If you are in business for yourself, you do marketing – in some form or another.

So do your competitors.

But what gives you a competitive advantage in your marketing?

One answer is provided by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares, in their book Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth.

Weinberg is the founder of DuckDuckGo, a multibillion dollar privacy consultancy and the creator of the DuckDuckGo browser. So he has a track record on starting a business and getting traction.

Weinberg and Mares teach a way to think differently about your marketing to grow your business faster and gain a competitive advantage.

The crux of the approach is to think carefully about your marketing channels and find and focus on the ones that work best for you.

The book was originally written for startups, but the ideas apply for any business.

The Short Version

To grow your business and get “traction” in your marketing, apply the Bullseye model:

  1. Identify all the possible marketing channels that you could use
  2. Test the most promising marketing channels
  3. Optimise and scale the marketing channels that worked best

Traction - Bullseye Model

Weinberg and Mares identified 19 effective marketing channels that startups use – and you can use too.  They are listed below.

What Are The 19 Marketing Channels?

Weinberg and Mares identified 19 marketing channels used by startups. These are:

  1. Targeting blogs
  2. Conventional PR
  3. Unconventional PR
  4. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  5. Social and Display Ads
  6. Offline Ads
  7. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  8. Content Marketing
  9. Email Marketing
  10. Viral Marketing
  11. Engineering as Marketing
  12. Business Development (BD)
  13. Sales
  14. Affiliate Programs
  15. Existing Platforms
  16. Trade Shows
  17. Offline Events
  18. Speaking Engagements
  19. Community Building

Many of these are obvious from the title, but some require a little elaboration. Here we go:

Targeting blogs is contributing on other people’s blog through guest posts, articles, sponsorship, and so on.

Conventional PR is distinguished from Unconventional PR in that the first is the usual things like radio and TV interviews, editorial content, and so on, while the latter is activities like publicity stunts or developing a tribe of superfans.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is Google search ads.

Social and Display Ads is essentially all other forms of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising such as FB, LI, Twitter, and YouTube, advertising; Google display ads; and other ad display networks.

Offline Ads is advertising through channels such as radio, TV, billboard, and direct mail.

SEO is developing unpaid traffic from search engines to a blog or website.

Viral marketing includes word-of-mouth referrals. Its ideal objective is to raise your average referral per client or customer to greater than one, so that you achieve “virality.”

Engineering as Marketing is developing a mini-product or training that attracts people and generates and qualifies leads. This could be, for example, a quiz that tells them which type of business they have or which stage of business they are at, a 5 day challenge or 5-part home study course.

Business Development (BD) – is “the process of creating strategic relationships that benefit both your startup and your partner” In the internet marketing, coaching, or transformational leadership worlds, this is what we would call Joint Venture (JV) partnerships.

Sales means direct sales outreach – reaching out to key people in key target companies. and commencing a conversation that progresses down a sales pipeline.

Existing Platforms is “focusing your growth efforts on a megaplatform like Facebook, Twitter, or the App Store, and getting some of their hundreds of millions of users to use your product” YouTube, Amazon, and podcasting can all fall into this category. The book particularly emphasises a strategy of getting in early on new platforms, and riding a platform as it grows.

Offline Events is live events, like conferences, workshops, or meetups.

Community Building is building communities of people who interact with each other around your product, or around a topic of relevance for your business. This could be done for example on Facebook groups.

How Does The Bullseye Model Work?

The challenge for startups – or any business – is to find which marketing channels will work best for you.

If you are in a competitive market environment, it is even more important to find a mix of marketing channels that allows you to tap into your market in a way that competitors do not.

Weinberg and Mares proposed a model for this: the Bullseye model.

“With nineteen traction channels to consider, figuring out which one to focus on is tough. That’s why we’ve created a simple framework called Bullseye that will help you find the channel that will get you traction.”

The Bullseye model consists of three stages:

  1. Identify all the possible marketing channels that you could use
  2. Test the most promising marketing channels
  3. Optimise and scale the marketing channels that worked best

The Bullseye is shown below.

Traction - Bullseye Model

Let’s look at each of these stages in turn.

1. The Outer Ring: What’s Possible

“The first step in Bullseye is brainstorming every single traction channel. If you were to advertise offline, where would be the best place to do it? If you were to give a speech, who would be the ideal audience? Imagine what success would look like in each channel, and write it down in your outer ring.”

2. The Middle Ring: What’s Probable

“The second step in Bullseye is running cheap traction tests in the channels that seem most promising.
Go around your outer ring and promote your best traction channel ideas to your middle ring.”

Now you bring your ideas for the best marketing channels down to say three or four channels.

There are two rules for testing out a channel in the “middle ring”:

  1. Test one marketing channel at a time
  2. Don’t spend too many resources on it – it should be cheap and quick

For initial testing they suggest spend less than $1,000, and do it in less than a month:

“These first channel strategy tests are often very cheap and short. For instance, if you spend just $250 on AdWords, you’ll get a rough idea of how well the search engine marketing channel works for your business … you shouldn’t be spending more than a thousand dollars and a month’s time on a middle ring test, and often significantly less.”

When you see something is working, you can invest more and scale it out.

3. The Inner Ring: What’s Working

“The third and final step in Bullseye is to focus solely on the channel that will move the needle for your startup: your core channel.
If all went well, one of the traction channels you tested in your middle ring produced promising results. In that case, you should start directing all your traction efforts and resources toward this most promising channel. You hit the Bullseye! You’ve found your core channel.”

Put The Bullseye Model To Work For Your Business

There’s a good chance that the 80/20 rule will apply … if you try 5 strategies in your Middle Ring, one may be much better than the others.

Be creative.

And be original.

If you can add something else to your marketing mix that works great, and your competitors haven’t thought of yet, you’ve just given yourself a big advantage.

Nothing will work until you apply it. Put aside a couple of hours, brainstorm your “Outer Ring” in the Bullseye model, and schedule trying out one or more of the channels you identified.

Where Did The Idea Come From, Anyway?

Weinberg and Mares were interested in startups.

Which startups succeed?

Which ones don’t?

What makes the difference?

Weinberg and Mares found that product development is well understood by startups, with tools like market research interviews and “minimum viable products”:

“If you’re starting a company, chances are you can build a product. Almost every failed startup has a product. What failed startups don’t have is enough customers.”

Those startups who delayed finding and developing marketing channels until after the product was developed struggled to get traction –  real customer growth.

So, Weinberg and Mares zeroed in on marketing channels.

In addition to leaving developing marketing channels until it’s too late, they identified two common issues:

“First, most founders consider using only traction channels with which they’re already familiar, or those they think they should be using because of their type of product or company. This means that far too many startups focus on the same channels and ignore other promising ways to get traction. In fact, often the most underutilized channels in an industry are the most promising ones.

Second, it’s hard to predict the traction channel that will work best. You can make educated guesses, but until you start running tests, it’s difficult to tell which channel is the best one for you right now.”

Their research found that there are 19 specific marketing channels that startups used:

“After interviewing more than forty successful founders and researching countless more, we discovered that startups get traction through nineteen different channels. Many successful startups experimented with multiple channels until they found one that worked. We call these customer acquisition channels “traction channels.” These are marketing and distribution channels through which your startup can get traction: real customer growth.”

Successful startups experimented with different marketing channels.

Of course, marketing channels aren’t the whole story – market research and product development both matter. Weinberg and Mares suggest that marketing channels and product development should each be 50% of the story for startups.

Applying the Bullseye Model in more depth …

There is more we can do to make the Bullseye model work for us. I explore this in Growing Your Business With The Bullseye Model.

About Me

I am passionate about activating human potential – helping make the world a better place.

I work with smart, creative leaders – transformation leaders such as coaches and consultants, thought leaders such as speakers and authors, and change agents and difference-makers –  to help them make a bigger difference through their work.

I focus on the areas of strategy, alignment, and full-expression – turning your ideas and expertise into messages that cut through and programs, services or products that make a difference.

I do what I can to improve the thinking and tools we have available in our industry and in the world.

You can learn more about me from my home page www.lauchlanmackinnon.com 

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