Traction in action

Paolo Bongiovanni17 Oct 16

At the end of July, after five months of development, we were ready to launch the public beta of Neonce, our group creativity app. Time to start acquiring users! But how?

The Bullseye framework

We decided to use the Bullseye framework suggested in the book Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth by authors Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares, and Neonce.

The bullseye framework is something you use several times during the life of a startup. Its objective is to identify the best traction channel to acquire new users for your product based on where you are in the company building process (trying to find some early adopters, obtain the first paying customers, scale the user base 100x, ...). The authors call it moving the needle.

The book identifies 19 possible traction channels, including unusual PR, content marketing, targeting blogs, and social media.

The first step in the framework is to write down, as specifically as possible, what the most important acquisition goal right now is. Next the framework is summarised in three steps:

  1. Brainstorm strategies that can achieve your objective in each of the 19 traction channels identified in the book.
  2. Select the most promising traction channels (usually 3 or 4) from phase one, and for each of them run some tests to check if they are likely to move the needle. The tests should answer the questions:
  • How much will it cost?
  • How many customers could I get?
  • Are these the type of customers I need right now?
  1. Focus all the energy on the traction channel which achieves the best results in the tests in phase 2.

The Bullseye framework at Mindiply

Set the objective

Neonce is both a technique and a product for group creativity and problem solving. This makes it adaptable to a number of situations: friends deciding on a holiday destination together, a team trying to find an original solution to a tough problem, and a product team trying to come up with the next set of incremental improvements.

Given this flexibility, our first aim is to identify a small group of earlyvangelists (enthusiastic early users), about 100 of them, who can help us understand in which types of tasks and industries Neonce is most needed, and how we can improve it for those circumstances.

Phase 1: Brainstorm strategies for each of the 19 traction channels

The first thing we did was to run 19 Neonce workshops of 25 minutes each, 1 for each traction channel. We did this over a period of 2 weeks. Each workshop's objective was to identify potential strategies to achieve our goal of 100 earlyvangelists before the end of 2016.

The greatest merit of the Bullseye framework is that it makes you seriously consider all traction channels. It's been revealing realising how much we could achieve in traction channels we instinctively disliked or did not think were suitable for us.

One of the channels we are now testing, community building, was certainly not one we would have thought of at the outset. While brainstorming about it though we found a number of promising and interesting ways of promoting Neonce:

  • A online public area with workshops that examine social and topical issues.
  • Run competitions to discover new solutions to hard and ever-present problems.
  • Create meetup groups about creativity that can then transfer online.

At the end of the process we decided to run tests for three channels:

  1. Content marketing
  2. Community building
  3. Targeting blogs

Phase 2: Test the 3 most promising traction channels

It was the beginning of October and we wanted to get 100 earlyvangelists by the end of the year, we couldn't therefore spend too long in running the tests. We decided to give ourselves a limit of two weeks.

For each channel we then defined what the criteria would be for success and for extraordinary success. We had different expectations for different channels as you can see in the table below:

Table of targets per traction channel tested

The next step was to brainstorm with Neonce the best strategy in each traction channel to get to the 100 earlyvangelists by the end of the year. We already did the exercise in the first phase, but this time we had longer and more focused workshops that provided a number of good ideas. An example of workshop outcome is shown below:

Community building workshop results

The three strategies we identified are:

  1. Content Marketing: Help earlyvangelists to articulate - with infographics - the problems with traditional brainstorming and inefficient meetings, taking a strong stance.
  2. Targeting blogs: Target different niches: creativity tech enthusiasts in higher education, creativity tech enthusiasts in social enterprises, creativity tech enthusiasts in design. Etc.
  3. Community building: Create our own London Meetup group. The pitch is: everybody brings a problem. We all work on it in a Neonce session for twenty minutes. Quick discussion. Then a final discussion / pitch about creativity for twenty minutes. Then beer.

Having both the best strategy and the objectives to achieve set, we designed the experiments for each of the channels.

  1. Content Marketing: Use adwords that should identify earlyvangelists and direct them to relevant Mindiply blog posts. Each blog post would have an obvious call to actions to try Neonce. Measure the signups from this acquisition channel.
  2. Targeting blogs: Try different approaches with bloggers in the creativity and business productivity world: simple introductory email, email with proposal of relevant blog article, contact via social media. Measure signups coming from blog posts talking about us.
  3. Community building: We are going to run a Meetup event about brainstorming in London, which will use Neonce, and measure how many participants continue using it after the meetup.

At the moment of writing we are still running the experiments. We will update the blog post once they are complete and let you know if we will have identified our core traction channel, or if will need to go back and select and test other potential ones!

How is the Bullseye framework working for us?

The Bullseye framework is helping us to be disciplined in how we invest our time and finances to identify earlyvangelists. Otherwise, it's easy to do bits and pieces of social media, content marketing, offline events, ..., but given our limited financial, people and time resources we should focus on what will achieve our core goal the quickest.

Another big advantage of the framework is that in running the experiments of phase two we are acquiring knowledge which will be useful in the future. One traction channel that may not be picked right now, may be the right one in the next phase when we want to acquire our first 100 paying customers. We will already know which errors to avoid and hopefully have a good idea of where to start from.

Are there drawbacks? No obvious ones that we can think of right now, but we will let you know more once we complete the first iteration of the process.

Are there other ways to go about acquiring customers? Definitely. But one thing we don't want is analysis paralysis, and the Bullseye framework sounds sensible and fits well with the customer development process we follow in building Mindiply.

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