It can be really hard for companies, especially start-ups, to decide which channels to focus on to grow their business. This is why Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares, the authors of “Traction”, which we highly recommend you read, developed the bullseye framework.
According to them, there are 19 different channels which companies can use to grow and the bullseye framework helps you understand which ones to chose for your business.

In the context of this article we are going to solely focus on the following online channels:

  • Targeting blogs
  • Social media and display ads
  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Viral Marketing
  • Affiliate Program

Although it is not represented in “Traction”, we are going to include Influencer Marketing as the 9th online traction channel.

In order to evaluate which of these channels you should use, you are going to draw a bullseye, which will look something like this:

Bullseye blank black

The outer ring – What’s possible

In the outer ring, we’re going to brainstorm over traction channels that could be potentially beneficial. Since our blog is focussing on online marketing, we won’t focus on all of the 19 channels, only on the 9 online channels as mentioned above.

All of us are biased about certain channels and the outer ring is meant to help us systematically counteract these biases. Take Instagram Stories for example: just because you don’t use Instagram Stories does not mean that your target audience doesn’t use them either. (As a matter of fact, Stories are currently the fastest growing social media format.) This kind of uninformed and biased decision-making can cost you business, hence ruling out certain channels from the start is unwise so do not rule out any channel at this stage.

In order to explore what is possible, you are going to start by thinking of one basic promotion strategy for every channel. This can be challenging, especially if you don’t know much about the channels, but that’s the exact purpose of this ring: Get knowledgeable about the different channels and the possibilities they offer. Once you roughly understand them, go ahead and think of a basic strategy for each channel.

In order to give you an idea of what this could look like, we’ll pretend to do the exercise to sell self-made, organic sunscreen online:

  • Targeting blogs
    Pay a lifestyle blogger to cover our sunscreen in a blog, writing about properties and advantages of organic, self-made sunscreen vs. industrial ones.
  • Social media and display ads
    Run ads on social media, targeting users interested in sustainability, health and related subjects with advertising that focuses on the health benefits of our sunscreen.
  • SEM
    Buy keywords that appear for search results related to “organic sunscreen” or “alternative sunscreens”.
  • SEO
    Optimize our website to appear for search results related to “organic sunscreen” or “sunscreen alternatives”.
  • Content marketing
    Create content about how our organic sunscreens are made, the benefits and more useful information.
  • Email marketing
    Collect emails by sending free samples to new subscribers.
  • Viral Marketing
    Create a video for our product that will go viral.
  • Affiliate Program
    Create an affiliate program that allows customers to earn money if they refer our product to a friend.
  • Influencer Marketing
    Pay lifestyle influencers to market our product on Instagram.

Now, let’s put all of these channels in the outer ring:

bullseye framework outer ring

The middle ring – What’s probable

After brainstorming a strategy for each channel, we’ll use the middle ring to decide which approach we would like to test.

We’ll start by choosing the 3 most promising strategies/channels, for which we’ll create cheap traction tests to see how they will actually perform. If you’re a small organization you should not test more than 3 channels. Bigger companies with a team dedicated to testing can test as many channels as their resources allow.

Go around your outer ring and transfer your 3 most promising channels to the middle ring. You need more than one channel because you’re going to test them in parallel. Setting up experiments and getting results will take some time and you’ll need to have a basis of comparison to identify the best performing channel. If you want to add more than three, be aware that too many tests can lead to errors and cause you to lose time and money, especially if you are new to the process.

In our example, I chose the following three channels for the middle ring:

bullseye framework middle ring

In order to find the best performing channel, we are going to define a traction test for each one, giving them the same time-period and budget: 1 month and 250€ per channel.

  • Targeting blogs
    We’ll find ourselves 1-3 bloggers whose blogs are related to our niche. Then we will pay them to cover our product in a blog post, linking to our online shop.
  • Social media and display ads
    We’re going to launch a Facebook advertising campaign to promote our product with a link to our online shop.
  • Influencer marketing
    We’ll find ourselves 1-3 influencers who are related to our niche and pay them to feature our product on their channel.

At the end of the experiments, you’ll analyze the results of each channel using tools like Google Analytics, UTM codes and URL shorteners to track where your sales came from. Since they all had the same budget we can directly compare the performance and find out how many sales each channel generated with their 250€ budget. In case you worked with different budgets for each channel, you’ll have to calculate the cost per conversion separately and compare the results.

At this point, we need to mention one of the most common mistakes. It is important to keep in mind that you are not running serious ads at this point. Don’t expect miracles or be demotivated because your expectations were not met. At this stage, you are simply trying to find out if this channel COULD be beneficial for you in the future. You don’t want to make money at this point, your objective is to collect data to prove or dismiss your assumption. So if you generated 5 sales with a budget of 250€ on channel X, at this stage this would be considered a success. You got proof that you can actually sell via this channel and from here on out you can optimize to increase sales.


The inner ring- What works

By now you should have some insightful results from the middle-ring test you performed.

Let’s assume that our sunscreen channels performed as follows:

As you can see, social media ads generated the most and cheapest sales.
We hit the bullseye! We found our core channel and are now ready to move on and integrate this channel in our strategy.

bullseye framework centre ring

Once you found your core channel, you’ll want to build your strategy around it and optimize it. This is going to allow you to generate new customers and grow your business. For the months to come, you are going to focus on squeezing every bit of growth out of this channel and nurture it as much as possible. After identifying your core channel you can take classes or research tutorials and case studies to dive deeper into the matter. Once you feel like the core channel has reached its maximum potential, you can repeat the process and move on to the next channel.

If you find yourself not having significant results, try identifying your mistakes and repeat the entire bullseye process. Dive into the data you gathered and understand what did and what didn’t resonate with your audience and use these insights to avoid making the same mistakes again. If all of these measures are not yielding any results for you, you might need to work on your product some more.  Also keep in mind that every product and service sells differently, meaning there’s no single method to test your channel that will always work. Sometimes you’ll have to test a channel several times in different ways to get the results you want.  It’s important to understand the characteristics of each channel to keep realistic expectations and not discard a channel too early. If you expect organic measures like SEO to take effect within a short time, you’ll be disappointed because SEO takes months to show results but once it starts taking effect you’ll generate long-term, free traffic.

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