Crypto startups that build disruptive blockchain technology face a series of marketing challenges including competition from incumbent solutions, educating prospective customers, raising brand awareness, generating leads, and increasing users.
Add the fact that many crypto startups are open-source projects, and you get founders, core developers, and advocates forced to find creative ways to market their product.
While more traditional marketing channels like email and newer channels like podcasts have a rightful place in the blockchain marketing stack, these eight examples are going to focus on some of the most creative strategies we've seen startups deploy.
1. Optimized GitHub Documentation
Whether your company is building a suite of powerful APIs like Blocknative, or creating an entirely new blockchain, developer documentation and a well-organized Github repository are incredibly persuasive marketing tools.
If we recall from our previous blog, blockchain marketing communication tools, value tends to accrual as a project’s community, network effect, and ecosystem expands.
In this highly competitive space, one way to keep an edge is creating the best documentation for your developer community so they can build quickly, find answers to common questions, and most importantly refer you to other builders in their network who will integrate your solution into their product.
Like tracking community size in Discord or Reddit, investors, builders, and users also look at your GitHub profile (e.g. repos, saved repositories, etc.) to evaluate the strength and activity of your project.
GitHub tracking platforms like Crypto Miso help people see how active your developer community is by tracking the number of commits (saved changes).
Yearn Finance's GitBook Documentation
While GitHub is primarily for hosting codebases, platforms like GitBook offer teams a simple tool for organizing developer documentation.
Yearn Finance is one of Ethereum’s blue chip DeFi protocols. Known as a yield aggregator, Yearn automatically allocates its user's funds across different yield farms to maximize the interest accrued on their investments.
While Yearn Finance might be difficult to understand from a financial or technical point of view, the clarity, organization, and simplicity of their GitBook documentation make it easy for developers to build, and users to participate in one of the most exciting decentralized finance projects in today's market.
2. Yield Farming
Since we're on the topic of yield aggregators, let's talk about yield farming.
Yield farming on decentralized exchanges (DEX) is probably the most well-known and sought-after marketing strategy for token-based crypto startups.
That’s a mouthful, so let's break it down in two sentences.
A decentralized exchange allows investors to trade digital assets against a giant pool of tokens where prices are based on a mathematical formula (e.g. a constant product function that can be found in Automated Market Makers), which eliminates the need for a centralized entity to match orders between market participants.
Yield farming is when investors who own a project’s token earns interest by providing liquidity (i.e. adding their tokens to the giant pool) so traders around the world can buy and sell freely.
Because yield farming enables investors to earn interest (sometimes greater than 100% APY), it attracts lots of investors to buy, hold, and earn a yield on the project’s token.
Raydium Promotes New Startups with AcceleRAYtor
Raydium is a decentralized exchange (DEX) on the Solana blockchain that offers a variety of pools, yield farming opportunities, and swaps.
AcceleRAYtor is an incubation program that allows startups building on Solana to raise capital through Initial DEX Offerings (IDOs), and get support from Raydium's team.
During the first two launches on AcceleRAYtor, Media Foundation and Mercurial Finance were over-bought by 10,000% and 9,000% respectively.
Because so many users were interested in buying $MEDIA and $MER tokens, and there was a limited amount, they could only purchase a fraction of what they wanted.
This created a lot of FOMO and buzz on Crypto Twitter. If you're a new project, getting a yield farming pool on a high-visibility platform like Raydium can create a ton of demand for your token.
If you’re launching a layer 1 blockchain, L2 solution for Ethereum, or blockchain infrastructure like an oracle, you need developers to build with your code.
One reason why Ethereum is the number one smart contract platform in the world, despite its cost, speed, and scalability challenges, is because of the decentralized applications (dApps) running on the network.
Ethereum ecosystem projects like Aave, Compound, and Uniswap drive massive value to the underlying blockchain and Ethereum infrastructure providers.
Hackathons with attractive prize pools are an excellent way to encourage enthusiastic blockchain developers to build with your tools, raise brand awareness in new geographic hotspots, and accrue value to your project.
For participants, Hackathons offer attractive prize money, incredible opportunities to gain experience and make industry connections, and if they're successful, even win startup funding after the Hackathon ends.
Solana's Hackathon Grows 1,000% in 7 Months
Solana’s inaugural hackathon in November 2020, attracted over 1,000 registrants.
Solana's DeFi hackathon in partnership with Serum, a decentralized central limit order book (i.e. decentralized Nasdaq), attracted 3,000 registrants and $400,000 in prizes.
Their third hackathon, Solana SZN, which ended in June 2021 attracted over 10,000 builders and $1,000,000 in prizes across 6 continents.
In seven months, the Solana ecosystem has blossomed into a worthy competitor to Ethereum, with a rapidly growing network of Rust developers building DeFi protocols, blockchain tools, infrastructure projects, dashboards, and so much more.
Successful Solana Hackathon Projects
Hackathon winners aren’t just flash-in-the-pan projects; some have had incredible success after the hackathon and raised additional funding.
Here are some of the top hackathon alums:
Mango Markets - Decentralized cross-margin trading platform.
Psyops - An American-style options platform.
Synthetify - A decentralized protocol for synthetic assets.
Solrise Finance - A decentralized P2P asset management and trading protocol.
StableSwap - An efficient token swap platform for stablecoins and highly correlated tokens.
Like hackathons that incentivize developers to build using your software or APIs, sponsored competitions among content creators and traders can activate your startup's user base to build out your content library and attract new users.
We've seen a lot of competitions and sponsored content in crypto. Here are a few:
Creativity (e.g infographics)
And probably the most noteworthy competition-inspired marketing strategy is Cope, which is building an index based on top trade calls.
Traders Compete for $COPE and Create Trade Call Index
Cope is one of the most interesting crypto startups we've seen during the bull run.
Here's how it works:
Traders stake $COPE to unlock their Cope Report (i.e. credit score for the trade calls)
Traders earn $COPE by making better-than-market trade calls
Top "Crypto Market Callers," get their trades included in an automated investment product (i.e. index fund) that users can opt into and earn returns based on the top Crypto Traders
While Cope is still in phase 2 of their roadmap, the project has understandably attracted the industry's most notorious, albeit anonymous, traders, and has created one of the most engaged and vocal user bases.
5. Dynamically Priced Merchandise
One of the most creative and bizarre examples of crypto marketing is using limited edition merchandise to promote a crypto protocol.
Unisocks Sell for over $50,000
Unisocks are 500 pairs of limited edition, dynamically priced socks that are represented on the Ethereum blockchain as redeemable ERC20 tokens.
Each time a token is redeemed for a pair of socks the price increases along a bonding curve. For example, the first few pairs of $SOCKS sold for $12, $13, $14, $16, $17, $19, $21, and with only 21 pairs left, the current price is a staggering $53,698 USD.
On the more traditional side of branded clothing, Solana opened up a merch store to sell physical goods like sweatshirts, shirts, and socks.
Crypto fans, like sports and music enthusiasts, like to rep their favorite teams. Branded merch store is a great way to give your die-hard fans ways to show their loyalty, start conversations with their IRL networks, and earn publicity through street marketing.
6. Limited Edition NFTs
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are provably unique tokens used by creators like Beeple to sell digital art, artists like RAC to sell exclusive music, metaverse games like Decentraland to sell virtual real estate, and so much more.
Because of their collectible appeal, NFTs are a popular option for startups looking to engage their fans, give them a piece of history, and raise money.
Star Atlas Auctions Blockchain Video Game Art
Blockchain video games can take a long time and lots of money to develop.
When you're building a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) like Star Atlas, it will take years to bring their open-world game to market.
With new editions being released each Saturday starting on April 24th, Star Atlas is auctioning off 14, limited edition NFTs inspired by their in-game designs to raise money and more importantly keep their fans excited.
If your company is in a position to mint non-fungible tokens, creating a limited run of NFTs related to your project could be a fun way to give your users a way to add you to their library of digital collectibles.
What do software tools like Zapier, Slack, and HubSpot have in common?
They offer a TON of integrations.
Because we're an Elite HubSpot Solutions Partner, let's use HubSpot as an example.
HubSpot integrations with other SaaS platforms not only afford their users more ways to use their marketing technology platform, but it also increases the value of their tool, earns backlinks from their integration partners, and expands their base of users.
Here is another example:
When your favorite sports player gets traded to a new team, do you warm up to their new team, or do you revolt against your favorite player?
For many of us, warming up to another team is the route.
The same is true in crypto.
Ethereum x Solana Ecosystem Integrations
When protocol improvement proposals are submitted on governance websites like Snapshot to build Sushi pools using Raydium’s backend under the code name “Bonsai,” what do you think all of the Solana fans do?
Answer: they look into buying $SUSHI because now it’s part of the family.
Same can be said about the LidoDAO proposal by Chorus One to bring liquid staking to Solana, or when Sam Bankman-Fried courted the team from REN (the Republic Network), to join Alameda and bridge Ethereum and Solana.
The beautiful thing about DeFi is code composability, or the ability to assemble code in many different ways, to create novel, integrable protocols.
This composability - like SaaS integrations - opens up one project's network and fans to another’s when they join forces.
8. Invite-Only dApps
If you've heard Michael Saylor or the Winklevoss twins talk about Bitcoin, you've probably heard that Bitcoin is scarce (only 21 million will ever exist), and it's this scarcity and soundness that makes it an attractive investment like gold.
Similarly, when you're launching a new dApp, pairing sneak-peek videos of what you're building with scarcity can skyrocket demand for your tool.
Phantom Wallet Gives Invite-only Access to Partners
Phantom is a new browser-based cryptocurrency wallet that operates on Solana.
Unlike their predecessor Sollet which has an unimpressive user interface and user experience, Phantom is 100% focused on making a web3 wallet that is easy to use.
Getting people to migrate their funds from one wallet to another is a big ask.
From the loss of funds to wallet security and remembering another seed phrase, getting users to switch from one Solana wallet to another is a tough sell.
Here are a few ways Phantom has increased demand for access to their wallet:
Created a beta access sign up form
Invited crypto Twitter influencers to access the wallet early
Gave followers access who switched from their old Twitter handle to their new one
Sent "invite-only" codes to ecosystem projects
Crypto Marketing Strategies: In Summary
When you're trying to unseat traditional finance institutions like correspondent banks with decentralized alternatives or SaaS solutions like treasury management software with blockchain-powered tech, you need to be clever.
Whether you're a crypto marketing agency, an in-house marketer for a blockchain startup, or if you're still working in the traditional marketing industry, there is a lot to learn from the marketing tacts employed by community-driven crypto startups.