OK, so you’ve joined a blockchain project and have been crowned CMO (Chief Moon Officer). What now?

First of all, promoting blockchain/cryptocurrency in 2018 is not for the faint of heart. Memories of the exit scams of 2017 are still fresh in everyone’s minds—so your first job will be to convince people that the project is actually legit.

Secondly, blockchain marketing is a non-stop battle. Your competition has more funding, more talent, and extensive experience growth hacking for the Web. There are now thousands of blockchain teams, all vying for attention (and ultimately, adoption). When it’s all said and done, only a handful of projects will truly come out on top—the rewards in crypto will not be equally distributed.

Finally, information travels very fast in this industry. Savvy investors are standing on the sidelines, ready to pounce on (or drop) a project at a moment’s notice. Every day is a new opportunity to make global headlines—or sink into relative obscurity.

This is a new industry, so it’s vital to update your marketing approach accordingly. Speed is critical, and there’s no time to waste on easily avoidable setbacks.

Here are 12 common mistakes to avoid when shilling marketing a blockchain project:

1. Not believing in the technology

This one is non-negotiable.

You can’t effectively promote a blockchain project if you think the whole industry is just one giant Ponzi scheme.

It’s OK to be skeptical of projects in the space (and you should be developing an effective bullshit detector). It’s not OK, however, to go into it thinking there’s no underlying value.

If you don’t believe blockchain will have a lasting impact on the world, don’t bother (it will show in your work). “Nocoiners” need not apply.

If you’re going to work in blockchain, it helps to drink the Koolaid (photo credit: thoughtcatalog.com)

2. Not defining your performance goals and KPIs 

While this one must come up in every marketing-related listicle, it’s still worth repeating.

Every marketing campaign starts with a single goal.

Example goals for blockchain projects:

  • Raise awareness about the project
  • Build a large following on Reddit, Twitter, and/or Telegram
  • Attract more investors for an upcoming ICO
  • Increase real-life adoption of your wallet, exchange, or other blockchain product/service
  • Run a psyops campaign to convince people that DAGs are superior

Chances are, you’re not a large established brand—and your cryptocurrency project is therefore not a household name. Without a concretely defined goal, you’ll be throwing ad dollars at random traffic sources and hope something comes out of it.

Every goal should have a KPI (e.g. cost per acquiring a newsletter subscriber, or cost per install of a mobile wallet).

Once you have goals with hard KPIs attached to them, the decision process for any particular performance ad campaign becomes easy:

  1. If the campaign isn’t meeting KPIs, tweak/optimize it until it does. If you can’t get it working after 3-4 weeks or so, can it and try something else.
  2. If the campaign is meeting or exceeding KPIs, see if you can scale it. Example: if your Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) goal is $2 and the campaign is driving new sign-ups at $1, put more money into it! Be proud of a profitable campaign, and ride the traffic source for all it’s worth.

If there are multiple goals, there should be separate marketing campaigns for them.

3. Not taking the time to understand the whitepaper

Simply scanning/reading the whitepaper isn’t enough. In order to properly explain the project to others, you have to be familiar with what’s under the hood.

Don’t just tell me that it’s “Blockchain 3.0″—explain why it’s special.

At minimum, you should be able to answer the following:

  • What’s the cryptographic hash function used? Why was it chosen above others?
  • Is the project built on an existing open-source protocol (e.g. ERC-20)? Why or why not?
  • What’s the mechanism used to reward network participants?
  • Does your project allow for smart contracts? If so, what are the limitations?
  • How is consensus reached? What are the possible weaknesses?
  • [For payment projects] What is the maximum transaction volume? How are fees calculated?

Failing to understand this stuff means you’ll be eternally rattling off features without knowing what benefits they bring (more on that later).

If you’re completely lost, I suggest taking an online course on blockchain (one that covers not only Bitcoin, but Ethereum and other altcoins too). This Princeton course is a great place to start.

(P.S. There is a whitepaper, right?)

What many blockchain whitepapers effectively look like (photo credit: Roman Mager)

4. Disregarding website User Experience

When someone lands on your project website, the timer starts ticking: you have about 30 seconds to convince them not to close the tab.

In the first few seconds, a visitor must understand what’s going on: that (a) it’s a blockchain project and (b) it has a good reason for existing.

There should also be a big button pointing directly to the whitepaper PDF—this button should be visible on the homepage (without scrolling).

In the words of usability guru Steve Krug, don’t make them think. Crypto enthusiasts have already resigned themselves to the fate of having to slog through multiple whitepapers every day–so try not to confuse them before they even get to that point.

For most new crypto projects, there should be just a few sections: About, Team, Roadmap, and FAQ. If there’s an ICO in the works, add another “Token Sale” section that explains it all.

Every critical bit of information should be at most 1 link deep from the homepage. If possible, try to keep everything on one page. Keep it simple!

There’s no point spending thousands of dollars on ad clicks to send people to a poorly optimized, slow and cumbersome website. That’s just money wasted.

(PS. If English is not your first language, pay someone to proofread it for spelling and grammar. Otherwise it just looks amateurish.)

5. Not building a mailing list from Day 1

If someone is truly interested in your project, make it easy for them to receive updates.

While some may prefer to read occasional Community announcements in your public Telegram channel, others will be more than happy to receive an occasional update email.

Don’t overthink this one—just add a simple (one field) signup form linked to a Mailchimp account. It will do the job (there’s a free tier that allows you to have up to 2,000 subscribers).

For many projects (and most businesses, for that matter), the email list is the single most valuable marketing tool—don’t neglect it. Build a list from Day 1.

6. Using a confusing or lengthy project tagline

Your tagline should be able to sell the project in just a few words.

I only need two words to summarize what SpaceX is trying to do: reusable rockets. Don’t tell me that your crypto project can’t do the same.

If you’re having trouble coming up with a headline, make a list of everything your project allows other people to do. Then, pick the single most important thing.

Great example of a tagline (courtesy Nano):

“Digital currency for the real world – the fast and free way to pay for everything in life.”

Right away, this tagline tells me the basics: that this is a cryptocurrency project featuring rapid transactions (i.e. quick network confirmations) and fee-less payments. As I’m reading the tagline, I’m thinking of how annoying it is to send money through PayPal or other services. In other words, I get it.

The tagline is the first sentence people will read on your website—make sure you’re using this opportunity to sell them on the project. If you’re not sure which tagline works best, write a few variants and ask your friends to rate them.

The Nano project website keeps it simple and clear (credit: nano.org)

7. Listing technical Features instead of Benefits

If you come from a Direct Response advertising background, you’re probably groaning right now. Yes, it’s obvious advice—but hear me out.

In blockchain, it’s easy to get excited with all the new technology being used (e.g. novel ways of distributing block rewards, new cryptographic puzzles, or even custom mining hardware). And there’s plenty of room in the whitepaper to go into all the glorious details.

But when you’re writing copy for the home page of the website, you have to make conscious effort to translate all those amazing features into actual benefits for the end user.

In the traditional world of advertising:

“You’ll Have Whiter Teeth” (features of a new toothpaste)

“Get a Brighter Smile Now” (benefits of a new toothpaste)

In cryptoland:

“A trustless, low-latency cryptocurrency that utilizes a novel block-lattice architecture” (features of the Nano coin)

“Instant transactions. Zero fees. Infinitely scalable.” (benefits, again courtesy of Nano)

Put yourself in the shoes of a non-technical person and make sure you’re answering the question of “What’s in it for me?”

8. Not telling the truth 

If the crypto project has any glaring holes or weaknesses, don’t try to hide them (or pretend they aren’t there). There are some seriously smart people out there doing their own due diligence, code review, and audits—if there are deficiencies, they will be discovered.

As mentioned earlier, we’re still collectively recovering from the madness of the 2017 bubble and hysteria—marked by outlandish claims and false promises. This has created a perfect opportunity for an honest and transparent project to gain a foothold.

Instead of being mysterious and cryptic (!), use radical honesty to your advantage. Build trust by proudly stating exactly what your project does—and what it doesn’t. Be transparent about what you’re working on—and about what’s next on the roadmap. In the world of blockchain, radical honesty is a breath of fresh air.

9. Not using visuals or video to explain the underlying tech

So you’ve got DAGs on top of dual PoW chains, all encrypted for unlinkability and untraceability. Great.

Now try explaining how it all works in words.

Unless your audience solely consists of Computer Scientists and Mathematicians, this will be tricky to do.

Have mercy on the rest of us and and use some visuals! Pay a designer if you can’t make them yourself.

Here’s one of my favorite examples from Quarkchain, demonstrating how their sharding layer works:

Image credit: quarkchain.io

Simple, but effective.

Even more importantly, take advantage of video. This is by far the best format to explain what your project does, and is an excellent (and severely underutilized) sales tool. Want to get that landing/homepage bounce rate down? Put a 45-90 sec. intro video front and center, and see what happens!

While good explainer videos take a lot of effort to produce, they are almost always worth it. For most people, blockchain is still very confusing—even a 30 second demonstration of you sending/receiving tokens with your platform will go a long way to helping adoption and usage.

Being the most accessible project might just be your killer advantage.

10. Neglecting free traffic sources

Before you get to the various paid acquisition channels, take advantage of all the “free” traffic sources out there that could give your project an early kickstart. Just a few ideas:

  • Write a blog post on Medium and submit it to Reddit (e.g. to /r/cryptocurrency)
  • Write a blog on Steem.io
  • Introduce your project on bitcointalk.org (there’s a sub-forum for new altcoins). You’ll be surprised at how many potential investors and funds regularly scour this forum for true diamonds in the rough.
  • Post in crypto-related Facebook groups to get early feedback
  • If you’re trying to promote an upcoming ICO, make sure you get it into the big ICO calendar websites (e.g. Coinchedule, CoinGecko)
  • If it’s an ERC-20 token, make sure it’s listed on Decentralized Exchanges such as IDEX

Remember: the Internet doesn’t forget, so you’ll realistically only have once chance to make a great first impression with these methods. Make it count.

You thought I’d forget to mention “low hanging fruit”? Come on. (Photo credit: Bill Williams)

11. Trying to outspend the competition

Oh, so you aren’t sitting on a gargantuan pile of Ethereum from a 2017 ICO? Then there’s no need to act like it.

Your competition will spare no expense to outbid you on today’s ad platforms. Don’t fight that war with them.

Google keywords too expensive? No problem, just use Google for effective retargeting across their massive display inventory (using your site audience).

Facebook ads not driving much performance? Get a lot more granular with your targeting settings (check out our Facebook ad optimization tips).

Also, Facebook and Google are far from the only traffic sources. There’s a lot of volume out there.

Can’t afford sky-high CPMs for video ads or premium display inventory? Get scrappy and reach out to crypto forum/blog owners or up-and-coming Social Media influencers directly instead.

If you’re contacting journalists to try and get into their publications, make it as easy for them as possible. Have quotes from the founders ready, and present a unique “creation story” of the project. Blockchain is inherently disruptive, so highlight it–even if it looks like you’re “picking a fight” with the giant incumbents. Be interesting!

In short, you have to start thinking like an affiliate marketer (surely the most resilient and adaptive type of online marketer). Look for inventory sources that the big guys have ignored, and don’t be afraid to get creative.

Instead of outspending competing projects, be scrappy.

Don’t fight the 800-pound gorilla head-on. (Photo credit: Rob Schreckhise)

12. Failing to track every marketing effort and campaign

Whatever you do, stick to the tried and true method of performance advertising: track everything!

Treat every campaign—no matter how small—as an opportunity to learn more about who’s interacting with your company (and what they respond best to).

Tracking is particularly important in the world of blockchain, where it’s easy to get fooled by growing vanity metrics. Example: one of your acquisition channels could be generating 1000s of new Telegram channel subscribers, but a significant percentage of them might simply be teenagers hoping for an airdrop one day. Make sure you’re optimizing for the KPIs that really matter.

* * *

One last word of advice: even great advertising won’t save a bad crypto project. While it may have worked for a pump and dump last year, there’s getting away with it today. If your prototype is full of holes, fix that first.

Good luck, and may we all reach our personal moons!

Disclaimer: I hold a few cryptocurrencies, including a small amount of Nano.