The definitive guide to building an effective crowdsale marketing campaign

The Element Group marketing team has advised token sales which have collectively raised over $180 million. In this article, we will share our steps to building a successful ICO marketing campaign.


For an experienced marketer, promoting a digital token sale may seem very similar to run-of-the-mill B2C marketing. In many ways, it is. After all, you are selling a product (the token) to an end consumer (the token sale contributor) who may or may not have a pre-existing brand affinity to the underlying company. That being said, token sale marketing has some unique aspects that turn planning a campaign into a truly unique experience.

To a large extent, the legal framework for most other industries is well-defined. As most within the cryptocurrency world are aware, this is certainly not the case with ICOs. In many jurisdictions, the legal status of ICOs (and therefore the legal status of ICO promotion) is unclear and evolving. This means that, in some cases, you will not be able to use the tools that are traditionally considered the basis of many digital marketing campaigns.

An evolving legal landscape, tight campaign deadlines, as well as a very distinctive target audience make marketing ICOs quite different to B2C marketing in almost any other industry. This has a knock-on effect not only on campaign plans but also on the tools used for these campaigns. Notably, CPC and Search – the bread and butter of most B2C campaigns – are largely unavailable for token sale campaigns. Additionally, a brand-based content strategy, which is sometimes used to underpin a direct response campaign, does not have the time to bear fruit in the case of a token sale.

The Element Group marketing team has advised token sales which have collectively raised over $180 million. In this article, we will share our steps to building a successful ICO marketing campaign.

FACT BOX: ICO Advertising Status by Platform in 2018
Facebook Facebook’s new advertising policy bans any ads that are related to cryptocurrency, binary options, or ICOs. Since Facebook owns Instagram, the same applies to the latter.
Google Google announced in March that it will soon be updating its financial product advertising policy. From June, ads promoting cryptocurrency and ICOs will be banned.
Twitter All ads for token sales, exchanges and wallet services have been banned on Twitter as of March 27th, 2018.
Reddit While there haven’t been any press releases or warnings, anecdotally, ads promoting ICOs have actually been banned on Reddit since 2016. While some crypto-related ads still get through the website’s filters, many do not.
MailChimp From April 30th, MailChimp banned all campaigns related to token sales. The company clarified that “cryptocurrency-related information isn’t necessarily prohibited,” provided that the sender is not selling, trading, storing or marketing any cryptocurrency. However, many crypto companies are turning to other providers for their email marketing

Planning stage

Step one: settle on a timeline

When it comes to effective marketing, timing and watertight planning are crucial regardless of the industry. In crypto – and especially in ICO marketing – this becomes a top priority. Our experience has shown that an “active” marketing campaign for a token sale lasts anywhere from a month and a half to two months, which is a comparatively short timeline.

However, the token sale market is ever-changing; up until late 2017, the focus for most teams was on the “main sale” event. While investor relations did take up a significant amount of time and resources, attracting a wide range of participants for the ICO’s main sale was the number one goal for marketing teams. From Q1 2018, we see a different trend: the main focus is on private and public pre-sales, while main sales are more of an afterthought — this is due to many factors, with regulation being the key determinant.

From a planning perspective, this means several things need to be taken into consideration. While your active campaign time will still remain at the month and a half to two month mark, you need to be planning for a longer period to lay the groundwork. ICO marketing campaigns are a carefully orchestrated operation dependent on many different stakeholders working in sync. We recommend you start laying the groundwork around four to six months before your planned sale date, all depending on your current team size and how established your brand is in the industry.

You may already have a separate marketing team and decide to run your campaign in-house. However, in many cases, hiring several marketing contractors is a necessary course of action for a company contemplating a token sale. Remember that onboarding all contractors and establishing processes does not happen overnight, so factor that into your planning and hiring.

Step two: Polish your positioning

Once you have your marketing team and timeline set in stone, start establishing industry connections and recruiting an advisory board. It is important to strike a fine balance in the people you pick as your advisors. While some known names are equivalent to a stamp of industry approval and are essential for outreach, we also recommend you find advisors who are knowledgeable in your particular field.

In the ever-changing crypto climate, making sure that your product positioning and more specifically your offering are on point is essential. Your advisory board will be an indispensable resource in this process. Additionally, industry conferences and other crypto events will give you the opportunity to network, while building awareness and trust.

A direct line of communication with your potential audience is essential. This will allow your brand to have regular visibility within an overcrowded space, and it will let you keep your finger on the pulse of public sentiment concerning your product. We advise having a few smaller industry conference “dry runs” to gain feedback and refine your offering before making a planned and timely token sale announcement.

Step three: Unleash media relations

While you can harness an internal PR resource, hiring an outside PR firm can come with an additional set of benefits. If you decide to go down the agency route, it is essential to do so before your campaign enters its active phase. This will give you enough time to really harness the full potential of such a partnership.

A good PR agency’s work stretches beyond mere media outreach. They can give you a fresh perspective on how to effectively speak about your product and your offering; they can help you establish an announcement pipeline. Most importantly, they could help you formulate a comprehensive conference and media tour schedule, ensuring you reach the right people at the right time.

Remember to media train your team as early as possible in the process. Make sure everybody on your team and among your contractors knows what they can and cannot speak about publicly in advance of the sale announcement. Throughout the campaign, you need to make sure you have people who perform well in the spotlight and under pressure. You never know when you will need them.

Step four: Get global

Crypto is a global industry, so companies should think of the world as their oyster. Asia is a massive and growing market, particularly countries like Japan and South Korea. All over the world, investors are on the hunt for exciting ICOs. Since the US began toughening up its regulation, developing international outreach is becoming increasingly vital for success.  

Multinational means multilingual. Make sure that your material is translated into all global crypto languages, such as Japanese, Mandarin, Korean and Russian. Also be wary of outdated information as the sale progresses. While the global crypto market is expanding, many nations are still developing their policies on the industry. It’s important to be mindful of any new government regulations, including signs that the tide might be turning.

Local partners usually know best. They will have the most accurate intel on regulation and marketing practices and are therefore probably best placed to handle regional marketing strategy. You can also use their presence on the ground to organize local roadshows in support of your sale.

Active stage

Step five: Craft your content

Once you’ve refined your product’s and your token’s positioning, approved a media list and an events calendar, defined important milestones and upcoming company news, it is time to plan your content for the campaign. When you create your content calendar, make sure you have the resources available to execute it. Many teams fall into the trap of wishful planning and generate more content ideas than they can handle. Outsource or hire additional staff before the need becomes dire.

As with most industries, viral video content is the holy grail of crypto. You may decide to seek the help of media influencers or harness your advisory network. If you decide to go down this route, however, you need to be careful: the crypto community is becoming jaded and discerning. They have little patience, for example, for sponsored content that is not clearly marked as such.

Medium is the perfect platform for a pipeline of short, insightful posts related to your product, your vision, and any other company news. Its biggest benefit is that it comes with a pre-existing audience, thereby amplifying your brand exposure. We suggest you submit your best pieces to Medium publications popular with your target audience, such as Hackernoon or Startups And Venture Capital. It is, of course, important to ensure that all your fresh content is promoted throughout your owned channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Telegram, and Bitcointalk.

Industry publications are also a must. Contact niche media and negotiate a deal to get your brand amplified across independent media through paid content placements. Paying for content and media placements is usually worth the money spent. For example, just one paid placement on behalf of one of our clients generated 200,000 organic shares on social media.

Step six: Reach out to niche websites

As soon as you consolidate your token economics and other sale details, you need to ensure that your sale is featured across all the main token sale trackers. Using trackers is a no-brainer for any ICO marketing strategy. They are proven to generate the highest ROI in terms of actual token sale contributions. While these placements do not get a huge number of clicks, they are excellent at targeting precisely the audiences you want to reach.  

During one of our client campaigns, we noted that one of our niche media placements (with banners and paid articles) brought us a significant amount of signups with $1,300,000 of indicated interest. This turned into an even more impressive result when we looked deeper. The cost per lead (CPL) from that niche placement was 3 times lower than that of Facebook ads.

In fact, some of these placements could generate a $0 CPL. That is every marketer’s dream and free ICO tracker listings make it a reality. During a token sale marketing campaign for one of our clients, we got 327 signups with a total indicated interest of over $300,000 just by submitting the project to a couple of free token listing websites. The key was also in the timing – so you need to submit as early as possible.

Niche media traffic brings an audience that is much more involved in token sales, hence why we see the bounce rate lower and the average session time higher than when we look at traffic from AdWords/Facebook. That’s proven by numbers too: for niche media, best sources give an average bounce rate of 65-70%, and the number of time people spend on the website is above 1:30 minutes. Those metrics are very close to the best ones and comparable with organic traffic.

Paying to place reviews of your sale may be something you consider to up your game. Reviews on token sale trackers do not only help with exposure, they also give you feedback on any weaknesses in the product, token or communication strategy. ICORating and ICOAlert are examples of companies that deliver such reports.

FACT BOX: Conversion Rate
As any marketer knows, the conversion rate is one of the most important metrics you can measure throughout the campaign.

How do you track your conversion rate?

  • Look beyond traffic. If you only look at the number of visitors, these figures may seem fine, unless you analyze what these people actually do on your website.
  • Settle on an analytical instrument or a combination of two. For example, you may choose to use a combination of Google Analytics and MailChimp data to find out your conversion rates for different channels.
  • Set a target KPI to optimize to. For example, let’s consider 10% as the benchmark for the conversion rate. We, therefore, optimize spend to feed the channels that produce that.

What to expect?

While every campaign is different, we have noticed a number of patterns in channels we have used for our clients.

Niche media: Consistently above the 10% benchmark:

ICO Drops – 15.95%

Coinschedule – 14.89%

Cointelegraph – 11.15%

Organic traffic: 10.61%

Google CPC Ads: 3.08%


Step seven: Get programmatic

The market is growing and developing and so are the tools available. Just six months ago, all niche cryptocurrency websites were selling banner ads directly. Now the landscape is changing, and crypto-specific programmatic marketing platforms are emerging.

Because algorithms are used, programmatic advertising can be an excellent investment, ensuring that your marketing spend is smart and fully optimized. Crypto-specific programmatic platforms, such as Roq crypto, are a good way to harness the power of display advertising in a comprehensive manner, without hands-on planning and buying. This is a great way to optimize your CPC marketing spend.

On the other hand, Google AdWords and other PPC advertising platforms (the known low hanging fruit of the digital advertising world) lose out to other channels. Google AdWords tends not to bring in high-quality traffic: the bounce rate is through the roof, as is the CPL.

However, this doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to dismiss it entirely as part of your strategy. Almost everybody uses Google. Remember that if you don’t take up the top spots, others will – including scammers.

FACT BOX: AdWords and Traffic quality
Google Adwords brings cheap signups (cost per lead is 1/3 of the price of the average number), but the quality of the traffic is significantly lower than niche media traffic. This should be noted while allocating the budget.

Step eight: Ramp up community engagement

Social media is essential for promoting your token sale and keeping in touch with your community. However, paid social media advertising is ineffective when it comes to promoting your token sale: Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter have all cracked down on paid token sale ads. On top of that algorithms on these platforms are also rumored not to favor crypto-related content.

That being said, social media is vital for communicating with your community. You need to preserve an organic presence throughout key social media platforms. In the crypto world, Facebook is becoming less dominant. Twitter and Reddit are the two key platforms for community communication, while LinkedIn is slowly emerging to replace Facebook.

Telegram is usually the main communication channel during the token sale. Building an audience in Telegram solely based on numbers can be fairly straightforward, including the use a variety of methods that we do not condone. However the real challenge lies in engaging the community throughout the token sale process and after its completion. Your goal should be to build a network of participants who feel engaged and connected throughout the process.

FACT BOX: Paid social is largely ineffective, even when available
Facebook Ads, before they were blocked, had shown one of the highest bounce rates (92%)and also one of the highest CPL (30% higher than average). For most of our campaigns, we chose to allocate the budget to more efficient channels.


An effective marketing strategy can make or break the success of your product. The impact it has on the perception of your project and your team will most likely outlast the token sale itself. Whether you enlist agencies or advisors or carry out your marketing campaign in-house, it’s worth the time, money and effort to craft a finely-tuned marketing strategy.

From the starting pistol to the finishing line of your token sale, make sure to be constantly analyzing and optimizing as you go along. Many ICOs need an extra boost in the week before and the week after the start of the main sale. Setting up good analytics at the start will help you chart a smooth course.

Remember that while media hype may be centered around the year’s top 10-20 raises, the token sale market continues to broaden and diversify. In 2017, largely unknown ICOs raised nearly twice as much as the top 20. This means that even if you do not get the coverage you think your product deserves, you may still run a very successful token sale.

Remember: no marketing strategy will guarantee the success of a token sale. On the other hand, no ICO will succeed without good marketing.