Before we discuss what is a bullseye framework, let be begin with a fictional anecdote. Suppose you are a new joiner in the marketing team at Company X. Business has been growing, more and more people are using your platform, and they are sharing their pinned collections everywhere on Facebook. But overnight, Facebook decided that they didn’t want people going outside their platform. They don’t want people clicking on external links. They update their algorithm to reduce the reach of all posts which contain a link.
And this affects you. Massively. Your reach falls drastically. After two months, the investors begin questioning- what is going wrong? What do we do? How do we grow from this?
It’s not a fictional story. A few years ago, this is exactly what happened to Pinterest. A start-up that would have been written off and forgotten from memory for no fault of theirs. Their product hadn’t changed. No new competition had come in, or they hadn’t disappointed their users. It was just that their primary growth channel had stopped working.
As you might know, today, Pinterest acquires most of its new users through SEO. But how did they arrive at this channel? Why didn’t they focus on TV ads, YouTube, Google Ads, or email marketing? And what is the bullseye framework that helped them make the right decisions?
Finding the Right Growth Channel
For all kinds of organizations, it’s a perennial struggle to decide what channel works best for them. A study by CBInsights found that the 2nd most common reason for start-up failure is- no market need.
Around 35% of startups fail because there is no market need. Doesn’t that sound odd? Were those founders and their investors blindly betting on a horse that didn’t exist? Difficult to believe, right? If you think about it, there are two possibilities; the first is yes, they were building something that no one asked for (like a salt shaker that plays music), or they were not able to find a way to reach their target audience in an effective way.
And that’s where we need to start: defining your target audience and ways to find them.
Bullseye Framework: What is It?
BMW would fail at a marketing channel that works amazingly well for BookMyShow. Not just because their audiences are different but because of differences in frequency of purchase, average ticket size, trust barriers, etc.
But then, do you just rely on how that particular industry has traditionally marketed itself? No. If that would have been the case, then Tesla would have never become the #1 automobile company. They struggled with the traditional dealership channel, and so they had to find a new channel.
Gabriel Weinberg, the founder of Duckduckgo was tired of templated advice, and he wanted to find a structured way of solving this problem. Together with Justin Mares he took a strategic approach and created the bullseye framework.
The 3 Stages of the Bullseye Framework
The process starts with a brainstorming exercise, which first identifies a possible list of all growth channels and levers that could be even remotely relevant. The focus at this stage isn’t to filter them with questions of finances, resources, or time. It’s to be a little playful and just lay it all out.
After having all the options on the table, the next step is to think about validating and prioritizing these channels based on timelines, monetary investments, and available expertise. Usually, after this stage, not more than six channels are considered for the next stage.
3. Prioritization and Execution
This is where the finer details are discussed. Final calls are taken about priority orders, assigning responsibilities, rough benchmarking of the budget, and finalizing metrics for judging success.
Based on the actual results from executing some of the channels, over a period of time, you get a clear picture about what works and what doesn’t. In fact, this helps streamline all the efforts into the growth channel, which can help you scale efficiently.
Who Needs to be Involved in the Bullseye Framework
As good as it feels to be the only decision maker, it’s usually much more helpful to have diverse viewpoints, at least at the divergence stage. It’s better to involve one stakeholder each from the product, growth, marketing, content, and sometimes tech. If it’s a smaller startup, it’s always a good idea to get at least one of the founders; it saves a lot of explaining later on.
The Verdict on Making the Best Decisions
There are no ideal channels that work across all organizations. Everybody has an opinion. If you ask around, most people will recommend a performance marketing channel or SEO or in-person sales- based on either their own expertise or incentive or what they have heard other people talk about in their circles.
It might help, but it’s suboptimal. The best thing about the bullseye framework is that it works across categories and business models. Mind you, the final result will be different for everyone, but the framework works in varying contexts.
The end result is that you actually feel confident about what you are doing. You don’t need to keep second-guessing about your decisions, and it becomes much easier to focus on the right things.
NOTE: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Emeritus.