Last year I published articles on how to promote an ICO and create a good white paper. However, the crypto market has changed dramatically since that time, and things that worked then might be useless today. So I decided to analyze the current situation and come up with up-to-date marketing advice for those planning a token sale.
ICO market: huge changes
The year 2017 was a golden period for crypto startup founders. According to stats, there were 902 token sales in 2017, and their teams managed to raise more than $2 bn. It seemed that there was finally an alternative to traditional finance and venture capital. But the reality turned out to be far less positive.
From the 2017 successful ICO batch, 46% of projects were dead by early 2018 due to the founders taking the money and running, or by slowly ending any activity. This triggered discussions about the death of ICOs as a funding tool.
However, ICOs have survived, and in 2018, crypto startups have raised a whopping $18 billion. Interestingly, a major portion of these investments has gone to huge project token sales (like Telegram TON) whose main target audience were accredited investor buying tokens on a closed sale. According to Coinschedule, 18% of overall ICOs sales were made via private sales and 37% were private-only. Numbers from Tokendata say that ~58% of all ICOs got their money through presale rounds, as cited by Investopedia. Also, the share of investment and hedge funds in an average successful ICO is now about 60–80%.
What is in it for ICO marketers?
To sum it up, lots of projects that conducted a successful ICO in 2017 are dead by now. New crypto champions have shifted their focus from mom-and-pop investors to market professionals and hedge funds. This is how things have changed for ICO marketers.
A new approach to white papers
The main goal for any ICO in 2017 was to reach as many people as possible. Teams were on the hunt for potential private investors who could put their Bitcoin or two into their new venture. In order to do this, they created bright, beautiful marketing materials, including white papers. A typical white paper of this period is a wordy 80-something page pdf with fancy images, graphs, market growth forecasts, and calculations of future profits for token holders.
It’s different now. When your target audience is a skilled accredited investor or even an investment fund, you have to give them more specific information. These guys are not crypto enthusiasts, they need to understand how you will make them money.
Fancy images and huge white papers are not things that can help in solving this task. This is why more and more successful projects design short white papers and focus their materials on really important money-related matters. For example, the team behind the Petro project that raised $735 million during a closed presale, used a 25 page white paper which was hard to imagine back in 2017.
Table of contents of Petro project white paper
Marketing shift: fewer words, more business
Once again, those who invest in successful ICOs today do not want entertainment. They want specific information on your industry, its problems, your technology, and team. No pink glasses and unrealistic forecasts with fancy graphs. This applies to any piece of content you produce to support your ICO.
Look how the Bankera project used its blog. This startup, which raised $150+ million at its ICO, started blogging about paying transactional revenue to token holders right after the ICO started. This is a solid approach that shows that there is an opportunity to get real money.
It might be hard to create compelling content that simultaneously reveals your business model and market specifics. This is why it might be a good idea to hire an ICO content marketing agency. An experienced agency will help you to be in sync with current trends, and this is exactly what we at Smile Bright Media Inc. do.
Content distribution should be different
When your goal is to reach a maximum number of crypto holders, you will use any medium and tools you can. But there are fewer opportunities to do this in 2018 than it was in early 2017. You can’t use social networks and ads in search engines, crypto media outlets want thousands and dozens of thousands of dollars for sponsored content placement, Telegram and Discord are full of scammers that mimic popular bloggers and promise to create an ICO review on their blog or channel. All these make super active content distribution impossible for most startups.
Today to be effective you should use a handful of content marketing tools like own blog and trusted and loyal crypto websites like Hackernoon. Look how the Celsius network founder used this blog to describe his project and its features. And it worked, as the startup has raised $50 million.
I’ve been actively studying the ICO market for the last couple of years. Here is a recap of what you should be aware of when promoting your ICO in 2018 and early 2019:
- Entertainment is not your task anymore — today’s ICO investors are mostly serious guys in suits; they need numbers and thorough analysis, they want to see that you understand what is going on, have your solutions for real-world problems, and your team is experienced enough to solve this task. Your content should address these concerns, and that’s it.
- Limit your distribution to a handful of tools — nowadays the number of promotion tools available to ICOs is more limited than ever, but even this does not mean you should try them all. Most of them are either too costly or risky (like using bloggers etc.) as there are still lots of scammers. The better option is to develop owned channels like blogs and spread the word about your project at an external website with an active and targeted community (Hackernoon is one of the top choices here).
- ICO marketing means constant research — Things are changing so fast that you should be doing your research and conducting testing every day. Any points from this article may become completely irrelevant by spring. So you have to run to stay in the same place. This is very hard, and if there are any options for getting help from external agencies or contractors, it may be worth using some to gain some extra time to work on a project.