Bullseye – How to find the right traction channel

Most businesses get zero distribution channels to work, according to Peter Thiel. And this lack of distribution, not problems with the product, is the number one cause of failure. Unfortunately for ‘builders’, the saying “if you build it, they will come” is wrong.

So how do you find the one that works for you? In “Traction” Weinberg and Mares identifies 19 different traction channels. 19! Most entrepreneurs will try a little at a lot of the channels, while what they should be focusing on is on finding their core channel.

The framework proposed by Weinberg and Mares is the Bullseye:

Step 1: Outer Ring – What is Possible

The first step when applying the framework is to go through all 19 traction channels. For each one, try to brainstorm what success would look like in this channel, and identify one decent strategy on how to achieve this. Focus on your industry, and what products/companies similar to yours have done in order to get success.

Step 2: Middle Ring – What is Probable

Go over the outer ring, and try to identify the channels that seems most promising. Most likely, only a few of them will show much potential. As the authors put it “Stop promoting ideas where there is an obvious drop-off in excitement. That drop-off often occurs around the third channel.”

When you have identified the channels for your middle ring, it’s time to start traction testing. You should run multiple experiments at the same time, and the goal is to answer the following questions:
– how much will it cost to acquire customers in this channel?
– how many customers can you reach in the channel?
– are these customers the customers you are looking for?

The goal is to find the channel that has the potential to move the needle for your startup. You shouldn’t spend too much time or resources on this, the authors suggests roughly one month and no more than thousand dollars.

Step 3: The Inner Ring – What’s Working

After running your tests, you should focus exclusively on one channel, your core channel. This is the channel you have identified as most likely to be able to ‘move the needle’ for your startup.

All your efforts should be spent here, even if other channels show promise. The core will deliver more value than the second best. Do keep in mind, that often other channels will be supporting the core channel. If you want to focus on SEO, you might want to support that with PR, content and blog outreach in order to get inbound links. The thing to remember is that the other channels are support channels, not the core.