Alex Topchishvili--founder and CEO of Wemultiply, a growth marketing consulting firm for blockchain businesses--has long been attracted by emerging sectors like cannabis and crypto.

These sectors operate in legally gray areas, face many of the same financial, political, and regulatory challenges, yet possess opportunities for growth and disruption. Not surprisingly, the rise of cryptocurrency and blockchain is roughly analogous to the rise of medical and recreational marijuana.

More than 30 U.S. states have legalized the use of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, creating a multibillion-dollar opportunity in less than five years. Cryptocurrency prices have done to blockchain what legalization is doing to cannabis, in a fraction of the time. Both industries are rapidly professionalizing, attracting top talent, and experiencing similar growing pains. 

Although many of marketing channels, tactics, and tools in any emerging industry are unique, the marketing principles are often the same. Here is a five-step framework that Alex Topchishvili uses when approaching marketing for any business in a "frontier" industry: 

1. Know your "North Star Metric" 

Before considering any kind of marketing, it is critical to define what growth means for your business. Whether leads, sales, subscriptions, or money raised, every company's definition of growth is unique. This singular focus is referred to as your North Star Metric.

While crypto may have very different metrics than cannabis, the principle remains the same. Defining the North Star Metric for your business is a prerequisite to growth, and must be satisfied before beginning to explore tactics, strategies, and tools. 

2. Use existing resources to kickstart growth 

According to Topchishvili, many CMOs in both cannabis and crypto overlook one of the most important resources available to them: the existing assets of their brand. And, of all the existing assets brands have, these three are among the most important:

  • Employees. Your team is the most valuable asset for your marketing. When you launch a new product, score a new client, or produce a piece of content, every single employee should be on the front line helping to share and distribute the information with their personal social networks--particularly on LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Customers. One of the biggest issues for any CMO in the blockchain is the lack of real case studies and customer success stories. If you have happy customers, use them to power your marketing by creating compelling case studies that serve as the ultimate social proof needed to convert prospects into customers.
  • On-site SEO. Everyone has a website, yet not nearly enough CMOs devote mind share into making their websites and apps search friendly. To ensure the compounding effect of any marketing campaign, optimize your website for proper indexing and user-friendliness. This will have a positive impact on your organic search traffic. 

3. Education trumps fear. Don't sell, educate. 

New things scare people. We live in a time when people form strong opinions before they know the facts. If something causes fear, uncertainty, and doubt, the majority of people are hardwired to avoid it.

Says Topchishvili,

The antidote to fear is education. Crypto, much like cannabis, suffers from a lack of understanding and basic knowledge. As marketers in a sector plagued by a dark history of crypto heists (Mt. Gox, Coincheck), black market use cases (Silk Road), and fraudulent ICOs, we're forced to help clients and partners understand the real value that blockchain technology enables. This requires us to spend a significant amount of time speaking and writing about the benefits of blockchain and the opportunities it enables. We are at once defending the entire field and promoting our businesses. 

Today's blockchain companies have the opportunity to shape perception and the course of the conversation by presenting facts and rationale in a digestible manner, all while generating brand equity and awareness.

4. Analyze your funnels, frequently  

Every business, regardless of industry, has a unique set of funnels that make up the user journey, from visitor to paying customer. By mapping the data gathered from your analytics tools to your user journey, you'll be able to see the bottlenecks where your users drop off, thus enabling you to implement strategies to improve your conversion rates across every stage of the funnel.

In blockchain, just as in cannabis, Topchishvili suggests that you begin your user journey analysis with this series of questions about how a user engages with the product: 

  • How exactly does a user get from visitor to paying customer? 
  • At what moment does a user truly understand the value of your product/offering? (Your goal is to get people to this moment as quickly as possible, especially in a field as complex as blockchain) 
  • At which point in the funnel do you see drop-offs? (Use data from tools like Google Analytics to measure the conversion rate at every step of the user journey to find the pitfalls) 
  • Why are users dropping off at those funnel stages? (User testing and session recording tools will greatly help give you that understanding) 
  • What channels can you leverage to guide your users down the funnel? (Whether it's email newsletters, content, live chat, or retargeting ads, try to leverage every possible touch point to drive users through the entire funnel)

5. Hide the cables, focus on benefits

In blockchain, says Topchishvili, far too many product startups market themselves through features rather than benefits. While your team may have worked hard to build something sophisticated and powerful, of which you are very proud, the reality is that the majority of the public does not care how your blockchain works, or why your technology is superior.

People care about your product being faster, more secure, less expensive, and easier to use. They shouldn't have to dive into your tech to reap its benefits. Explains Topchishvili, "Blockchain marketers must work closely with their product teams to define value upfront, replace complexity with simplicity, and make the sole focus of your offering on solving the problems of your end-user."

As Harvard business professor Theodore Levitt once said, "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole."

Give your customers what they want.