The 19 traction channels for sales
Poor distribution — not product — is the number one cause of business failure. The only way to combat this is to ensure that you are building out traction outlets while you develop your product, so you can launch with a strong product AND distribution stream.
Most people try too many traction outlets and fail. The best approach is to test streams, and determine the single most optimal traction outlet for your business and then focus.
We recommend utilizing the Bullseye Framework outlined by the book Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth, by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. In this article, we outline the 19 traction outlets defined in the book to gain customer acquisition.
- Content Marketing
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. Content marketing can bridge you with your audience through educational content that you offer, offering the potential for massive engagement with your audience since you are offering value that they are interested in.
Email marketing is one of the best ways to convert prospects while retaining and monetizing existing customers. Since it takes numerous touchpoints before people purchase, email marketing keeps your business relevant and visible in people's inbox. Additionally, email marketing allows you direct outreach to your audience since it's such a personal traction option, without being dictated by platforms that you don't own (like social media).
Business development is the process of creating strategic relationships that benefit both your startup and your partner. It’s like sales with one key distinction: With sales, you’re selling directly to a customer. With business development, you’re partnering to reach customers in a way that benefits both parties. Partnering can be a powerful way to build connections with key players in your industry that can help you increase our outreach and visibility.
In a time when we are isolated and seperated more than ever before due to COVID, community building can be a powerful way to support your audiences' needs and gain trust in the marketplace. This involves investing in the connections among your customers, fostering those relationships, and helping them bring more people into your startup’s circle. Remember to keep your networking and community building authentic and not just focused on the outcome.
Sales are focused primarily on creating processes to directly exchange products for dollars. Sales requires between 5-10 touchpoints to make a sale, so brand consistency is essential in the sales process. Sales often include creating sales funnels that continually generates leads, qualifies them, and converts them into paying customers.
- Existing Platforms
Existing platforms utilize websites, apps, or networks that already have huge numbers of users that you can potentially leverage to get traction. Major platforms include the Apple and Android App Stores, Mozilla and Chrome browser extensions, social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, as well as newer platforms that are growing rapidly (Tiktok, etc.).
Focusing on existing platforms means focusing your growth efforts on one of these megaplatforms, and getting some of their hundreds of millions of users to use your product.
Blog articles that provide useful information for your customers can be an effective way to attract cold customers online. When working with blogs, consider targeting a specific niche so you can speak directly to the type of prospective customer that you want. Many startups have used this strategy to gain thousands of customers before even launching.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your ranking in search engines in order to get more people to your site. The better visibility your pages have in search results, the more likely you are to attract prospective and existing customers to your business.
Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing (SEM) is a form of Internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages primarily through paid advertising (PPC).
This channel works well wherever there is a group of people in a room that — if you pitched them right — would move the needle for your business. You can still use this traction channel in COVID times by creating webinar, onine or Zoom speaking events, offering potential more reach than in person events.
An affiliate program is an arrangement where you pay people or companies for performing certain actions like making a sale or getting a qualified lead. Affiliate programs are the core traction channel for many e-commerce stores, information products, and membership programs. This can be a powerful approach, especially if you have a strong network and community that believes in your product.
Viral marketing consists of growing your customer base by encouraging your customers to refer other customers. To "go viral," means that every user you acquire brings in at least one other user. Then, that user brings in another user, which creates exponential growth. This can be difficult to sustain but can help you grow rapidly and gain massive publicity. Creativity, understanding your audience, and the platform are essential for this approach.
- Engineering as Marketing
You can use engineering skills to create tools and resources that reach more people by offering useful value through things such as calculators, widgets, and other educational entities. This helps you get in front of prospective clients while positioning yourself in a useful way.
Publicity is all about getting your name out there via traditional media outlets like TV, magazines, and newspapers. Be sure to leverage the rapidly changing media landscape to gain traction in this area. You can work with a PR firm that will help you get articles in Business Insider and Entrepreneur, or reach out to outlets on your own. Check out platforms like Help a Reporter, where you can submit your expertise to a reporter in need (and it's free)!
There are two different types of unconventional PR: Publicity stunts and customer appreciation. A publicity stunt is anything that is engineered to get media coverage (think Richard Branson base jumping into an event). Customer appreciation is a smaller, more scalable action (like sending Christmas gifts or holding a contest) that both increase goodwill as well as generates press coverage.
Social and Display Ads
This consists of the banner ads that you see on websites all over the Internet. Despite being bombarded by these constantly, we still notice these ads and they can be targeted to your specific audience. In todays market, we suggest the channels that build more connection with your audiences than just display ads.
Believe it or not, advertisers still spend more on offline ads than online. There are many kinds of offline ads — TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, yellow pages, billboards, and direct mail. All of these can be utilized at almost any scale, from local campaigns to national ones. Few startups use this channel, which means there’s less competition for many of these audiences.
Sponsoring or running offline events — from small meetups to large conferences — can be a primary way to get traction. Offline events give you the opportunity to engage directly with potential customers about their problems. Such events are especially important when your target customers do not respond well to online advertising and do not have a natural place to congregate online. Attracting these customers to one location or going to a place where they meet in person can be the most effective way to reach them.
Trade shows offer you the opportunity to showcase your products in person. These events are often exclusive to industry insiders, and are designed to foster interactions between vendors and their prospects.
Early on, you can use this traction channel to build interest in what you’re building. As you get more established, you can use trade shows as an opportunity to make a major announcement, sell big clients, seal a partnership, or as an integral part of your sales funnel.