With LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google imposing a ban on ICO marketing, the burning question is what’s next?
Earlier this year Facebook put a ban on all ICO marketing activities, and although it knocked the marketing efforts for most companies, no one was really that worried. This was before Google – the primary online marketing source for most companies – hadn’t come out to say anything about their plans to block marketing in the sector.
Fast forward 3 months, and Google dropped a massive bomb, not only would they ban ICO marketing, but they would apply a blanket ban to all crypto and blockchain related activities. This news comes on the back of many jurisdictions rushing to create legislation aimed at controlling the massively growing ICO market.
And it is not just the biggest names in the digital marketing space in the west, almost all the big social and internet companies in Asia have also blocked all marketing activities for ICOs, with a lot of them banning crypto and blockchain activities entirely.
Now, with the biggest paid marketing channels closed for ICOs, Alternative means of marketing will need to be found.
Performance Based Marketing
Performance based marketing works on the principle of traffic converting into customer goals and paying a marketer only when these goals are hit by their traffic.
There are three main goals that companies use for their performance-based marketing:
A lead is generally defined as a potential customer providing specific information to the advertising company, that will allow them to contact this lead later and turn them into a real customer. The value for a lead is based on the unrealised customer value, and therefore the cost per lead (CPL) is generally much lower than any of the other rewards offered for performance-based marketing.
For traffic to turn into acquisitions, they will need to register for an account with the advertiser, and in most cases perform a simple task (in the financial services industry this generally means funding your account). Once a visitor finalises this process, the advertiser pays the marketer a fee that is based on the life time value (LTV) potential of the customer. As the value of an acquisition is based on the LTV for the customer, the cost per acquisition (CPA) rate offered is normally quite high.
Out of all the performance marketing goals, a sale is the most straight forward, and the best value for money for advertisers. Sales are based on actual value generated for the advertiser and can use a mix of CPA and revenue sharing (RevShare) models. The best value for advertisers, however, is RevShare, as they pay marketers a percentage of the revenue that their traffic generates.
There are currently three main types of marketers operating in the performance marketing sector:
As the name suggests, these are people that directly introduce the ICO to their network of connections. They maintain a database of the people whom they have introduced and their wallet hashes, and then present these to the ICO for collection of payment for their contacts who take part in the ICO. Introducers can work on a CPL, CPA or RevShare model.
Affiliates are a relatively new addition to the marketing mix for ICOs. Currently most affiliates drive traffic from their web properties to the ICO website, and the ICO pays them for every person who signs up to take part in the ICO. Currently most affiliates work on a CPL model, but with companies like AffiliChain.com entering the market, ICOs can now work with affiliates on CPA and RevShare too.
Bounties are generally paid to people for performing various tasks for ICOs, including social media posting, using specific signatures in their forum accounts, finding bugs, article writing and translations. In the case of ICO marketing, only the article writing, social media posting, and forum signatures are relevant. Most bounties are paid in the coins that are offered by the ICO.
Except for introducers, it is currently very difficult for ICOs to determine the true value of performance-based marketing activities, as most rewards are purely action based, and do not consider the value of the actions that are taken. This can lead to very expensive exposure campaigns for ICOs.
However, with companies like AffiliChain entering the market with a technology solution to track the value that is generated by performance marketers, we will see a shift in how performance-based marketing is handled by ICOs.
Exposure Based Marketing
Exposure based marketing is grounded on driving brand recognition through banner ads, or traffic to an ICOs website. All the changes in main stream media have lead to restricted use of exposure-based campaigns, as not only have the main paid marketing channels (Google, Social Media) blocked the promotion of ICOs, but now many service providers are blocking them to. MailChimp recently introduced a ban on sending emails through their platform for ICO activities, and many more providers are set to follow suit.
This doesn’t mean the end of exposure-based activities for ICOs, it just means alternative investments into different display channels, leading to higher marketing costs.
Ad networks are a great way to spread your brand across multiple publisher sites, with one central management point, allowing you to get wide exposure online. The biggest problem with ad networks is relevance, as these networks do not allow you to directly target specific publishers, and not all sites that are publishers within the network are going to have the type of traffic that works for ICOs.
Additionally, as ICOs are considered high risk advertisers, this leads to higher prices and costs for using ad networks.
Direct Media Buying
Direct media buying is the perfect way to get your ICO out in front of a highly targeted and relevant audience. By approaching highly trafficked websites within the Crypto / ICO sector, you can get your banner ads placed on sites that have millions of visitors per month.
There are two major issues with direct media buying. The first is cost, as these websites have thousands of companies that want to advertise on them, they can set a rate that is best for them, and ICOs will still pay them for their traffic. The second issue relates to getting in contact with the owners of these websites. Most of them use privacy to ensure that your only option is to contact them through the forms they provide, and as everyone goes through the same channel, your request may end up buried in the 1,000s of requests these websites get per day.
Press Releases (PR)
PRs are a great way to get your ICO brand out to a wide audience, and due to the nature of press releases, they also add a level of credibility to your ICO. The biggest trouble with PR is that it can be just as easily ignored as it can be picked up.
To ensure that your PR is picked up and gains maximum traction you should ensure that it is well written and news worthy. Having a poorly written release can lead to it being ignored and having a well written release that is not newsworthy may get it picked up, but it will not get you traction that will drive traffic to your website.
On the plus side, PRs can be relatively inexpensive when compared to other exposure-based channels, and a well written, news worthy release can get your ICO huge amounts of exposure.
Sponsorships, particularly sports sponsorships have been a staple of the financial services industry for a long time. From financial brokers sponsoring premier league teams, to Barclays bank sponsoring the entire premier league, sponsorships are generally long-term commitments for brands.
This doesn’t really play well for ICOs, as many of them are short term events, that run for 30 to 90 days, invalidating full year sponsorships that most teams require. There are always sporting event sponsorships, that run for shorter times, giving ICOs the opportunity to target short term events to drive brand recognition.
Although there may be some sponsorship opportunities for ICOs now, long term they will probably be banned from sports sponsorships, as the lack of regulation and uncertainty in the current path of ICOs means most sports teams and events will avoid them.
Events are a great way for ICOs to expose their brand and product to people within the crypto / blockchain industry. Events that specifically target the industry attract not only products related to the industry, but also potential investors too.
By exhibiting at Crypto or blockchain events, ICOs can show their dedication and commitment to the brand they are creating, giving potential buyers and investors more confidence in the direction the brand is taking.
By sponsoring or creating industry specific events, ICOs can draw even more attention to the brand they are creating, building up awareness with every person and company who attends the event.
The biggest advantage to marketing your ICO at industry events is targeted exposure within a short time frame. Most events are planned in advance, and by searching for events that will happen during your pre-ICO activity or during your actual ICO, you will find a great selection of events where you can promote your ICO brand.
SEO is a staple of all online industries. The sites that rank at the top of relevant search results generally control the largest amount of unpaid traffic for any industry. This is the same for ICOs, however, unlike some other industries, most of the top results in search engines are not for specific ICOs, but rather for content marketing sites who have invested in getting into the ICO vertical. This, combined with the average amount of time it takes for websites to rank in organic search results makes SEO a difficult marketing channel for ICOs.
If you plan your ICO well enough in advance, and you are targeting a specific industry, producing relevant content, and getting it published well in advance can get your website ranked for relevant organic results relating to ICOs in your industry.
With the landscape of ICO marketing quickly shifting towards a more direct form of marketing, many of the service providers that operate within the verticals mentioned above will up their game to compete for a chunk of the US$3.2 Billion yearly ad spend that Google was collecting from the blockchain, crypto and financial trading industries. This will lead to increased pricing from marketers who say they can get your ICO in front of the relevant audience, and without good governance this will lead to spiralling marketing costs with no way of determining real value or ROI.
Fortunately, companies like Adexchain.com and AffiliChain.com offer marketing solutions that track not only the impressions served or the traffic sent, but also the performance of these channels, allowing for marketing optimization based on true ROI that these verticals generate.