Web3 Marketing 101 with Aditya Kandhuri, Head of Marketing @Biconomy

Jan 2nd, 2023

The journey

Gm gm! And Happy New Year to everyone! I have been doing marketing gigs since my undergrad days, when I started as a freelancer. I started off writing content and managing social media for local businesses. After my undergrad, my first full time role was in marketing at niki.ai, a conversational artificial intelligence platform. Since I have always had keen interest in deep tech, gradually I build my niche around ‘future tech marketing’. I continued working as a freelancer with more startups in such future tech space such as augmented reality, IoT & AI.

During this time around 2016, I also started reading about blockchain tech & cryptocurrencies. Even then I had a feeling that this has a lot of potential. So during my Master’s in France in 2018, I interned at a decentralised cloud computing platform called iExec. That was my first web3 role, and I haven’t looked back since. After that I worked with web3 startups in Paris and Berlin. And finally joined Biconomy as one of the earliest employees in 2020.

I helped start & scale up the marketing engine, establish our narrative and positioning, and built the community from scratch. As the company grew, my role has also grown and now I am the Head of Marketing.

Web2 & Web3 marketing

This is very interesting question that I get a lot. A short answer is that the basics of marketing are the same between web2 & web3, but nuances like distribution channels and brand voice is different. Let me elucidate.

I think whether you are marketing t-shirts on a mall or marketing Biconomy SDK to web3 devs, the fundamentals of marketing don’t change. Things like the 4Ps. Who is your target customer? What are their needs? How do you position your brand? Creating content to communicate these benefits. Figuring the right channels to reach your target audience.

But then, there are stark differences when you get into specificities of the marketing plan. In the web3 world, social media platforms like Twitter and Discord are the most important channels for marketing, and traditional methods like paid ads and SEO are often less effective. Working with a TikTok influencer will work for selling T-shirts online but won’t work at all for web3 marketing (for now). Things like SEO will work in the long term, but at the moment possibly less than 100 people search for the terms you wanna rank for. There’s no real playbook for discord marketing. It’s all about focusing on building and nurturing a strong, passionate community that feels connected to the project's mission and will spread the word through word of mouth marketing. This is very different to web2 marketing where such hard core communities very rarely exist.

Then there’s the tone and copy. It’s more gms and wagmis and memes - more informal - than super-professional grammatically immaculate sort of copy you see in web2 marketing. If you follow the golden rules of copywriting & write sales pitch type of content, it will work in web2 but will just fall flat in web3. It isn’t also about forcing memes anywhere, but the overall feel of the marketing content. It requires a more casual and informal approach that emphasizes a sense of collaboration and shared purpose rather than a hard sales pitch. Web3 projects try everything they can to appear less as some behemoth brands and more as approachable ‘a couple of us just hacked this up last weekend’ sort of projects. It’s just how the industry is. And that translates into the content and copy as well, as I mentioned.  It’s more ‘we are in this together, let’s collaborate anon’ & less ‘buy this from me’.

Finally, the web3 industry is still in its early stages, so there is a lack of established best practices and data on what works and what doesn't. This means that marketers in the web3 world must be willing to take risks and experiment with new strategies in order to find what works for their project. I talk about this more in the next question.

Web3 marketing obstacles

The biggest challenge, and privilege, is that we are not just marketing Biconomy, we are practically creating and marketing a completely new category/concept! Marketing a product in the web3 space presents unique challenges, as many solutions and concepts are pioneers in undefined and emerging categories. This can be both exciting and intimidating, as marketeers have the opportunity to create and define whole product categories and narratives that may be adopted by millions of users in the future. And so for a marketeer you get to first define the whole space and then position your solution. In some cases even name it!

For example, meta-transactions was a completely new concept back in 2020 even within web3. For last couple years we have pushed the gasless narrative and why it’s important for web3 user experience. And now the industry calls the whole concept ‘Gasless’! As a marketeer that’s such a satisfying feeling when you see the industry adopt some of your work! Another example is, when we started to build our cross-chain bridging solution, the whole concept of a cross-chain bridge was new even within web3. So we had to start from building a narrative for the whole category - why bridges? what’s ‘chainless’? I don’t think this happens in web2. If you are building an e-commerce store or a B2B SaaS tool the category is already well defined. In web3, you get to build & create narratives about entire product categories that maybe in the future will be used by hundreds of millions of people!

And now with the new SDK, we are playing the game of marketing and increasing smart contract wallet adoption. For current web3 users and the next 100 million that onboard. That’s an entire behavioural shift for any user and how they interact with every dApp. Honestly, the scale of the challenge both scares and excites me!

These challenges are compounded by the lack of established handbooks or data on what has worked in the past, and the need to experiment. You have to practically start from scratch and create the foundations on which the future players (including your competitors) will build on.

Marketing background: a necessity?

I don’t think so. You would need to know the basics of marketing, some of the key processes etc. But I feel someone can learn them in web3 as well. Marketing is very little theory and mostly about experimenting and finding creative ways to tell a story. Past experience, in web2 or web3, is a great to have. So, while it can be helpful to have a marketing background in web2, it is not necessarily a requirement to be successful in web3 marketing. It is possible to learn the basics of marketing and gain experience in the web3 ecosystem through hands-on experience, reading and learning from others in the community, and experimenting with different marketing strategies.

Technical web3 marketing tips

Biconomy’s marketing has two target segments - web3 developers and web3 enthusiasts. For devs, we need to break down the technicalities into benefits for the application. Why should a developer use Biconomy? How does it help their application get more users and more activity? The language is more technical and we talk about core concepts in our content pieces. We write insightful threads, participate in discussions with fellow devs and researchers, and do a bit of dev education as well.

For enthusiasts, we need to break down the technicalities into benefits for the whole industry. How Biconomy is the missing piece to web3 mass adoption? How we are like a ‘web3 genie’, where users tell what they want and Biconomy abstracts away all blockchain complexities from the user, manages them in the background and gets the users what they want? The language is not technical, and more about how we are helping the web3 space. The content is also about the overall mission. And how anyone can contribute to Biconomy and the overall mission and bring more adoption to web3.

AI x Web3 marketing

As a species we have been always trying to find tools and technologies that make us efficient and productive. Thus, I also see AI as something we can leverage to make us 10x more productive. This also plays out in Web3 Marketing.

There’s so many possibilities. I was trying ChatGPT the other day. Once we have the key inputs ready, it can really help flush out different types of content for us. The other way in the future could be using predictive analysis to automatically to automatically optimize copy and benefits for specific web3 segments like gaming & DeFi, further streamlining the content creation process. Another idea I would love to try is a web3 chatbot! Imagine you tell Alexa to buy your ETH or become liquidity provider on some pool etc.

Web3 marketing career

I would say the most important is to hang out in the web3 communities and circles on twitter and discord. You will get a feel of certain industry references, how ppl chat to each other, what narratives are trending, how collaborative it is etc. It’s difficult to explain in an answer or even as a sort of rule book. But once you immerse yourself you would get a hang of what sort of content and tone works in this space. It will also help you keep up to date with trends. Gives you ideas about what sort of content you should create. Which influencers you should engage with.

The other thing is learn web3 by using it. Not just theory. Become a web3 user. Create a wallet, use dApps, do some key actions like swaps and becoming LPs and staking etc.

Cracking Web3 marketing

In this case, I feel what’s important to go back to basics. Do a comprehensive user research. What are their needs? What are the pain points? Then figure out your brand positioning. What is your unique selling proposition? What makes your product or service different from others in the market? Using these, draw out your key narrative. Your key narrative should be a clear, concise, and compelling story that explains what your brand is all about and why it matters to your audience.

I have seen so many web3 devs underrate how important your positioning & overall narrative is. They explain their product with a ‘what’ - we are building a decentralised NFT marketplace. The positioning needs to have the ‘why’ - we are helping the mainstream easily obtain & trade digital collectibles. The narrative should be something larger than your project that everyone want to get behind.

Once this is established, then you get into creating a content strategy for this narrative that align with your brand story and resonates with your target audience. And then constantly adapting the strategy as per market feedback. The key is to be responsive and flexible in order to continuously improve and refine your content strategy.