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Marketing to Developers Marketing for Blockchain

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Chris Riley

March 26, 2019

Blockchain has everyone excited, but no one really knows what is going on. This is good news and bad news for product vendors intending to build and sell Blockchain products. Fixate has been fortunate to partner with several upcoming vendors in the space, and I’m going to share my thoughts on what it takes to stand out in the Blockchain market.

But first, we need to talk about the challenges. Due to Blockchain’s newness and a lot of ambiguity about what Blockchain is, marketing for Blockchain products has several barriers.

Blockchain vs. crypto: Much of the market still automatically thinks of Bitcoin or cryptocurrency when they hear blockchain. That stigma gets vendors thrown into a bucket that is not considered stable or useful in a business sense.

The noise: The Blockchain market is extremely noisy. The number of conversations and the variations between them is tremendous, which means if you talk about Blockchain in any broad sense, you are just contributing to the noise — not standing out.

Too new: Blockchain’s newness is both good and bad. It’s good because more people will tend to pay attention to what vendors are putting out there from a simple curiosity standpoint. But they won’t go much deeper than surface level until they see some validation.

Consumer vs. business: There are a ton of fantastic business applications for Blockchain, such as smart contracts, HR, marketing, compliance, legal, etc. But I would say that the market at large considers Blockchain (due to its association with Bitcoin) to be a personal consumer thing. That is why at a mixer or meetup, you can quickly be met with strange looks when you talk about building blockchain technologies for any business application.

These barriers are strikingly similar to when IoT first showed signs of traction. But they have an emotional twist that IoT did not. People tend to have strong feelings about cryptocurrency, and thus Blockchain to some degree. It’s this emotional twist that makes it even more difficult to market to the audience you are after. So what’s the best strategy?

Marketing for the Blockchain market is no different than any other. Of the four challenges above, noise and newness are actually the most difficult. Noise has no positives. The key to marketing in the space is to be realistic, avoid giving into the hype too much, and to leverage the excitement and emotion as much as you can. Consider the following strategies:

Remember that you solve a problem: Blockchain or not, your offering provides value that probably isn’t even directly tied to Blockchain — be it security, transparency, or decentralization. Your product is probably not the blockchain itself. Blockchain is the tool to solve a problem or make things better. So this is where your focus should be. If you market value, then you are not going to be thrown in the Blockchain noise. You will also not mislead yourself into thinking that the interest in Blockchain is what is going to gain business, when it’s actually the value or problem you solve.

… Unless there is interesting tooling being developed for the blockchain itself, such as analytics, explorers, and automation tools. This is a much smaller market, but vendors with these offerings are marketing directly to people leveraging the blockchain. For that reason, they do need to talk about it directly. But again, the value they provide is visibility, ease of integration, etc., which should be the focus of their marketing efforts.

Deeply specific content is required: There is a two-part approach to marketing in the Blockchain space. The first is to participate in the hype by putting out broad thought leadership content with minimal effort. You need to do this to show up, and be seen as an authority on the technology. But this should be the smallest fraction of your budget, and should be quite natural (you probably already have a lot to say about the technology).

When it comes to gaining actual leads, you should be as specific as possible on the use cases you address, implementations, and the day jobs of your target persona. It may feel scary trying not to be all things to all Blockchain people. But if you choose the overly broad approach, you are just contributing to the noise, and making it even harder to stand out. You should focus very clearly on content as a pillar that clearly defines who you are and what you do — in the most detail possible. It’s these details that are going to slice through the noise. The details will also make the quality of interest much higher. You can easily get huge traffic just by mentioning Blockchain, but the quality of traffic is going to be very low.

A large volume of leads can be exciting, but it’s often a huge confirmation bias that is misleading. There is usually an inverse relationship between lead volume and lead quality, unless you offer a consumer product. So a smaller number of focused leads made up of people who actually understand what you do will get you further. Attract them by talking about their challenges, what they do for a living, and the technologies that interest them.

Here is how that manifests into activities.

Strong content pillar: You should consider a strong content pillar that drives all other campaigns. That pillar will leverage three types of content:

  1. Thought leadership from your executives. This is one of the rare times where bylined pieces in industry and mainstream media are useful for business. It implies you should have a solid PR partner on your side. The market is so new that you do need to race to be seen. You do that by starting to define the market through opinionated and strong thought leadership content from your team.
  2. Assets that focus on the problem and how Blockchain is the solution. This is mostly opportunistic content that clearly spells out how Blockchain is the new way to solve old problems, or a way to do things better. Pieces should not be promotional, but should be very compelling and detailed. You may want to put them out on media sites, and provide gated content on your site.
  3. Practitioner blog. Get content from the same people that will benefit from your technology. The trick here is that everyone is a newbie. So your practitioners need to be comfortable with a learning curve. They should not talk about the product, but focus on the problem, and Blockchain’s benefits.

This content can be easily leveraged in classic advertising campaigns. Make sure your campaign targeting is super-specific, and not based on the keywords “blockchain” or even “smart contracts.” Don’t try to rank on these terms. You should be ranking on terms that are relevant to your offering, and competitors who provide older alternatives, or old approaches.

While there are some unique challenges in marketing blockchain technology, there are also a lot of unique opportunities. Fixate has seen the benefits of powerful content for our customers that are already working within the Blockchain market, feeding the excitement and articulating real value. The key is to not to get hung up on your status as a blockchain vendor. You are providing a solution to a problem, or improving the way things are done, and that is all that really matters.