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ICO Marketing Strategy – A Guide To Building Your ICO Marketing Plan

ICO Marketing Strategy Guide

Creating a marketing strategy for an ICO is important, but the steps prior to ICO launch can be critical to its overall success.

Prior to ICO launch, it is essential to take a couple of months to plan and execute a well thought out strategy, as a lot of an ICO’s success depends on having a coherent and well structured marketing strategy.

Managing public perception has become a huge role in marketing an ICO, blockchain pr agencies are becoming more popular due to the weight PR plays in an ICO’s success. A recent study from Statis Group claimed that over 80% of ICOs were scams! In addition to this, Ernst & Young (EY) reported in Jan 2018 that more than 10% of the $3.8bn raised from ICOs have either been lost or stolen.

This artice will look at how to make a digital marketing strategy for ICO and various ways on how to promote your ico.


What is an ICO (Initial Coin Offering)?

An ICO or initial coin offering is a means to raise funds for a start-up or new idea, this consists of an organisation creating a token and distributing it online. This innovative crowdfunding model allows startups to bypass traditional early seed investment.

This can also be referred to as an Initial Token Offering (ITO) or a Token Generation Event (TGE)

Unlike traditional equity, buying a token does not necessarily entitle you to a share of the company, each token is unique and you must research the whitepaper for more information about the specifics of each blockchain project.

Summary of ICOs:

  • ICO stands for Initial Coin Offering.
  • This fundraising event operates through the sale of crypto-assets or tokens to investors in exchange for monetary investment

What is an STO? (Security Token Offering)

A security is a broad classification that refers to any kind of tradable asset. The legal definition of a security varies by jurisdiction.

When assessing the likelihood of an investment contract being considered a security, the United States Howey test is a broadly used mechanism. According to the SEC in the US, an investment is a security if it involves “an investment of money. And a common enterprise. With the expectation of profit, primarily from the efforts of others.”

Through ICOs, STOs and crowd sales, investors have access to a wide variety of securities tokens, ranging from coins backed by precious metals to tokens redeemable for tangible assets.

Summary of STOs:

  • STO stands for Securities Token Offering
  • This fundraising event operates through the sale of crypto-assets or tokens to investors in exchange for monetary investment.
  • This is liable to fall under a considerable amount of regulation compared to an ICO

Launching a Successful ICO

How To Classify Your Token As An Asset

When considering to hold an ICO, there are two broad areas that you must first consider. Are you issuing a utility token or a security token?

  • A utility token will provide access to a product or service (Failing the Howey test)
  • A security token is an investment (passing the Howey test)

Having a clear picture of which path you will take from the start will save countless legal hours down the line.

This plays a role when promoting your token as there are many restrictions when marketing a security around the world.

ICO Private Sale & Pre-sale

These are token sale events designed to raise funds prior to the main crowd sale.

What is a Private Sale?

A Private Sale event usually consists of founders and core team members conversing with their advisors and pitching the project to crypto funds, VCs and angel investors. Institutional investors usually ask for the greatest discount, for example, they may ask for 40% if the crowd sale starts at 20%. This can be used as a means to fund the Pre Sale.

What is a Pre-Sale?

A Pre-Sale event can be used as a means to test and validate whether crowd investors will invest or not. If you reach your goal, you are ready for the real deal – a worldwide campaign. A pre-sale is also a way for projects to raise funds to cover expenses for the crowd sale.

Some ICO expenses may include:

  • Smart contract development
  • Paid Advertising (e.g. PR, social media marketing, paid advertising)
  • Recruitment
  • Hosting Events

Identifying how to approach traditional institutional investors is an essential step in obtaining this presale cash injection.

How To Create A Whitepaper That Attracts Investors

The first step when launching a successful ICO is to create an ICO white paper. Generally, this whitepaper includes:

  • Information on the project (start/finish date) and key milestones
  • What the project will do upon ICO completion
  • Capital needed to begin the project
  • Token allowance and division

The aim of this whitepaper is to tell the story which defines the business problem and solution while offering beneficial insights and value to potential investors during the ICO period.

Develop A Lead Generating Website For Your ICO

This is an opportunity to develop a website for your startup if you have not already done so. You may find it hard to get the desired .com domain, many startups today look further afield an use domains such as .io .co .ly and much more.

We recommend using WordPress due to the vast community of developers available to you and the plug and play nature of WordPress Plugins. Both of these will come in handy when you want to add functionality to your site down the line.

Get WordPress hosting starting from $3.95/month →

If you already have a website, alter the homepage or create a page specific to the ICO crowd sale, this page should include:

  • A call-to-action (CTA) section that guides investors to become whitelisted, verified or participate in a sale stage.
  • Social and community links: Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, LinkedIn, Bitcointalk, YouTube, etc.
  • Papers: white papers, presentations, and any other materials that potential investors may be looking for.
  • A detailed overview of the project. Include all the project details. People want to know everything they can about a potential investment.
  • Token sale terms: pricing, data on the total token supply, purchase methods, token distribution, fund allocation etc..
  • Roadmap/ Token sale timeline.
  • The legal section where all related issues are covered.
  • Team/founders and/or advisory board. Use photos of your team and add links to their LinkedIn or other social accounts to provide some level of authenticity.
  • Partners. Show investors who have already supported your project.
  • Press and media. Demonstrate to contributors what others say about you by citing sources or adding links to relevant articles.

This should not be ‘set and forget’, your website should be a live document of partner updates, press announcements and updates on project progress/key milestones.

Now that you have a website, next you need to track everything!!

The easiest way to set this up is with Google Tag Manager (GTM), this will allow you to add many different tracking pixels without the need for a developer.

If you are on WordPress, I recommend using this plugin.

Once you have GTM installed, you can then set up the following:

Whatever channels you are using that offer conversion pixel tracking, you can insert them with GTM.

Create profiles on social networks popular with cryptocurrency projects

Brand awareness is key to a successful ICO campaign. Creating profiles on the popular social channels shows that you are open to communication.

Brand consistency across these channels reassures investors and increases brand recognition.

Try to get the same social handle across all channels, this way your @projectname can become part of your brand.

Some of the most popular social media platforms for blockchain and cryptocurrency are:

  • Linkedin
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Bitcointalk
  • Steemit

How To Promote An ICO?

Building an initial community with a whitelist

A successful whitelisting campaign will build an initial community of members who are interested in your project. Building a whitelist facilitates engagement, builds an email list, strengthens social channels, generates awareness and creates urgency around your ICO.

What is a whitelist?

A whitelist is ‘an exclusive list’ of potential contributors who have expressed explicit interest in an ICO by sharing some of their personal information in exchange for being the first to have an opportunity to contribute. This means that the whitelist contributors will have the greatest chance receive tier 1 bonuses.

How to create an ICO whitelist?

This can be carried out on a first come, first serve basis – As people sign up to the list, they receive a chronological position in the whitelist, so that when it is full, no more whitelist applications will be registered.

Alternatively, a ‘Proof-Of-Caring’ stake can be used – Your position in the queue is determined by proof of your contributions to the community. Meaning that position 1 has made the most contributions and so on, in descending order.

This means that when the whitelist is full, there is still an opportunity to ‘earn’ a position on the whitelist by making community contributions, such as:

  • Referrals to the whitelist
  • Social Posts/Shares
  • Posts in groups and forums
  • Reviews (Video/blogs)
  • Github contributions
  • Guest posts on blogs
  • Etc…

Get in touch if you want to learn more about whitelisting tactics and referrals to your ICO.

Cryptocurrency Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) & Guest Blogging

If implemented correctly, SEO can hold tremendous value for improving the long term growth of an ICO.

SEO Content

Easily the most important resource for any businesses website. Well optimised content will become visible in Google search results and appear in front of your target audience that may be interested in investing in your ICO. As well as publishing on your own site, sharing content to social media will reach a larger audience.


  • Time consuming and costly.

Link Building

Every time your ICO website is mentioned through a link on another website, Google will increase its domain authority. From Google’s point of view, a website that has high authority levels also has high popularity levels. This is a big factor in determining your websites Google page rank.

DoFollow Links

If you’re lucky enough to have a link to your site featured on another website, you should be keen to find out if that link is ‘dofollow’ or ‘nofollow’.

    • Dofollow: Give link juice and allow humans and search engines to follow the links
    • Nofollow: Don’t give link juice and only allow humans to follow.*

**Note, if the link is placed at the bottom of the page, it will carry less weight than a link placed towards the top of the page.

Internal Linking SEO

An internal link is simply a link on one page that directs the user to a related page. Internal links are generally used for:

  • Creating an easier navigation system for users on a website
  • Establishing a site or page hierarchy
  • Spreading link value around websites

SEO Audit

SEO audits are incredibly insightful, especially to new businesses that want to get a step ahead of their competitors. SEO audits will also outline how to;

  • improve search result rankings,
  • build website traffic and
  • increase the amount of ICO investments you receive.

To start improving your websites SEO performance today, make sure you get your free SEO audit.

Unless an ICO is hugely popular or holds lots of promise in the eyes of ICO content writers, it should not be taken for granted that it will be written about.

If you are promoting your own ICO, it is essential to make the most of your own website and regularly update it with details about the business, press releases and daily news to your investors.

Guest blogging is a great tactic for building links to your website which will greatly help with ranking in search engines (SEO).

Using An Airdrop To Generate Awareness

What is an Airdrop Campaign?

Airdrops are a marketing tactic used by crypto projects to award free tokens to registered users of a specific blockchain (e.g. Ethereum) or active promoters of the project. (e.g.sign up and share on Twitter to participate in Airdrop)

An airdrop is a mechanism for seeding network adoption — by giving people tokens for your project, it’s more likely that they will both learn about your project and participate in the community.

Another reason is to achieve a greater breadth of distribution of token holders, by making sure they don’t just start in the hands of the founding team, project advisors and those who bought into the token sale.

How to run an ICO Airdrop

Airdrops are created through the development of a smart contract. You will need a smart contract developer to complete this for you.

One important point to note is that the airdrop smart contract must include two pieces of information:

  • Array of addresses to send tokens to
  • Number of tokens to be sent

ICO Airdrop

Airdrops aim to promote ICO user growth by incentivizing people with tokens for spreading the word about the project

How to promote an Airdrop?

  1. First and foremost, before you even consider doing an airdrop make sure that you have a website and that your marketing channels set up correctly (discussed previously Twitter, Linkedin etc…).
  2. Define what you want to achieve with this marketing tactic. (e.g. grow Telegram channel, Twitter audience etc..)
  3. Define what this is worth to you. When choosing how much tokens to allocate to your airdrop, you must also consider the opportunity cost of not being able to sell these tokens during a sale stage.

ICO Airdrop List (Examples)

List your Airdrop on relevant promotional sites
Message ICO Airdrop Telegram Groups
Tag/Mention Twitter Airdrop Handles
Post on ICO Airdrop Reddit – Subreddits

How Much Does An Airdrop Cost?

Airdrops on Ethereum have known to become increasingly costly due to the transaction fees (GAS) involved.

Here are two things to consider when evaluating the cost of an airdrop

  1. Transaction fees.
  2. The total value of tokens you are giving away.

List Your Project On ICO Listing Sites & Calendars

Investors carry out searches, looking for the best ICO listing sites and subsequently will browse these sites looking for the next best ICO to participate in.

ICO calendars provide an ongoing list of current and upcoming ICOs. In order to make potential investors and the rest of the community aware of your project, it is important to submit an ICO to an ICO calendar.

What do you need to get listed on an ICO calendar?

Generally, you need to include:

  • Project Name
  • Token Details
  • Project summary (including start and finish date)
  • ICO Website
  • Position/involvement within the project and contact information

It won’t be the same for every ICO listing site, but the most popular or promising ICO’s are usually found by the administrators of ICO calendar websites and automatically included.

Here’s some of top ICO listing sites

However, these sites are highly competitive and investors don’t usually spend long amounts of time on them. This is why many offer a premium advertising spot to make sure your ICO is seen first.

Free ICO Advertising Platforms

Social networks and cryptocurrency communities are invaluable to a successful ICO. How an ICO project is presented will affect the level of trust it has within the community and how much value it projects to potential investors.

*Before we get into the finer details, it’s important to clarify that general discussion around ICO’s has NOT been banned. Google and large social platforms are imposing restrictions on paid advertising related to crypto-a.

As a result of the introduction of bans across many social media platforms and search engines, there has been an increase in searches made by ICO founders looking for different forms of free ICO advertising. Let us sift through the possibilities…

What are the best free channels to advertise an ICO?

There are a vast amount of channels online for promoting ICO’s and blockchain projects, but some of the best free channels for ICO marketing are:

  • Facebook groups
  • LinkedIn groups
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Quora
  • Slack
  • Telegram
  • Discord

Facebook (Posts & Groups)

The Facebook ICO ban means ads promoting financial products and services have been prohibited. What hasn’t been banned is the creation of Facebook posts which provide information about ICO projects.

ICO Marketing Facebook

The Facebook ICO ban is limited to promoting financial products and services which are frequently linked with misleading/deceptive promotional activities. (Photo.

Another method for interacting with the cryptocurrency community on Facebook that hasn’t been banned is directly through groups. ICO Facebook groups allow for a pretty broad discussion around emerging ICO’s, scam ICO’s and other relevant cryptocurrency news.

Crypto & ICO Facebook Group Examples

Facebook Negative – Fake or duplicate accounts.

According to  Business Insider’s article on Facebook’s 2017 3rd quarter earnings report, “10% of Facebook’s 2.07 billion monthly users are now estimated to be duplicate accounts” and “the social network’s number of fake accounts, or accounts not associated with a real account, increased from 1% to 2-3%”

Ethereum's Founder - Vitalik on What is Facebook

Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin responds to Elon Musk with his say on Facebook scam profiles (Twitter. 2018)

LinkedIn (Groups)

Groups on Linkedin are often overlooked as an option for ICO promotion. Depending on the type of group and its motives, you can usually find LinkedIn members that are up for discussing emerging ICO’s and the potential value they hold. Here are some example LinkedIn Groups:

ICO Marketing Linkedin

  • Unlike Facebook’s fake or duplicate accounts problem, LinkedIn allows users to visit group members profiles. This is a great feature if you are interested in connecting or following a knowledgeable person within the space.


There is a huge cryptocurrency community on Twitter!

Generally it is first for updates in ICO news and discussion, which makes it one of/if not the perfect platform for answering investor questions and announcing key ICO progress updates.

Within this large Twitter ICO crypto community are the crypto-influencers. If your tweets are retweeted or your ICO is mentioned by the right crypto-influencer, there is no doubt that it will be picked up by the greater crypto community.

Notable and Influential Twitter Accounts

  • @bytemaster7 – Daniel Larimer – Steemit Co-Founder
  • @Nicholas_Merten – Nicholas Merten – “Number 1 Crypto YouTube channel”
  • @aantonop – Andreas M. Antonopoulos – Author of Mastering Bitcoin & The Internet of Money
  • @IvanOnTech – Ivan On Tech – International Speaker & Blockchain Educator


Following and engaging the crypto community with the intention of discussing ICOs, topics around cryptocurrencies and the assets that come with them, are prime areas for promoting your upcoming ICO. Here are some popular sub-reddits:

It must be noted however, that the rules for subreddit’s like these outline ‘no spam’ which means no excessive advertising and a focus on more discussion based posts or you will draw negative attention.

The altcoin announcements board or Tokens (altcoins) board is an ideal place to promote your new ICO. But of course, advertising spam as outlined in the pinned posts is not allowed.

An ICO announcement on bitcointalk should generally be a one pager and will generally include:

  • Easy to understand token overview
  • Investor benefits
  • Token details (supply etc.)
  • Sale details
  • Bonuses (referrals, bounties etc)
  • Partners
  • Team members
  • Contact and social links


Engaging with the community on Quora is a great way to interact with invididuals reasearching a specific topic. Go and find related questions to that topic and engage with individuals seeking answers.

Alternatively, you can ask questions on Quora. This is a valuable tactic when building investor personas as it lets you get answers from real people, rather than guessing what their pain points may be.

Below are some general Quora discussions on crypto and blockchain

Owned Communities – Slack/Telegram/Discord

Building an audience on a messaging app is an absolute must for community management and targeting investors. Three very similar but popular messaging platforms for ICO’s and community management are Slack, Telegram and Discord.


Originally made for internal business messaging, has quickly filled up with ICO slack channels that are looking to interact with the cryptocurrency community on a more personal level.

  • One negative point for ICO Slack groups is how prone they are to scammers posting phishing links.


Following Telegram’s highly successful ICO, they too have become a favorite for large and small businesses. This is due to the fact that Telegram supergroups can have upto 100,000 members and they allow users to report groups/users that they feel may be breaking the platforms rules.

Telegram is more secure than other messenger apps like Whatsapp as it uses MTProto Protocol, which provide the highest levels of speed/reliability (even over weak connections).

  • ICO Telegram groups are a popular channel for engaging with the community.
  • Be sure to visit a website like TelegramCryptogroups to find popular Telegram groups


Originally aimed at gamers, Discord like the other messaging platforms has developed into a popular choice for ICO groups.

From an ICO scam point of view, Discord are quite alert, as they value user safety very highly e.g.

  • Scan images in messages from non-friends
  • Two factor authentication and IP location lock

ICO Marketing Tactics

Publicise the solution, not the participation

How much does ICO marketing cost?

Marketing for an ICO has no set costs, however, as a business owner, you must think about the complete process involved and decide how much time will need to be invested in marketing on all the possible platforms.

Social Media

On social media, promoting posts about an ICO project is a great way of increasing visibility. Paying for this type of promotion will feature your promoted post to a much larger audience than a post that isn’t promoted.

While you can get some great results from a relatively low budget, you must make sure that your content is engaging to entice your audience into visiting your website and making an investment at the ICO. Including a striking image or video is a good example of strong content that could be included in a promoted post.

Also, think about the audience you are trying to reach and relate this to what networks you should advertise on. (i.e. Reddit vs. Quora)

Some of the popular social media networks have banned ICO advertising. (Such as Google and Twitter)

Google Adwords

An alternative to social media marketing is using Google Adwords. This is an advertising platform within Google that displays your advertisements at the top of search rankings, as display ads on other websites or as ads on YouTube videos.

Adwords can be costly in the long run, but by following a comprehensive inbound marketing plan, this type of advertisement will generate leads and traffic to your ICO.

Note: While ICO advertising is banned, you still may be able to advertise on the Google Ad network if you are careful about the language used. For example: ‘Invest in the best ICO’ may get penalised but a more solution driven title may pass guidelines, ‘How blockchain will disrupt X industry’.

Additionally to this, remarketing is a valuable tactic to bring back visitors to your site who did not complete the onboarding process.

Specialised Crypto Ad Networks
  • Many cryptocurrency related sites actually offer paid advertising, which in theory should target a more qualified audience.

It is important to note that in digital marketing, it is less common to charge for advertising as a flat fee. Advertising is much more effective when charged per impression or per click

Paid advertising shouldn’t be the cornerstone of ICO marketing. Instead, for complete ICO success, there needs to be a focus on all aspects of digital marketing.

Listed below are ad networks that specialise in cryptocurrency related sites

Direct Media Buying

Many forums or ICO listing sites offer direct media buying, I recommend that you look for reviews before engaging with this method of advertising, as is the nature of this space.

Email Marketing

Email marketing should be a core to your ICO’s marketing strategy, the first step before beginning any email marketing campaign is to collect email addresses. Two of the most effective ways of collecting email addresses have been mentioned above:

  1. A whitelist (emails gathered from people registering in advance to participate in an ICO)
  2. An airdrop

In terms of investor acquisition, email marketing for your ICO can be incredibly effective. Engaging with the your email list and segmenting it based on who is opening/clicking links your emails.

  • In the digital marketing world, email marketing is proven to be one of the most straightforward and cost effective means to engage and audience.

*Mailchimp Prohibited List – Beware that Mailchimp’s acceptable use policy, has recently outlined that Mailchimp “cannot allow businesses involved in any aspect of the sale, transaction, exchange, storage, marketing or production of cryptocurrencies, virtual currencies, and any digital assets related to an Initial Coin Offering, to use MailChimp to facilitate or support any of those activities.”

Crypto Influencers

Crypto influencers and ICO advisers relevant to your projects space should be a critical component of an ICO advertising campaign. If you can successfully get an influencer of a particular stature to review what makes your ICO unique, you should expect to reap the rewards.

Pick The Right Influencers/Advisors

Recommended Reading: How To Find The Right ICO advisors
**It is important to note that a poorly formulated campaign using irrelevant influencers/sports personalities for promotional purposes could damage your ICO’s reputation.

Strategic Partnerships With Completed ICO’s or Established Corporations

Forming a strategic partnership with a large established corporation or successful ICO, could be a hugely significant step in your ICO’s quest for investment. An example of how this could work was seen back in late November 2017 when IOTA’s currency MIOTA rose 600% when they came out to say corporations like Microsoft, PWC and Accenture were participating in one of their new initiatives.

Future strategic partnerships could be sought after by

  • Governments
  • Large tech companies
  • Exchanges
  • Banks

Promote ICO With A Bounty Campaign

What are ICO bounties?

ICO bounties are rewards (e.g free coins) given by ICO startups to individuals for completing tasks such as:

  • Reporting bugs within the site
  • Promoting the ICO on social media, within cryptocurrency communities or writing a simple blog about the ICO

The aim of an ICO bounty campaign is to generate a level of hype and awareness around the blockchain startup and their ICO. The benefit of following a guide to ICO bounty campaign will help reduce spend on paid promotion and assist in developing a loyal community around the product or service.

Top Reasons For A Failing ICO

An unsuccessful ICO occurs when the ICO fails to reach its target during the sale.

Not hitting the ICO target may occur for a few reasons:

  • Lack of clarity within the whitepaper
  • Lack of ICO marketing, resulting in no community awareness
  • Lack of belief from the community that the concept will develop into a real product or service after the ICO.
  • Lack of token value. Nobody will want the token if it holds no current or future value.

What’s the Best ICO Marketing Strategy?

  1. Be active. Do not hide. Show that you are real, show your activeness.
    • Social Media
    • PR
  2. Create a conversion funnel, an investor does not convert from a single click. Be patient, strategic and constant with your updates.
    • Email Marketing
    • Paid promotion
  3. It is all about analytics. Collect the data. Analyze. Choose the best!

It is crucial to track and optimize all the aspects of your digital marketing efforts.

  • Where do they start their journey on their way to invest?
  • Where do they stop?
  • What information motivates them to click?

By analyzing the entire process, you will find your best way for marketing your ICO.

Developing an effective ICO marketing strategy is challenging and consumes lots of time. This is why a lot of startups will seek the professional help from specialised ICO marketing agencies.

ICO Marketing Strategy – Tips & Concluding Points

Some of the core points to remember when marketing an ICO are

  • ICO landing pages need to stand out and tell investors why they should be investing (e.g expected industry growth).
  • ICO white paper is generally the second encounter (after the landing page) an investor has with your ICO. It needs to explain the ICO, the team, the roadmap goals and how you will achieve them.
  • ICO listing sites are an easy way to get more eyes on your project.
  • What problem is your ICO solving? Tell your story to potential investors early on and remember, ICO’s need to create great products or services in order to stand out.
  • Generate highest possible levels of trust. This can be done through your team. Include photos, videos and social links, which prove to investors there are real people behind this project.

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