How to quadruple the market cap of a DeFi project

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In March 2020, the team of BDC Consulting was approached by a DeFi startup seeking to boost its capitalization. It had launched only three months earlier, so we had to start the marketing campaign virtually from scratch. The client gave us carte blanche (within the limits of the law, of course) and strict cost KPIs.


Five months later, the project's market cap had surged from $11m to $42m. In this case study, we will describe the tools and techniques that allowed us to achieve this result, as well as the challenges we had to face.

Disclaimer: market cap growth was achieved thanks to attracting new users and promoting the sales of the coin as a long-term investment, and not thanks to increased speculative sales.

Background

Objective: boost the market cap of a blockchain project by motivating users to buy its stablecoins. At the start of the campaign, the project's capitalization amounted to $11 million. 

Target regions: USA, Latin America, Europe, CIS. 

Budget: every $70 spent on marketing should generate at least $1,000 in investments.

Team

  1. PR specialist
  2. Email marketing specialist
  3. Analyst
  4. SEO specialist
  5. Marketing specialist
  6. PPC specialist
  7. Targeting specialist 
  8. Influencer manager

Stage 1: Research

Project analysis. Before defining the task pool, we analysed the product and researched the client's competitors and their marketing activity. Next, we formulated the USP based on the project's strengths:


Target audience. The client provided us with information about their users. We divided them into four categories, based on the funds invested in the project: 

  • More than $10,000
  • $1,000 – $10,000
  • $100 – $1,000
  • Less than $100

We also looked at how users from each category decide to buy the stablecoin. To do that, we conducted over 30 detailed interviews with customers from different countries. Once we had a user profile, we developed a new customer acquisition strategy and decided what sort of message should be transmitted and through which channels. 

Stage 2: Promotion and the large-scale traffic campaign

In this stage, our main goal was to get noticed by target users on various platforms, lead them to the project's website, and motivate them to register. These are the key tools we used to interact with potential customers:

Context advertising – Google Ads

We use this tool in virtually all the projects we work on, so there were no serious problems. Google did block the account a few times but every time it happened, we managed to either unblock it quickly or switch accounts. 

A total of 4 thousand new users registered after clicking on context ads.

We targeted our campaigns with several types of search queries:

  • Brand-focused: resulted in a 30% conversion rate.
  • Thematic: staking, buying BTC, competing brands, etc. The resulting conversion rate was 9.4%.
  • High-converting: based on the statistics of the first few months, we identified those campaigns that brought the most registrations at the best price and optimized our ads accordingly. This resulted in a 14.5% conversion rate.

TIPS

1. When working with a crypto project, don't deposit more than a couple of days' worth of funds in your account. There's always a risk that Google will ban you and you won't be able to withdraw the money.

2. If your account does get disabled, make sure to fill the appeal form.

Based on our experience, 70% of disabled crypto-related accounts get unblocked after submitting an appeal.

3. Delete the content that hasn't passed moderation. We've noticed that the more rejected ads and banners are stored in an account, the more carefully the moderator scrutinizes each new campaign.

Targeted social ads

Vkontakte. Since the CIS was one of our target markets, it made sense to launch ads in the region's most popular social network, Vkontakte. The campaign period coincided with the post-election protests in Belarus when Belarusians rushed to withdraw their bank deposits and used the cash to buy USD.

Our client's product was based on stablecoin staking – an alternative to traditional fiat deposits. Thus, we created ads with trigger headings like 'Where to invest roubles before they lose all their value?', 'Can't buy USD in Belarus?', and 'Belarusians are switching to digital dollars'. 



Referencing relevant financial events brought good results: almost 9,000 clicks at $0.12 per click.

Results of one of the ad groups in our Vkontakte ad account 

TIPS

  • Follow the events in your target regions. Situational marketing and a good CTA can produce targeted and cheap clicks.
  • Use retargeting alternatives if you can't place a tracking pixel on the website.

In our case, the client didn't want any pixels, because the project was decentralized. For this reason, we couldn't gather data to find out which pages each visitor viewed and which target actions they performed. 

As a solution, we first set up Vkontakte ads for the general audience, selecting a country, age group, gender, and interests. Then we identified those who reacted positively to an ad (by liking it or clicking on the link) to form a separate 'positive action' audience. Next, we launched additional ads targeted at this audience. These produced 1.5x-2x cheaper clicks and a 2-3x higher CTR compared to the original general audience ads. 

Facebook. Unlike Vkontakte, Facebook is extremely wary of crypto-related ads. They have to be approved first and passing moderation can be hard. 

In our case, Facebook was merciless. All the ads leading to the client's website were constantly blocked. To solve the issue, we decided to create a landing page that wouldn't contain any stop words. Unfortunately, the conversion rate for this new landing was low, while the cost of each registration was too high. Eventually, we had to abandon Facebook ads altogether.

Twitter. We launched a contest with a $9,000 prize fund. To join, a user had to buy stablecoins using a bank card. Once again, targeted ads were used to promote the contest. 

While the contest did pay off, the results weren't spectacular. The key problem was a lengthy customer journey. To participate, one had to not only make a deposit but also pass a KYC.

Influencer collaborations

We worked with influencers on YouTube, Telegram, and Twitter, covering the CIS, North and Latin America, Spain, Germany, Singapore, Turkey, and India.


In 4 months, the influencers published over 100 pieces of content, while YouTube reviews of the project were watched a total of 360,000 times.

This is how we did it:

  • Constant A/B testing. We kept tweaking the brief sent to bloggers so that different influencers' videos ended up having different titles, scenarios, and CTAs. 

    For example, after the title card was changed, the conversion rate jumped 10%, while switching to a different scenario allowed us to increase conversions from 15% to 24%. 

  • SEO-optimized videos. We researched relevant search queries, worked on the titles and tags, and prepared SEO-friendly descriptions for each video. 

  • UTM tags. We used the tags to track a video's effect. Of course, not all viewers would click on the link under a video. Some would google the project's name later or in a different tab because for many of them the video review served as one of the first product touches. Keeping this in mind, we should stress the following numbers:



Influencer collaborations brought at least 814 new users, who bought $33k worth of crypto and staked $115k worth of stablecoins.

Some of the vloggers launched giveaways with a $50-100 prize to promote their videos. To join the giveaway, a viewer had to subscribe to the channel, like the video, leave a comment, and register on the platform.

INSIGHT

Users reacted differently to the DeFi project based on the political and economic situation in their respective regions:

Latin America (Venezuela, Mexico, Argentina). Users from this region were particularly enthusiastic about the project – probably because of their national currencies' extreme volatility. Our client's product was based on stablecoin staking, which allowed to protect and multiply one's savings. 

Russia. This is a difficult region for promoting investment products, cryptocurrencies, and DeFi projects, partially because the audience has a lot of negative experiences with Ponzi schemes. 

USA. Because of the strict regulatory policy, US residents could use the product only partially. Despite this, many large investors showed interest in the project.

Media

Free placements

The only way to get featured for free is to offer the readers useful content. Thus, we didn't waste our time on pitching news about platform updates to the media. Instead, we created a series of analytical articles dealing with the client's market niche, as well as some how-to guides and lifehacks. In all of these, we natively mentioned the project. 

We obtained a total of 13 free placements, read by almost 6,000 users. The outlets included Seeking Alpha (26m monthly visitors), Before It's News (4m), Hackernoon (2.9m), etc. 

Paid placements

Our client was planning a major technical release, so some sponsored placements were necessary. We used PR Newswire, a press release distribution network we've been working with for years.

Having paid $1,500 for placement on PR Newswire, we got 150 publications potentially covering 135 million readers.


TIPS

  • Experiment with your visuals and headlines.  We developed different design schemes for each region. For example, for Turkey, we used the red color (red has been the country's national color since the 14th century) and the word 'very' in the headline on the visual. Turks are quite emotional and tend to use 'very' to stress their point. The article received twice more views than other pieces published by the same outlet. 
  • Don't neglect minor media. Sometimes they yield much better results than large platforms and generate more traffic than you expect. This could be because smaller platforms also publish article links in their chat or channel, attracting additional users.

Apart from regular outlets, we asked some bloggers on the Russian platform Yandex.Zen to write a review of the project. 

Yandex.Zen bloggers have relatively small audiences, so their publications don't generate as many clicks as regular media do, but their readers' loyalty is much higher because they trust the influencer's experience and opinion.

SEO 

The coin's name resembled those of some irrelevant products, resulting in 80% of non-industry-related search results in Google and Yandex. This made it hard to promote the publications based on the name of the project. The competition with other items was high. Nevertheless, we did everything we could to avoid losing potential users. 

First, we focused on low-frequency and low-competition commercial queries. To do this, we made a list of articles that appeared at the top of the search result list and contacted their publishers, asking how we could insert a paragraph containing a mention of the project into each. This helped us get featured in several articles about staking and find our way into the first SERPs.


Finally, 90% of the top 10 results contained relevant information. 

Next, we turned to the search queries targeting the competition, as well as vaguely branded searches. 

  • Added the coin to several business & startup directories, including Crunchbase, ProductHunt, and GitHub. Google likes variety, so it tends to display results from different sources such as social media pages, websites, directory listings, etc. This helped some of the directory profiles we created to enter the top 10.
  • Published new articles in the industry media and news websites: Google prefers to display fresh content on the first page.
  • Posted articles on blogging platforms (VC, Tjournal, Yandex.Zen, Medium). These popular and trusted platforms rank high on Google.

An absence of negativity in the search results and a high frequency of project mentions in the search results promote user trust and influence the decision to buy. On average, quality SEO marketing can boost conversion by 40-80%. 

Stage 3: Traffic optimization and conversions

Data analysis

First, we gathered data about user registration across all the channels and decided to abandon the most expensive ones. Our requirements were:

  1. Conversion rate (i.e. platform registrations) no lower than 12%.

  2. Cost of a single registration not exceeding $15.

The channels we discarded: most of the ad networks, Yandex.Direct, and banner ads on crypto sites. We also discarded GEOs that generated non-targeted registrations. 

Increased budget allocation for the more efficient channels: Google Ads, influencers, A-ADS network. We also launched Twitter ads.

Telegram chatbot

We decided to use this technique for two reasons: 

1) There was a problem onboarding new users. They seemed to be in no hurry to use the product. After registering, many didn't take any further action. The purchase cycle for these users was much longer than for those we had interviewed at the beginning.

The chatbot was designed to resolve the users' main concern, the suspiciously high yield of the offered DeFi product. The bot was essentially a FAQ aimed at users' mistrust and fear. In a clear and structured form, it explained how the protocol worked, how to withdraw funds, what happens if the price falls, etc. 

2) We couldn't use an email newsletter to reach the customers. Since the platform was decentralized, it didn't require users to provide an email address. The chatbot was a good alternative. We offered the users to try the chatbot to get up-to-date news and updates. 



In just 3 days after the chatbot launch, over 2,000 users subscribed to it, giving us a direct link to each of them.

Website optimization

The site represented the last step in the customer journey before registration. A 100% website conversion rate is impossible, so there's always room for improvement. For projects with large budgets, even a 1% increase can significantly lower the cost of each lead. To achieve this, we regularly analysed customer behaviour and improved usability. 

Here are some of the A/B tests we conducted:


90% of the A/B tests successfully increased conversions

We also added popups with hints and tips for the user, as well as user guides and a FAQ. Further, we designed new landing pages in 3 languages (Russian, English, and Spanish) to explain the product's benefits to different target audience segments.

Challenges. The client's platform is designed as a SPA (Single Page Application), which prevented Google Analytics from tracking user actions correctly. Instead, we had to use the analytical reports manually generated by the client. A lot of data was lost, though we still managed to track the overall results.

Working with large investors

The target audience was divided into those who were ready to invest a lot of money and the rest. We called the larger investors 'big fish' and developed a separate strategy for converting them: 

1) Offered them a dedicated personal manager, bottomless liquidity, and an exclusive exchange rate when buying from $50k worth of the stablecoin.

To do this, an OTC platform was launched in just 2 weeks. The idea for the OTC feature came from the CustDev interviews. It turned out that many large deals result in some slippage losses because there isn't enough liquidity to fill the order straight away. Liquidity wasn't tracked in real-time, so there was no data about this issue. 

Launching an OTC platform and offering unlimited liquidity allowed us to attract $1.2 million in investments in the first month.


2) Developed a script (an email sequence) that helped engage the customer in dialogue and encourage them to make a large investment.

New KPIs

After most of the optimization work was done, it was decided that the overall KPI for the marketing team should be set at $75k in daily stablecoin purchases using bank cards. 

We did hit the monthly KPI, but we also noticed that the daily purchase volume started going down towards the month's end. There were no obvious reasons for this, so we went searching for the source of the problem in the customer journey. It turned out that the culprit was the last step, where the user had to enter their card details. This involved our client's partner, AdvCash, which had recently changed its website design. The new design had a UX error meaning the instructions on the payment page were hard to understand and follow, which stopped many new users from making a purchase. We urgently informed our client, and soon the interface was fixed. 

A tip: keep track of the sales stats. Occasional fluctuations are fine, but if you see the curve going down, search for the cause. 

You may not even have to conduct a large study, analyze recent market events, or increase the ad budget. Often it's enough to follow the customer journey. The error could be surprisingly obvious and easy to fix. 

Thanks to checking the stats regularly, we localized the problem very quickly. This saved a lot of money both for our client and for other AdvCash partners. 

Results

We began work on the project from scratch. It had just been launched and its map of geographical presence was basically empty. By using the media, influencers, and context ads, in just 5 months we covered all our target regions and acquired thousands of new users for the project.

The regions where we promoted the project are marked in red: CIS countries, North and Latin America, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Turkey, Vietnam, UK, Singapore, and India. 

In total, we managed to boost the stablecoin purchase volume by a factor of 5.5, from $331,000 a month to $1,873,000 a month.

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