Recap: “Shut Up and Take My Money”
At this stage, through customer development interviews you should have validated with real users that your product would generate meaningful value for them. Ideally, you want to get to the “Shut up and take my money” stage. If you did not hit this part, stop, turn around and go back. This is a great time to revisit your Business Model Canvas to update your learnings and new assumptions.
If You Build It They Won’t Come
You also have begun building your MVP to test the value hypothesis. Next you need to get that MVP or early product into users and customers hands. Now comes the next phase of experiments: channels. It’s key to not get stuck in the lazy thought that your idea/product is so good you don’t need distribution channels, that it’ll just go viral. The startup/technology market is filled with noise and competition, it’s so saturated that “if you build it they will come” hardly ever works.
“Many entrepreneurs who build great products simply don’t have a good distribution strategy. Even worse is when they insist that they don’t need one, or call no distribution strategy a ‘viral marketing strategy’ … a16z is a sucker for people who have sales and marketing figured out.” – Marc Andreessen Co-Founder Andreessen Horowitz
Get Traction Through Channels
Recommended reading is Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers, by Justin Mares and Gabriel Weinberg. But if you’re short on time as all founders are, here is Gabriel’s summary of the book in blog form. I’ve also listed the 19 channels below.
The first five chapters of the book cover the Bullseye framework for selecting, prioritizing and experimenting with different channels to see what will work for you. Again, Gabriel has summarized this in a blog post The Bullseye Framework for Getting Traction.
It’s important to remember, your objective is not to buy traffic, but to test each channel to see if they could work to add meaningful value later.
“You want to design smaller-scale tests that don’t require much up-front cost or effort. For example, run four Facebook ads versus forty. You should be able to get a rough idea of a channel’s effectiveness with at most a thousand dollars and a month of time. Often, it will be cheaper and shorter.” – The Bullseye Framework for Getting Traction.
The 19 Channels of Traction
- Viral Marketing: Promotion from existing users to acquire new useres.
- Public Relations: Coverage from traditional media sources like newspapers.
- Unconventional PR: PR stunts.
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM): Paid search traffic.
- Social and Display Ads: Facebook or YouTube ads.
- Offline Ads: TV and Billboards.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Organic search traffic.
- Content Marketing: Creating blog content.
- Email Marketing: Pushing email blasts to potential customers.
- Engineering as Marketing: Building widgets.
- Targeting Blogs: Promoting on independent niche blogs.
- Business Development: Building strategic relationships with partners.
- Sales: Building a sales team, inbound or outbound.
- Affiliate Programs: Cross promotion through a marketing network.
- Existing Platforms: Finding an audience on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Trade Shows: Attending industry events.
- Offline Events: Hosting your own events.
- Speaking Engagements: Speaking as a thought leader.
- Community Building: Building a community around your product or issue, maybe on MeetUp.
- The 19 Channels You Can Use to Get Traction
- The Bullseye Framework for Getting Traction
- Book: Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers, by Justin Mares and Gabriel Weinberg