Dmitry Elin, co-founder and head of the partner network for crypto projects Biggico, shares his observations on the changing features of ICO projects' promotion over the past year with the readers of DeCenter.

I have been watching the ICO market since April 2017, that is, from the very beginning of its growth, and would like to share my observations on the changes in strategies and tools for marketing projects.

Summer 2017. Hype

News about the records of funds raised at ICOs first quaked the internet, then the smoking lounges of cozy offices, then the restaurants, and even the restrooms. EOS more than $700 million! Tezos more than $232 million! FileCoin $205 million, Bancor more than $150 million, and Status more than $100 million . . . And such amounts were sometimes raised in just two to three hours.

This period was marked by the word “Hype.” It was especially related to ICOs and cryptocurrency in general. There were no rules. Everything happened for the first time and swiftly. As in the days of privatization, any methods were good, “grab and run,” blockchain will help you.

It seemed that it was a brave new world! Each IT entrepreneur thought for a moment "Maybe I can conduct an ICO too? At least a couple million bucks would be enough for me!" Many of them tried it in the fall of the same year. The world will soon find out about the stolen tokens, the villas and Maseratis bought on stolen funds, the crypto pyramids, and the dummy products.

Marketing features of the period:

 Simple landings at Tilda.cc.

 All-star team and eminent advisors.

 PR is key. The main thing was to loudly declare about the super features of the product on blockchain.

 Optimistic Road Map, and a fantastic growth rate in the WP.

 The product did not exist at the MVP stage, or in any other form. There was often no product team, either.

 As a rule, there were no user accounts and investment tracking. Addresses of wallets were published directly on the front page of the landing and in the WP.

 The "must have" marketing channels for ICOs were BitcoinTalk, Facebook, Medium, and Telegram.

 Crypto news sites and ICO listings were breaking viewing records. The prices of advertising on these websites were growing even faster.

 Bounty programs were at the peak of popularity and efficiency.

 The CPM network of CoinTraffic was growing.

 The effectiveness of marketing costs was not measured at all or measured post factum.

Autumn to Winter 2017. Market Formation

During this period, the number of ICOs increased multifold, but the percentage of successful ICOs and the average amounts raised were falling. The graph below shows how the number of ICO and funds raised was growing. The amounts already broke records by December.

Dynamics of fund attraction during ICOs. Source.

In general, ICOs were becoming more "professional" and quality oriented. There were user accounts, purchases tracking, and ICO projects were starting to buy traffic on Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

At the same time, the average checks and average amounts raised were falling due to a sharp increase in the Bitcoin rate, hence the reluctance to invest in the cryptocurrency, since it is much more profitable to simply "hold" it and earn 40% per month as a result. And this was the right strategy for those who did not invest, despite the fact that there were successful ICO campaigns.

Marketing features of the period:

 Attraction of large investors and funds through the Roadshows.

 Attraction of medium and small investors through advertising campaigns on Facebook, Google, Twitter, and so on. Aggressive remarketing.

 Further increases in the cost of placement on media platforms. The most effective ones were listings and calendars of ICOs.

 Bounty campaigns were becoming much less effective. But not exactly so!

 The landings became more sophisticated, as there were already user accounts. They allowed users to track investments through channels and legally protect themselves from the SEC.

 ICO agencies appeared that offered “turnkey ICO solutions.”

2018. Crackdown on ICO Ads

In February, the industry was in an almost shocked state after a long and smooth growth of rates by cryptocurrency standards. In just a month Bitcoin had lost $10,000 in price.

Bitcoin rates from January to February 2018. Source.

It is generally accepted that as soon as the Bitcoin rate falls, the entire ICO market crashes and the bubble bursts, but this is not at all the case. With the fall of Bitcoin, the growth in the number of ICOs continues and does not depend on the rate of Bitcoin, and the number of vacancies in crypto projects grows in inverse proportion to the rate, and this is demonstrated in the screenshot below.

The number of vacancies in crypto projects does not depend on the rate of Bitcoin. Source.

The ICO of the Telegram Messenger (TON), which raised $1.7 billion in total, became the most epic in the whole of history. Although it cannot be called a classic ICO, as it did not involve a cryptocurrency. Only fiat money was accepted for payment, and investors could only be large funds and professional private investors ready to undergo KYC and AML procedures and invest at least $10 million.

A ban on ICO ads and cryptos. Facebook announced a ban on advertising ICOs and cryptos on January 30. In March, Google updated its posting rules and banned advertising of cryptocurrencies starting from June 2018, drawing separate attention to ICOs. Then Twitter and MailChimp followed with the same bans.

Experienced marketers and SMM managers can easily bypass these prohibitions and advertise ICOs indirectly by promoting the "product", but the effectiveness of such advertising is much lower.

Marketing features of the period:

 The prohibition of advertising of ICOs on Facebook and Google.

 Analytics, metrics, detailed tracking of investments through channels.

 The influence of partner networks was growing, especially new channels of ICO marketing.

 The percentage of promotion in B2B was growing as the share of funds in investments was on the rise.

The market of crypto projects became independent of the rates of cryptocurrencies, and the importance of currencies was pushed to the background. There was no way back, blockchain and cryptocurrencies would stay with us for a long time in one form or another.

How to Promote ICOs Now?

 Analyze and measure traffic channels, consider the money spent and the effectiveness. Cohorts, funnels, ROI, A/B tests and payments per results are the key!

 Go on a roadshow to attract VIP investors and funds. Give interviews, speak at conferences, lead a blog or column and tell potential investors about your project by all possible means.

 Show the world an MVP, as under current conditions, this can be a decisive factor for investor decision making. A good example is the Play2Live project, which conducted live tests of its streaming platform during its ICO on a cybersports championship and showed its intention and ability to overcome its rival, the Twitch “unicorn.”

 Choose the right jurisdiction. If you want to attract large investors, then Switzerland will be the most optimal choice. More budgetary and popular options are Singapore and the Isle of Man. Do not skimp out on lawyers.

Given the massive bans on ICO advertising, promotion boils down to finding loopholes, media buying, collaboration with thematic partner networks, and building a strong community around a quality project.