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Making Every Web3 Event Count
A growth leader’s playbook to leverage events more effectively
Most growth leaders have likely experienced this before.
You hear about an upcoming web3 event and get excited. Perhaps your startup is at a pre-product stage and you are on the hunt for alpha customers. Or you are an established institution looking to accelerate business development efforts. You ask the event organizer to send over the sponsorship prospectus, pick the most affordable option and prepare some company t-shirts to give out.
Event day arrives and you reach the venue bright and early, ready to hustle. There is a lot of foot traffic and curious eyes looking at your booth, but you have a handful of meaningful conversations and countless random interactions at best. At the end of the day, you are exhausted and drag yourself to a side party. At the end of the day, you felt like you had met many people - but connected with only a few. You wonder - is there more you can do to leverage events more effectively?
Participating and showcasing at web3 events is one of the most common marketing activities among web3 companies, yet it is one of the most underexplored areas among growth leaders. The topic is especially relevant today, as web3 funding has declined precipitously (82% year-on-year), yet the number of events keeps growing - concocting the perfect storm that pushes web3 growth leaders to consider their events strategy.
Marcin has vast experience in the art of making events count as a web3 growth leader. Not only is he the co-founder of RedStone Oracles and has represented the startup at countless events across the world, he is also the co-founder of ETHWarsaw, one of the more prominent web3 events in Central Eastern Europe (CEE). Whether as a participant or an organizer, Marcin knows a thing or two about the common mistakes web3 growth leaders make at events. In this piece, Marcin walks us through and shares his advice on how growth leaders should prepare for their next Web3 tour.
Bigger doesn’t always mean better
Folk wisdom applies to web3 events too. In 2023 Crypto Nomad Club registered almost 200 crypto events worldwide - a staggering average of 16 events per month. It is physically impossible to attend all of them. How should web3 growth leaders proceed?
The answer lies in what your objectives are.
Is it brand awareness?
Is it exposition to web3-native customers?
Is it fundraising?
Is it company bonding & retreat?
Is it hackathon bounties sponsorship?
Knowing your objectives can make all the difference - as it turns out, smaller / niche events might end up being more efficient.
Cash is optional, effort is not
“Do not purchase sponsorships if you can’t afford them.”
The first piece of advice Marcin has for web3 growth leaders goes against the grain. Most often, the initial thought web3 growth leaders have for events is - what is the biggest sponsorship package that covers my whole event budget? Marcin elaborates, “If you have a limited budget - usually around US$10K or less for the whole event - it is best not to opt for the event sponsorship route. Especially for notable web3 events, US$10K can at best offer you the most basic, regular sponsorship package. Then you are going to fight against others that have a larger budget, and they are able to showcase themselves in a better light compared to yourself.”
Marcin then gets into the tactics - assuming an all-in event budget of US$10K, typically at least half goes into the “fringe” costs - employees travel, merchandise (merch) production, etc. With the remainder of the budget, it is tough to fight against incumbents who have larger budgets. Even with a strong product, events are one of the marketing channels where size does matter.
Marcin also shares from his perspective as ETH Warsaw’s organizer - “One of the most challenging stakeholders to manage is the sponsor, who stretches internal budget to maximum just to get any sponsorship package, and negotiates each benefit within or outside the package - it creates tension on both ends. Dynamics of organizing an event are simple - you have costs to put an event together, and you need partners, who help you offset these costs for visibility and services. Naturally, package adjustments are possible, but don’t “trade logos on t-shirts for 20% package discount”.
Instead, Marcin offers a straightforward alternative that does not require cash, and one that is “worth way more than spending the $10K”. At least 2-3 weeks prior to the event, web3 growth leaders should invest the time to understand who will be attending - as speakers, sponsors, partners and attendees. With a keen sense of who is important at the stage of company growth, reach out to these individuals via Telegram chats or Twitter. “Turn on Twitter notifications and follow the event organizer and other parties that will be at the event - you are likely to discover something that surprises you”.
In short, to be successful at events, cash is optional - a good-to-have if you have the budget. But effort is essential.
Embrace creativity to get more from less
Marcin also encourages web3 growth leaders to exercise their creativity to get more from less. For those with limited budgets, organizing a side event might be a viable option. While it takes more effort, side events can potentially showcase the brand and activate potential customers more effectively than the conferences. Web3 growth leaders who are thinking of organizing side events should define who the ideal target audience is - keep it small and intimate to maximize interactions.
Even for projects that opt for event sponsorships, Marcin recommends growth leaders to build connections with the event organizers and understand the lay of the land. “Is your booth at the high traffic areas, or at the furthest end with minimal traffic? Who is going to be around you? Can you ship merch directly to the event venue, so you do not have to worry about the logistics? These are the important questions you need to ask so you can figure out ways to be creative,” says Marcin. Those who want to go one step further can even think out of the box - if the event is in summer, why not ask the organizer if you can bring in an ice cream machine outside of the venue? Or if food will not be served, one can consider sponsoring food to maximize traffic.
Even when it comes to merch, Marcin encourages web3 growth leaders to be creative and not default to the typical t-shirt. “Have clarity on who you are targeting,” Marcin advises, “If you are reaching out to crypto veterans, they likely have been to many web3 events, and have collected all the t-shirts that they want. So are t-shirts the best merch you can offer? Unlikely. Instead, t-shirts are likely to attract crypto newcomers or event first-timers - everyone remembers the excitement of grabbing merch at your first event.”
“Be creative on the merch that people might need on a daily basis. If it is summer, could you offer sunglasses? If it is winter, perhaps gloves? Yes, it will cost more per unit than t-shirts, but it will be more memorable towards a more demanding audience, and they are less likely to toss your merch away after the event - when they realize that luggage space is limited.”
On the topic of merch, Marcin also proposes two additional categories - merch for the team, and merch giveaways. On the former, Marcin emphasizes the need for the team to wear distinctive merch that makes them instantly recognizable amidst a sea of individuals. This merch should be exclusive to the team only, especially if web3 growth leaders are representing upstart brands that do not have widespread recognition. For Marcin, this is a red vest for RedStone Oracles that he consistently dons at all events - and even in his Twitter and Telegram profile picture. The consistent visual identity reinforces visibility. On the latter, Marcin also recounts his friend who won a snowboard at ETH Denver 2023, and was truly delirious about it. “He became a huge advocate for the brand, as he shared with almost everyone in his network on how he won a full-sized snowboard.” As such, offering hard-to-get, valuable merch in the form of a raffle or completion of a challenge is another avenue for web3 growth leaders to engineer “talkability”.
Fun and discipline are not mutually exclusive
One of the reasons why web3 events are particularly attractive is the element of fun. Not only are these events typically in vibrant destinations like Paris, Warsaw or Miami, they usually come with a packed line-up of parties and side events. Yet, it can be too easy to get caught up with the revelry and miss out on valuable opportunities at the event. While having fun is important, Marcin also underscores the importance of discipline. In particular, Marcin recommends planning each day in advance.
“I usually keep a simple Google Doc for the day’s agenda. First, I map out the key events I want to attend - this could be a panel discussion where I want to connect with a panelist, or a keynote speech on a topic I am curious about. In between these scheduled events, I then try to organize meetings,” explains Marcin. “Leave space for exploration, and do not pack your day fully because it kills any opportunity for serendipity.”
Getting into the granular tactics, Marcin elaborates, “Participants tend to be more free and available before mealtimes, so that is when I keep my schedule free for exploration. Also, growth leaders can figure out their caffeine and meal plan for the day, and schedule coffee chats and meals with others accordingly.”
On relationship management, Marcin shares, “I have simple sheets to keep track of people whom I have chatted with. After each conversation, I write not only the project name next to the person’s name, but also a short description on what was noteworthy. That way, if we meet half a year later at another web3 event, I can recall what we spoke about and connect faster.”
Post-event, Marcin also suggests growth leaders to reflect on the efficacy of the event experience. Marcin defines 2 dimensions - visibility and connections. The first is self-explanatory - how many people saw us, and did brand awareness increase? The latter is where it gets interesting - in addition to tracking the number of people met, Marcin encourages growth leaders to add a sub-criteria - “How many people did you connect with, that you otherwise would not have been able to get?” Naturally, this involves a fair bit of subjectivity, but a candid assessment post-event can quickly lead to insights on whether the time and resources were well spent.
Finally, Marcin also raises another measure of success relevant for larger projects with distributed teams - “How well did the event bond team members together?” Given the distributed and remote nature of web3 work, it is common for larger projects to have team members who have not met each other in-person before. Events serve as a convening place across diverse countries and timezones. From conversations with peers to the exchange of ideas, events can help growth leaders fulfill the role of building culture and interpersonal relationships.
Participating in the next web3 event can be exciting, especially if it is in a new or exotic destination. But maximizing the ROI of these events takes intentional effort - and often comes with the added burden of travel exhaustion fueled by adrenaline and caffeine. Every growth leader that intends to make events a core part of the marketing strategy should develop a playbook incorporating some of the wisdom Marcin has shared, and tailor it to what is pertinent. Only then will the costs - the sponsorships, the travel, the financials, the disruption to regular schedules - be worth the while.