“Most startups don’t fail because they can’t build a product. Most startups fail because they can’t get traction.” That’s a small but powerful statement made by Justin Mares, co-author of the book Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers. As an eCommerce business, you already have a well-thought out product, maybe even a few. But coming up with a quality product is only half the battle. The other half is getting traction—or in other words quantitative evidence of customer demand—to your product. Companies often struggle to find a traction channel that delivers success and spend time jumping from one strategy or tact to another. This not only wastes a ton of money and resources, it comes at a high cost of not finding and focusing on the strategies that actually drive growth for the business.
Before You Can Get TractionEvery company wants and needs growth. But before you can gain any kind of traction, you first have to do two things:
- Define what traction means to your business.
- Set a specific goal.
The 19 Traction ChannelsYes, there really are 19 different traction channels you can use. Here they are:
- Targeting blogs
- Unconventional PR
- Search engine marketing
- Social and display ads
- Offline ads
- Search engine optimization
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Viral marketing
- Engineering as marketing
- Business development
- Affiliate marketing
- Existing platforms
- Offline events
- Speaking engagements
- Community building
The Framework for Finding Your Traction ChannelTo find your optimum traction channel, adopt the bullseye mindset. The bullseye metaphor means you’re looking for that one traction channel that’s going to unlock your next customer growth stage, i.e. trying to hit the bullseye. How do you do this? You take your business through five steps.
1. BrainstormYour objective here is to come up with at least one good strategy for each traction channel. Most people approach each channel with some type of bias that makes them think they don’t need to think of any ideas for a certain channel because it probably won’t work. This step is meant to help you nix those biases. Before brainstorming, do some industry research. Find out what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for others in your industry. Find out how companies have gotten more customers and how companies wasted their marketing budgets. Look online and ask other eCommerce businesses you have a good working relationship with.
2. RankThis step is where you organize your brainstorming efforts; where you do some critical thinking about each channel. To do this, divide your traction channels into three groups by asking the following questions:
- Which channels seem the most promising right now?
- Which ones seem like they could possibly work?
- Which ones are long shots?
3. PrioritizeAfter dividing each channel into one of those three groups, look at only the ones you put into the most promising group. Out of that group, select your top two or three most promising channels. This is what’s referred to as your inner circle. For the next step, you want more than one channel, but you don’t want too many. Too many channels will waste your time and efforts, and you’ll lack focus. Two or three is a good number.
4. TestTesting your two or three prioritized traction channels tells you which channel in your inner circle you should really focus on. But don’t go overboard with your testing. Stick to smaller-scale efforts, like running five Facebook ads rather than 50, and only spend a few hundred dollars per channel. Base your cheap tests on the following questions:
- What’s it going to cost us to get new customers through this channel?
- How many customers are actually available through this channel?
- Are these customers the ones we want at this time?