Starting your own business is always difficult. Launching a cryptocurrency business amidst legal uncertainty and Bitcoin’s image problem is even harder.
“We literally don't even have a website users can visit for information at the moment,” wrote a popular user named Rune on Bitsharestalk. “Don't get pissed at other people, our publicity sucks because our marketing sucks. We're working to improve it and the new website will hopefully change things and make people start taking us seriously.”
Indeed, downplaying the marketing side of things could spell the end of your business regardless of how good your product may be. Cointelegraph spoke to Spanish-based digital currency exchange Exmo and California based Bitcoin API firm Gem on how prospective entrepreneurs can step up their marketing game, boost their public image and gain a foothold in the promising yet volatile industry.
It is no secret that Bitcoin has an image problem. This is why many companies like Circle, Roolo, Stellar, etc. have strategically avoided using terms like “BIT” in their name to sever any direct association to the infamous “drug-buying” cryptocurrency, bitcoin. Gem and Exmo are no different.
“It was perfectly clear and logical that most of our colleagues were using the word "BIT" or "COIN" in their names,” said Kevin Rinta, Exmo’s Vice Executive Officer. “They made their designs especially for their audiences so it was reasonable that their names be similar to each other to allow users to subconsciously feel confident in them.” Rinta continued:
“We went a little bit the other way. It was important that our name be simple, concise, easy and user-friendly, but not necessarily be associated with a derivative of the name cryptocurrency. Moreover, many of our users had never used cryptocurrency or were even familiar with our site. So we decided that the name EXMO most suited us.”
While Gem’s COO, Ken Miller, explained:
“Our Founder Micah came up with ‘Gem,’ which we felt encompassed the simplicity, diversity, and durability of the products we are creating and yes we believed ‘bit’ or ‘coin’ were not comprehensive or compelling enough.”
Thus, while including terms like “BIT,” “COIN,” “DARK” or “CRYPTO” can have negative connotations or only resonate with niche users who are likely already familiar with the blockchain, opting for something more neutral might be the way to go. This method will not only help your brand attract a wider audience but will also remove any associations with Mt Gox, The Silk Road etc.
In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine a successful business that is not active on social networks. According to social media statistics from 2014, Twitter had over 255 million active monthly users and over 1 billion in total. Along with Facebook’s 1.28 billion active monthly users, marketing on social media becomes too attractive to ignore for any business looking to successfully promote their product.
“Yes, we’re active on most -- Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn,” said Miller. “We’re definitely seeing really nice growth in these channels, particularly Twitter.” He added:
“We’ve made an effort to be active with videos, photos, articles, and engagement with others in the community and it seems to show as we see exciting growth in those channels.”
Maintaining a relationship with your current and potential users is crucial. This is partly because addressing concerns and answering questions on popular forums such as Reddit and Bitcointalk.org will instill greater confidence in your product.
“Naturally, we see social networking as an invaluable method of advertising,” said Rinta. “We have been actively using Facebook, Twitter, Reddit as well as numerous other cryptocurrency forums.”
“Staying in touch with the cryptocurrency community is very important for Exmo - that is why we maintain a regular dialogue with other companies and users on various forums. The growth in this area has been very steady and we anticipate this growth to continue as we increase our advertising presence in the mainstream media.”
Participating at events and conferences can be a big boost to your company’s image. This is because it is one of the few ways to directly interact with your present and future users and partners in person. However, Exmo has not had the chance to fully take advantage yet.
“[F]or now we are [at conferences] only as visitors […]. This does prevent us from finding partners and building strong relationships with other useful and interesting projects.”
“At the moment, we are ready to present ourselves to the general public and be directly involved in conferences,” added Rinta. “But before that, we want to bring our product to its logical conclusion by adding localization, connecting all the payment systems and fully working through all the functionality of our new product - The Universal Wallet.”
While Gem has been “especially active in events on a couple fronts,” which include your typical “industry sponsored events, conferences, panel discussions […] where we have been speaking, exhibiting, performing demos, sponsoring, and more to engage the community and help make these events as successful as possible,” said Miller.
Additionally, Gem also chose an office where they could host their own events. “We have become the host and sponsor of LA’s bitcoin meet-up group, as well as a number of other bitcoin/developer/tech events that we put on,” he added. “It’s an important part of who we are and we’re very passionate about it and the importance it has engrossing the industry.”
Honing your product by taking advantage of the numerous services offered by third-parties can also boost your business. However, it must be noted that certain tradeoffs exist with the given approach.
“At this point, we have made a strategic decision to develop all the necessary functions and services ourselves,” said Rinta. “For this we have a team of top-notch developers and we believe that this approach will allow us to be more independent and respond more flexibly to market changes.”
Nevertheless, if you business is unable to hire and maintain an in-house team, third-party service providers might be your best bet if you want to save time and focus on the other aspects of growing a business.
For example, reputation services such as Bitrated can give your business more credibility in a nascent industry where scams are prevalent. Meanwhile, white label exchange technology platform provider Alphapoint can even build your very own exchange for you.
“Whether it’s launching our API with four different client languages available to make it available to as many developers as possible or integrating the first of their kind Hardware Security Modules for bitcoin […] we always want it to be easier, safer, and feature rich. Announcing a partnership last month with Elliptic for storage and insurance of the back-up, offline 3rd key was really exciting for us and our customers.”
Also, hiring well-known experts from within and outside the cryptocurrency such as Wall Street or Apple will surely get your name in the paper, funds permitting. “It’s a small industry still and we want to see it fulfill it’s inherent promise for everyone, so engaging with the tremendous amount of talented people throughout the community on a regular basis is a no-brainer for us,” added Miller.
Running a blog
Perhaps it’s not a coincidence when two of the biggest names in Bitcoin -- Coinbase and BitPay -- run their own dedicated company blogs. A news blog with quality content will promote and keep the public up to date. Furthermore, including appropriate calls to action will not only help attract more users, but will also make you more visible to search engines (SEO) and provide you with feedback while helping manage user expectations.
“At this moment, we are carefully studying this kind of interaction with our users,” explained Rinta. “Taking into account the experiences of other companies and the analysis of the consumer market, we formulate our wishes to the blog and supply information in general. We understand that this type of information is important to the permanence and relevance of news and articles.”
However, Rinta added the following caveat to keep in mind:
“We do not want to look like a company that does not keep its promises, because it is very easy to do a blog, pay for advertising in different media, and then not keep promises to users in those advertisements.”
While Miller told Cointelegraph:
“Yes, we have a blog and plan over the 2nd half of 2015 to give it more attention and populate it with a rich set up content (written, video, and more) covering Gem, the industry, development, and many more areas.”
Now you’ll be much better off on your way to a successful business in the crypto space. All that’s left is to focus on your product, manage your funds wisely, seek investors, and develop your client base.
“We have seen how Bitcoin has turned from a speculative instrument into a fundamental instrument of payment,” said Rinta when asked on the future plans for Exmo. “We are currently speaking with a number of banks and well-known stores. We know that they are thinking about getting started with Bitcoin and for that reason we are there to support them.”