“When it was hype time, the community team had been working for 16 hours per shift” — Simon Sergeev

Continuous working with the community is of crucial significance for the success of an ICO. The support team plays an important role acting as a connector between startup initiators and potential customers, preventing any outflow of potential investors’ moneys and engaging new ones. How to build up efficient relationship with the community, explains Simon Sergeev, Ex-Head of Community Crypterium, who in January managed to raise through ICO $51.6 M, overrunning the hard cap (i.e. the targeted maximum) by 10%. Interview was made by Kirill Bezverhi, author of the FinPR blog.

You’d been in the digital marketing, before you came to the industry. What differences do you see between the classic and the ICO marketing?

Actually, there are more resemblances than differences. In terms of sales, an ICO is an online shop comprising one item, without warehousing and delivery. The shop accepts payments in conventional currencies and in at least 1 out of the top-5 crypto currencies.

There are two major differences:

1. Mostly, an ICO offers a product which is not still in existence.

2. The product is purchased from several countries, and the sales funnel is appropriate.

Lack of a tangible product and the linguistic barrier cause a friction force: more claim management, more distrust in the team. Further, you are very short of time; no A/B test is feasible. And your audience does not understand at all any definitions generally accepted in the industry, say nothing of your project, due to which, you have to daily enlighten the masses in crypto terms.

Simon Sergeev trying to find the right words for the answer

How have you got into the blockchain industry?

In September 2017, I got bored with the then-current project: by that time, I had been head of digital marketing of a travel corporation for a year and a half. I found a substitute, and then I came to Crypterium ICO and was interviewed by Gleb Markov.

They were looking for somebody to become part of their support team. I suggested that they should stop looking for people one-by-one, and that instead, I should undertake the entire scope of work. Together with Gleb, we’ve built up a team comprising 5 members. On the peak, when the traffic was surging and awesome hype broke out, we worked 12 people together.

On a round-the-clock basis, we were covering Russian and English speaking chats in Telegram, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, comments in YouTube, Intercom chat on our website, and private messages on the Facebook page. By the way, most questions we’ve got were from the English-speaking Telegram and Intercom.

On top, we were partially helping our PR team. Suppose there is an idea which should be introduced to the community. The PR dept wrote and published texts, and we promoted these publications in the chat. Or, vice versa, people in the chat began saying that there is a discrepancy in documents/projects. We told PR people about it, and they closed the question by posting materials required.

What did you do when you failed to softpedal any unpleasant discussion in the chat?

If we block or ban somebody, people will not be very happy about it. We make efforts to neutralize any such person by getting him/her in a completely inadequate state, or bring him/her to the reconciliation. Interestingly, Russian chatters are generally very quiet. They put questions on the point and actually take it easy. With all the others who speak English there is much more funk and inadequacy.

Working with community is sometimes like being a psychologist, but working with a dozen of active clients at once. Every day, the composition is changing, but some of them will go all the way with you. Here, actually, there is much of psychology. For example, it is known that in any herding situation — including the hype condition — people will look for a behavior to copy. And you may either let the process run, or demonstrate the right behavior and the right treatment of facts to people. In simple words, as if different people from different accounts say the right words.

Kirill Bezverhi questioning on how to develop community on Telegram

This approach is quite common in the SMM. Even Reddit acknowledged that at the time of their launch, they employed a team of 50 writers who were generating content and maintaining the due course of communication.

What is your goal when you promote chatting?

Constantly heating up the audience is important. People, by themselves, will be rather cautious and unwilling to part with their cash. But if we want to break through the hard cap, we need recklessness, emotional tension. Therefore, we need intrigue.

We at Crypterium have deliberately divided the ICO into a big number of stages, and provided various bonuses. The bonus started from 30%, and went down on every stage. When a user accessed the website, he/she saw the time remaining to the end of the stage, instead of the number of days before the end of the ICO. This is a great difference, its effect is really cool.

There should be some dramatics, some tension which is heated up every hour on the website where the project is being discussed vividly. As a rule, these are Telegram chats, not necessarily owned by the company. Ian Balina’s chat and a number of Russian-speaking chats have serious audience.

To what extent is the community build-up issue important for an ICO to become a success?

It is essential, crucial, there is no hype without. No hype — no fundraising. There will be lots of refunds, if the negative is not worked through. People cash in their last thousand dollars, and subsequently, when emotions are over, they cry bitter tears and claim their money back. We have more than once prevented major cash-outs off the project. It is the market practice that first, one would deposit cash, and only after, one may spend it to buy tokens. If one has not yet bought tokens, the ICO project shall be obliged to refund the money upon request, less the money transfer fee.

Once there was somebody who deposited $46 K because he had read something somewhere, and then he wrote that he did not like the project anymore and wanted to get his money back. You start working with him as a psychologist, you give attention to him, you handle his objections, and he leaves the money in. If it is not his last money, of course.

If we abandon the community, a couple of whales and funds will be the only ones to remain token holders. These are not the best investors, as you have to give bigger bonuses to them, and once the ICO is over, it will be difficult to control the token rate.

Moreover, there are two ways to work with the community: the one, when you handle masses through chats and channels, and the other one — proactive work.

Simon Sergeev explains the meaning of ‘proactive work’

What do you mean by ‘proactive work’?

First, the mass proactive work, I’ve told you about it — this is the demonstration of target behavior and moderation of communication. Second, the individual proactive work, which means pure direct sales. You have to parse members of a blockchain chat into an Excel spreadsheet. Write a sales script, give it to team members, and they begin PM-ing the people. If the team member knows his/her way in socializing, this tool is quite efficient. In this case, avoid giving the link in the first private message to the investor — otherwise, you will be spammed at once.

We had two scripts — a longer one for several days, and a shorter one for quicker handling. The script was something like: “Hi! I saw you in XXX chat. My name is YY. Tell me about yourself, where have you invested yet?”. Then, you ask his/her opinion about several ICOs, one of which is yours. Here, the point is to avoid any “selling” pressure. And then you little by little lead the dialogue to the point where you give the link to the right ICO.

Rate of converting those who answered your PM into a sale is about 10%. There is a story about a guy who raised $40 K in one business day using this method.

Tell me how you generally build up the community?

I set a performance task to the marketing team: 100 people should come to our Telegram chat. Not bots! Normal people. This is done through advertising, especially in YouTube. You take 30 video bloggers and you work each of them out. Not necessarily should these be the biggest ones. Here, overviews and interviews with project founders and developers are very good. Buying ad in other crypto-related Telegram channels is efficient as well.

Further, you recruit people. Take a White Paper, Terms of token sale and maybe other documents from the client. Drop them to guys, and, while they are reading, you prepare for them a test and F.A.Q. (frequently asked questions) for the sales funnel. The tests are required for the developer to see the weaknesses, cover the same and get it started.

Then, you write guidelines for the team members to work upon. For example, in the 1 minute you have to write this and this. After 10 minutes, you have to say this and this, and so on. I always follow the rule: if the chat is silent, say something. This is easy to say and to understand, but this is not easy to do. In particular, that’s why we need the guidelines.

Further. 24/7 support. Nobody wants to work on a weekend or in the nighttime, and you have to manage this. Geographically, all the Crypterium staff was initially based in Moscow; later, we employed people in Warsaw, Macedonia, India, the US.

Simon Sergeev (left), Kirill Bezverhi (right)

Have you ever had a big rush, when you were not able to manage the flow of requests?

Yes, when we hyped. The peak of the traffic happened in the New Year’s holiday season. Many members of the team did not want to work; my mate and me, we had to work 16 hours per shift. It is quite clear that such a work schedule might cause some failures, and we were not able to answer quickly every time. But we’ve got through.

If you turn back the clock, what would you have done otherwise in building up the community?

I would have changed the bonus system. In most ICOs, any staff member’s pay includes two parts: a “fiat” and a bonus in tokens. Fiat is the wage in rubles or in dollars. An average supporter’s wage is about 75 000 rubles, while a Head of Community gets twice as much. As far as token bonuses are concerned, they must be well-balanced.

You must not give too big bonuses. If I could change the past, I would have assured the Crypterium management that they should not promise people a 300% bonus of their wage in tokens straight at the time of employment. Because many people even did not believe in it. They guessed it was a swindle, because they had not earned any such amount before. I would have promised a 100–150% bonus of their wage, and I would have pooled the remaining money to a bonus fund, to incentivize the best team members in crucial moments, such as New Year, holidays, weekends, nighttime.

But the bonus shall not be lower than 100% of the wage, as the worker may get an idea that he/she is being underpaid, and may decide to scam. I mean situations where somebody PMs an investor, something like: “Do you want to get a 50% bonus? Send money to this wallet”. The very sad thing is, they really send. Do not mistreat the support team. I’ve heard that in an ICO, community managers have grabbed out about $2M this way.

The crypto industry is changing quickly, you even don’t know whether to the better or to the worse. What has changed for you as an ICO communication support expert?

For me, professional requirements are getting harder. Half a year ago, I liked the Crypterium’s website, and I came to Gleb. Crypterium turned out to be a successful project. Now, skeezy projects have learnt to make good websites and write interesting papers — on the one side. And on the other side, market requirements have got tougher in respect to that what is called a “non-skeezy” project.

Simon Sergeen on ‘index tokens’

Despite all this toughening, no doubt that the market will grow, and there will appear a bigger number of various coins and tokens. The public interest will continue growing as well. It’s not like the Big Data: there was much noise, and it seems to be forgotten. And for this general public, the situation becomes challenging: even now, it is quite difficult to find a way among all this variety of tokens and coins. However, they still want to try. This is one of the reasons why the demand for index tokens is rising.

What do you mean by ‘index tokens’?

This is, you buy 1 token and form a diversified portfolio at once, which is managed by the index token issuer’s algorithm. That is, instead of trying in vain to form a crypto portfolio of 20 to 30 doubtful coins and tokens, you just buy 1 token and get a portfolio of top-100 items, managed by mathematicians/ traders who continuously work on the algorithm re-balancing and enhancement.

This is a new market trend already implemented in the CryptoIndex Token, which will be launched in May. We have already begun preparing the ICO’s support team, so for me, there has been no change in terms of work. And in terms of marketing and PR, yet: market changes are expected.

What is your forecast in respect of the ICO market development?

In the most drastic regulatory scenario, it will turn out that ICOs do not need the support service at all. Everything will be reduced to mass negotiations with “licensed investors”, whatever it might mean. This will be more like direct sales to several people; however, for owners, having more investors is always more beneficial. Let me be set right in comments, if I’m wrong.

Interview was made by Kirill Bezverhi, author of FinPR

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