These 25 takeaways (actionable ideas for achieving explosive customer growth) have been pulled out across all the chapters of Traction book. Gabriel Weinberg,
Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo and co-author of the book originally shared these takeaways on Medium.
1) Startups get traction through nineteen different channels. We call these customer acquisition channels traction channels. These are marketing and distribution channels through which your startup can get traction: real customer growth.
2) Put half your efforts into getting traction. Pursue traction and product development in parallel, and spend equal time on both. Think of your product as a leaky bucket. Your early traction efforts are pointing you toward the holes worth plugging.
3) Set your growth goals. Focus on strategies and tactics that can plausibly move the needle for your company. Get some hard numbers.
4) Find your bright spots. If you’re not seeing the traction you want, look for bright spots in your customer base, pockets of customers who are truly engaged with your product. See if you can figure out why it works for them and if you can expand from that base. If there are no bright spots, it may be a good time to pivot.
5) Work through Bullseye. Maximize your chances of getting traction: brainstorm, prioritize, test, and then focus. Do not overlook underutilized channels. In fact, those channels are more likely to be the ones that will work best.
6) Talk to founders a few steps ahead of you. Research how past and present companies in your space and adjacent spaces succeeded or failed at getting traction. The easiest way to do this is to go talk to startup founders who previously failed at what you’re trying to do.
7) Look for customers where others aren’t looking. Keep a lookout for the cutting-edge tactics that haven’t yet suc- cumbed to the Law of Shitty Click-Throughs. Run cheap tests to quickly validate assumptions and test new ideas.
8) Constantly optimize. You should consistently run A/B tests in your efforts to optimize a traction channel strategy. There are many online toolsthat can help you test more easily and evaluate your use of various traction strategies and tactics.
9) Keep it numerical. Look for ways to quantify your marketing efforts, especially when deciding which traction strategies to pursue and comparing them within Bullseye. You should have an idea at all times of what numbers it will take to move the needle, and focus your traction efforts only on strategies that could possibly do so.
10) Lay out your milestones. Determine your traction goal and define your Critical Path against that goal, working backward and enumerating the absolutely necessary milestones you need to achieve to get there.
11) Run tests on a variety of smaller blogs. See what type of audience resonates best with your product and messaging. There are a variety of tools you can use to uncover relevant blogs including YouTube, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Twitter, search engines, Google Alerts, and Social Mention. You can also ask people!
12) Sponsor small blogs, especially personal blogs. Providing influential bloggers early access, or offering early access in exchange for spreading the word, are other effective strategies.
13) Target the right smaller sites. Press stories often “filter up,” meaning major news outlets are often looking to major blogs for story ideas, which in turn are looking at smaller blogs and forums. That means if you can generate buzz on those sites, you can increase your chances of getting picked up by bigger publications.
14) Do something big, cheap, fun, and original. A publicity stunt is anything that is engineered to generate a large amount of media coverage. They are often hard to do consistently well, but just one well-executed stunt can move the needle for your company. Publicity stunts need to be creative and extraordinary to succeed. Some types that have been successful repeatedly are competitive stunts and viral videos.
15) 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 can run an ad campaign that gets close to breakeven after a few weeks, then SEM could be the traction channel for you to focus on. A test ad campaign can be as little as four ads that you use to experiment.
16) Use longer keywords. Known as long-tail keywords, they are often less competitive because they have lower search volumes. As such, they are cheaper and so can be more profitable — you just may have to aggregate a lot of them to get the volume you need to move the needle.
17) Create compelling social content. The best way to build a presence and engage your audience on social sites is to concentrate on creating less content, but making it highly shareable. When your content is getting naturally shared, that’s the time to promote it further with social ads.
18) Find search terms that have enough search volume to move the needle for your company. If you can’t find enough search volume, or can’t rank high for those terms, SEO won’t be a great strategy for your business. If you identify some terms that could work, you can further qualify them by running search ads against them to test whether they actually convert customers.
19) Generate long-tail landing pages by using cheap freelancers. Or, if your product can naturally produce good long-tail content, use it to create the landing pages yourself.
20) If you blog, dedicate at least six months to it. A company blog can take a significant amount of time to start taking off.
21) Produce in-depth posts you can’t find anywhere else. You need to create quality content to succeed in this traction channel. There is no silver bullet, but a decent approach is to write about problems your target customers have. Another approach (not mutually exclusive) is to run experiments or use data from your company that leads to a surprising con- clusion.
22) Build an email list of prospective customers whether you end up focusing on this traction channel or not. You can utilize email marketing at any step of your relationship with a customer, including customer acquisition, activation, retention, and revenue generation.
23) Build a viral loop into the product. There are several types of viral loops including word of mouth, inherent, collaborative, communicative, incentives, embedded, and social. Startups can combine and change types over time, but generally these loops need to be built into the product to work successfully.
24) Pursue mutually beneficial partnerships. In a standard partnership, two companies work together to make one or both of their products better by leveraging the unique capabilities of the other. Other major types of BD deals include partnerships focused on joint ventures, licensing, distribution, and inventory.
You need to understand why a potential partner might want to work with you. What are their incentives? Just as you are evaluating potential partnerships in terms of your core metrics, they will be doing the same.
25) Cultivate and empower evangelists. Foster cross-connection among them and among community members in general.