ICO Success

7 Mistakes Most ICO White Papers Make


Before we start, take a look at what I consider to be a well written white paper: Suchapp | OPEN Platform

Who cares?

After all, pretty much any old ICO can make a gazillion dollars, no?

Well, while ICOs are raging popular right now, who wants to bet their future on whims of a probably passing fad?

In my opinion, it’s far better to actually propose a quality project in a convincing manner.

Unfortunately, most of the crypto ICOs fall really short of that ideal.

That’s why I’d like to share with you today 7 critical mistakes many crypto projects make when writing and publishing their white papers.

Hopefully, as we move forward not only will the quality of the projects continue to improve, but so will the quality of the marketing collaterals they use to communicate with the investors they so need.

With that in mind, let’s get started.

1. They don’t start with the pain.

You should always start with the pain.


Because pain is what pushes us towards taking action.

What is the burning problem that you are trying to solve? Who suffers the most from this problem? How big of a problem is it? How many people are suffering from it? How does it affect them?

By answering these questions you will be placing your project in context. Your audience will immediately engage with your message (or move on, which is equally great).

2. They don’t clearly explain the why

Once the context has been established, it should be easy to transition into the most important element of your white paper - the why.

You cannot expect people to sacrifice their hard-earned resources without a reason.

Since you have already brought to light the problem, relieving the pain and suffering should be a natural reason for your project.

However, you need to frame “the why” in as epic of terms as possible.

It’s important to paint a vision of how the world will be, once you’ve achieved your goal.

After expressing the pain, this section of your white paper should be perceived as a breath of fresh air.

Nothing in your marketing is more important than this.

No amount of technical prowess can substitute for a clearly stated and compelling why.

Until you get this right, stop and don’t go on. It’s that important.

3. They don’t have a kick-ass Executive Summary

People are busy.

That’s why the most critical page of your white paper is your executive summary. This is where everyone will start and where a good many will quit reading.

That’s why you have to do it right.

A great executive summary follows a very concrete structure. It goes through the pain, the why, the solution and the offer.

Keep it simple and to the point.

Your executive summary shouldn’t have graphics, charts or any other fancy features.

And it must not be more than one single page of text.

4. They are too technical

I get it.

You have worked tirelessly on your project, and you can’t wait to let the world know what you’ve built.

And that’s awesome.

However, you have to tread carefully. You see, your readers do not have the context that you have. They have not spent the time, nor the effort contemplating the details of the problem you’re striving to solve.

For this reason, you need to be careful not to overwhelm them with all of the technical details.

The idea is to achieve a balance.

Yes, you need to anticipate and answer their questions while hopefully avoiding putting them to sleep. Remember that your white paper is your letter of presentation. You’re beginning a process that will bear fruit in your ICO and then continue longterm afterwards.

That means that you do NOT have to reveal every piece of the puzzle at once.

Instead, throughout your white paper you should concentrate on making sure it answers the following questions:

  1. Does it answer 90% of the most typical questions people might have?
  2. Does it position you and your team as trusted experts in the field?
  3. Does it adequately address the objections that might stop them from participating?

If you can resolve these three issues in your white paper, you’ve done more than enough.

There will be more than enough time both before and after the ICO to tackle more detailed topics and to foster a true relationship with your audience.

5. They don’t read with a clear voice

This is what happens.

You’ve already fostered a small tribe of pre-ICO supporters. These people have supported your vision and chipped in with valuable insight and advice.

Some of them are really smart people.
Others are well versed in the topics that you are addressing.

So, when it comes time to create your first draft of the white paper, you make it a collaborative effort.

Everybody adds their two bits. “We need to say this,” and “don’t forget to include that.” And so it goes.

A revolving door of topics, thoughts and voices coalesce into a giant document brimming with ideas, phrases and contributions.

And guess what?

It stinks.

Sorry, but it’s true.

As a brainstorming initiative it may be positive, but if you stop there you are totally doomed.


Because your white paper is one of the most important pieces of marketing collateral that you will develop. This is your letter of presentation, and your most significant piece of persuasive copy.

It cannot be left to chance.

Great marketing requires a very specific skill set. Your white paper must be written with one single voice guided by one single purpose: to make the sale.

Everything else is added baggage.

And added baggage costs money.

So, here’s what you must do. Once you have compiled a list of topics and some rough text, you have to have a professional copywriter put together your white paper.

Remember, this document has to tell a compelling story. A story that subtly grabs the reader by the hand and leads them calmly to the point where they are chomping at the bit to become a member of your team.

This is not accomplished by having 15 guys scratching out paragraphs on a Sunday afternoon.

6. They aren’t published to wow the reader

Once you have the copy, slightly over half of the work is completed!


Isn’t it just about putting together a word document and converting it into a pdf?


Remember, that I said that your white paper is your most important piece of marketing collateral?

Well, you have to treat it as such.

Not only do the words on the page create an impression, but so does the presentation of the words within the document.

What graphics are you going to use? What images are you going to rely on to frame the text? What fonts? What colors?

All of these questions (and quite a few more) need to be taken into consideration.

If you do this correctly, your white paper will leap off the page and grab your readers’ attention. It will scream professional. It will entice them to consume every last syllable of content.

You see, different people consume content in different ways. Some start at the beginning and diligently read through to the end. Others jump around, while others start by reading the graphics and looking at the pictures.

That’s why you need to make sure your white paper appeals to all sorts of readers that are in your audience.

7. They forget the callouts for skimmers

And finally, you need to pay special attention to the skimmers.

Often, some of your largest investors will be in a hurry and fall onto your white paper almost by accident. Maybe a friend suggested they look at it. Maybe a colleague forwarded it to them.

Whatever the case, they are far from convinced that it deserves their attention.

And that’s why the callouts and whitespaces are so important.

When you pick up the white paper (or open it on your kindle) can you get the gist in the first few seconds? If you just peruse through it, does it tell you the story in bitesized pieces?

If not, you’ve still got work to do.

Ideally, your callouts and highlighted texts should act as a “white paper within a white paper”. Like the girders that hold up a skyscraper, these strategically placed snippets of text offer the casual reader a framework that they can easily latch onto.


As you can see, a lot of carefully concerted effort goes into building a truly effective white paper.

This one “simple” document is tasked with conveying a complete and convincing picture of your project to an unprepared audience.

For this reason, you really should consider getting professional assistance before launching your ICO.

Would you like to download my free Ultimate ICO Planning Guide?

If so, click here and get your copy today!

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About the Author Dennis Lewis

Dennis H. Lewis is our CEO and is a serial entrepreneur and self-proclaimed digital storyteller. An author of three books, he has an uncanny knack of being able to distill complex technologies and explain them in ways that are fun and approachable. Over his extensive career he has lead startups both in Europe and the United States and currently runs a successful digital marketing firm in Orlando, FL. He has been featured on mainstream media outlets like The New York Times, Good Morning America and the BBC.

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