Leave a comment
Get the GH Bookmarklet

AMAs

Here are our bios from http://tractionbook.com/ Authors Gabriel Weinberg is the Founder & CEO of DuckDuckGo, the search engine that doesn't track you with over a billion searches in 2013. Previously he was the Co-founder & CEO of Opobox, which was sold to United Online in 2006 for $10 million. Weinberg is also an angel investor and has been featured on CBS, FOX, the Guardian, the Washington Post and many more. He holds B.S. in Physics and an M.S. in Technology and Policy from MIT. Justin Mares is the former Director of Revenue at Exceptional, a software company that Rackspace acquired for 8 figures in 2013. He has previously founded two startups (one acquired, one bust) and runs a growth meetup in San Francisco. You can find his writing on marketing and personal-development on his blog, justinmares.com.

  • DL

    Dylan La Com

    over 2 years ago #

    Thanks so much for doing this AMA @yegg @justinmares!

    What do you think about growth hacking? Is it bullshit or the real deal?

    • JM

      Justin Mares

      over 2 years ago #

      I think it's hard to say. If by growth hacking you mean data-driven marketing or more technical marketing, I think yes.

      I think it's here to stay for sure, but it's also a hot term right now so it's being overused and misapplied in many cases. You see companies and marketers talking about "growth hacking" their Twitter followers by posting good content: I consider that standard content marketing (not to mention optimizing on a meaningless metric).

      So yes, at it's core I think technical and quantitative marketing is the real deal, but sometimes gets lost in the chatter of everyone talking about standard marketing as growth.

      • JM

        Justin Mares

        over 2 years ago #

        Related: this term will continue to be over-applied for as long as people get paid 50% salary premiums for being a "growth guy" rather than a marketing guy, which is the case from what I've seen.

      • IK

        Ivan Kreimer

        over 2 years ago #

        I couldn't agree more with you Justin. I think Technical Marketing/Data-Driven Marketing is the real deal. Although Growth Marketing could also be considered as a "better non-BS" version of growth hacking.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 2 years ago #

    What inspired you guys to write Traction Book? What is the main reason you wrote the book?

    • GW

      Gabriel Weinberg

      over 2 years ago #

      I had both just started angel investing (late 2009) and also got to the point with DuckDuckGo where I was thinking seriously about traction and I realized there were no good structured resources for approaching it. So I started doing a series of interviews with successful founders trying to unpack their "miracle functions," i.e. exactly what happened in that miracle through which they got traction.

      That turned into some basic theses that underpin the book like you need to do traction development in parallel with product development, there are many ways to get traction that unpredictable and so you need to test multiple channels in parallel, you are biased against certain channels and that could be holding you back, etc.

      After that it became clear finishing the book and adding this resource to the literature would be valuable, but I severely underestimated how much work that would be :). So I hooked up with @justinmares and we again underestimated the work :). 5yr after those first interviews, Traction Book is here!

      • GW

        Gabriel Weinberg

        over 2 years ago #

        Also, here are the original interviews: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/t/old-traction-interviews/79

        • TM

          Tom Masiero

          over 2 years ago #

          @yegg Biggest challenge in getting continued traction for DuckDuckGo

          • GW

            Gabriel Weinberg

            over 2 years ago #

            We have a concept in the book called moving the needle that I also blogged about here: http://www.gabrielweinberg.com/blog/2012/07/moving-the-needle.html

            Another concept I've blogged about is orders of magnitude, how when you grow 10x things changed: http://www.gabrielweinberg.com/blog/2013/01/orders-of-magnitude.html

            A third in the book is @andrewlchen 's "Law of Shitty Clickthroughs" how marketing channels reach diminishing perf over time as you either grow or face competition in the marketing channel or both.

            If you look at DuckDuckGo, we've grown by 5 orders of magnitude and reached the point about 5-6 times where the marketing channel stopped moving the needle for us and we've been forced to re-run the Bullseye framework we lay out in the book.

            As a result we've been through SEO, Social & Display Ads, Content Marketing, PR (both print and TV) and now BD in terms of Traction Channels we've focused on.

            This is a long-winded way of saying that our biggest challenge is finding the right marketing channel to get the word out given our current size. We believe our differentiation is clear and when people know about us a significant percentage switch. But getting to real brand awareness is challenging.

      • SE

        Sean Ellis

        over 2 years ago #

        Wow, 5 years! Was it the writing that took so much time, editing or the publishing process?

        • GW

          Gabriel Weinberg

          over 2 years ago #

          Well to be fair it wasn't full-time :). I've been running DuckDuckGo the whole time and that has taken up most of my professional time. But if I were to break-down where we under-estimated it was very much in the editing. The original book was way longer than it needed to be, we engaged a professional editor and went through many rounds of editing to get it to a point where it was acceptable -- I won't even say like!

          We also hit snags in the publishing process. This was very annoying but in aggregate didn't amount for much of the time.

          • JM

            Justin Mares

            over 2 years ago #

            Definitely editing. Starting out, I thought writing would be 80% of the time, editing 20%. It ended up being more like 40% writing, 60% editing.

            And yes, the original book was 350+ pages, so we ended up cutting roughly 40% of it. That just took a really long time.

  • ET

    Eva Tang

    over 2 years ago #

    What was the most strange and unique method a company used to gain a lot of traction? How did they come to that conclusion?

    • GW

      Gabriel Weinberg

      over 2 years ago #

      There is one Traction Channel we had to name because it didn't really have a name it was so unique. We called it Engineering as Marketing and Hubspot and @dharmesh is our biggest example there. He created Marketing Grader for his own use internally and then exposed it to the world and it turned out to be an excellent way to get traction. This idea of making a free single-purpose tool completely separate but complementary to your product is still highly under-utilized. Moz and @randfish is another great example of using this channel in practice.

      • SK

        Scott Krager

        over 2 years ago #

        This has worked really well for us at SERPs as well. We don't have great marketing/content talent yet, but we do on the engineering side. So building data-driven reports and little free tools has worked great for us and we plan to scale that up as we're growing. Hubspot and Moz were models for this.

  • ET

    Everette Taylor

    over 2 years ago #

    I find very Viral Marketing somewhat of an abstract idea, very hit or miss. You name it as one of your channels to acquire users but what are some best practices on developing a viral marketing strategy that you've found most successful?

    • JM

      Justin Mares

      over 2 years ago #

      So this is one of those channels that's highly, highly relevant if you're building one type of product, and completely useless if you're building another. Virality is something that should be baked into the product, and could be a powerful channel for any company or product that involves people communicating - Snapchat, Yammer, Hotmail, Skype, etc.

      Where virality makes no sense at all is where people will be using your product in a sandbox: an AdWords optimization tool, an A/B testing tool like Optimizely, etc.

      So, best practices are 1st to determine if it makes sense for your product, then to look at other viral loops companies in similar stages have used. Andrew Chen (who we interviewed for the book) is probably the best resource here. I highly recommend this post to start thinking about virality - http://andrewchen.co/2009/09/23/5-crucial-stages-in-designing-your-viral-loop/

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 2 years ago #

    Can you guys elaborate a bit on the channel prioritization—specifically you talk about the need to give all 19 channels equal thinking, but then narrow down to the top three ideas in each, etc.

    Would love to hear a bit more about that channel discovery process.

    • AA

      Anuj Adhiya

      over 2 years ago #

      You stole my question @morgan!
      For me, understanding what channel to use when is key.

      • GW

        Gabriel Weinberg

        over 2 years ago #

        A core thesis of the book is you are biased for or against certain channels given your previous experience (through no real fault of your own). As a result we strongly advocate a serious brainstorming effort across all 19. We further recommend though didn't push this too hard in the book to quantify these as much as possible given estimations and marketplace data and data from previous tests if it isn't your first time doing the process.

        Given the ideas and spreadsheet that falls out of the process it is often relatively easy to group the ideas. But that is key to me -- using the quality of the ideas that pop out of the process and not a feeling that one channel is right or wrong because of the company.

        • GH

          Gregory Hill

          over 2 years ago #

          This concept was radically useful for our company.

          My co-founder and I recently completed a brainstorming session and, by exposing our biases, developed a bullseye target of three channels. Rather than guessing, we now have justification to run a series of experiments based on hypothesis in this channel.

          The entire process took 3 hours. Despite the length, it was designed to be quick moving and engaging and went by very quickly.

          Goal: Develop 3 traction channels to access 17,000 18-24 year olds (a reasonable target for public beta at 6 universities) for a iOS social app between launch (October 1) and November 31.

          First: I prepared the session by creating large printable labels with each of the traction channels and a brief description of each. (I'd be happy to share these in a future growth hacker post so people can use, improve, resubmit).

          Second: I posted each channel on a whiteboard one at a time. I set a 3 minute timer. Each of us spent those 3 minutes writing down on post-it notes concrete examples of how we could leverage that channel to reach our target user segment. We then posted the notes on the whiteboard and quickly discussed our impressions (no debate about quality yet, just enhancing the example's relevancy). I snapped a shot of the whiteboard (the channel surrounded by concrete examples) and saved in a shared evernote. We repeated this for all 19 segments.

          Third: We accessed the Evernote and began prioritizing our segments. We used 4 questions (mostly from the Traction book) and rated each segment based on these questions.

          Question #1: How likely will this work? (1-5) (work = access 17k 18-24 year-olds with iPhones between launch and November)

          Question #2: How much will it cost? (1-5)

          Question #3: How many customers can we expect? (1-5)

          Question #4: Can we run a useful experiment between now and November? (Yes/No)

          Question #5: Is it on brand? (Yes/No)

          Although the process wasn't completely scientific, we gave fair consideration to each channel. We then had some "data" to compare the relative value of each channel.

          Fourth: On a big bullseye on the whiteboard, we ranked each of the 19 channels in either the inner, middle, or outer circle. From this, we ended up with 6 channels in the inner circle as "most promising" to meet our goals.

          Fifth: We analyzed these six channels more deeply, doing a bit of quick research and drawing from personal experience. We then drew a big 2X2 on the board and ranked on 2 axes: downloads and money. This forced us to justify each traction relative to each other and to our goals.

          We aligned on 3 final channels and are ready to begin testing our hypothesis right away.

          Thanks @yegg & @justinmares for taking the time to distill these methods to a book. Months from now we will look back on that meeting as a fundamental pier of our company's strategy.

        • AA

          Anuj Adhiya

          over 2 years ago #

          Thanks!
          What if you don't have any (relevant) previous experience - like with a brand new/early stage startup?
          Would the process stay as you've described or would you suggest tweaking that in some manner?

          • JM

            Justin Mares

            over 2 years ago #

            It'd still stay the same. There's a lot of value to be gained in thinking holistically about traction, and you could stumble on an idea in a marketing channel that your competition hasn't come across. That's less likely to happen if you just were to focus on content marketing, adwords and retargeting.

          • GW

            Gabriel Weinberg

            over 2 years ago #

            Yes, the process remains as it is and our book and this site is a great starting point for brainstorming :). In addition, as a new early stage startup I think one of your first jobs is to do some traction homework. That is, what does the competitive landscape look like in terms of traction? What have you seen them try and fail at or succeed at? One thing I highly recommend is going to talk to founders who failed in your space: http://www.gabrielweinberg.com/blog/2013/01/go-talk-to-founders-who-failed-at-what-youre-doing.html

    • JM

      Justin Mares

      over 2 years ago #

      To add to Gabriel's comment, going through this process of thinking about all 19 channels is valuable because it opens you up to new ways of thinking and potentially acquiring customers that your competition won't use. And if you can acquire customers in a new or different channel where your competitors aren't, that's a huge competitive (and likely cost) advantage.

      For example, when Dropbox launched there were tens of file storage services out there. Yet, Dropbox was the only one that was able to acquire customers through a pseudo-viral referral program, which has been responsible for 60%+ of it's growth to date. The fact that they had this acquisition channel working meant that they could acquire a new customer at the marginal cost of free hosting space, vs. the pay-per-install affiliate model a lot of competitors were using.

  • LS

    Logan Stoneman

    over 2 years ago #

    When writing the book & developing the 5-step Bullseye Framework, did you have other steps you wanted to include but ended up omitting by the last edit?

    For those who haven't read Traction, the five steps in short:
    1. Brainstorming
    2. Ranking
    3. Prioritizing
    4. Testing
    5. Focusing

    • GW

      Gabriel Weinberg

      over 2 years ago #

      No, in terms of steps. Yes, in terms of color.

      One area where we wanted to add more is being quantitative. We provide a spreadsheet example here: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/t/bullseye-resources-chapter-2/10. But we wanted to provide even more examples of how to approach this stuff quantitatively.

      Another area we talked about a lot and discarded was guidance of matching channels to different types of companies, be it stage or market space. There are of course correlations, but we came down that they are misleading since often the best companies break the mold and use channels very underutilized for their stage/space.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    over 2 years ago #

    Chatter about your book is everywhere right now.
    What's the playbook for co-ordinating all the disparate (online & offline) channels to ensure that everyone is posting/reviewing/tweeting/whatever else-ing about your book in the same time frame?

    • GW

      Gabriel Weinberg

      over 2 years ago #

      Thanks! Glad to hear that is the perception.

      We of course are using our own Bullseye framework to try to get traction for Traction Book. Our original brainstorm resulted in us testing Targeting Blogs (lining up guest posts, podcasts and this AMA), Email Marketing (both our own list and getting access to others), and Speaking Engagements (I spoke last night, for example).

      We're determining which of those is working and then doubling down. However, we also had this idea to test every traction channel since it would be a good exercise for readers, and so we're starting to do that. We have a number of those tests scheduled for the coming weeks.

  • ET

    Everette Taylor

    over 2 years ago #

    Do you think as an early startup that its smarter to buy PPC ads on smaller search engines such as DuckDuckGo rather than use Google?

    Other search engines still get a decent amount of traffic: http://www.listofsearchengines.org

    • GW

      Gabriel Weinberg

      over 2 years ago #

      I think this depends on your product and you should be able to determine such by using conversion data effectively. In theory we have different types of users that might result in different types of conversions. That said, it often comes down to volume and it is hard to get to scale on SEM outside of Google unless you are really not in a niche.

  • TV

    Thomas Vendetta

    over 2 years ago #

    Do you have any recommendations on using the traction channels to solve the chicken and the egg problem?

    Do you have any tried and true methods for tracking conversions in offline channels or is it basically just talking to your customers and asking how they heard about you?

    Gabe and Justin -- thanks for taking the time to do this! We've been listening to the audio version of your book in the office all morning and thoroughly enjoyed the Traction talk last night.

  • ET

    Eva Tang

    over 2 years ago #

    Really insightful answers @yegg and @justinmares!

    Do you think it's necessary to build a separate traction-focused team? Being given that it's not a 2 person startup and they're either funded or have decent revenue.

    If so, what should that team look like?

    • JM

      Justin Mares

      over 2 years ago #

      It depends. We talk about something we call the 50% rule in the book, where 50% of your time and company resources should be focused on Traction. I think as soon as you realize you can't possibly be focused on traction as much as product, that's when you should think about hiring.

      As far as what that team looks like, growth teams I've seen at Lyft, GitHub, Facebook and others are independent but work closely with product and engineering. This is a really good article that speaks to the advantages of having a traction team that I completely agree with - http://firstround.com/article/The-Case-for-Why-Marketing-Should-Have-Its-Own-Engineers

      • ET

        Eva Tang

        over 2 years ago #

        Thanks @justinmares ! Will definitely take a look.

        • GW

          Gabriel Weinberg

          over 2 years ago #

          To add something to what @justinmares said I think it is important even if you assemble a growth team to have the company leadership intimately involved in what they do if not leading that team. We strongly believe in the 50% rule and if it is true then the founders should be involved significantly.

  • DL

    Dylan La Com

    over 2 years ago #

    Another question :)

    How do you pick and set your growth goals for DuckDuckGo? Is there a framework you use?

    • GW

      Gabriel Weinberg

      over 2 years ago #

      I think picking your traction goal is incredibly important because it really drives everything you do in terms of getting traction and you scope whether things are really moving the needle or not.

      The best goals are aligned with an inflection point in your company. For many companies the first one is getting the amount of traction necessary to raise funding. For DuckDuckGo it was a bit different since I was self-funding at the beginning. Our goals have been:

      --get to a point where people could really switch to DuckDuckGo as their primary search engine (inflection point: real product/market fit)
      --get to 100M searches/month (inflection point: break-even)
      --get to 1% of the search market (inflection point: entrenched in the market)

      These are taking about 2yr+ to achieve but the timeframe is not really as important as the inflection point.

      • DL

        Dylan La Com

        over 2 years ago #

        Awesome! Thanks @yegg! Follow up:

        How did you know when you reached your first goal? Was there a specific event that made it clear?

  • ET

    Eva Tang

    over 2 years ago #

    What are the biggest and most common traction/growth mistakes that you found companies made at their early stages?

  • PS

    Patrick Sullivan

    over 2 years ago #

    What are the 3 key components that make a successful online entrepreneur?

    • JM

      Justin Mares

      over 2 years ago #

      So many... biggest one I would say is focus. Also not sure of the difference between an online entrepreneur vs. regular. I think the skillsets are pretty similar: focus, determination, and willingness to slog away at something.

  • PL

    Pierre Lechelle

    over 2 years ago #

    Currently exploring the idea of writing a similar book, on a completely different subject. Why did you choose such a low pricing?

    I guess that the value your book can bring to a startup cost way more than $10 bucks.

    • JM

      Justin Mares

      over 2 years ago #

      Totally agree. This was actually a big internal debate between Gabe and I.

      We chose the lower pricing because we're introducing so many new ideas with our book essentially: Bullseye, 50% rule, Critical Path, 19 channels are all new concepts I haven't seen covered explicitly elsewhere.

      That being said, we wanted to lower the barrier to entry and make it a literal no-brainer for someone to pick up the book. Neither of us really needs the money that a higher price brings, and we figured we have something potentially category-defining on our hands so may as well do everything we can to get it into the hands of as many people as possible. There's a lot of value if we can write the definitive book on startup traction, and that value is probably greater than the incremental 20-40k we could make by pricing it more.

  • NS

    New Svasti-Xuto

    over 2 years ago #

    How do you baked virality into a physical product it self? And is there any good examples that you've seen in physical product and solely digital channel model?

  • DB

    Divyani Bhuwalka

    about 1 year ago #

    how do you keep your self updated with the latest technology?

Join over 70,000 growth pros from companies like Uber, Pinterest & Twitter

Get Weekly Top Posts
High five! You’re in.
SHARE
39
39