Hit A Bullseye And Unlock Hidden Growth In Your Business With This Traction Framework

DuckDuckGo. Does that phrase mean anything to you? Perhaps not. Duckduckgo is a small but rising internet search engine.

In 2008, Gabriel Weinberg saw an opportunity to build a new search engine that offers users more privacy than the incumbents, such as Google.

For almost 20 years, Google has been the King & Queen of search engines. I often catch myself talking about ‘googling’ something rather than ‘searching’ for it. Aside from Google, there’s also Bing, Baidu and Yahoo. Combined, these four search engines control 99% of the market.

Competing with and taking market share from these companies is a tall order, and offered Gabriel more than a few raised eyebrows when he shared his intentions. They all have multi-billion and, in googles case, trillion-dollar valuations with what seems like exponential resources at their disposal.

But that’s what Gabriel did. Duckduckgo started as an interest-driven side-hustle.

Fast forward to 2020, and DuckDuckGo still operates in relative obscurity. However, it’s quickly gaining traction and recently received mentions on the likes of Joe Rogan’s podcast.

In 2020 they hit another peak; total searches on their engine increased by 62% for the year, to a mind-boggling 23.7 billion searches. Or, on average, 75 million daily searches.

DuckDuckGo Daily Search Growth

How did this happen?

Well, DuckDuckGo promises not to track your browsing activity; they protect your search privacy and show you uncurated search results.

While those features offer an improved search engine experience, they alone weren’t enough for Duckduckgo to make a significant dent into the well resourced and established search market.

As Peter Thiel (co-founder of Paypal) puts it, ‘Most businesses actually get zero distribution channels to work. Poor distribution – not product – is the number one cause of failure’.

Duckduckgo has been successful because Gabriel found a distribution (sales and marketing) strategy that worked. As it turns out, he found multiple methods of distribution along the way that each successively contributed to an order of magnitude leap in DuckDuckGo adoption.

To do this, Gabriel used a strategy he calls ‘Traction’, which is now the title of his best selling book Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth.

TRACTION

While Gabriel operates in the Tech and SaaS space, his ‘Traction’ strategy can help any business unlock new growth.

In Gabriel’s terms

‘Traction is basically quantitative evidence of customer demand. So if you’re in enterprise software, initial traction maybe 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’

If you’re new to business, traction might be the number of customers you need to break even; if you’re an established business, traction might mean the number of customers you need to hit a revenue or profit goal.

Embedded in this traction strategy is a framework Gabriel calls ‘The Bullseye Technique’.

The sole purpose of the bullseye technique is to help you find the best sales and marketing channel (not channel’s) for your business.

A channel might be ‘social media advertising’ or ‘a trade event’. It’s a defined area where your potential customers spend their attention that you can cipher off to your business.

A couple of takeaways from the research Gabriel conducted to write his book hint towards the unlocks this bullseye technique will help you find.

1. We tend only to use the channels we are already familiar with. If you’re a millennial, that might mean you naturally gravitate towards using social media to find new customers. If you’re from the baby boomer generation, you could gravitate towards newspaper and radio advertising.
2. It’s tough to predict what channels will work best for a given product or service. Most founders he interviewed acknowledged that what they thought would be the best channels to use was wrong.

The process is simple.

1. Brainstorm as many different channels you can think of to find new customers—E.g. Radio, Tv, Newspaper, Business partnerships, Social media and so on.
2. Think of one idea or tactic you could use for each channel you’ve listed. E.g. for social media, you could run a Facebook ad; for radio, you could run a competition.
3. Choose your top 5 channels and ideas from your list. Best is subjective and depends on your knowledge, skillset and product or service you sell.
4. Run a test for each of your ideas. The point here is to move from theory to practical insights. Running tests will prove what idea is best from honest market feedback.
5. Go all-in on the best performing channel. Whatever the tests prove is your best way to find new customers, is where you now spend all your attention.
6. Exhaust that channel before repeating and finding your next best channel

What you’re doing here is starting with a bunch of opinions you have about finding customers and, through experimentation, proving what works best.

I decided to apply the bullseye technique to my gym.

Forcing myself to consider and test new distribution channels proved very valuable. We’d been guilty of sticking to the same old and not exploring new ways to grow our business.

For the past few years, we relied heavily on organic social media posts and google ads.

We’d worked our way up to consistently generating ten new leads a week with those methods, but after Covid, we dropped down to ~ five or fewer leads a week. We knew we had to try something different but had no idea what that might be.

After working through the Bullseye framework, we discovered social media ads and website SEO might be our best bet.

** Five months on, after working through this framework and giving SEO a serious crack and combined with a small amount of paid ads, we’re back to consistently generating 10+ leads per week – better than pre-COVID **


World Fitness Leads Generated April 2021
World Fitness Leads Generated May 2021

HITTING A BULLSEYE

Here’s how we did it.

Set A Goal

First, I set a traction goal. Like I mentioned earlier, we want to find enough traction to hit a significant business goal. ‘Significant’ is subjective.

Our gym is an established business, so we set a traction goal based on the level of profit we want to reach.

I worked backwards from our profit goal to figure out how many new gym members we’d need and how many leads we needed to generate each week. I set a goal of achieving this within ~12 months.

On January 1, 2021, we had 310 paying members and we need to finish the year with 500. 

So we need to acquire 190 (membership increase required) + 177 (to cover membership churn) = 367 new members within 12 months.

Our lead to sales conversion rate conservatively sits around 70%, so that means we require ten leads per week to hit our goal.

I took this one step further and calculated how many weekly website visits we’d need to generate these leads. Previously, before google analytics changed and I couldn’t figure how to track this anymore, our conversion rate was 3%.

So to generate ten leads per week, we’d need 300 website visits.

In summary, our traction goals were:

1. 300 website visits per week
2. Ten leads per week
3. Seven members per week

With our traction goals set, I moved onto brainstorming channels and ideas.

Brainstorming Ideas

Next, I created a 4×20 table on a google doc with the following headings ‘traction channel,’ ‘ channel strategy,’ ‘ priority notes,’ ‘traction test’.

Table Headers For Bullseye Exercise

I sat down for a few hours and listed all the channels I could think of that we could use to find more members. I then added a ‘channel strategy/idea’ I thought could work for each’ traction channel’.

For example,

Traction Channel = Blogging

Channel Strategy = Produce a weekly blog based on the benefits of training.

I used several different sources to find ideas for each channel, like google, youtube & Gabriels traction book.

Traction Ideas

After I finished my brainstorm, I moved across to the next column on the table, ‘priority notes’’. I wrote a few notes on how I felt about the merit of each idea. Based on past experiences & our skill sets. (see below)

Traction Notes

For example We’d done a lot of search engine marketing in the past but stopped due to decreasing results, a broken website, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to track conversions properly.

Picking Best Ideas

Finally, I moved across to the ‘Traction Test’ column and chose the channels I wanted to test.

Instead of trying to pick the best channels and idea’s, I started by eliminating the worst (see below).

Discounted Traction Ideas

I wasn’t confident of doing a good job for any of these channels. We’d tried them in the past, without success. It’s not that they can’t work; they just didn’t suit our skill-set or abilities.

Given those factors, i.e. lacking skills to execute and past failures, these were the first three channels and ideas that I eliminated.

After narrowing down my list and removing definite ‘No’s’, I had nine channels and ideas left.

I stacked those nine against each other and again considered my past results and our ability to execute. I found three that stood out.

 •  Social Media Advertising
 •  SEO
 •  Engineering marketing

I’d never considered ‘engineering marketing’ before. I found this in the traction book. It’s when you provide a tool or service for free to generate leads.

For example, the people at Coschedule, a marketing SaaS company, built a free tool that helps people write better headlines to generate leads for their paid-for marketing software.

I had no clue which idea would work best or even if any of them would pass the traction test. If all failed, then I’d have to revisit my top 9 and choose other ideas to test.

Running Tests

Going back to the traction goal outlined in the first step. For a channel to pass the test, we needed it to achieve at least one of the below numbers.

Either 300 website visits

Or ten leads

Or seven members

 •  Remember these are ‘per week’ numbers.

How you set up and run your tests will depend on your circumstance. Our gym is a small business with only a couple of staff and a marketing budget of less than $2,000 per month. Given those circumstances, I ran the tests myself and tried not to spend more than $1,000 on each one.

Gabriel recommends similar ‘these first channel strategy tests should be short and cheap. In general, you shouldn’t be spending more than a thousand dollars and a month on a middle ring test, and often significantly less.’

As I can run social media ads and work on SEO simultaneously, I decided to run these tests in parallel rather than one at a time.

I expected the social media ads test to take about three months and the SEO test to take six months.

That goes against the advice above but made sense for what we were doing.

For example, if you tested trade shows, you’d likely only need to do one to get a good feel for how that will work. Comparatively, brand advertising on social media takes many touchpoints and interactions with each person to translate into results.

Each test is circumstantial. The most important part is that you know your goal; you carry out the test to the best of your ability and run tests on all of your top 3 – 5 channels.

You can see below the results from our first month of testing Facebook Ads. I’d recommend using google sheets or something similar to track your results, so you can refine, improve and compare your efforts as you go.

This is also useful for comparing your different channel ideas as well.

February 2021 Facebook Marketing Results

Now five months on from when I first started writing this article, We’ve reached our traction goals with some interesting findings.

1. Our conversion rate wasn’t as high as initially thought, currently sitting at 2.2%.
2. We didn’t come close to achieving our website visits goal with just one channel; this required a combination of SEO, SEM & Social Media Advertising.
3. We didn’t generate as many website leads as we aimed for (averaging 7 per week). Our number of walk-in leads (i.e. people coming into the gym for a trial without signing up via our website) has grown considerably, likely,, due to our traction efforts.

Previous 28 Days World Fitness Website Traffic

Gabriel suggests ‘Another place to look for underutilised channel strategies is in using other traction channels to feed into your core channel. You do not want to focus separately on multiple traction channels. However, you can utilise other channels as part of your core channel strategy.’

What we found is that social media advertising and SEM (Google ads) compliment SEO. SEO is now our primary channel (where we’re going all-in) and responsible for 60% of website traffic. However, as we’ve tested, refined and improved our Facebook ads and Google Ads, our organic and direct website visits have grown as well (50%)


Doubling Down

Once we completed our tests we compared results and picked a winner.

For us this is SEO.

Via SEO complemented by Social and Google paid ads, we consistently hit our website visits, leads generated, and new members traction goals.

We ended up investing $3k into a new website and a further $2k into SEO improvements, a lot more than the initial $1k I budgeted for.

I didn’t test ‘engineering marketing’ as we reached our traction goal before I got a chance.

We will continue to invest in SEO until we believe we have exhausted this channel, i.e. getting the best possible results. It looks like the next channel we go all-in on will be either Google or Facebook ads, given how well they’ve complimented our SEO efforts to date.

Multiple times in his book, Gabriel reiterates that there is a lot to be gained from sticking to and nailing a single channel. 

While it looks like we’re attacking three channels at once, the far majority of our investment has been in SEO. We’ve only tinkered with the other channels when we’ve had spare time and or spare cash to invest in them. To date, we’ve been 80% SEO, 20% everything else.

SUMMARY

Using DuckDuckGo as an example, most businesses will go through a progression of different traction channels as one is exhausted and or no longer ‘moves the needle’. DuckDuckGo’s first channel for gaining traction was PR by submitting an ‘about us’ piece to websites like ‘Hacker News’. That worked for them for a short period to get a few thousand visits. But that was never going to take them to the 75 million daily searches.

Their next traction channel was an engineering tool called ‘karma widget’ that would allow you to display how many social media followers you have on your website. When people embedded this on their websites, there was a link at the bottom of the widget that said ‘new search engine’, which took people to DuckDuckGo.

That led to another small influx in daily users but again wasn’t enough to meaningfully grow their site. They then moved on to content marketing, social and display advertising, publicity and even business development. Over time, as they found success on each of these traction channels, their search traffic grew from 100 to 1,000 to eventually 75 million daily searches.

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