Wojtek Skalski
July 12, 2022

19 Traction Channels That Really Work!

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„A good product will sell itself!” This is the biggest lie a startup owner can believe. To unlock sales growth, the distribution machine needs to be set in motion. How to do it? How can a company catch traction and start growing its customer base?

Traction book

To the rescue come Gabriel Weinberg, CEO & Founder at DuckDuckGo and Justin Mares, Founder at Kettle & Fire, the former Director of Revenue at Exceptional, who wrote a book „Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth”.

They interviewed over 40 startup founders and studied what made their companies grow. In the result, they identified 19 channels that startups use to find customers. Let's take a look!

19 traction channels

Here are the 19 traction channels they identified:

  1. Search Engine Marketing – promotion in search engines through paid advertising.
  2. Search Engine Optimisation – the process of improving visibility in search engines to drive organic (unpaid) traffic.
  3. Content Marketing – regularly create interesting and valuable content such as text, video, audio etc. to engage your subscribers/followers.
  4. Social and Display Ads – place banner and video ads across websites and social media.
  5. Email Marketing – use email to distribute content, onboard new users, collect feedback, regain lost customers, and much more.
  6. Viral Marketing – encourage your customers to refer your product to other people to initiate a growth loop.
  7. Engineering as Marketing – use your team's engineering skills to make useful tools such as widgets, plugins, or calculators to generate leads and expand the customer base.
  8. Publicity – create a story that will attract the attention of big media (online and offline).
  9. Offline ads – promote through paid placements in traditional media like magazines, newspapers, billboards, radio, TV, or direct mail.
  10. Business development – create strategic relationships for the mutual benefit with corporations, NGOs, governments, etc.
  11. Sales – build a sustainable, scalable sales process to turn prospects into customers (typically involving a person to person communication).
  12. Targeting Blogs – get in touch with niche bloggers, vloggers and influencers to connect with their audiences.
  13. Unconventional PR – find an extraordinary way to make people talk about you. You can do it by publicity stunts, or customer appreciation actions.
  14. Affiliate Programs – let other companies bring users to your site and pay commission for a qualified lead or a sale.
  15. Existing Platforms – place your product on top platforms or marketplaces in your industry to drive new users and revenue.
  16. Trade shows – showcase your product in person, interact with people in your market and build long-lasting relations.
  17. Events – sponsor or organize an event. Connect with your audience directly to talk about their problems.
  18. Speaking Engagements – if you’re an excellent speaker, take advantage of speaking gigs and grow your business by giving an awesome talk.
  19. Community Building – become an active member of a community or build your own.

Channel grouping

A lot of options! To help you grasp them all, we’ve proposed grouping them into 8 categories. Each of the categories is supposed to capture the essence of underlying traction channels and shed a light on what they have in common.

  1. Search – traction channels relying on search engines and search behavior.
    • SEM, SEO, Existing Platforms
  2. Social – delivering your message when people entertain themselves or via existing social connections using organic or paid means.
    • Social & Display Ads, Viral Marketing, Community
  3. Sales & Partners – building relations directly with your customers or indirectly via strategic partners or affiliates.
    • Sales, Business Development, Affiliate Marketing
  4. Content – planning and creating content to grow and engage your audience via email, social media or other channels.
    • Content Marketing, Email Marketing.
  5. Tech – making use of your tech resources to create long-term marketing assets.
    • Engineering as Marketing.
  6. Events – running your own events or participating in them to get in front of your users and build authority.
    • Speaking Engagements, Organising events, Trade Shows
  7. Media/PR – attracting media and blog attention, often through unconventional actions.
    • Publicity (Media), Blogs, Unconventional PR.
  8. Local/Niche – making the best use of paid placements in traditional media by precise targeting.
    • Offline ads.
Channel grouping by Skalski Growth

Bullseye Framework

19 opportunities that really work! But how to choose the one that works for you? No worries! Weinberg & Mares also proposed a process to find out which channel is the best for your company. Their Bullseye Framework consists of the following steps:

  1. In the Outer Circle you keep all the 19 channels. For each of them, you brainstorm at least one specific tactic to test.
  2. Rank the channels and move the most promising ones to the Middle Circle. Run small and cheap tests to see how they work in practice.
  3. Bring the best performing channel to the Inner Circle. Focus on it and keep optimizing it.
Bullseye Framework

What's your plan then?

If you feel like your business is standing still, then… you're probably right. You've focused on the product and forgotten about distribution. Utilize our list and begin searching for a channel that will provide you with traction. Consider starting with our Traction Highway – a predefined list of six proven channels to test initially. Once you identify the initial option, push it to its limits! And then add more to the pool and just go with it. And have a successful journey!


Wojtek Skalski