Traction: how any startup can achieve explosive customer growth

Rating: (9/10)

The biggest takeaway from this book for founders is to understand the importance of distribution channel before you finish building your product (even before your MVP).

Smart entrepreneurs can build awesome products & amazing team but the fate of a startups depend how many customers founders can consistently grow. Most people spend time on building a product and do not have enough time or experience to acquire users.

There are 19 user acquisition channels listed below. You need to know what channels work for your startup and focus on these few. Each startup is different and a channel might work for one startup and does not work for another.

Most founders gave up too early before figuring out a channel that works for them. You need to have a system to test what channels that work for you and keep testing until you found them.

  1. Targeting blog: find a number of small blogs (using search engine or other tools) that cover your niche. Sponsor & partner with them to reach your niche audience.

2. Publicity (PR): try to get covered by press.

It might be hard to get attention from NYT or Techcrunch. One tactics recommended by Ryan Holidays is to pitch to smaller sites (media or blog) whose content is often picked up by larger media outlets.

Blogs have enormous influence over other blogs. A post from a smaller site can be mentioned on bigger one. Blogs compete to get stories first, newspaper compete to "confirm" it and pundits compete for airtime to opine on it.

  • Build relationship with a specific reporters covering your startup's market.
  • Only contact a reporter when you have an emotional & compelling story to tell. When you do a pitch, keep it short and simple.

3. Publicity stunts. Creating method to get everyone's attention.

Do something big, cheap, fund and original. Viral videos is one of the most popular methods. Appreciate your customer. Prepare for failure as no one knows if it can get viral or not.

4. Search Engine Marketing(SEM):  spend tons of money to buy ads.

  • Make sure you understand the basic concepts: Click-through rate (CTR), CPC, CPA.
  • Basic process is to find high-potential keywords, group them into ad groups and test different copy and landing pages.
  • Have a mechanism to measure conversions so you can test SEM against profitability.
  • Popular keywords are very expensive. Consider using longer keywords. They are not only cheaper but also give your more target customers.

5. Social and Display ads: use social network (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, reddit) to launch your ad to build awareness and demand. Make sure you have compelling social content for each channel.

6. Offline ad: ads on TV, radio, magazines, billboards, direct mails, print advertising.

  • Hard to predict results. Run cheap tests targeting local markets first.
  • Seek out remnant ad inventory for highest discount.
  • Use unique codes for web addresses to track effectiveness.

7. SEO.

  • This is mainly content strategy. Can scale well at any phase with low cost.
  • High quality links are the most important factor. Invest in long articles with very high quality that are better than other solutions out there. You want your page to be the final page user wants to search for.
  • Use keywords strategically. 30% will be popular words and 70% are long-tail.
  • Fat-head strategy: you want to find terms that have enough volume that captures 10% of the searches. Use tools like Open Site Explorer to examine the number of links competitors have for a given terms. Next step is narrow your list of keywords you want to use.
  • Long tail strategy: decide the volume for your keywords. Look at analytics software (Google Analytics or Clicky) to decide what terms people are using to get to your site.¬† Pay someone to write high quality articles for you.
  • Don't try to buy links. It will backfire you.

8. Content marketing.

  • Write about problems facing your target customers. You should be able to provide insight on subjects they care about. Write about the issue people struggle with.
  • Engage in online forums where conversations are taking place. Use guest posting.
  • If you blog, dedicate at least 6 months to it. This is a slow growth method but once it takes off, it can make your company fly.
  • Do things that don't scale initially: contact industry's leaders, create meaningful infographics.
  • Produce in-depth posts that you can't find anywhere else.

9. Email marketing:

  • Don't buy people bulk emails and spam them. Get emails from users who come to your sites or use similar services.
  • Personalize your email marketing messages.
  • Setup a series of automated emails.
  • Use online tools to test different email campaigns.

10. Viral marketing: begins and ends with viral loops

  • Make sure your products have viral factors.
  • Shorten viral cycle time.
  • Look for viral pockets.

11. Engineering as marketing

  • Give free tools/software for people to use. They will come to your site because of the tool. Make sure the sites/tools drive traffic to your site.

12. Business Development: Use trusted relationship and partnerships to drive clients. Works well for B2B.

13. Sales: the process to convert a lead to a costumer. This involves talking to prospects.

  • Tactics: start with many prospects at the top, then potential people in the middle and very little time with people at the bottom. Classifying potential leads is important in running an effective sales organization.

11. Affiliate programs.

12. Use existing platforms.

13. Trade show

14. Offline events.

15. Speaking engagement.

  • Speaking increases your reputation. You are considered as expert in the field.
  • Tell a story on stage: why you are doing what you are doing.

16. Community building.

  • Find and nurture community evangelists. They must be passionate about your product and willing to talk about it. Github, Stackoverflow, Yelp are great example
  • Set high standard from the start and be strict about the quality.
  • Bootstrap off an existing audience.
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