More than $35 billion worth of new investment has poured into cryptocurrencies since the beginning of 2017, and famed investor Tim Draper is publicly supporting Tezos’s ICO.
With news like that, it’s pretty clear to anyone watching that the world of blockchain technology and decentralized-based solutions is heating up rapidly.
As investment and activity increase, so does the need for greater differentiation. The intensity of competition and number of “me-too” or “copycat” projects are only going to increase dramatically.
So, it’s a good thing that some of the startups in the decentralization industry are getting ready.
Blockchain Startups Have Not Invested in Marketing … but They Will
According to the “Marketing Maturity of Decentralized Startups, Q2 2017 Report” just released by the Decentralized Marketing Network (DMN) — a co-op of blockchain startups such as Rootstock, Tierion and OB1, pooling their marketing knowledge — 3 out of every 4 blockchain and decentralized startups plan to increase their marketing headcount in the next 12 months. Further, 70 percent of them plan to increase their spend on marketing.
It’s a good thing too, because the report uncovered something that most industry observers have known for a long time. When blockchain-based startups “market,” their messaging is often inconsistent, ad hoc and typically more aligned to features than benefits.
It’s no surprise really.
Most disruptive technological periods begin this way. There’s a flurry of great engineering-led innovations, but marketing maturity is low. The report backs this up, finding that an average of only 5 percent of budgets were spent on marketing, and only 35 percent of startups have anyone who even has responsibility for marketing.
Beware: Marketing Is Misunderstood
The number of reasons why marketing as a discipline is misunderstood are many. Everyone has familiarity with tactics such as advertising, promotional items, flyers, business cards and websites. So, naturally, everyone thinks they understand marketing.
Sadly, that’s not the case. In her fantastic review of the book Drucker on Marketing by William A. Cohen, Jenny Cheung writes that “selling has to do with persuading a prospect to buy something you have. Marketing has to do with already having what prospects want.”
What Smart Marketers Do and You Can As Well
Marketing isn’t an afterthought. It’s the critical thinking that goes into creating a product or service that actually meets someone’s active or latent needs.
Getting there doesn’t have to take eight months. It can be done in a few weeks, but it involves:
- creating a brand platform;
- refining a strong, differentiated value proposition;
- understanding your audience and the various personas;
- building a messaging platform (here’s a way to get started quickly); and
- creating a tight marketing plan that aligns objectives, goals, strategies and tactics.
It also involves operational and strategic discipline, which are covered more broadly in “14 Rules for Successful High-Growth Marketing.”
Most important of all is that it is never too early to get started. Des Traynor, the founder of Intercom (a $50m revenue company), has a really powerful talk in which he basically says, “We made a lot of marketing mistakes early on and I wish we had done it differently.”
Learn the Lesson: Tech Alone Isn’t Enough …
The classic example of a superior technology losing the battle is the Betamax–VHS battle in the ’80s. Betamax started off with a near 100 percent market share, but VHS countered by offering recording times of two, then four, then six hours versus Betamax’s higher-quality picture but with only one hour’s worth of recording time. Why time instead of quality?
The answer turns out to be something that sits at the core of marketing. The legendary Peter Drucker said that the “aim of marketing is to know the customer so well that the product sells itself.” What the VHS proponents figured out was that customers wanted to record movies. They were longer than one hour, which made VHS a superior choice, even if it wasn’t superior quality.
By focusing on extending the length of time available on a tape based on that insight, they were able to meet customer needs and emerge victorious.
As decentralized startups enter the next phase, making the investment in marketing earlier rather than later is the wise way to go.
According to the Decentralized Marketing Network, many startups have realized that. The DMN is planning to offer webinars, newsletters and forums all with the goal of giving technical founders a strong understanding of marketing fundamentals in positioning, value proposition and messaging. The better understood that marketing is as a discipline, the better the chances are for the the success of a technology.
Jeremy Epstein is the CEO of Never Stop Marketing, a strategic marketing and consulting firm that focuses exclusively on helping blockchain-based technologies bring solutions to market faster and with less risk. Clients include OpenBazaar, Storj, and the Internet of People. He also serves as Executive Director of the Decentralized Marketing Network.