In the book “Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth,” Gabriel Weinberg (DuckDuckGo Founder) and Justin Mares identified 19 channels for growth also known as traction channels:
- Targeting Blogs: niche blogs that you can leverage to get your product known to a very targeted audience.
- Publicity: or PR to get the word out about your business and product.
- Unconventional PR: things that you can do outside the box to amplify your product. Perhaps DuckDuckGo used billboards as a cheap and yet effective strategy to amplify its brand.
- Search Engine Marketing: thus leveraging paid campaigns over other search engines to make your brand show on top.
- Social and Display Ads: to target your audience based on demographics.
- Offline Ads: to find your audience beyond the online experience.
- Search Engine Optimization: to enable potential customers to find your brand through search.
- Content Marketing: to build a trusted audience through great content.
- Email Marketing: to establish a trusted audience that is highly engaged with your brand.
- Viral Marketing: as a cheap way to amplify your brand.
- Engineering as Marketing: using free tools or product features to amplify the product (perhaps via free features that prompt users to become paid customers).
- Business Development: To build the distribution channels to scale the customer base.
- Sales: to build a customer base, one by one, and get proper feedback on improving the product fast.
- Affiliate Programs: to amplify your product and enable customers and affiliates to make money from its sales.
- Existing Platforms: by using the network offered by the existing platform, you can initially bootstrap your brand with limited resources.
- Trade Shows: to meet your target audience and create a deeper connection.
- Offline Events: to enable your brand beyond the digital space.
- Speaking Engagements: to establish yourself and your company as a thought leader.
- Community Building: to foster a group of people in line with your mission and as your most trusted supporters.
Yet each of those channels has to be tested. How do you determine whether a channel is suited for growth? Gabriel Weinberg‘s answer relied on the Bullseye Framework!
The growth of DuckDuckGo didn’t happen in a day but it took more than six years. After launching in September 2008 Gabriel Weinberg spent the next two years refining DuckDuckGo. As he admitted in his Forbes’ interview in 2016,
I launched DuckDuckGo at the end of 2008, and in March of 2009 my first son was born and I decided to stay at home with him for at least the first two years. Through those two years I just kept at it and tinkering with it. At the end of 2010 all the iterative work on the project became better. Something clicked and people started to switch to it. Then in 2011 I started to treat it as more of a real thing, and at the end of 2011 I went and raised $3 million from Union Square Ventures.
After raising the money it was time to think about business. As we saw, from his previous ventures, Gabriel Weinberg had learned that if he wanted to launch a successful enterprise he had to take care of the distribution side. He also figured that for a startup the growth process isn’t too linear.
In short, for each growth stage, there are channels that work and channels that don’t. Often to hack the growth of your startup at a certain stage you have to try several channels. At the same time when reached a threshold of growth, some channels stop to work and you have to experiment with new ones. Those ideas matured in his book, Traction.
What is the Bullseye Framework?
The bullseye framework follows three simple steps, with the aim of hitting one target: traction!
The first layer is about what’s possible. In other words, this is a brainstorming phase in which the team starts to gather at least a strategy per channel that may be used to start “moving the needle of growth.”
The second layer is about what’s probable. In short, this is the phase where you start experimenting and testing the strategies that were brainstormed in the first step. Here it is crucial to start with cheap tests. That is not the phase where you have to go all in. Look at it as a testing phase. Where you start testing the market to see what works and what does not.
The inner ring is the bullseye. That is where you identified the channel or channels that are fueling the growth. Therefore, focusing on them at least until they will bootstrap your startup to the next growth phase. Eventually, you’ll restart the process to identify which channel or channels will work for the next growth stage (to dive more into it go to Medium).
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