Growth Hacking for Hustlers.
If you love wasting money on marketing, then don’t read further.
Successful startups are all about growth. Obvious?
Almost all companies that fashion themselves startups bottleneck on the distribution of their products and services. They don’t realize that.
This is a short no-bullshit overview on how to properly think about your team’s traction, positioning and growth opportunities so your company doesn’t get stuck and die.
Trust us, we’re not lecturing here… we’ve learned the hard way from our many fuckups and a few huge successes.
Our ultimate goal is to make sure you and your team don’t waste (any more) time or money on unfocused marketing efforts, and then die. And you’ll do this by figuring out how to unlock the most amount of growth possible for your company.
At first, we wasted hundreds of thousand of dollars with zero ROI on traction channels that weren’t the right ones for our business, but we felt we were ‘supposed’ to be using them.
An example of our vanity marketing which netted zero ROI… we ran huge offline ads on billboards for BRE Investment (www.BREInvestment.com) in Echo Park, Los Angeles for two years and spent over $60,000 between 2016-2017. The result was no seller listings or even seller leads. We slowly realized that it was all basically a complete waste of money and that felt terrible.
When we started our newest company, My Home Agent (www.FindMyHomeAgent.com) in 2018, we knew we needed to wake up from our past marketing mistakes and make sure we didn’t slip back into mindless waste.
So we decided to spend roughly $500 on every traction channel to see which were the best for our company and target user base. After spending about $5,000 only on test marketing, we picked two traction channels to pursue and then we made over $300,000 in 10 months (Stripe account screen shots are included).
As we started to grow that company, we brainstormed our ideas on how to help other businesses, and we read a lot about all of this stuff too— traction, positioning and growth. This is when it all clicked.
What we soon discovered is that (like us) most companies have no idea how to distribute their products or services. The only way to figure it all out is to truly attack all of this scientifically and systemically, with controls and measurements, and a ton of creativity mixed in.
As entrepreneurs, we all have intuition and unique domain knowledge in our industries. That’s a double-ended sword though, because as we’re more successful it is hard to avoid your own biases and catch your own blind spots.
So hopefully we can help you and your startup unlock the traction your product or service may (or even may not) deserve before too many of your resources are exhausted and you have to kill off your zombie business.
The extent to which a product, service, or business, gains popularity or acceptance.
Inspired by the book Traction, below is a list of traction channels and channel strategies that you should look at and discuss with your team. We use this list for every single one of our projects, printing out the list and running channel strategies on a weekly basis, manually crossing them off and logging the results in a Google Sheet for our team.
The recommendation here is you should critically think about how to use all of these strategies, from start to finish (using no more than $1,000 invested in each) to determine what works and needs to be refined for your company.
Something to think about…
Groupon started as a WordPress Blog offering discounts to Chicago residents, and now it’s valued at $2.6 billion (as of June 2019).
According to its self-reported original story, its team used both Content Marketing and Viral Marketing as their primary Traction Channels to grow to the company to what we know think of as Groupon.
|Traction Channel||Channel Strategy|
|1 — Targeting Blogs||Local or industry blogs|
|2 — Publicity||Media, News outlets|
|3 — Unconventional PR||Stunts|
|4 — Search Engine Market (SEM)||Google Adwords|
|5 — Social & Display Ads||Facebook / Instagram Ads, Taboola|
|6 — Offline Ads||TV, Radio, Flyers, Billboards|
|7 — Search Engine Optimization (SEO)||Backlinks, Keywords|
|8 — Content Marketing||Blog posts, News-jacking|
|9 — Engineer as Marketing||Widgets, Chrome Extensions|
|10 — Viral Marketing||Client / User Referrals|
|11 — Business Development||Business Relationships, Connections|
|12 — Sales||Find Early Users — Texts, Calls|
|13 — Affiliate Programs||Business Partnerships / Affiliations|
|14 — Existing Platforms||Mega Platforms (“app store”)|
|15 — Trade Shows||Conferences, Shows and Industry Events|
|16 — Offline Events||Meetups|
|17 — Speaking Engagements||Conferences, Shows and Industry Events|
|18 — Community Building||Online Community (ie Stack Overflow)|
These are our favorites Channel Strategies because they have routinely provided real ROI. Great, now we’re always biased to these!
1 — Targeting Blogs. Understanding the flow of media is vital for a startup. If you want to end-up on TV, then you need to start with local bloggers in your industry. Craft a short and direct email to bloggers, with offers of exclusivity of your news, special discounts to readers and possible sponsorship of promoted posts. You may even draft a 500- word blog on their behalf as a baseline.
6 — Offline Ads. This is a huge channel that can absorb a lot of good money. From billboards, to bus benches, to shopping carts, to mailers… it’s easy to spend a lot of money in this channel, see tangibles right in front of your eyes, and trick yourself into thinking you’re getting results when really its all vanity. Leaning towards doing things in this category that are unscalable, such as billions of hand written notes, that are personalized and in ink, and hand delivered to potential customers has shown tremendous ROI for those that really do it.
9 — Engineer as Marketing. This is one of the fastest ways to show your customers you understand their needs. Creating widgets, especially Chrome extensions that solve customers problems, quickly makes your service or product more desirable to your would-be users. Examples of this would be DuckDuckGo’s Chrome Extension that hijacks the default search engine of Google, while also providing search privacy. Brainstorm hard in this channel, because it’s mainly overlooked.
12 — Sales. For most tech enthusiasts, including us, having to sell a service or product sounds primitive and inefficient… but thinking of sales in an extremely strategic and automated way, especially using chatbots on your site, combined with texting, voicemail and autodialers, all powered by a sales team that is smooth and confident in discussing your product is the ultimate goal. Where startups go wrong here, is they have their sales teams hunt for clients with cold calling and scripts, when instead all the other marketing efforts we’ve listed previously should create a bucket of warm leads, which the sales team closes in an organized way.
A stage or condition of increasing, developing, or maturing.
Startups are all about growth, or they’re not a startup at all. Below is one of our case studies, and its for My Home Agent (www.findmyhomeagent.com). We turned a very simple idea (with very little technical prowess) into the industry leader in the niche market of voice marketing on Amazon Alexa. This is one of the landing page, and the Stripe dashboard too.
A comprehensive development plan that will promote a product, service, or business within a particular sector of a market.
What is your company’s position against its competitors? Who are (who should be) your competitors and why? And remember that your company’s name is meaningless and only has meaning when it is associated with something, it someone else’s mind.
The associations you make are meaningless, unless the collective consciousness of your target audience agrees with you in the long run. So, what is ‘that something’ you want to be associated with and why?
After you have a name and its pinned to something in your mind, who’s the number one seller in that category (your number one competitor)? Why did you think of that competitor and not some other company? Explore that and try to understand how they brainwashed you.
Our antiquated human brains are on information overload in 2019. According to reports, the human mind is on information overload and aggressively needs to actively delete data for memory conservation. Really, what is the reason to remember two or more companies in any one category? Why would my primitive human brain need to know Q-Tips’ competitor? And why the hell would I remember Coca Cola, Pepsi and some other company… when two is enough, and I now don’t even drink soda.
“We’re number 2, so we try harder.”
Avis used ‘Underdog Positioning’ against Hertz to secure a 2nd place position in the car rental market which wildly increase its market share.
|Charmin||Toilet Paper||Quilted Northern|
|Dropbox||Online Storage||Google Drive|
|Your Company?||Your Industry?||Your Competitor?|
Everything we did was wrong, and now we know it. And we continue to fight it.
We were swapping war stories about the joys and pains of creating companies, while drinking cold brew at Groundwork in Venice, and we put this all together. Underlying all our experience was… mindless waste.
So after some talking, we thought, maybe we could clarify everything we’ve experienced and compare it against everything we’ve read. Maybe there was a pattern.
We began to think about marketing in a completely different way. We were combining book smarts with street smarts. We started to analyze and finalize our marketing theories, and what appeared was an emphasis on using the proven methods of traction, positioning and growth, instead of sporadic bursts of money and time based on conjecture.
We realized in the past, much of our marketing was mindless waste, with a few random acts of success. Really, we had wasted a lot of time and money on vanity metrics.
So we re-affirmed that day in the coffee shop that our methodology must be (and forever will be) based measurable facts. Underpinning all of this real life experience are the following books:
- Zero to One
- The Lean Startup
- Play Bigger
- Crossing the Chasm
- Predictably Irrational
Our major take away from our experiences and those books was this… for the most part, no one really knows what they’re doing in terms of growth and everything everyone does and says is bullshit.
So in a world of unfounded theories, lack of expertise, and information overload, what can a company do to unlock explosive growth? The thing to do is to hit the road hard and fast, scientifically, with real goals, metrics and vision.
Download the PDF