5 things you need to know about marketing blockchains
The world of cryptocurrencies and decentralisation is characterised by virality, tribalism, and anomalies. As the field of blockchain marketing begins to gather recognition for its specialist nature, let's start with the 5 most important things you need to know about working in this field and why they are important for becoming successful.
1. You are working with interconnected communities
Make no mistake, the most important part of your job is first to create, and then manage, a crowd of people with broadly common norms, goals, and places of aggregation who believe in your vision and mission. Decentralised ecosystems thrive only if on one hand, you have been able to rally individuals to micro-buy into the vision and mission of the project, thus purchasing and/or supporting the native digital asset of your ecosystem; and on the other hand, if you have been able to communicate the ability of the project team to deliver on the journey to the execution of the vision and mission it set for itself.
To be successful at this part of your job, you must design a powerful brand that will support everything the project team does. The project should be genuinely engaging for your community of token holders, for the developers building on it, for the people the team will need to execute its vision. Good part of the value is created with the project’s business and technical execution, but an important part will need to be delivered by marketing, especially during the early stages when the network is not live yet.
Without a world-tilting mission, an earth-shattering rally cry, and leading-edge execution, you will not get there. Failing at this means that the relationship with your crowd will remain transactional, and you may end up with a small crowd of individuals only interested in financial returns (nothing about fulfilling your vision), and who will sell your token and abandon ship as soon as they have met their short-term objectives, or as soon as they find another project that will look like a better investment.
2. You must be radically transparent
The promise that blockchain technology brings is that of a smart-coded democratisation of society. This happens thanks to two of the inherent properties of this technology: immutability and auditability. However high or low you are into the hierarchy of marketing for your project, please be assured that the community will hold you to the highest standards when it comes to communicating and relating to them.
In many ways, it is not dissimilar to brands with an ambitious and radical brand mission, but in the world of crypto and blockchain this is further compound by the fact that your community is not just a 'customer'. You community member perceives him or herself as an investor, someone with a personal stake in the project, and someone entitled to know what is really going on. The only thing that you can do is to make sure your messages are well crafted, clearly understandable, and consistent. Be transparent and always lead by example.
3. Be ready to be challenged
An extension to the previous point, blockchain communities are made of people passionate about the projects they follow, and are very aware of the risks associated with being in this space. You should always welcome questions and feedback, knowing full well that some of what they will ask you may be challenging to the project team or even yourself personally if you are the spokesperson for the project.
You should be fair in how you respond, but equally firm in handling who steps out of the boundaries of what is acceptable. As a marketer, it is for you to deliver the vision and identity of the brand each step of the way, and you should know that each project will set such boundaries in different places. My suggestion to you is to avoid working for projects you don't feel comfortable with, especially the language and the norms of its community.
4. There are shortcuts, and it is for you to decide whether to take them or not
It is no secret that some projects in the blockchain space have fallen short from what they promised to deliver even though they raised staggering amounts of funds. Regardless of their ability to execute their roadmap, they might have gained popularity and their founders might have become very well known. How did they do that? The blockchain community as a whole is nascent, maturing day by day into a richly diverse industry, and some players are cleaner than others.
There are a number of tools available to 'cheat' the system (mostly perfectly legal!), and as a marketer in this industry you will need to take a call on whether to be kosher or not. In the tech sphere, 'traditional' growth hacking unearths highly innovative ways to create exponential growth. This is amazing and if you don't have a growth hacking mentality, you should definitely explore this area thoroughly. But that's not what I am discussing here. Some of the bad practices are, for example, token shilling, market making, aggressive token airdrop campaigns, coordinated adversarial FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) campaigns, shallow partnership announcements or highly paid ghost advisory roles.
Make use of growth hacking and leverage your entire marketing toolkit, but stay away from questionable practices. If you need such strategies to make your project successful, then that’s a warning sign that the project has some fundamental flaws and it will not survive for long.
5. Blockchain marketing requires a well-rounded skill set
You may have found out this already: in blockchain, marketing roles are much wider in competency than in traditional start-ups. Very few projects and companies in this space have grown to such size as to have large marketing teams (the exceptions being native blockchain enterprises like Binance, Coinbase, ConsenSys, etc). For the vast majority, blockchain projects are startups with marketing teams that are quite small. Given the complexities of creating and managing a blockchain ecosystem, as a marketer you will need to have robust understanding of:
the technical side of your project, being able to discuss and explain it in simple terms to be its lead evangelist.
crypto trading, and the peculiarities and language of the world of crypto investors.
community building and management, a role that is much wider than just social media management.
how to acquire 'customers' without a product or service to sell, or a price for that matter.
how to engage the open-source community of developers.
the news cycles and newsworthiness in the industry, and how to leverage the movers-and-shakers in a targeted, genuine way.
how to do marketing with highly transparent data handling practices.
Blockchain as a field is interdisciplinary, something that makes working in this industry endlessly enriching and fascinating. It is up to you to carve your speciality and develop your skill set. I hope that this bit-size overview has given you some food for thoughts and ideas on how to take it forward.
If you would like to reach out with comments about this piece, just DM me on Twitter @alessandrachha1 or find me on LinkedIn. What should I cover next? Let me know!