“Traction is a sign that your company is taking off.”
Finding traction is what will ultimately make your company a success. Finding that repeatable growth can take some companies longer than others. Some never find it. What works for some companies does not work for others. The search can be long and frustrating but the reward of a successful and sustainable business is within your reach.
Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares do an incredible job outlining nineteen different ways to gain traction for your startup in their book Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth.
Here are nineteen methods that you can explore in your pursuit of traction:
“Going viral” is when a piece of your content is shared and then reshared on social media which results in a huge growth curve of viewers for your content. It is a process that can happen naturally for great content or content that is different or surprises. You can also ask your audience to share your content with their followers on social media which can jumpstart the viral sharing process.
You can hire public relations (PR) firms to contact media outlets on your behalf. Traditionally that is TV shows, newspapers, and magazines. PR firms have spent time building up relationships with reporters and know who might be interested in your story.
This is also a process you can do yourself by compiling a list of reporters that write about your industry but it takes a lot of time cultivate these relationships and then to pitch stories. You can also try a website called Help A Reporter Out where reporters post about stories they are working on and you can answer their questions.
Publicity stunts can be an effective means to get a reporter to write about you, and if you record them they can go viral, but they need to be truly unique in order for people to take notice. Should you go this route you should utilize your other marketing channels to promote it ahead of time.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Search engines are the first stop for most online shoppers when they start their buying process. Often those buyers never go more than a page deep in the search results. The only way to ensure you are included on that first page of results is to bid for ad placement. Once you know the average lifetime value of your customers you can study if the cost of acquisition with buying search ads is viable. If it is it can be a good, repeatable customer acquisition channel.
Social and Display Ads
Social media sites are increasingly where many people spend much of their time online. Ads on them typically have a lower cost than ads on search engines but the audience is not typically looking to make a purchase right then.
Ads on bus stops, in magazines, on radio, and on TV are still very popular ways to get your brand seen particularly if your product is not technical in nature. The downside to offline ads is that you cannot track results so you won’t know which ad is the best performing.
Search Engine Optimization (SE)
You can help ensure that your website shows up in search engine results for certain keywords by using search engine optimization tactics. You can do this for your main website as well as your content marketing.
You can use Google’s Keyword Planner to find what keywords to target based on their search volume.
Creating content related to your product, but not about product, can prove valuable in building an audience of people that are interested in learning from you. They do not start out as buyers but you can build a relationship with them over time and as they build trust in you they might eventually buy your product.
Email marketing is a form of content marketing where people subscribe to your mailing list and you send them valuable content on a consistent basis. It often has the highest return on investment (ROI) of any of your marketing dollars.
You can use email marketing not just for winning new customers. You can use a sequence of emails to onboard new customers and upsell existing customers.
Engineering as Marketing
You can develop tools to use like the lead magnets you use to get users to sign up for your mailing list. These can be small sites, widgets, or apps that are related to your industry or complement your product. It is another form of delivering value for free before asking for the buy in return.
There are a lot of blogs on the web. There are larger ones with millions of readers and smaller ones that are popular with specific niches. During your <customer development> process you identified what content and sites your customers visit. You can reach out to the authors of those blogs and start building a relationship with them. After you have a relationship you can offer to write guest posts which will be good content for their readers and result in links back to your site.
Some blog authors might also be interesting in affiliate marketing for you if you use that channel.
Business development is establishing relationships with other companies that can result in strategic growth for both companies. This can be as simple as you promoting another business on your mailing list and them doing the same for you with their list.
Outbound sales can be tough and a lot of entrepreneurs shy away from it. However if you have a source of good leads (you can either buy them or generate them yourself with your marketing) you can turn sales into a repeatable source of new business.
Affiliate marketing is where other people promote your product or service in exchange for a portion of the revenue. This can be an expensive form of marketing but, with quality affiliates, can result in quick growth.
There are websites that specialize in setting up affiliate programs and will handle tracking sales and paying out commissions.
There are a few platforms with a huge number of users that you can use as a marketing channel such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest. Your customers are likely on at least a few of those if not all of them. You can use them to engage your customers through conversation, contents, or a number of other fun ways.
Every industry has trade shows where vendors get together and showcase their products to potential buyers. Typically the buyers at trade shows lie between the manufacturers/suppliers and the end customers. Thus they tend to buy in bulk so targeting them can result in large orders for your product.
Booths can be expensive but you can still go and network. Additionally trade shows are a great place to scope out your competitors as well as see what new products are on the horizon for your industry.
Just like trade shows bring together a lot of people in an industry so do conferences. You can run attend conferences and meet potential buyers for your product. (They say the hallway is where all of the networking happens at conferences.)
More accessible would be running a regular local meetup (once a month or quarter) for people interested in your industry. Get creative with the style of your meetup. If you sell bike parts you can organize a monthly bike ride. If you sell running shoes or apparel you can organize a race. If your product is related to food you can invite chefs to teach cooking classes.
Those conferences and meetups typically need speakers to attract attendees. If you do not mind public speaking then creating a talk that you can give about a success you have had with your business can lead to speaking engagements. Write and record your talk and then reach out to event organizers that might be interested if having you.
Building a community that is related to your product or industry is a great long term plan for getting people engaged and for keeping them that way. The trick is that a community grows in value based on the number of users (the more users there are the more valuable the community is). Thus getting the first users is a challenge and you often need to seed the site with your friends and family. (Reddit did this by creating fake accounts at first.)