It doesn’t matter whether you are a young startup still building your first product or a more mature company launching in the U.S. or in another country, one of your main concerns is to find ways to get enough traction to successfully handle this new step and build a viable business. Often, when people try to build a revenue organization, they make the mistake to set up a sales team before having a predictable ability to actually generate leads and generate demand. You need to be able to grow demand first.
What’s demand generation and why does it matter?
HubSpot defines demand generation strategy as the marketing system and engine used to bridge the gap between your company’s sales and revenue options. Demand generation encompasses everything that generates excitement about your company, products, and services. It includes both inbound and outbound marketing.
Here are the 4 main things to keep in mind when thinking about building a revenue organisation:
1. Build your product all the while testing your traction channels
Thinking about your demand generation really starts on day one. A lot of startups fail because they created a product that some people want, but can’t get enough customers to build a viable business. To address this issue and the frustration that goes with it, spend your time building product and testing traction channels. Gabriel Weinberg recommends in Traction: How any startup can achieve explosive customer growth to follow the 50% rule: 50% of your time on product and 50% on traction.
You can start to test a lot of different statements and value propositions, even without having a product: for example by creating landing pages, promoting them and measuring how many people would be interested in buying your product, before investing in creating it. The goal is to understand who are your clients and how you can perfectly address them and adapt your product to their needs. By following this process, you can even build a better product by incorporating feedback from early users.
2. Keep testing your traction and adapt all the time
Once your product is launched, keep trying your traction channels and run cheap tests to validate quantitative assumptions. Brad Hess, Director of Demand Generation at B2B content creation software Ceros, shared during Impact’s NY panel discussion last week about “B2B Demand and Lead Generation”: “You have to throw a lot of thing against the wall and see what sticks.”
— Impact USA (@usa_impact) April 24, 2017
Because the competition outside is thought, concentrating on one strategy is not enough. For Jeff Reekers, VP Demand Generation at B2B Commerce Platform Handshake: “It’s less inbound vs outbound than about channels.”
After interviewing more than forty successful founders and researching countless more, Gabriel Weinberg discovered that startups get traction through 19 different channels. Many successful startups experimented with multiple channels (search engine marketing, business development, public relations,…) until they found one that worked. He also discovered two notable things:
– Most founders only consider using traction channels they’re already familiar with or think they should be using because of their type of product or company. This means that too many startups focus on the same channels and ignore other promising ways to get traction.
– It’s hard to predict the channel that will work best. You can make guesses but until you start running tests, it’s difficult to tell which channel is the best one for you right now.
Initial traction is unpredictable and can happen in many different ways. There’s no better channel and every one of the nineteen channels has been the channel for both B2C and B2B startups to get initial traction.
Here are the 19 channels you need to try on:
- Viral Marketing
- Public Relations (PR)
- Unconventional PR
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Social and Display Ads
- Offline Ads
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Engineering as Marketing
- Target Market Blogs
- Business Development
- Affiliate Programs
- Existing Platforms
- Trade Shows
- Offline Events
- Speaking Engagements
- Community Buiding
3. Differentiate yourself from your competitors
Another reason why you need to try all the 19 traction channels is that your competitors might not use some of them. You can get a competitive advantage by acquiring customers in ways your competitors aren’t. Get this channel working that your competitors dismiss and you can grow rapidly while they languish. At Handshake, Jeff decided after testing all the channels to focus a lot on organic search. He did so because he realized their competitors weren’t investing in this channel. “It’s all about finding the niche.”
You need to avoid your natural traction channel biases for some channels by really trying all of them, because it’s highly possible that your competition refuses to even try some.
4. The way you get traction will change while you grow
Gabriel Weinberg explains that “Some traction channels will not bring results at the beginning but are major sources of traction in the later phases, PR is a good example. On the other hand, some channels will be great at the beginning but useless in later stages, because they simply don’t have the volume required to move the needle.”
When you just start, small moves can bring big results: a single tweet from an influencer or a speech to a few hundred people at a meetup can results in a meaningful jump in users. But when you grow, these small moves will be difficult to notice. In other word, the way you get traction will change. After your growth curve flattens, what worked before usually will not get you to the next level. For Brad Ceros: “You have to have caution around scaling. As you grow the budget, the effectiveness of any paid campaign decreases. Something that worked well with a budget of $10,000 does not with four times as much budget. You need to focus your efforts.”
To conclude, getting traction has to be a precise process. The important is to have the testing mindset! Start early, collect all the data you can, set goals and build A/B tasting. You also need to be flexible and adapt all the time.