February 15, 2022 - 20 min read
I break down NFT marketing strategy for sustainable long-term outcomes in detail based on my deep experience in the NFT space and my marketing background.
You are interested in launching an NFT project, or have launched an NFT project but are struggling to generate interest and demand. You’ve recognized that the market is maturing and doesn’t move as fast without doing more research.
Or, you are wondering how to compete for attention in a sea of hyped projects that may not always use above-board marketing tactics. You may be someone who has done art your whole life but feel overwhelmed about how to let the world or even just 1 person know that you and your work exist.
I’m here to break down exactly how to market your NFT project/art in a sustainable way that doesn’t drive your earliest supporters away or put you into the NFT Ethics Twitter thread of doom.
Just 12 months ago, the NFT market was young, impressionable, and choosing from a limited set of projects. In summer 2021, the NFT market was still impressionable but was also making headlines for spending staggering sums of money on JPEGs as new project launches exploded.
Anonymous founders could release NFT projects and sell out a mint (pre-sale) for a value of ~$2.4 million in days if not hours.
Even projects that flopped completely have 1,000+ ETH lifetime trading volume ($30 million).
Hype traps (using scarcity and large social media followings to drive Fear Of Missing Out) sent some projects to double-digit ETH floors that have since lost 90% of their value.
Just like in any space of the internet, or other new technology, there will be good actors and bad actors. Gary V said it best:
“All the good and bad that comes along with human behavior will play out on the platforms.” — Gary Vaynerchuk
However, the market will mature, and it’s already starting to happen.
Typical NFT marketing advice points to using giveaways, using scammy tactics like minting to an influencer's wallet, paying influencers to tweet about a project, buying followers, or promising utility with vague claims like “Wait until you see what we are building. We are going to change your life”, but it’s becoming less effective and is not meant for founders who genuinely want to build lasting NFT projects.
The market is getting immune to this behavior and rethinking your NFT marketing strategy now will help make sure your project is around in 5 years if you want it to be.
There are a lot of people who read stories like this one about students taking selfies, selling them as NFTs, becoming millionaires, and wanting in on the action. If you are one of those people, that’s great, but this article is not for you.
I would get a lot more readership if this article was for you and if I shared every marketing trick in the book I’ve watched studying the market for the past 9 months, but I’ve chosen that I don’t want to be that person and prefer legacy, relationships, and reputation over short-term money.
It’s okay if you feel differently, there’s no right or wrong, but deciding who you are is step one in NFT marketing:
Are you a pure-bred artist?
Do you want to build a utility-driven product?
Are you a novice who is passionate about NFTs and want to start a project to see where it goes?
Do you want to be a community NFT that’s driven by exclusive membership and sharing alpha or information?
Stories drive attention. Period.
In the 1950s, there were 3 major television networks. Only 3.
If you were a company, and you could afford it, running advertising on one of those 3 stations guaranteed the attention of the majority of American Households.
Nowadays, we have the internet — Google, Bing, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, Blogs, Forums, E-mail, Text, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. It’s an overwhelming amount of attention-fragmenting platforms.
Traditional advertising is dying (and has been for a while).
One 15-second TikTok clip could get you more free advertising than a Super Bowl commercial.
Marketing has evolved and storytelling has become a central component of it. I’ve watched this first-hand after a decade of consulting some of the world’s largest automotive brands on their advertising strategies and through launching my own business.
Brute force (dominating attention with money) isn’t as effective with so many attention-taking avenues and if you are reading this, you probably don’t have the cash to throw at brute-force attention grab marketing tactics.
What this means for you and your NFT project: Your story matters more than anything else. Take artist Gavin Meeler as an example. I wrote up a profile on his story and learned that he was making $23,000 per year in an area where apartments cost $24,000. He went out for $3 dinners with his wife because that’s all they could afford. On top of struggling to make ends meet, he dealt with an abusive work environment cleaning bathrooms.
But he never gave up on his art. He took massive risks down to his last dollars to release his art as NFTs. Gary V took a liking to him, as well as other notable collectors and he now has collections pushing 100 ETH in total volume when just 9 months ago no one knew his name.
Drifter Shoots (who is an awesome human) was in jail before anyone knew he existed in the NFT space. His photography NFTs (Where My Vans Go) now have a floor price of 45.5 ETH with 2,200 ETH in total volume traded.
Doxxing (revealing your identity) is scary, but I don’t think undoxxed project founders will find success in the long term.
Most rugs that result in a cautious market have been done by anonymous actors. Many will disagree with me, but I do not see anonymity succeeding in the long term.
I’ve written a number of artist profiles and highly recommend spending most of your initial time dialing in your story.
Practical Advice: Write a profile on yourself, pay someone to do it, or ask a friend to do it. What are the key steps in your story? What defines you? What vulnerabilities can you share? What professional background can you provide that shows demonstrated performance of what you aim to accomplish with your NFT project?
Anyone researching an NFT project is looking for honest signals of commitment, trust, and ability.
Gavin Meeler has been doing art his whole life despite it not being a viable career path until now. That’s an honest signal. Gary Vaynerchuk has built numerous businesses and a loyal earned audience. He (and no one else) can fake that.
If you were going to buy an NFT for a lot of money, what would you want to know about that founder/creator? Answer those questions you’d want to know in your own story.
Most NFT websites include a short bio for each team member (although some don’t even do that) — “Minted a Bored Ape and hooked on NFTs ever since. Discord Guru with magic fingers.”
Others embellish bios — “Founding graphic artist on League of Legends. Invented software to improve gaming graphics.”
I recommend a short bio on your website with a read more section that tells a story about you and your team members (if you have them). I want to read it as if I am sitting in a room with you and am getting to know you as a potential partner. Make sure to include the bio in Discord, and link out to it on your Twitter profile.
You’re asking people for money. Give them the who, the what, the why, the conflict, the adversity, the demonstrated performance.
When I interviewed Paul Budnitz founder of Superplastic (who just did a collab with Gucci), he told me that as an artist, you need to make awesome stuff and believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, the market certainly won’t.
If you don’t yet have your story or the demonstrated performance, now might not be the right fit to launch an NFT project.
Having that level of self-awareness already makes you a great project founder.
If you do believe in yourself, don’t overlook the details. Majoring in art despite pressure from your parents is a valuable part of your story. Running a profitable hot-dog stand for 3 years is a valuable part of your story.
Stay honest in your bio and story, but don’t sell yourself short.
Practical Advice: Record a 5–10 minute video on your laptop talking about your story, your project, and what you want people to know about it. Upload it to YouTube and share it.
Gary V has said numerous times that he interviews project founders and that it is an integral part of his homework. Help your potential collectors and community do their homework by giving them that interview at scale via YouTube video.
Don’t worry about fancy editing. If it’s easier, ask a friend to do the interview. Grab a USB microphone off Amazon for around $100 to help with sound quality and get a video of your story on YouTube that you can share in Discord and on Twitter.
I interviewed Matthew Lillard and Bill Whirity about their upcoming NFT project Midnite Movie Club.
For those unfamiliar with Matthew Lillard, he acted in Scream, Thirteen Ghosts, She’s All That, Summer Catch, Scooby-Doo, and more. He’s famous, has a following, and is building out an amazing NFT project, but guess what?
Only 38 people joined their Discord group on Day 1. It’s since grown to over 3,200 members.
It took Gavin Meeler about 10 months before he really “popped”.
It will take time to build your audience and execute your marketing strategy.
You could do engagement farming (do tons of giveaways, real or fake in exchange for retweets, comments, tagging friends), buy Twitter followers, pay influencers to talk about your project, create scarcity through a whitelist and make vague FOMO-inducing promises and risk your reputation.
Or, you could patiently put in the work over a long period of time to organically build your audience.
PS — the market will decide what’s valuable. If you aren’t getting a response, re-think your value proposition and your story.
After you’ve nailed down your identity, your story, and your value proposition you need to talk about it in the right places.
If you don’t have a Twitter account, get one. This may change, but the NFT community spends most of its time on Twitter.
Bring your authentic self to every interaction and conversation and do not be afraid to reply to threads where you think you can bring value or highlight your project.
After documenting your story and putting yourself out there, it’s more than likely that a few early fans will be staunch supporters and help boost your interactions.
I also recommend co-hosting Twitter spaces. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, join Twitter spaces and ask to participate as a speaker. Don’t randomly shill your project, find where you can add value or ask a question.
I noticed that when I joined a few Twitter spaces and joined as a speaker to share my two cents, I would get 15–20 new followers each time.
Practical Advice: Join as many Twitter spaces as you can and build relationships. At some point, you’ll notice certain people continually host spaces. Ask if you could join to talk about your project in detail (it’ll be effective if you have nailed your value proposition and have your story on hand to share). Even better if you share the 5-minute YouTube video you created in step three of this process.
If you are running into a wall, host your own Twitter space and invite other creators to come up and talk about their projects round-robin for 5–10 mins.
Give others a platform to share their work and you’ll build a reputation. It can be as simple as reaching out to artists you like, saying you admire their work, and would love to invite them to a Twitter space to talk about what they do.
They’ll invite their audience to join and you will be the person at the center of bringing value to them and their followers.
Loyalty is usually strongest the earlier someone discovers you. I was consulting with an NFT creator who did the art for a major record company and the work he did for a music video went viral. He developed a phenomenal collection that had a lot of elements that I thought would make his first NFT project really pop in the marketplace.
I advised him to quietly market himself for this first release.
People love to be early.
They love it so much that they will talk about it day in and day out. They’ll also have skin in the game and most likely will retweet links to your spaces, stay active in your Discord group and be a boots-on-the-ground ambassador.
Practical Advice: Reward your early followers and don’t forget about them. Leave breadcrumb clues for people to “discover” you. Unless you are already famous and well-established (like Gary V) let people find out who you are.
This requires patience and may not align with your approach, especially if the execution of your vision hinges on selling a project out. If that’s the case, give yourself enough runway by setting a mint date months into the future.
Every marketing decision comes down to the context of your situation, but you can create demand (if you have a killer story or value prop) by quietly putting it out there and letting people find you.
A number of NFT projects did stealth launches (they didn’t announce or promote a mint date) and have done very well. Cryptoadz is a great example of that. Gremplin is a well-known artist in the NFT space and his Cryptoadz project has a 3 ETH floor with 58,900 ETH volume traded. That’s nearly $177 million in ETH trading volume for a project that didn’t do any marketing and stealth minted.
There can be a lot of value created by letting people discover you. That is what every single NFT buyer is attempting to do. Find someone special before everyone else does.
However, I’ve seen near-fatal project mistakes over and over (even from established creators):
The market is impatient and we may not like it, but it’s our reality. I’ve seen long-term whales dump a project because they were sleeping (yes, literally sleeping) during a free mint because the time and date weren’t properly communicated. I’ve witnessed founders roasted (and floor prices drop) when a date is communicated but it is pushed back.
You will end up with delays. Be transparent and get ahead of it. Be detailed as to the why. “We were going to do our free airdrop on 2/17, but we need to push to 2/24 because we found a well-known artist willing to do a collab but she needs more time to finish it. We don’t want to rush, we want to bring value. We thank you for your patience.”
I love Gary V. He’s one of my favorite people, but even he has had to adapt. Before it was announced that his art would be going to Christie's, he sent messages in his Discord group saying big news was coming.
VeeFriends jumped to a 23 ETH floor. The general assumption was that he landed a VeeFriends TV show deal. He did warn that the market may have absorbed the news at a 23 ETH floor, but when it was announced that the big news was Christie’s, the general reaction was a disappointment and the floor dropped.
There’s a reason people are spending so much money on JPEGs. Sometimes unrealistic fantasies drive unrealistic expectations.
There’s a project right now that is under intense scrutiny despite being founded by a very well-known (undoxxed) NFT community member. There have been promises of utility but no details as to what the utility is. There has been a lack of execution. There have been Twitter spaces with hundreds of people but no one seems to be able to articulate the justification of an extremely high mint price on the next phase of the collection. I don’t know if it will kill the project, but there’s real potential if the value isn’t clearly communicated.
It’s understandable that value takes time, but if you are asking for an initial high mint price, your community will expect you to deliver immediate value.
I’ve witnessed season creators get flustered with the demand of their community and audience. Lead with empathy but don’t be afraid to remind them that they have a choice to sell if it isn’t a fit.
If you have an identity, you’ll know if you are a 50-year project or a 5-day project.
Communities obsessed with floor price are often a signal that a project could tank at any sign of volatility. If a large part of your community base asks you to do something if the floor drops, it’s a sign that you haven’t built the right audience.
Don’t cave in. Host a Zoom call, Twitter Spaces, Discord Audio or do a town hall to address it, articulate your vision, and attract an audience who respects that.
It’s pretty likely that we will experience an NFT winter at some point. If the dot-com bubble taught us anything , being too early almost certainly means a crash and correction before an explosion at some point.
If the market stood still starting tomorrow, how could you deliver value to your holders?
Let’s take Gary V for example (I warned you, I’m a big fan of his). He’s already hosting a big conference, VeeCon, (only NFT holders can get in) for the next 3 years. If the market stood still today, anyone holding his NFT would get value from his conferences.
If it got really bad, he could offer exclusive group calls for people to ask him questions (getting access to Gary V is highly coveted). He could host a smaller event. He could mail small physical gifts to holders. He could take certain holders to an event like dinner, lunch, or a sporting event. He could feature a lucky holder on his podcast. He could create an exclusive marketing or business class that only NFT holders could get access to.
He can bring value even if the NFT market stops dead in its tracks.
Could you do the same? You could offer free physical sketches of your art. Tutorials for those wanting to learn your skill-set. You could even do free coaching to NFT holders who want to improve their art, land a job in a field you’ve worked in, etc.
You may even mention to your community that no matter what, you are here to bring value and aren’t reliant on the NFT market to do that.
I’ve seen founders go dark during periods of crisis. Intentionally or not, it sends a bad message.
Interact with your Discord members every day. Overcommunicate what you are working on.
If problems arise, address them head-on.
I’ll never forget being in a Discord for an NFT project that had strong associations to an outted undoxxed Twitter influencer who was a bad actor. It took days for the founder to address it in a Discord audio group and it did virtually nothing to restore confidence in the project.
Note: Some founders know so deeply that they are destined to bring value to their project that they like to weed out paper hands by under communicating. Teasing can be an effective strategy if you truly can deliver and want only your most loyal followers to hold your project and earn benefits in the long run, but you must have the self-awareness to know if you are in a position to deploy this strategy.
There are more and more stories coming out about bad actors because of blockchain transaction records.
I don’t understand why people think that they can somehow hide or obscure transactions.
If you tell people that the majority of mint proceeds are used for x, but quietly transfer the funds to a different wallet, it will raise a red flag.
If you bring investors, advisors, or other team members into a project but don’t know their full history, it could completely tank your project if they’re outted as a bad actor.
The easiest advice here is to pretend that your community watches your every move (they have the ability to with the blockchain). Act accordingly and this shouldn’t be an issue.
Loyal fans are worth their weight in gold. Don’t be like the cell phone or cable companies that offer better deals to new customers just to get their business.
NFT projects are reliant on loyal members.
Again, I’ve seen projects almost lose their footing because they offered a collab mint or whitelist spot to an entire audience, not just their first followers.
Your situation may be different (and that’s okay) but protect the value you bring for early adopters.
At the beginning of this article, I said that if your goal is to mint an NFT project to make money while the market is hot, this article isn’t for you.
Paying for Twitter, Instagram followers, Discord members, etc. is a way to do that but is being sniffed out more and more.
If you focus on earning an audience and bring that perspective to your marketing strategy, you’ll be better off.
You might not want to hear this, but it takes work to do this and it won’t happen overnight.
However, news travels fast of genuine, committed founders. Your reputation is your currency, make sure you invest in it wisely.
There are a lot of different ways to market an NFT project, but to do it sustainably takes work. It’s only going to get harder with a growing and segmented market full of NFT projects.
Ground-up marketing tactics can give you a leg up over those who are taking shortcuts and repeatedly getting caught while doing it.
If you want personalized help marketing your NFT project, send me an e-mail at Jon@StartWithNFTs.com.
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