After a tip from our CTO Adrian, which I understand was tipped to him by a mentor (check out the amazing referrals happening here), I purchased a book on Amazon called "TRACTION: How any startup can achieve explosive customer growth". I was not disappointed, and although I am rather a slow reader (late night reading tends to send me to sleep), I did manage to digest the book in a few weeks and highlighted the hell out of it. Literally, half of the book is now lime green. Proof of the green highlighter can even be seen in this photo.
What exactly is Traction?
For any junior marketing professionals out there, Traction is essentially the stage in which a new startup company goes from concept to rapid growth. It's explosive growth across your core metrics. It's the man in the orange jumpsuit waving illuminated sticks in the air to say you are "taking off". It's a massive milestone in the marketing department, and its all about moving the needle of your core metrics and moving them fast. Repositive is a startup. It's either grow fast, or go home.
I found this book really awesome. It helped me step back and look at my marketing channels as pieces of a circular jigsaw puzzle. I was visualising how they connect with and impact one another. Its purpose was to help me identify which channel would become my bullseye. The one channel that would rule them all, and in the darkness bind them. Oh, no wait... that's a different story. It would help me identify the one channel which would create the most traction and explosive growth. Now, the visualising of your channels like this is the easy part. But it is worthless without data. And that takes time. I mean 8-12 months time. If you aren't capturing, checking and analysing marketing data... well, you really should be!
So Gabriel and Justin split up the channels into the following categories:
- Targeting Blogs
- Unconventional PR
- Search Engine Marketing
- Social and Display Ads
- Offline Ads
- Search Engine Optimization
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Engineering as Marketing
- Viral Marketing
- Business Development
- Affiliate Programs
- Existing Platforms
- Trade Shows
- Offline Events
- Speaking Engagements
- Community Building
Phew... Quite a list right? I mean I had to type that! Now, I didn't adopt this list strictly. I am constantly trying to make my world smaller and tell me if I am wrong, but although I merged some channels into one and I completely forgot about others, I still think I have covered 90% with my own list. I had already formed categories for our marketing efforts, and it felt more natural to apply the teachings of this book to my world, than to change what I had already started. I mean they are just words. The words aren't important. It is what they represent that is important.
This was my channel list:
- Crawling Communities
- Social Media
- SEO / Organic
The only channel that may stand out as different here is "Crawling Communities". This was my version of "Community Building", but instead of starting with building a community, I wanted to join and be active in existing communities. Crawling sounds a bit techy and non-human, but what I really mean is the action of systematically checking these channels and searching for how we can constructively contribute.
So I have my list, what's next?
After you put your list onto paper, you then take the channels that are helping you get early traction and label them 'super channels'. You are basically highlighting which channels hold the most promise. You filter from many channels down to a few. Then you use more data to take these few channels and filter down to one.
If I followed the Traction book exactly, I would have one bullseye after this exercise. If you look at my photo below, you will see in the middle it says 'Referrals'. Repositive is essentially an SaaS (Software as a Service), and almost anyone who has experience with SaaS' will tell you, Referrals are key! So this is no surprise.
So, are four bullseye's better than one?
What about those other traction channels? Yes, Referrals are key and the data already suggests they can move the needle the most. But my data suggests SEO/Organic Traffic, Blog/Content Writing, Press Releases, Workshops and Events can also move the needle too. What about those channels? And Referrals relies on more than just marketing. In my opinion, it's more to do with product than marketing. Referrals depends on two things; the ability to and the desire to. So in that case, how much should I spend on this now? As a startup our product is constantly growing and changing! Have we found real product market fit yet? Surely the height of Referrals will be when the platform reaches good product market fit with most of our users, but how long will that take to achieve?
Now, this is where I choose to deviate from the book. I have never been one to put all my eggs in one basket, or another metaphor, throw all my darts at one bullseye. I do want focus, but I also want to help other channels grow, even if slower than my main traction channel (in this case Referrals). Like this book suggests, you WILL exhaust a channel at one point. Then you will need to go back to the list, find the next channel with promise and push that to the point of exhaustion. I would rather not come back to my channel to find it is out-of-date or lacking much momentum. I would rather come back to the basket and find some eggs, rather than find it completely empty.
So yes, Referrals is now, and I expect will always be, the main traction channel we should focus on as a company. It's cost effective, scalable and it shows signs of product market fit. However, Referrals is a long term strategy. If I need to grow fast in the next 3 months, I don't think Referrals will do it alone! In that case I am also going to focus on SEO/Organic Traffic, Events & Workshops, Blog/Content Writing and Press Releases. For a number of reasons, but mostly because they show the most potential for traction with additional work put into them.
Does this mean I am forgetting social media and email marketing? Hell no! In fact, they are doing amazingly. But this is exactly why they are not a focus right now. Getting more out of these channels will take a lot of effort for not much gain. However, pumping energy and time into the four focus channels highlighted as 'super channels'... well that can change everything!
TIP: Don't believe everything you read. Be inquisitive, ask questions and learn. But do not be afraid to test teachings and advice of others. If your gut and data tells you otherwise, then don't be afraid to go against that advice. As long as you track data and analyse it, you will know what strategies to take.
It takes time to collect and analyse data, and it's best to gather enough data to make an informed decision. So I will be revisiting these four traction channels in Q2 2017. Are Referrals still the top Traction Channel? Did my focus on the top 4 "super channels" work?
Watch this space
What is Traction for you?
This is not the first time I have deviated from advice. Whether it is in a book, online or in person. In my opinion, you know your product, business and channels better than anyone else.
Have you deviated from someone's advice on Marketing?
Do you put all your eggs in one basket, or do you divide them out?
How many Traction channels are you focusing on?
I would love to hear your thoughts on Marketing and Traction. If you have any comments on my blog or simply wish to share your experiences, please comment below.