Book: Traction, Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares

Review

Great overview of the most common and effective marketing channels, how to test them and how to scale up. Fantastic for startups and a great reminder for existing businesses.

Buy on Amazon.com.

tl;dr

19 traction channels. Brainstorm ideas for all channels and do a quick test for the promising ones. Then focus solely on the channel that gave you the best results. Targeting niche blogs is one of the most effective ways to get first customers. Build easy-to-use micro tools that are easily found and shareable.

Summary

  • Traction is growth. The pursuit of traction is what defines a startup.
  • It’s hard to predict the traction channel that will work best.
  • Traction channels: Targeting Blogs, Publicity, Unconventional PR, Search Engine Marketing, Social and Display Ads, Offline Ads, SEO, Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Engineering as Marketing, Viral Marketing, Business Development, Sales, Affiliate Programs, Existing Platforms, Trade Shows, Offline Events, Speaking Engagements, Community Building
  • Pursuing product development and traction in parallel has a couple of key benefits.
  • Phase I—making something people want; Phase II—marketing something people want; Phase III—scaling your business.
  • It is very likely that one traction channel is optimal.
  • The first step in Bullseye is brainstorming every single traction channel.
  • It is important that you not dismiss any traction channel in this step. You should be able to think of at least one idea for every channel.
  • The second step in Bullseye is running cheap traction tests in the channels that seem most promising.
  • These tests should be designed to roughly answer the following three questions: how much will it cost to acquire a customer, how many customers are available through this channel, are these customers the ones you want?
  • The third and final step in Bullseye is to focus solely on the channel that will move the needle for your startup: your core channel.
  • Spend all your efforts on this core channel because uncovering additional strategies and tactics within it will have a greater effect than using these secondary channels.
  • In the early days, the channel strategies of sponsoring mid-level bloggers in the financial niche and guest posting allowed Mint to acquire its first forty thousand customers.
  • In general in phase I, you shouldn’t be spending more than a thousand dollars and a month’s time on a middle ring test, and often significantly less.
  • You should be continually testing your chosen channel strategy in an effort to increase its effectiveness.
  • Tactics that once worked well will become crowded and ineffective. This happens with all channel strategies.
  • The path to reaching your traction goal with the fewest number of steps is your Critical Path.
  • Do you really need feature C or marketing activity Y?
  • In other words, Critical Path is a framework to help you decide what not to do.
  • Targeting blogs prospective customers read is one of the most effective ways to get your first wave of customers.
  • Within six months of Mint’s launch, it had more than 1 million active users. They asked people on its prelaunch waiting list to recommend Mint to their friends in return for priority product access.
  • Where to find blogs: search, YouTube, Delicious, Twitter etc.
  • Most sites make their money from advertisements, so they want to drive as many page views as possible. If you have a fascinating story with broad appeal, media outlets now want to hear from you because you will drive visits and make them more money. This means you no longer have to pitch CNN directly if you want to get on TV. Instead, you can pitch smaller sites (ones that are easier to get coverage from) whose content is often picked up by larger media outlets.
  • Jason advises bundling smaller announcements together into one big announcement whenever possible.
  • If your pitch doesn’t draw a line in the sand—with some people shaking their heads and some people nodding—it won’t get discussed as widely as you hope.
  • A good first step is using a service like Help A Reporter Out (HARO), where reporters request sources for articles they are working on.
  • Even with awesome biweekly posts about online marketing, it took six months for the Unbounce team to see significant results from their blog.
  • Simply write about the problems facing your target customers.
  • If you blog, dedicate at least six months to it.
  • Good customer support is so rare that, if you simply try to make your customers happy, they are likely to spread the news of your awesome product on that basis alone.
  • Use search engine ads to test product positioning and messaging (even before you fully build it!). Do not expect your early SEM ad tests to be profitable.
  • If you’re not sensitive to location or timing, you can get substantial discounts by committing to buy remnant inventory. This can be a cheap and effective strategy to reach millions of people if you have a mass-market product.
  • Email marketing is a great way to improve your customer activation rates. A popular approach is to create a sequence of emails that slowly exposes your new customers to the key features in your product.
  • Any sort of communication telling your customers how well they’re doing is likely to go over well.
  • Inherent virality occurs when you can get value from a product only by inviting other customers.
  • Make useful tools like calculators, widgets, and educational microsites to get your company in front of potential customers.
  • To really maximize impact, put your microsites and tools on their own domains. First, it makes them much easier to share. Second, you can do well with SEO by picking a name that people search often so your tool is more naturally discoverable.
  • Engineering as marketing creates lasting assets that can serve as the engine for your growth.
  • Providing something of true value for free, with no strings attached. Making that offering extremely relevant to your core business. Demonstrating that value as quickly as possible.
  • Make them as simple as possible. Single-purpose tools that solve obvious pain points are best.
  • It’s research and learning and understanding your partner’s business before you start picking up the phone or sending emails.
  • Make a very simple spreadsheet: Company, Partner Type (Publisher, Carrier, Reseller, etc.), Contact Person/Email, Size, Relevance, Ease of Use, and then a subjective priority score.
  • You start approaching potential partners with a value-focused proposition that outlines why they should work with you.
  • To approach these deals, you want to first identify the right contact at your target company.
  • Just because you’re offering a Web site widget doesn’t mean the Web site team is the ideal set of stakeholders.
  • With engineering time so valuable, do as much as you can to make it easy for potential partners to work with you.
  • Making a “how the deal was done” memo documenting how long it took to get to milestones, key contacts, sticking points, what interested the prospect enough to become a partner, and other factors that influenced the completion of the deal.
  • You need to understand why a potential partner might want to work with you. What are their incentives?
  • The SPIN (Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-payoff) question model is a natural progression. First you clarify that the prospect is a potential customer and break the ice (situation questions). Then you get them talking about the problem (problem questions). Next, you uncover all the implications of this problem (implication questions). Finally, you focus on how your solution addresses these implications and will solve their problem (need-payoff questions).

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