Tea talk: Gabriel Weinberg, founder of DuckDuckGo and author of the Traction book
For this week’s Tea Talk, we had the extreme pleasure of speaking to marketing and growth genius, Gabriel Weinberg, founder of search engine DuckDuckGo and author of Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth. Gabriel shared a ton of gems on how to establish traction for your business, lessons learned when writing the book and a peak into what you’ll learn from it. Check it out below!
Why Traction? How did you know there was a need for a book like this?
I started working on Traction back in 2009 as a personal need: I was struggling to get traction for my own startup DuckDuckGo. I had previously sold a company and was trying the same tactics I had used at that last company to get traction for my current company. It didn’t work.
So I took a step back and went looking for a framework to use to get traction, and I couldn’t find any! That led me to start researching and interviewing, which eventually led to the Bullseye framework, which in turn led to the book.
I knew the book was needed because I needed it and saw all the other companies I was involved in (through angel investing and startup advising) struggling with the same thing — getting traction.
What were some of the most surprising tactics you learned from people you interviewed for the book?
It’s always the most creative and under-utilized tactics that created the most successful traction opportunities. If everyone in your industry is using search engine marketing, for example, it is likely that channel is expensive and saturated. You’re much more likely to have immense success in a channel no one is using, but since no one is using it, you are forced to be a bit creative in how you utilize it.
You applied some of the tactics covered in the book to sell out over 35,000 copies in three printings. Which tactics did you use?
We quite literally applied the traction framework from the book (Bullseye) to get traction for Traction. We brainstormed all 19 channels and ran tests in parallel in several, ultimately deciding after looking at all the data to focus on targeting podcasts, and after that saturated, email marketing.
Can you share any success stories from readers who applied the tactics in Traction?
Yes! The popular social media company Buffer has been applying Bullseye like thousands of others of companies. They first mentioned it here, and recently put out an awesome post about how they are focusing on content marketing.
How was writing a book different from work you’ve done in the past? What are some of the top lessons you learned?
I had written a lot over the years but not in that long a form (the closest thing was my Master’s thesis) and not with as much a focus on quality. As a result, I severely under-estimated the time needed in the editing stage, and that is the major reason the project lasted for years longer than I originally thought!
What is the number one mistake you see startups make when launching? How can others avoid making it?
The secret to a successful launch is to focus on getting traction right from the beginning of product development, by continually pouring a steady stream of cold customers into your product (leaky bucket) while you are building it.
That’s the only way to really find out where the leaks are, as your beta customers are too close to you and don’t have fresh eyes. By running fast and cheap traction tests, you also figure out pre-launch what niche to market to initially, what marketing will resonate with that niche, and what marketing channel to use to reach them.
In other words, you discover a credible distribution strategy, such that when you launch you can actually get traction right away.
You’ve just announced the second edition of Traction. What can we expect to learn that we didn’t in the first?
The second edition of Traction is now out, published by Penguin Random House (the first edition was self-published). The change gave us the opportunity over the past nine months to make a much more high-quality book, reacting to the tens of thousands of first-edition readers, adding sections that we discovered were missing, addressing the more counter-intuitive aspects of getting traction.
Finally, what’s your favorite cup of tea?
This is probably heresy I realize but the truthful answer is a Coke.
Have a question for Gabriel or a suggestion for someone you’d like to see us interview? Leave your questions and ideas in the comments below!
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