Traction Strategy and building Distribution first Businesses

Unacademy had a unique start. We as founders were content creators on various platforms like Quora, YouTube etc and also came from Product background. So it was a unique combination of Content and Product. And for the first 3-4 years we had almost negligible Marketing Spends because we relied on Content as a Traction Channel for Growth.

Somewhere during 2017 - Bhavin recommended me to read Traction. That was the first time I started thinking about Traction more scientifically. Until then the way to grow users in our head was by creating content on other platforms which is something we had experience in and which to date is in my belief one of the best traction channels out there.

But over the years we have developed a framework of sorts. Like all frameworks this one too is ever evolving though it’s also at a stage where we believe a lot of other founders can benefit from this.

Traction Strategy for distribution first Businesses involves the following:

  • Traction Product

  • Traction Channel

  • Conversion Journey and NPS of your Paid Product

Traction Product

If you would have asked me to write on this topic even six months ago I would have started with Traction Channel but over the years we have learnt is that a Traction Product is something that must be cracked first before focusing on Traction Channels. A Traction Product is a Product which will have the highest conversion from the Traction Channel when pitched. 

In most cases this is a Free Product but that’s not necessarily true. It can be Trial of your Paid Product like how Netflix does it. Or it can be a Zoom Call just like how SuperHuman does it. Apple’s Traction Product is their Event. All of their Traction Channels talk about their Event just before the Event. And they have done a great job in building this into a solid Traction Product over the years. Flipkart and Teachable also do their own form of Events. Big Billion Day on Flipkart is a Traction Product. When BBD is pitched on Marketing Channels it gets a solid conversion (because of the discounting and the branding). Same goes for the Events that Teachable has been running for years. 

It needs to be something that users will get excited to use and should have enough value add for which users will have a high intent and will make the effort to download the App and try out the Traction Product when it is pitched via the Traction Channels.

Choosing the right Traction Product can significantly change the Growth game. And the ROI on your marketing spends just becomes awesome.

Traction Channel

Once you have figured out the right Traction Product then you need to figure out the right Traction Channels that will pitch the Traction Product. You can go for paid channels like performance marketing and influencer marketing to directly promote your Traction Product and because you have chosen the right Traction Product the ROI you’ll get on your spends will be awesome. Or you can even go for Traction via Content Creation.

Traction comes from Distribution first Platforms where your users are. It can be a street with a lot of footfall where you’ll open your store or it can be YouTube where your potential users are searching for videos. Now there are two ways to get users from these platforms. Either you can spend money to acquire users from the platform where the platform will show ads to relevant users or you can create great content on the platform for relevant users which is so good that the platform will make sure that your content is discovered and the content contains branded integration of your Traction Product.

In the long run creating content has a much higher ROI and it also becomes a solid moat for your business. But it takes time, patience, consistency and creativity to crack it. Multiple experiments are needed to get this right. It’s time taking but it compounds. Because people keep discovering your content even years after you have created it (remember the Iconic video of Dollar Shave Club?) unlike an Ad which stops as soon as you stop paying.

Finding the right Traction Channel also involves multiple experiments and a Bull’s Eye Approach. Recommend you to read the book Traction. It will change the way you look at Traction Channels and remove your biases.

Cracking the right Traction Product and the right Traction Channel means that you have solved one of the most important problems of building a business. A sustainable way to acquire users. In other words: Marketing :)

Of course know that over the course of building your business you will find that your Traction Products and Traction Channels reach a saturation point and that you’ll need to follow the above process multiple times. 

Conversion Journey and NPS of your Paid Product

You have users. And you have a Paid Product. Now you need to convert your users from free to paid.

This step is fairly easy if your Traction Product is a Sales pitch or a Trial like Netflix or Apple. Otherwise you can try multiple approaches for conversion:

  • Emails and Notifications

  • Inside Sales Call or Counselling Session (if it’s a high AOV Product)

  • Special Prices for a particular time

Also conversions becomes better as the NPS of your Product increases. For example I am assuming that Trial to Paid Subscription in India for Netflix would have become better when it launched shows like Sacred Games. Every time you launch a new feature or make your existing features better - make sure you push that messaging out to your Traction Product users. The best way to convert is to make a Great Product. And to communicate about the greatness of the Product. Higher NPS also ensures that retention is high and people know through word of mouth that the Product is of extremely high quality.

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