As a startup, traction trumps everything. If you get that, everything else is downstream and easier to sell for and we created a framework called “Bullseye” to help founders figure out where to spend their time, money, and energy

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Key Takeaways

  1. What works at one stage won’t work out another and this book and the Bullseye framework will help you at various inflection points.
  2. There are two main themes as a result of this research: 1. most founders only use the channels they’re already familiar with, or think they should use and 2. and it is hard to predict which channels will be most helpful, so you should broaden your scope early on
  3. There are 19 different channels to help you grow:
    1. Viral Marketing
      1. Difficult but very powerful. 3 step process – a potential customer gets to know about your product, they tell others about your product, and some portion become customers, etc.
      2. Word of mouth is the dream state
      3. Build Viral loops into the product – word of mouth, adherent, communicative, incentives, embedded, and social. Mix and match to find what works for you
      4. Shorten viral loops, test and retest, see if you have viral pockets you can take advantage of
    2. Public Relations (PR)
      1. Get to know journalists in your field and give them a compelling reason to write about you – new milestone, fundraising, launch of product, etc.
    3. Unconventional PR
      1. Unconventional PR is a great way to stand out. Think Richard Branson in an astronaut suit when announcing virgin galactic, or Uber Eats delivering puppies or Christmas trees.
      2. Customer appreciation is also a good form of unconventional PR. Handwritten notes or other gestures build trust and Goodwill. HipMunk had a cartoonist draw a unique avatar for the first 500 people of them as chipmunks. Can do some similar style for Maven as well.
    4. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
      1. For SEM, the process is to find valuable keywords, then group them into ad groups and then create targeted websites and flows to capture those people. This will help you understand what interests people, allowing you to build confidently and know that this is something people want and doing it in a cost effective manner
    5. Social and Display Ads
      1. Social ads are incredibly effective at building awareness, engaging with the audience, and eventually converting that audience into paying customers
      2. For social ads, there might be magic if you have quality contact and come back that up with some paid advertising. This won’t convert to immediate sales in most cases, but it will build awareness and engagement.
      3. Try different social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Quora, etc. Reddit advertising can be hugely targeted
    6. Offline Ads
      1. Billboards and direct mail are surprisingly effective, especially for tech companies who tend to skew towards more digital options
    7. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
      1. Getting quality links to link to you is the name of the game
    8. Content Marketing
      1. Write about problems your customer base faces. Quality over quantity. Can also write about how to use your product in fun and novel ways
    9. Email Marketing
      1. Email marketing works best when it is personalized. Look at different drip campaigns and A/B test to make your drip as effective as possible
      2. Email drip campaigns can be incredibly effective to guide new users, show them all the features, and how to use it all without overwhelming them during the on boarding process
    10. Engineering as Marketing
      1. If you can create widgets or tools or websites that help draw people in and build awareness, you can increase the amount of inbound customers
      2. These applications are high leverage in that they only need to be built once I can bring in customers for years to come
    11. Target Market Blogs
      1. Target blogs that you think have the types of customers you’re looking for. Give the author of the blog access and put together a compelling reason for these users to join early.
    12. Business Development (BD)
      1. Business development is like sales, except you’re looking for a partnership rather than dollars. You are dealing with another business and not individual customers.
      2. Standard partnership, joint venture, licensing, distribution deals, supply partnerships. You have to have a really clear idea of your company’s objectives and goals and understand how any of these partnerships will help you reach them.
      3. Make sure the deals are structured as win-win relationships, and always be building your pipeline of possible partnerships
    13. Sales
      1. Having a dedicated sales team that focuses on short-term and medium-term customers is key (long-term should be handled by marketing)
    14. Affiliate Programs
      1. Affiliate programs are where you pay someone to do something or help you acquire a qualified lead
    15. Existing Platforms
      1. App stores, major social networks, signing in with google, facebook, etc
      2. You also need to balance and pay attention to new and emerging platforms which aren’t yet saturated.
      3. The important thing to understand is where your potential customers are hanging out and then to target them. You can then create a feature that fills a gap that this platform doesn’t provide
    16. Trade Shows
      1. These events allow you to show off your product or service in person.
    17. Offline Events
      1. Twitter created an event-specific feature for SXSW where someone could text a number, you’d show up on some screens they had setup and would automatically follow the other people at the event who were already on Twitter
    18. Speaking Engagements
      1. This confers authority and will help you get in front of a quality customer base if you choose your engagements well
    19. Community Building
      1. Having a trusted and excited community can help kickstart a product – stack overflow even had their communities and audiences vote on the name of the company before it existed
      2. Help find and empower community evangelists and connect them so that their energy can feed each other. They spread the word, can make great employees, can give you valuable feedback
      3. Set high standards and work to keep the quality bar high
      4. You can also bootstrap off an existing audience
  4. The Bullseye Framework – Brainstorm, Test, Prioritize
    1. Brainstorm – The First Ring starts with looking at every single channel and how it might apply to you. Understand what successful traction in a channel looks like before you spend time there. Don’t dismiss any channels in the early days and come up with at least one good idea for each. Look at similar companies, and understand what works well for them and where they wasted money
    2. Test – The second ring is understanding what’s probable – running cheap and easy traction experiments in the channels that seem most promising. In the second ring, the point isn’t to get true traction. The point is to run small, fast, and cheap experiments to see if the channel has potential to find the right types of customers in an economic fashion, understanding how expensive to acquire, how many customers, right customers. Before you test anything you need to have tracking and analytics set up and understand what you’re trying to learn. What’s the point of the test? What are you looking for? What is good vs bad? At the very least, track LTV, cost to acquire, how many customers available, conversion rate
    3. Prioritize – The Third Ring is focusing relentlessly on the channel that will move the needle for your startup. Exhaust your most important channel until it no longer works and then move on systematically to the next most promising channel
    4. Every business should focus on a few of these channels, rather than trying to use all of them at once. They also emphasize the importance of testing and measuring the effectiveness of each channel to determine which ones work best for your specific business
  5. Critical Path
    1. The critical path refers to a method of identifying and prioritizing the most important tasks or activities in a business. The critical path is the sequence of tasks that must be completed on time to ensure the successful completion of a project or goal.
    2. You start by breaking down a larger project or goal into smaller, more manageable tasks and then determining the sequence and dependencies of these tasks. By identifying the critical path, you can better prioritize your efforts and focus on the activities that will have the greatest impact on achieving their goals.
  6. Other
    1. A simple heuristic is to spend 50% of your time on product and 50% of your time on traction in the early days. As they say, first time entrepreneurs mainly worry about product and second time entrepreneurs focus on distribution.
    2. Set your growth, goals and focus on strategies and tactics that can help you move the needle
    3. As you test channels, you’ll see which are working better and understand the personas and use cases in a deeper manner. Once you have this, you’ll have a better idea how to find similar people to onboard
    4. Many breakout companies used underappreciated, traction channels, at least uncommon for the industry there in
    5. You should always have a traction goal where hitting the mark would change the trajectory of the company along some vector and it should be tied to your strategy. Number of customers, market share, monthly growth, etc. These traction goals should always live besides and inform product goals. Growth or profitability? If you need to raise in x months, what do you need to show to do so?

What I got out of it

  1. A practical, useful guide on how to think about gaining traction in your business. Mainly aimed at early stage companies, especially tech-related ones.

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