Guest Blog Post – Gabriel Weinberg, Founder of DuckDuckGo

HAPPY RELEASE DAY!!!! Today is the launch of Traction – How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth, co-authored by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares and in support of the release, I’m thrilled to host a guest post by Gabriel Weinberg, founder of the search engine DuckDuckGo, that provides insight to what you can expect from this invaluable startup marketing handbook. The concepts are applicable to any startup endeavor and a resource I’d recommend to any entrepreneur. But don’t take my word for it…the reviews speak volumes.  With success stories like Seth Godin and Alexis Ohanian singing its praises, you can’t go wrong. My advice? One-click. NOW.

6 Common Traction Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

I’ve made every one of these six common mistakes in the pursuit of traction. They’re so easy to make because they’re all counter-intuitive, working against your natural instincts. I hope you can avoid them! Like with a lot of issues, the first step is recognizing and acknowledging you have a problem.

Mistake #1: Not seeking traction early enough.

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.

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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.

Mistake #2: Not setting an explicit traction goal.

Your traction goal should be enough traction to reach an inflection point in your company. When just starting out, this is usually one of three things:

  1. Enough traction to raise money;
  2. Enough traction to be profitably self-sustaining; or
  3. Enough traction to prove to your extended team that you have product/market fit.

Once you have a hard number, you can measure your traction efforts against this explicit traction goal. If a marketing strategy in its best case won’t move the needle in terms of your goal, then you shouldn’t do it, even if you know it will get you some traction.

Mistake #3: Not considering all 19 traction channels.

cono redondo target con sombra rojoIn talking to and studying hundreds of successful entrepreneurs for Traction (the book), we found that there are 19 different customer acquisition channels companies use to get traction.

A key insight was that often the most successful startups were using under-utilized channels in their industry. In other words, asking what channels are good for B2B or B2C or a particular situation is the wrong question. The right question is how could I possibly use each of the 19 channels, quickly followed by a creative brainstorm. This is the first step in our Bullseye Framework for getting traction.

Mistake #4: Not doing fast and cheap traction tests.

When testing traction channels, the goal is to run fast and cheap marketing tests to roughly answer the following three questions:

  1. How much will it cost to acquire customers through this channel?
  2. How many customers are available through this channel?
  3. Are the customers that you are getting through this channel the kind of customers that you want right now?

Some founders mess up this step by prematurely scaling their marketing efforts. Keep in mind that, when testing channels, you are not trying to get a lot of traction with a channel just yet. Instead, you are simply trying to determine if it’s a channel that could move the needle for your startup. Your main consideration at this point is speed — to get data and to prove your assumptions.

Mistake #5: Not focusing on one core channel.

At any stage in a startup’s life cycle, one traction channel usually dominates in terms of customer acquisition. That is why we suggest focusing on one at a time, but only after you’ve identified a channel that seems like it could actually achieve your traction goal.

The way this step gets most often messed up by founders and marketers is by keeping around distracting marketing efforts in other traction channels, especially earlier efforts that no longer move the needle but once did. This is additionally confusing because oftentimes focusing on your core channel involves channel strategies that utilize other traction channels. One channel is still dominant, but others feed into it. Focusing is the only way to truly become an expert at your core channel, which you need to do if you’re going to uncover cutting edge tactics within it, which often have non-linear rewards.

Mistake #6: Not using a structured approach.

There are nineteen different traction channels, and most founders consider only a few. That’s a big mistake because often under-utilized channels in a given industry have the greatest growth potential. Yet, at the same time, you can’t try all nineteen at once effectively.

You need to apply a framework for getting traction like the Bullseye Framework we present in Traction. It is a simple, three-step framework that involves brainstorming across all channels, testing a few at a time, and then focusing on whatever channel seems capable and most probable of reaching your pre-defined traction goal (you defined one right?). Whether you use our framework or another or your own, please take a structured approach to getting traction.

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Whistle While You Work…Or Run…Or Play Foosball

My workspace is pretty standard, very practical, but kind of boring if I’m being honest. Lots of desk space, tons of papers covering said space, cabinets, laptops, ever-present mug of coffee. I try to keep it organized but it’s not easy when ideas are constantly flowing out of my head and onto Post-Its. My name is Kristen and I’m a Post-It addict. Whenever I get a thought, I jot it down and stick it…well, wherever I can find space, which is a commodity.

Post it papers flying out from laptop

I sometimes wonder, how awesome would it be to create a workspace according to my own dream specifications? Like maybe a space where I could take a quick break and run on the treadmill to keep the creative juices flowing? With plush couches where I can plop down when the knots in my neck tighten after being hunched over my laptop for hours on end? One with large, floor to ceiling windows, lots of greenery, light, airy rooms and a fabulous view for inspiration? Maybe one with a nicely stocked refrigerator with lots of champagne so I can reward myself after spending the day agonizing over scenes and plot twists? It would be awesome to have a large-screen wall hanging television for those times I just need a mental break and want to watch re-runs of Impractical Jokers. And of course, a huge whiteboard for all those dang Post-Its would be nice!

modern empty office interior

Well, guess what? There is a company out there that can help me achieve my work zen, called WeWork. You signup to become a member and select from several packages that allow you different levels of access to custom workspaces. You can book a space for a day or longer, depending on your needs. Maybe you just want to have a couple of days a month where you venture off to another location to keep things percolating. You have that option with WeWork. And if you happen to be traveling to another location and need to reserve a spot while you are there, go to WeWork for options! It’s that simple.

The company has space in all the big hubs across the United States, with additional locations in Israel, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

So even if you aren’t traveling for business, maybe you just need a periodic escape to recharge your batteries. Comfort + mental calm = PRODUCTIVITY!!!

NOTHING VENTURED IS LIVE! IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME!

It’s LAUNCH day!!!!!! Let’s CELEBRATE!!!! How about a giveaway, in honor of our delicious hero, Chris Camden?????

Glasses of champagne and sparklers on bright background with sparklers

Here’s to Chris, the Adonis and certifiable charmer with more lines than a supermarket before a snowstorm. With a panty-melting smile, ridiculous body that oozes pheromones, and a hot car, he’ll have your knees weak within minutes. I promise. ❤

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card and a signed copy of ‘Unlikely Venture,” Book One of the Venture Series.

The contest closes on 9/22/2015 and the winner will be notified by email. GOOD LUCK!

Buy Nothing Ventured:

Amazon  Barnes & Noble  iBooks  Smashwords

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Startup Spotlight: Let’s Go Du+ch!

Sharing experiences, creating memories, engaging with like-minded people, enjoying a richer life… this is the concept behind going “du+ch.” The company was born of longtime friends Vincent Paradiso and Debora McCleary, who partnered to create a social network for travel and entertainment. Both entrepreneurs in their previous lives, Vincent and Debora created a unique way for people to connect with others who would share the cost of excursions they may not otherwise have been able to experience due to excessive costs. Their efforts established a marketplace for sharing life’s adventures, big or small and I had the pleasure of catching up with Vincent to chat about some of his hopes, challenges, and goals for the future. I was also excited to gather a few sound bytes from Deb, who founded the premier New York beauty directory, The Debb Report. And you all know I’m a sucker for all things beauty and fashion… =)

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Vincent, prior to co-founding du+ch, you had a very successful professional career in ballet. What made you decide to delve into the world of entrepreneurship? 

I’ve always been bit of an entrepreneur. I love ballet, but I always knew I would do more. I’d always had an interest in real estate so I formed Paradiso Properties. My goal was to have multiple investment homes that I rent and manage, along with a real estate license to sell homes. But I quickly grew bored with my new career choice. I made money, but it wasn’t my passion. I started contemplating new ideas. I thought of all the amazing things I did with colleagues while on tour with NYCB, and how we would split the bill. We wouldn’t have been able to enjoy as much had we not shared the cost. I knew I had something but wasn’t ready to dive in. One night out with my girlfriend, I wanted to book bottle service at a club but didn’t want to pay $1,500. Our friends couldn’t join, so we skipped out and the idea for du+ch was born.

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Deb, what differences have you experienced between building du+ch and building the Debb Report? What unique challenges have you faced with each endeavor and how have you addressed them?

The first challenge with the Debb Report was having my partner drop out. I ended up funding the entire site on my own, and found a few friends to help me write all the salon bios that are (almost all) now in place. Updating my site is still a challenge, because aside from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram updates, I have to be on top of so much information. I realized that I couldn’t do it all on my own, especially with the time du+ch now needs. I recently hired a wonderful beauty/fashion blogger to help create original content to help grow my site and SEO. Having a partner who is fully engaged and committed is a necessity. Vincent and I definitely have a give and take when it comes to growing du+ch. We complement one another very well and have complete trust in each other, which is invaluable.  Because du+ch is an e-commerce site, it is a much more involved endeavor than my directory so Vincent and I are having to learn as we go. We constantly seek expertise from those who have done this before and people have been very generous with their time and knowledge.

Choosing the right partner is so important when founding a brand-new venture. How do you work through differences in opinion and what qualities do you each bring to the table?

(Vincent) Deb is a long time friend. We have great chemistry. When I approached her with du+ch, she was immediately ready to jump onboard. The key for us is making sure we always keep open lines of communication. She helps ground me and work through new ideas. As I’d mentioned earlier, the ideas don’t stop. You can’t attack all of them at once, you have to stay focused. du+ch would be nothing if I’d built it, then decided to go out and work on another idea. Being able to keep everything organized helps a lot. We have yet to have any major disagreements, but I believe we both are the types of people who will listen. We will acknowledge each others’ points, let them sink in, and compromise on a solution.

(Deb) Vincent and I agree on most things day-to-day, but when we disagree, we have a real ability to listen to one another and come to a joint agreement fairly easily.  Luckily we are both sane, thoughtful and committed to making du+ch a success, no matter how long it takes us.

What is the best part about running your own business?  

Exactly that, it’s mine. I’m directly responsible for its success and/or failure. I take great pride in bringing an idea to life. It’s challenging work, but when you know your hands are involved in every working aspect, it is so rewarding. I look forward to each and every day. I am constantly learning about every aspect of my business.

Du+ch is such a unique concept. Do you have plans to expand beyond more elite and trendy events? Do you see a market for couples, families, businesses?

Absolutely! We’re now in all of those markets. The beauty of du+ch is that everything on the site is user-generated. The same way you can sell anything on eBay, you can share anything on du+ch. It is a marketplace that puts the power of the sharing economy in the hands of the masses. You no longer have to build an app to enter this space, you can use our platform to share anything you want. Every user, individual or corporate, can host and search for anything they want to share. The look of our brand is luxurious, but users can share free events, basic group packages, or even ultra luxe experiences. We take the social element of Facebook events, the payment features of Eventbrite, and combine them into one site. The greatest thing is you can reach more than just your current circle. The point is, friends cannot always join in the fun. With du+ch, you can find those who can, get to know one another, and pool your funds to make anything within reach. The great thing about du*ch, and what separates us from a Groupon/Eventbrite, is our social transparency. Every user has a profile with reviews and verifications, so you can meet new people and feel comfortable sharing with them.

If you knew then what you know now, how might you have advised yourselves before launching du+ch? Any big aha! moments?

I would have been a lot more specific in the design and build of the website. I had it in my head, but translating it to developers was difficult. They needed every single specification and I didn’t anticipate providing them that level of detail. I would have also done more research on payment processors. When we create the app, I am going to document every last detailed requirement for the developers. I won’t leave any stone unturned.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur? 

Discipline, focus and creativity. It is so important to stay disciplined. There are too many distractions surrounding us everyday – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. You have to resist the temptation and prioritize. You also have to focus on your goals, plan your short- and long-term strategies and then execute your plans to achieve them. That said, you have to remain creative, think out of the box and fill a perceived need. Always strive to disrupt the status quo.

What have been some of your failures since launching du+ch, and what have you learned from them?

I assumed once the site was built, the audience would come. I thought people would just find it, sign up and leverage the network, which wasn’t the case. I also focused too much energy on creating the perfect user experience. Marc Cuban once said, “Perfection is the enemy of profitability, you can try to make everything perfect, but you’re losing opportunity somewhere else.” What may seem perfect and simple to one may not be the same for others. I also mistakenly assumed that upon launch, I would play a support role. I didn’t realize I was going to have get out there and sell. That is the biggest challenge. Once you fill the need, you need to let the world know you’ve filled it. You have to make your own opportunities.

To what do you most attribute your success? What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?

Taking the lessons I’ve learned from the ballet and applying them to the business world. For both, you need to exhibit the discipline, focus, and creativity mentioned earlier, but you also have to be willing to fail, deal with rejection, perform, and not let anyone define you. We failed all the time while dancing. If a step wasn’t executed as expected, you didn’t give up. Instead, you figured out what went wrong, fixed it, repeated it, and tried to perfect it.  We dealt with rejection on a regular basis. In business, you have to do the same. Not everyone will love you or embrace your vision and that’s okay. So many of my most rewarding experiences came from taking a leap. Never be afraid of failure.

How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?

Getting the word out is our biggest challenge, especially on a shoestring budget. I have seen a big jump in traffic when I advertise and share available listings on Facebook, but it hasn’t converted much yet. One experience that did convert was dinner with a private chef. The price was extremely reasonable and users wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. We are working on lining up fun yet cost-effective experiences. Giving corporate partners a chance to list group deals as they would with Groupon, but without the heavy fees, will help line up some great offerings. I also notice that when I do interviews like this, we get a major boost. I think it helps so much to get the word out. This interview engages a new audience and helps us connect with them. Some readers may skim our story, some may read the whole thing, some will love it, some will hate it, but either way I just grabbed the attention of a potential user and was able to get my entire message across. It is the best way to acquire new users and highlight interest in our brand.

Follow du+ch: Website  Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube Instagram

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FOCUS!!!! And Then Drink To Your Success

I came across a quote from Lori Greiner the other day and it is flipping brilliant. For those of you who don’t know who she is, if you’re an entrepreneur, Google her. Like, right NOW. She’s the reigning “Queen of QVC” and one of the stars of NBC’s “Shark Tank” – the one they refer to as “the shark with the heart.” LOL. But it’s true. She’s smart, insightful and knows a good deal when she sees it but she always exercises sensitivity to the plight of the aspiring entrepreneurs that parade their wares around the tank. Okay, so clearly I have a girl-crush…

“Dear optimist, pessimist, and realist–while you guys were busy arguing about the glass of wine, I drank it! Sincerely, the opportunist!”

See? She loves wine, too. How can I not be smitten?? =)

But this quote holds true for me in so many respects (other than the booze…LOL!). More often than not, I have at least fifty things going on at once. The past month has been particularly busy – between building up Author Navigation, blogging, editing two of my books and writing a brand-new one, my creative juices were leaking all over the place. My focus was…hell, there WAS no focus, just endless lists of to do’s and never getting dones.

Do you know what that means?

Potentially missed opportunities. I would have been snoozing on that glass of wine because my mind was full of scattered thoughts with no definitive paths to meet any discernible goal. A jumble of ideas is absolutely useless if you can’t flesh them out and apply the ideal amount of focus. Multi-tasking is all well and good but we’re best when we keep our eye on the prize. Remember that. =)

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Passion Alone Can’t Pay The Bills

You can’t crush true entrepreneurial spirit. If you have it, it’s only a matter of time before you find your niche. Each “failed” attempt has to be viewed as a lesson learned. The real failure comes about when you don’t take anything away from the experience, when you don’t apply any of your newfound knowledge to your next endeavor. I knew I was meant to be an entrepreneur. It just took me some time to figure out where my roadmap was headed.

My first attempt as an entrepreneur was in the field of technology consulting. I had the skill set, I had the clients. The one thing I lacked was the passion. Couldn’t even fake it. Money was there but it just wasn’t fulfilling. So I decided to go with a new business, one that I loved.

Handbags. High fashion. It was my obsession. I thought because I had such an intense love of high-fashion handbags that I’d naturally be able to design, market and sell my own collections. However, there were significant barriers to entry I wasn’t aware of because I didn’t take the time to properly research the market and the accessory industry. As a result, quite a bit of debt accumulated over the very short life of my beloved business. Passion, though important, just doesn’t pay the bills.

Promotion concept. Painted staircase with draw in the wall. Business draw.

Promotion concept. Painted staircase with draw in the wall. Business draw.

After that “failed” attempt, I really thought long and hard about my future direction. I let my imagination run wild and decided to write a novel. Being an independently published author is a business just like any other. You develop and perfect a product, market and distribute it to the masses. Again, I was wearing many hats. The difference this time was that I’d done research on the industry and I maintained that critical element of passion.

Along the way (because the entrepreneurial spirit cannot be quelled) I partnered with one of my author friends to build and launch an online directory for authors called Author Navigation – a one-stop shop for all services needed to help polish and perfect a manuscript for the masses. It’s still early days and we’re still trying to gain momentum but we’re slowly making a name for ourselves.

Always strategizing, always planning, always envisioning…ALWAYS.

What Kind Of Mindset Should An Entrepreneur Have??

I love Quora. It’s a really cool knowledge-sharing site. You register and build up your profile with topics of interest. Then you can apply your own experience and answer users’ questions about said topics. As you build up your credibility on the site, people then come to you to answer their questions.

I’ve gotten some cool questions but just answered this one today and thought I’d share. =)

What Kind Of A Mindset Should An Entrepreneur Have?

Passion Is A MUST! – Starting a business and trying to gain traction can be extremely disheartening at times so the more you believe in your offering and your ability to sell, the more effective your pitch (and outlook) will become.

Listen To The Naysayers! – Don’t delude yourself into thinking your offering is the end-all, be-all.  You need a thick skin if you’re going to succeed as an entrepreneur. People will slam your ideas. Get used to it. Graciously accept criticisms and feedback then figure out how to respond to objections. Figure out what your key differentiating points are and highlight those to everyone and anyone.

Never Be Complacent! – You’ll have to work harder than you’ve ever worked before to create momentum and then work even harder to KEEP it. I heard a really cool quote this weekend that totally applies. I was at a writing conference and a number of bestselling authors were presenting on sales strategies. They all said market yourself like you’re nobody EVEN IF you’re somebody. This applies to ALL business endeavors.

Be Restless! – Let your creativity flow! Don’t be complacent and accept the status-quo. Dig deep and figure out to disrupt. It’s okay to incorporate new ideas into your offering. Make it as compelling as possible and if at first you don’t succeed….well, you know the rest. 🙂

You Will Never Know Your Limits Unless You Push Yourself To Them