remain as open to the public and potential investors as possible.

I have spoken with 16 industry leaders and gathered their opinions about the complexities they perceive in the niche of ICO marketing. That’s what they said.


1. Erik MacKinnon, Director of Growth at technology startup Blockmason

In my experience, the main challenge with PR in the blockchain technology space is that it’s a brand-new industry. There simply isn’t the same level of journalist coverage or media interest that traditional industries receive.
The community of people around the world who are interested in blockchain startups, cryptocurrencies and the like is growing, but still small. So as a blockchain technology company we really have to work hard to stand out.
Further, because blockchain is so new and is moving so quickly, most of the traditional media companies have no idea how things should work. This issue was most evident earlier this year with blanket advertising bans put in place by Facebook, Google and others.
Thankfully, Facebook has taken some time to realize the difference between blockchain startups and ICOs, and have started to allow blockchain technology companies access to their digital ad platform.

2. Alex Mason, Director of Growth at Seedpay - digital payment solution for micro-retailers.

The biggest challenge in marketing a blockchain based solution is getting lost in the infrastructure and technology that enables faster, more secure and more reliable payments.
We only speak about our infrastructure when a prospective customer wants to better understand how we can deliver the value proposition that we promise. It all goes back to knowing your customer and building something they need. The average customer does not need blockchain or crypto, but they do need better business payment solutions that are built with their business needs in mind.

3. Cassie Gonzalez, community and brand manager at OnePitch

Two big problems that companies have when marketing within the blockchain and ICO niche are finding the right audience and then condensing messaging so that only the most important facts are being shared to provide a clear benefit to that audience.
One reporter recently told us that techies, in particular, often like to add so many caveats that their quotes become both indecipherable and also so general that they are meaningless.

4. Sebastien DiMichele, Co-Founder of the Syscoin protocol and Director of Public Relations for Blockchain Foundry Inc

Competition is fierce in the Blockchain space, for every legitimate project that exists, you will find at least ten others that claim to offer it in the future, creating more competition in your niche market.
Don’t fall for the vaporware hype train though, you and your competition may regret it by facing severe legal complications. As a co-founder of the project, I’ve seen many projects making empty promises and that have had huge followings, quickly were revealed as exit scams. If you are promoting any blockchain project, make sure you do your due diligence and are promoting something real.

5. Tony Pham, Head of Marketing Communications at TrustToken

Competition is fierce in the Blockchain space, for every legitimate project that exists, you will find at least ten others that claim to offer it in the future, creating more competition in your niche market.
Don’t fall for the vaporware hype train though, you and your competition may regret it by facing severe legal complications. As a co-founder of the project, I’ve seen many projects making empty promises and that have had huge followings, quickly were revealed as exit scams. If you are promoting any blockchain project, make sure you do your due diligence and are promoting something real.

6. Ofir Beigel, CEO at one of the largest and oldest information sites about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies 99Bitcoins

I think the main difficulty most projects come across is what I refer to in step 5 as speaking Bitcoinish. Meaning they don’t talk their investors’ language and many people don’t understand what the ICO is all about. Sometimes this happens because the founders themselves aren’t really clear about what they are doing (sad but true).

7. Will McCormick, founder at San Francisco based PR agency Pure Knot

From a marketing/advertising perspective, the scarcity of ad units due to bans by Google, Facebook Twitter etc has resorted to a more traditional direct media buying strategy.
This scarcity has pushed up the CTR/CTA rates for the available ad units, increasing the cost for ICO campaigns. This does mean that more funds are needed for marketing campaigns, but also that ICO marketing agencies need to be more discerning with regards what clients they take on.

8. Kyle Fournier, Director of Content at Cryptocurrency Knowledge Resource CryptoManiaks

The blockchain, crypto, and ICO space is saturated by huge numbers of new projects, all claiming to be superior. Many projects do essentially the same things and have trouble convincing people of their advantages amongst all their competitors.
One huge hurdle that many projects have found insurmountable is clearly stating their value proposition. Blockchain technology is complicated and when projects state their mission statements, they’re often filled with jargon to the point of being unreadable for many of their targeted customers.
For example, stating that your project is an “open-source, decentralized payment system that will disrupt current methods” has become not only cliche, but meaningless.

9. Mazdak Mohammadi, owner of a marketing company blueberrycloud

The major challenges in the cryptocurrency space is competition and differentiation.
Answering the following question is important and challenging for ICO companies: How is the value we bring different than the value our competitors are bringing?
We find that most people in the ICO space struggle to answer this question adequately. We have found that the space is full of entrepreneurial opportunistic spirit however, we have yet to meet a team that truly understands why they doing what they are doing, and what problem they are actually trying to solve.
I don’t assign total blame on the entrepreneurs in the space since the future of cryptocurrency is so unknown. Regardless of this fact, a clear vision in leadership is essential and it’s lacking in most of the teams pursuing an ICO.

10. Adrienne Mazzone, president of PR firm TransMediaGroup

Just as every other trade, everyone is on a race to show their blockchain is almost ready, yet when the one with the test pilot proves to be just about there, reporters are not sure who/what to believe and don’t want to write about something that may or may not be the one to succeed.
It’s almost like the crying wolf syndrome. While it delays some media, the ones that truly understand the technology and all involved and spend the time to listen and ask the right questions, they are the ones that are hitting the story and alleviating some of those difficulties for the messengers/public relations and marketing people.

11. Evan Maslennikov, CEO of affiliate network platform RunCPA

Last year the crypto industry finally allowed non-institutional investors to invest in startups. This meant an easier way for entrepreneurs to raise funds for their ideas, gradually increasing the value of every channel people used for attracting private investors for rather limited obligations.
Eventually, this rocketed prices for any activity that would help an investor notice a project sky high. The competition for investors’ attention has been really intense ever since. For instance, posting a press-release on a crowded news site will cost you no less than 10 grand.
Banner impressions (CPM) would cost 15 bucks compared to the $0.5 — $1 price average for the display ads market. A sponsored post in a crypto-related Telegram channel? 0.5 bitcoin if the host is feeling generous. The overpricing is literally everywhere now. So every marketing move is now insanely expensive, often costing projects up to 75% of all the funds raised from private investors.
Naturally, making a quality product in such a hostile environment is quite the challenge for every project out there. And besides, the community is just sick of constantly being told that someone is about to disrupt yet another niche in their business.

12. Jatin Madhra, Founder and CEO of Bient Tech agency

The ICO Marketing Scenario has started to falter at its very foundation. The concept of ICOs was introduced for genuine, disrupting ideas to raise crowdfund and transform into successful startups.
But today, everyone is doing an ICO, irrespective of the need. Without solid tokenomics, without sturdy token utility, everyone is jumping in for a slice of cake.
I agree that not every ICO is getting successful, but a lot more than the deserving ones are. It has all become about hype. It is not how marketing is done these days, but why marketing is done. To create a solid buzz of even the most non-credible projects, leading to scams and failed products.
Somewhere in between, the most genuine and well-thought ideas are lost. Which is a shame because it contradicts the very concept of an ICO at the origin.

13. Tony Lewis, cofounder of marketing agency ICOsuccess

Marketing an ICO is actually not that hard. Well, not any harder than marketing any other business outside of the blockchain space.
In fact, in my opinion, there aren’t that many bright marketing campaigns in this industry right now.
This gives us, the good storytellers, an opportunity to stand out amongst the “average” ICO.
Most people will start complaining about how difficult it is to run ads that deal with crypto and blockchain. I say this is actually good for us. Sure, getting a cheap click through rate to your page is cool but that’s not going to make you sell-off during your presale.
Your marketing campaign will be successful if you can get people hyped up enough to believe in your idea. There has to be a combination of love towards the solution you are bringing to a real problem but also love towards your token.
Try to stay focus. You need to make sure you’re building hype around both things. The success of your project is your long-term goal, while the hype around your token is something you need to be working around throughout the remainder of your endeavor. After all, your token is what’s going to get you funding.

14. Mari Luukkainen, Head of Growth of cashback platform Dealjoy

In some sense ICO marketing has become a bit more difficult than before after the advertising bans, but in my opinion the more mature market has lead it to good direction.
More professional teams and actual businesses are gaining more visibility and nowadays you really need good marketers to run a successful ICO.
Businesswise it is a good direction because a successful and well-built marketing campaign can also iterate your whole business concept when you’re forced to think a bit more your audience and product-market fit.
This doesn’t happen in many product focused ICO projects where the whole roadmap is filled with product details and the whole user acquisition, go-to-market planning and business execution is completely forgotten. So even the marketing is nowadays more complex and expensive it’s a better playground for real VC backed business projects that will be better for investors in a long run.

15. Ernest Buberman, Director of Sales at Swiss Growth Forum

Today new ICO’s face a lot of different problems. The biggest issue they have is that they do not have a clear marketing plan nor they do not know how to reach out to the investors.
Another mistake that they do, they think of the marketing as the last tool. When ICO do their budgets, they do not allocate money for it.
Often, they go to a big Blockchain event, where they hope to raise money, on the contrary, a privately held event is more beneficial to raise capital, since ICO will have one-on-one interaction there.

16. Simon Barnby, Head of Marketing at crypto exchange Archax

Marketing an ICO successfully presents all sorts of challenges — but it is precisely this that makes the activity so intellectually interesting to marketers.
However, before you even start to think about what marketing to do and how to do it, the question of what you are actually allowed to do has to be addressed first. The marketing of investment opportunities (particularly who can do it and to whom) is heavily regulated around the world and the way regulators see different types of tokens varies too (e.g. utility tokens are typically viewed quite differently to security tokens).
So, the first challenge is really to work out what you are actually marketing, where you want to market it, and then who you are actually allowed to market it to and how.

What problems did you encounter? Write about it in the comments section.

Check my list with 45+ ICO marketing tips:

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