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Simplifying ICO Terms for the Mainstream Entrepreneur: Yes, It Can (and Should) Be Done Wanted: compelling and captivating sci-tech communicators for blockchain marketing.

By AJ Agrawal Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Blockchain marketing -- unlike hyped-up pump-and-dump initial coin offerings (ICOs) -- is lucrative only if it delivers actual value for a project. And the numbers don't lie: If you're a blockchain marketer, any company you work with that's launching an ICO will know exactly what results can be credited to (or blamed on) you.

Related: Why Marketers Need to Pay Attention to Cryptocurrency -- Now

Simply put, either your campaign will be a success or a flop. So, how do you control which outcome you'll see?

Information overload: you're doing more harm than good.

The point is that, nowadays, analytics are so advanced that a company will be able to check the statistics that a marketing campaign was able to garner. A company that hires a marketing agency will be able to know exactly how many new clicks, views, interactions, etc. the marketing company hired was able to get them.

And that leads to my main point about what everyone needs to know about effective ICO marketing: We need to cool it with the technical talk; we need a time-out on all the tech buzzwords; instead, we need to ease people into this burgeoning new field. The reason is that for mainstream audiences, one of the main barriers to entry is the amount of technical knowledge required, to begin to grasp what blockchain technology is and what exactly it does.

At this point, many of those reading up on blockchain and cryptocurrencies have become jaded with tech jargon like hashes, blocks, mining, smart contracts, cryptographic proof, proof-of-work, proof-of-stake -- the list is mind-numbingly endless.

What some observers fail to understand is that the initial information a viewer encounters about a project, usually through a website, then becomes part of the user experience. So, if all this jargon is too hard to understand and too intimidating from the beginning, there's a good chance that our viewer will dart over to the exit button on the web page and hit "click."

Related: 5 Trends In Cryptocurrency Entrepreneurs Need to Know

Express; don't impress.

When I was young, I had a journalism advisor tell me that my mission as a writer was to express, not impress; and this especially holds true for blockchain communications. Explaining a field that is already complex on its own is no place to be showing off your tech vocabulary.

Sometimes, your audience members won't even need to know all the technicalities of the project. They'll just need to know the essentials. Of course, you still have to provide technical documentation for those who want to analyze it. But it's best to save that advanced content for those who can understand it -- meaning the tech crowd, software engineers, blockchain developers and analysts.

One thing you as a blockchain marketer need to convey, then, and quickly, is what you do and what that means for a reader. Why should he or she care?

This is why there's something called a lite paper. A lite paper is a version of the white paper for those who don't have the time, the patience or the technical capability to understand the full version.

Substance trumps sales talk.

Compelling and captivating science and tech communicators have a special place in marketing; yet they are in scarce supply. This is why blockchain marketing is an industry that PR professionals shouldn't dismiss getting into, especially at a time when the market is busy.

Why would a company want to take on risks in a relatively unknown market like blockchain and cryptocurrency when it has been servicing traditional markets it knows well? The answer is that bockchain marketing is full of opportunities and can be quite lucrative -- so PR professionals should not overlook these opportunities

I'm not going to lie; the pressure is high. But there's a FOMO interest for companies here because lots of technically proficient minds have invested themselves in blockchain projects.

These people include the early adopters of Bitcoin and those who "speak code." Understandably, the expectations (and, again, the pressure) for marketing firms has been raised several notches. Because of this, sales talk alone won't cut it; marketers need to show a deep understanding of tech concepts, too.

There are a lot of challenges ahead; but if you're a marketer, yours is not a lost cause. First, you need to understand what you're talking about, because you can't explain something you don't understand.

And you shouldn't jump in head-first unless you do understand it.

Cryptocurrency marketers are starting to sound generic.

Apart from the tech jargon overload, I've noticed that marketing companies are starting to sound generic -- using terms like disruptive, decentralized, distributed, immutable, global cryptocurrency and ... "this will change everything." These words and this phrase have been thrown around so many times that at this point they no longer mean anything.

To the untrained ear, sure, you might get nods of approval. But when you're talking to well-versed investors -- people who have been investing in the space for a while, people whose attention and consideration are highly valuable to the project you're working on -- you aren't adding anything new to the conversation, and your knowledge will look superficial.

For a professional, there's no more embarrassing mistake.

The art of science and tech communication

Judging from a recent pool of about 600 ICOs (and counting, according to Etherscan, a search engine, like Google, but for cryptocurrency transactions), the work of PR professionals and marketers appears to be getting harder. How do you get something to stand out when everything and everyone is looking the same?

Admittedly, not everything can be salvaged, even by the world's greatest marketers. Value has to come from within the project itself. Afterward, we do the best we can to convey and exude the core values of the project to the outside world.

Scientists and developers are best left to do what they do best: build things. But marketing and communications is a job that has to be done, and that's what we're here for. We have people who understand these things and are proficient in simplifying technological concepts and architecture into laymen's terms.

Storytelling for science and technology is an intellectual art -- one that can't be easily replaced -- even by AI. Communicating complex topics to the general audience can get quite difficult, not just for blockchain tech, but for science in general.

Related: 10 Companies That Are Getting Creative With Cryptocurrency

Someday, we may be able to relay messages telepathically instead of verbally. At that point, information transfer and comprehension may become instantaneous. By then, storytellers like me, and maybe you, will be out of a job; but until that happens, we're happy to do the work.

AJ Agrawal

CEO of Alumnify; Entrepreneur, Writer, and Marketer

AJ Agrawal is the CEO and co-founder of Alumnify. an alumni-engagement platform.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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