With the ever-changing world, new technologies — and ways to market them — are in constant flux. Many feel lost about how to actually market and steer a blockchain business in the digital era. This year’s Crypto Valley Congerence in Zug, Switzerland was full of enthusiastic people eager to meet others in the crypto sector. I sat down with Ian Simpson, managing partner of Sionik & Head of Communications of Crypto Valley Conference to hear his tips on successful crypto business management, branding, and marketing.
Originally from the US, Simpson moved to Switzerland in 2017 when the crypto market was just beginning to take off. Zurich, the center of the so-called crypto valley attracted investors, and entrepreneurs alike. Ian recalled that in these initial stages startups pushed boundaries and redefined what’s possible. The industry was booming, ideas became the most common currency, and the city was full of excitement for whatever the future brought.
Ian loved it so much that he decided to move to Zurich to experience the emerging industry with his own eyes. According to Ian, the biggest marketing challenges are people’s closed minds. He says that since the business boom in Switzerland happened so suddenly, it was a revolution to adapt to, rather than an evolution to stop. Such a turn of events let the industry progress surprisingly fast. Though many projects never became the next success stories, Switzerland did establish a reputation as a dynamic business hub in the digital era.
As new industries spring up and old business models fade away, navigating business becomes more adventurous than ever. Blockchain has changed the DNA of industries such as medtech and has helped many make strides in digital transformations. Can we learn to thrive in the digital era if technical revolutions seem to happen almost overnight? Are there any safe hubs for business, when marketing currents constantly change? Simpson suggests certain branding strategies frequently work. What is Ian’s take on the modern market, cryptocurrencies, and the business climate in Switzerland?
Tap into growing blockchain enthusiasm
The revolution in cryptocurrencies has brought interesting organizations to life — ones eager to disrupt existing models. The Crypto Valley Association is one of them. The Swiss non-profit is a multi-stakeholder organization with about 1200 members worldwide, and Ian’s professional base. There Ian handles marketing and event organization. Since the organization’s founding in 2017, people’s interest in cryptocurrencies has cooled after the initial craze, but the numbers of serious, committed business partners have only grown.
On the contrary, Ian said that at the Consensus conference in New York he attended in May 2019 didn’t have as many visitors as the previous year, however, people’s enthusiasm and commitment to blockchain technology seemed to have doubled. “Many see blockchain technology,” he said, “as a basis for the whole economy, and financial instruments.”
Despite the niche fervor, though, one of the factors holding blockchain projects back is a lack of broad knowledge. Without opening a wallet or acquiring a basic understanding of handling crypto assets, investing was too difficult for the average user. Thankfully, since then institutions understood blockchain’s potential and began to build systems to adapt to the new technology. In fact, Ian is optimistic about the future, he recalled people working very hard to bring things forward. Some strides we’re only now starting to see. This year’s Crypto Valley Conference together with Lucerne University of Applied Sciences organized the event bringing the world’s blockchain professionals together in one place.
Switzerland has positioned itself as a friendly place to set up and operate crypto businesses. Nevertheless, Simpson cautions that the Alpine nation can’t start a technological revolution alone. “It takes cooperation and collaboration among people and players all over the world, just like the technology itself,” Ian said. He also added that “Blockchain works because you have a network and because you leverage that network to create a distributed system.” While Switzerland can lead the world towards the digital future, the world has to follow suit.
Consider Switzerland as a base
For years, Switzerland defined itself as a business paradise and continues to attract entrepreneurs from all over the world. Is Switzerland’s future looking bright? Facebook’s recent Libra project — headquartered in Geneva — suggests that the only way for Switzerland is up. Switzerland is booming with potential and shows no signs of slowing. Do countries with flexible business regulations threaten Switzerland‘s strong market position? Not in Ian’s eyes. He says that setting companies in Malta or Gibraltar might be tempting, as these countries have been incredibly flexible in building new laws and frameworks for crypto and blockchain projects, but building a sustainable business should always be a number one goal. This is why in the eyes of investors and future clients, Switzerland is one of the best places for blockchain company headquarters.
While Simpson operates in Switzerland, he thinks there are other clusters of blockchain innovation. Central and Eastern Europe is one such region. He sees a lot of potential in people and their hunger to build and change things. According to Ian, Central and Eastern Europeans and Americans are similar in their disdain for silly regulations and bureacracy. “[There is this] ‘there might be limits, but we’ll find a way around them’ attitude, which is deeply embedded in people’s mentality.”
Believe in your why to find your how
Many business gurus say there is no golden formula for success and one-size-fits-all marketing strategies are nonsense. However, according to Simpson, there is one piece of advice that helps any business thrive. Ian’s recipe for success is simple. “When it comes to communication and marketing,” he said, “with the emerging technologies and innovation, the first thing you have to do is explain what it is and why it is needed. If you can’t do this, you can never sell anything to anybody. You can’t sell something that people don’t understand. The most important thing to establish a value proposition, and establish who is going to benefit from this. A product market fit is the most important thing!”
Make networking a priority
Have you ever skipped an important conference and thought it made no difference? Wrong! Networking helps to build trust and significantly increases your business reach. Ian’s advice is to attend business events and network as much as you can. By attending business events you are raising your own profile. He always tells his clients not to spend money on events that won’t raise their profile and trust level significantly. This year’s Crypto Valley Conference was a great opportunity to meet other visionaries, entrepreneurs, and business reps and build connections with the larger community.
- Be open to feedback to adjust your product to market needs in the early stages
- Reach out to people, who have the problem you plan to solve and see if your product is actually a solution
- Always get to the people in the industry you are trying to disrupt or support (users, beta testers, etc.)
- Narrow your focus, and be very specific
- Be selective about markets you are going for
- Understand what worked and keep doing it