The 5 Step Framework For Gaining Traction

Customer Acquisition Guide

VCs will be looking for pattern recognition, competitive landscape and other indicators of success or failure when screening your startup. It helps to display the ecosystem in which your startup not only survives, but thrives. The best way to present this is through traction.

Traction is proof people want your product and is best defined by AngelList founder, Naval Ravikant:

Traction is basically quantitative evidence of customer demand. So if you’re in enterprise software, initial traction may be two or three early customers who are paying a bit; if you’re in consumer software the bar might be as high as hundreds of thousands of users…It’s the Supreme Court definition of porn. You’ll know it when you see it.

Traction is the ability to move your growth curve up and to the right and is evident in increased revenue, engagement and traffic. Traction can be obvious and accelerate quickly once you’ve determined the best customer acquisition channel. It’s through deliberately testing in various channels that you’ll be able to figure out which one to focus on — your traction channel. Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares, co-authors of Traction: A Startup Guide To Getting Customers, refer to this strategy as the Bullseye framework.

Almost every failed startup has a product. What failed startups don’t have is traction — real customer growth. Most startups actually get zero distribution channels to work. The Bullseye framework boosts your chances of acquiring customers and gaining traction. Bullseye is broken down into a five step process:

Brainstorm

Strategies

There are roughly 19 different traction channels ranging from online ads, public relations, blogging, trade shows and viral marketing. Depending on which industry you’re in, the right channel for marketing and distribution will undoubtedly vary. Brainstorm with your team on potential ways you might use particular traction channels. Without bias, research the channels your competitors have found to be successful or unsuccessful. Consider channels where your competitors aren’t playing. You should be able to identify at least one idea for each channel. Think through customer acquisition costs (CAC) and the timeframe needed to run tests. You aren’t expected to have all the answers in this step.

Rank

Formulate a ranking system for the traction channels you came up with during brainstorming. Categorize each traction channel into one of three columns on a spreadsheet:

  • Column A (Inner Circle): Most promising traction channels
  • Column B (Potential): Traction channels that have a possibility of working
  • Column C (Long-shot): The traction channels that seem like long-shots

Prioritize

Inner Circle

Prioritize and break down the three traction channels that seem most promising — this is your inner circle. It’s ideal to have one to three channels to run multiple experiments at the same time. Don’t waste time by sequentially running experiments. Run them in parallel.

Test

Now it’s time to put your assumtions from step one to the test and gain further insight into which channels work best. You want to uncover the CAC and if these customers are indeed the ones you want to be targeting. Run fast and lean with these experiments. You should be able to measure success with as little as a few hundred dollars.

Focus On What Works

Hopefully, one of your channels received good results and obvious traction. You should begin focusing all of your efforts on that channel. However, this doesn’t meant to stop testing. Keep experimenting as you continue to scale and reach new customers. It’s also possible your channel could become stale so repeat the process with a new channel and re-evaluate your messaging.

“The faster you run high quality experiments, the more likely you’ll find scalable, effective growth tactics.”- Sean Ellis, Founder of Qualaroo

The Bullseye framework is designed to help you focus and test assumptions in a cost effective and timely manner. This systemized and repeatable process allows you to see which experiments work and ultimately get the most traction possible. As David Beisel, Partner at NextView Ventures, says, “The easiest to way to convince investors of traction is if you’re actually convinced of it yourself.” Getting traction isn’t easy, but you’ll know it when you see it.

Click here for online access (Google Sheets) to the Bullseye framework designed by Gabriel Weinberg.


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