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A Beginner’s Guide to Improving Your Lawn This Spring & Summer

-- PLEASE NOTE: While questions are very welcome in the comments, be sure to check the two part FAQ below this post as it gets into many of them! --

Three points of orientation:

Make sure this guide pertains to you. This guide was written for those who are growing cool season grasses. What does that mean? Well, there are all sorts of different grasses grown on home lawns but they can generally be split into two camps: cool season and warm season. Cool season grasses include fescue, bluegrass and rye, and are most often grown in the central to northern parts of the USA or in milder parts of southern California. If you live in one of these places, you very likely have cool season turf. Warm season grasses include bermuda, centipede, zoysia, St. Augustine and bahiagrass, and are most often grown in the south and southwestern parts of the country. The differences between cool season and warm season grasses are significant and just like you can’t cook a strip steak and a beef shank in the same way, this cool season plan is simply not going to work if you have warm season turf.
Have reasonable expectations. Sadly we have to begin with what for some of you will be a bitter pill to swallow: if your lawn is in really bad shape, following the steps in this guide is not going to take it from a “2” to a “10” by the end of the summer. The reason for this is simple: the time to renovate and truly transform cool season lawns is in late summer and early fall. The goal here is to make big, noticeable improvements and get you ready for fall when you can truly take your lawn to the next level.
About me and about this guide. I am a lawncare DIYer. Like many of you I bought a house and then had a realization that I had to take care of a lawn and had no idea what I was doing. This guide contains many of the lessons I learned in figuring things out. It also contains lessons learned from watching Allyn Hane (Lawn Care Nut), Pete Denny - u/gciturf (GCI Turf), Matt Martin - u/thegrassfactor (The Grass Factor) and Ryan Knorr, along with reading this sub and thelawnforum.com and listening carefully to the golf course professionals I know. That said, all of the writing is my own though I owe a significant debt of gratitude to u/SirThomasFraterson and u/Unabomber007 who generously read a draft of this guide and offered thoughtful suggestions and critique.

Late Winter (aka Where to Begin):

This is where you start. While it is obviously intended for you to complete these steps in February or early March, if you have found this guide later in the season you still want to start here. Every other step will depend on these things being done.

Step #1 - Measure Your Lawn.

This step is not optional. If you don’t know how big your lawn is there is no way you can apply anything to it as you’ll have no idea how much to apply. There are online tools you can use to get a rough idea of your yard’s size, but I have found they can be off by as much as two hundred square feet. My recommendation is to buy an appropriately sized tape measure or measuring wheel and actually walk your lawn. Unless you have a truly tiny yard, you’ll probably want to divide it up into different areas. To do this take your measurements and draw a small map of your property and identify your particular zones. Treat each area separately.

Step #2 - Get a Soil Test.

Like the previous step, this is not optional. When you are ill and go to the doctor, he (or she) performs tests before he takes any action. He doesn't just cut you open or prescribe random medications hoping everything will work out. Before you add anything to your lawn or do any work to it, you have to test your soil. You can do this at any point, I usually do mine in February. MySoil is an easy, though very expensive source for soil testing. A much cheaper option is to use your County Extension Office, which is staffed by state university employees focused on local agriculture and gardening issues. Find their site and then look around for soil testing; it’ll be there. (Once you find your office's website, it is worth bookmarking it. It will offer a lot of advice for lawncare that is particular to your state. Some of the advice might be considered conservative by the standards of many in this sub, but it is worth having, nonetheless).

Step #3 - Buy a good-quality mower, sprinkler setup, broadcast spreader, backpack or pump sprayer and a scale.

Lawncare is an equipment-driven hobby and there are tons of things you can buy but these five are are the essentials. Of course if you already have one of these items, only upgrade if you feel that your current equipment isn't doing the job.

Step #4 - Fix your pH, if your soil test says you need to.

When you get your soil test back it is most likely going to indicate that you have too little of several things, and perhaps that you have too much of one or two. Ignore everything right now except for pH. This is crucial. If your pH is out of whack it is going to affect your grass' ability to make use of nutrients in your soil. If your pH is low you'll want to add lime; something like ‎Pennington Fast Acting Lime will work. Add it according to your soil test's recommendations and in the amounts specified on the product’s label using your broadcast spreader. If your pH is too high, you'll want to add sulphur. Southern Ag Pelletized Soil Acidifier is a good product. You can apply lime or sulphur any time of the year that the ground is not frozen.

Early Spring:

Step #5 - Aerate your lawn… but only if it is necessary.

Lawn aeration is the process of pulling soil cores out of the lawn in an effort to reduce soil compaction and allow air, water and nutrients to reach the root zone of your grass. Perhaps due to the strident marketing efforts of a couple large lawncare firms, beginners tend to think that they must aerate their lawns every spring and fall. This is not true. You should only aerate your lawn in the spring if it needs it. How do you know if it needs it? Do the screwdriver test. Any day that the ground is not frozen, take a flat-head screwdriver and attempt to push it into the soil in several places in your lawn. The screwdriver should easily be able to sink into the ground. It it cannot, water your lawn lightly and try again. If it still cannot, you should consider aeration.

Step #6 - Apply a Pre-Emergent Herbicide.

A pre-emergent herbicide is exactly what it sounds like: something you put down to prevent weeds from emerging. It differs from the more common post-emergent herbicides (discussed in Step #9) that attack weeds that have already sprouted. A pre-emergent won't prevent all weeds - or even most - but it will prevent one devastating one: crabgrass, and because it can do that it is an essential part of spring lawncare. The two main options for pre-emergents are Prodiamine and Dithiopyr. Both work well and both come in a dizzying array of formulations, both brand name and generic, liquid and granular, and mixed with fertilizer or without it. The differences matter to a certain extent - and if you are new and can’t decide, go with this easy to apply granular from Sunniland - but what matters much more is getting one of them down at as close to the right time as possible. What is that right time? When your soil temperatures are approaching 55°F. How do you know when that is? Use this website, going back to 2019 and clicking around looking at the 5 year averages for various spring dates. Doing this will give you a rough idea of the right time. As that time approaches, check the website daily. When soil temperatures are consistently around 52 or 53°F - according to the 24 hour average - go ahead and apply.

Mid to Late Spring:

Step #7 - Throw down some fertilizer!

About two to three weeks after your first pre-emergent goes down you’ll want to apply fertilizer. This can get very complicated very quickly but I am going to try to keep it as simple as I can via the following sub-steps:
  1. Figure out how much nitrogen your lawn needs. Grass requires a lot of things, but chief among them when it comes to nutrients is nitrogen. What you want to do is apply between .75 pound and 1.5 pounds of nitrogen per thousand square feet of grass this spring in two split doses. Lean towards somewhere between .75 to 1 pound if you fertilized heavily last fall. Go heavier if you didn’t - particularly if you have never applied fertilizer to your lawn - or if your lawn was seeded or sodded in the latter half of last year. Do not exceed 1.5 pounds of nitrogen. More will not equal better in this context.
  2. Choose a fertilizer. Like lawn mowers, there are nearly endless options when it comes to fertilizer. The generalized nature of this post precludes an in-depth discussion of fertilizer brands. That said, if you are a true beginner, it is hard to go wrong with Milorganite. It is easy to apply and its iron content will give your lawn an enviable dark green color. Yes, there are cheaper fertilizers, better fertilizers, liquid fertilizers, etc. but Milo is a good place to start and available pretty much everywhere in the country.
  1. Translate this “x pounds of nitrogen per thousand feet” (from sub-step #1) into actual pounds of fertilizer. To do this you’ll need to do some very simple, middle school-level math. Any fertilizer you buy will show its analysis on its label. The first number in the trio refers to the percentage of nitrogen in the fertilizer. (The second refers to phosphorus, the third to potassium). To get the “pounds on the ground,” use the following formula: the amount of nitrogen you want to apply ÷ the fertilizer’s nitrogen percentage in decimal form.
  1. Take this ‘x pounds fertilizer per thousand square feet’ information and apply it to the different areas of your property.
  1. Split up your total fertilizer amount into two applications. The first application, to be done two to three weeks after your first pre-emergent goes down, should amount to 2/3rds of your total fertilizer. Your second application which should go down three weeks later should consist of the remaining 1/3rd.
  1. Apply using the same technique discussed in Step #4. As discussed there, lower your spreader setting when you are first beginning so as to ensure an even application.

Step #8 - Apply some humic acid and sea kelp.

This step is optional but I wouldn’t skip it unless you lack the money or time. Humic acid is derived from compressed organic mattter mined from the earth and in that sense it can almost be thought of as like an essence of compost. Humic acid will help improve your soil chemistry and structure and allow your grass to better take up the nutrients you provided it in Step #7. It will also encourage positive microbial growth in your soil. Sea kelp contains two major plant growth hormones that are thought to encourage root growth. There are products like N-EXT RGS and this blend from Simple Lawn Solutions that combine both humic acid and sea kelp (both are liquid products and are best applied using a cheap hose-end sprayer attachment) but you could also buy them separately: The Andersons makes an easy to apply humic acid granular and kelp4less.com offers a variety of sea kelp products. The latter two suggestions offer great value.

Step #9 - Kill your weeds.

Your lawn probably has weeds and spring is going to be a time they are going to rapidly grow. Getting rid of them is important as many weeds will outcompete your grass if given the chance. There are thousands of herbicides available but you’ll need just a couple:
  1. An all-purpose. This will be what you will use on most of your broadleaf weeds like dandelions and plantains. Bayer Advanced makes a product that is effective and available basically everywhere. Compare-n-Save makes an incredibly cheap version that works about as well. SpeedZone is a step up, a “higher power” product used by many professionals, but is not something I would recommend if you have never sprayed weeds before as over-spraying it can do serious damage.
  2. Something for clover. The above products will damage clover, but with the possible exception of SpeedZone, probably won’t knock it out. If you want to kill it - along with its “cousins,” oxalis and chickweed - you’ll need something that contains triclopyr. Your best option is the easy to find Weed B Gon Chickweed, Clover, Oxalis Killer.
  3. Specialty items for grassy weeds and other hard to kill items. A favorite of this sub, Tenacity works great on things like crabgrass, annual bluegrass, nimblewill, and yellow nutsedge. Quinclorac also works on crabgrass but if you put down a pre-emergent (Step #6) you shouldn’t have much to deal with. I’d hold off on buying either of these until you see if you actually need them.
A few details to note regarding herbicides:
How to spray weeds: This video from the Lawn Care Nut covers the basics of spot spraying. A few additional points that Allyn didn’t cover: Avoid watering or mowing for at least 24 hours after spraying. The point is to let the herbicide get absorbed into the weed and work its way through it. Washing the herbicide off with water or cutting the sprayed parts off with a mower will obviously hinder that effort.

Step #10 - Treat your lawn for grubs (if they are an issue in your neighborhood) and, if needed, treat for other insects.

Grubs are the larvae of beetles, to the untrained eye they look almost like little white shrimp. They commonly feed on the roots of grass plants and in doing so can devastate a lawn. Grubs are not present in every lawn or even in every neighborhood. I obviously can’t tell you if they are present in yours. You can ask around in your local garden center or chat with a neighbor who is into lawncare and see if he or she is treating for them. If you think grubs might be an issue for you, I suggest a two-pronged attack:

Summer:

Cool season grass has the name it does for a good reason: it thrives during the cooler days of spring and fall. And it struggles in summer, at least in any place where daytime highs exceed 85°F with any regularity. Thus, the proper approach to summer is to hang on, keep the grass healthy and prepare for fall when it can be at its best again.

Step #11 - Mow your lawn!

While I put this step in this section as it is most relevant to summer, make no mistake about it, you should begin mowing as soon as your grass beings growing in the spring. A few tips to help you along:

Step #12 - Water effectively.

If you live in a cooler, rainier place you might be able to get away without watering much in the spring but virtually everyone is going to have to water in the summer. Here are some tips to water effectively:

Step #13 - Prevent fungal diseases if you live in an area where they might strike.

While humans and animals are most often stricken with viral or bacterial diseases, these almost never occur in cool season grasses grown for home lawns. What do occur are fungal diseases. Fungi, as you might have learned in high school science, are a separate kingdom of organisms apart from plants, animals and other tiny things. Fungi that affect lawns require two things in order to grow: heat and humidity. If you have conditions where the temperature (in degrees Fahrenheit) and the percent humidity added together equal 150 or higher, you are at risk for disease. Things you can do to lower your risk include:

Step #14 - Plan for fall.

Fall is the optimal time to seed cool season lawns. If your lawn is thin, you’ll want to overseed it. The best time for this is when your soil temperatures fall to about 70°F. (To find out when this is use the tool linked to in Step #6). If you didn’t aerate in the spring, doing so in the fall - and then seeding - is generally a good idea. Spend some time figuring out what type of seed to plant, what type of starter fertilizer you are going to use, how you are going to control weeds and how you will handle watering. The more detailed your plan going into fall, the better your chances for success.

Plan Review:

NOW
WHEN SOIL TEMPERATURES APPROACH 55°F:
TWO TO THREE WEEKS LATER:
WHEN SOIL TEMPERATURES APPROACH 70°F:
THREE WEEKS AFTER FIRST FERTILIZER APPLICATION:
THROUGHOUT SUMMER:
submitted by wino_tim to lawncare [link] [comments]

State of Dystopia for Spring 2020

Hello cyberpunk. I know this is far from the usual fare here, but I hope you’ll give this type of post a shot.
Like many of you, I more or less believe we are living in cyberpunk times. At the very least, cyberpunk elements have never been more resonant. What’s important to me in this assessment is more the actual thematic elements of cyberpunk than just the aesthetic.
I love the content here as much as the next person. But sometimes I think we could stand to reflect, too. It’s not an attempt at flattery, but the comment sections on this sub are often insightful.
So why am I posting this?
Because a lot of us are on the same page. We're at least on the same chapter. And if we mostly recognize the cyberpunk and otherwise dystopian trends in the present, we should speak frankly about them.
What I’m focusing on in particular here, is something that I’ve seen very little discussion about on Reddit or social media writ-large, at least among ordinary people like us.
And it is my belief that while dystopia in real life has been long in the making, the last few months have put us firmly on a certain timeline. This is my assessment of why. (Note: pretty specific to the United States).

PLUTOCRACY + INEQUALITY

The last few months have seen the defeat of a progressive challenge to corporate domination, and shortly thereafter an enormous transfer of wealth upwards.
To be clear, I’m not an economist, and I still have a limited grasp of all that’s going on. So don’t take it from me: take it from experts.
This is what award-winning journalist Matt Taibbi had to say about the CARES act, the massive stimulus bill passed in response to the coronavirus-induced economic crisis. You can read more of his work, and the original essay this came from, here.
To elaborate on the Fed’s debt-buying program, here are some excerpts from a joint analysis done by The Intercept and the American Prospect.
This giveaway comes as small businesses die to leave only major corporations left. Most of us can see this unfold with common sense: we’re all using a lot of Amazon, Instacart, etc. And if we interface with local restaurants, it’s typically though GrubHub, UberEats, Doordash.
Sure, there was small business aid—a loan program that ran out of funds immediately and counted large chains among its beneficiaries.
By the way, a note on that program. It had to get refilled, because it ran out immediately, bringing the total to over $600 billion in loans for small businesses.
But hey, it’s helping small businesses right? Well, most of them probably are. But the thing is, today (June 11th), we found out that the Small Business Administration backtracked on its promise to disclose the recipient data. So it may be a while before we find out how many large, wealthy businesses got aid supposedly for small businesses—if we ever do.
Anyway, let me shift focus to economic consolidation.
Here’s another expert—another guy named Matt with a Substack, but this time it’s Matt Stoller.
And there have been a few more recent events highlighting this point. In mid-May, Facebook announced its purchase of Giphy. A couple days before that, reports emerged of Uber trying to acquire GrubHub (doing so would give it a dominant 55% market share).
Another point of online ire: Jeff Bezos. A couple weeks ago leftists on Twitter determined Jeff Bezos could be on track to achieve trillionaire status in coming years. To be clear, this is not as assured an outcome as you may have heard: it assumes the rate of Jeff Bezos’ current wealth increases will continue ‘til 2026. If his 34% growth rate continues uninterrupted, he’d be worth a trillion in six years—that may not happen.
But whatever. The point stands even with that detail aside–Bezos is rich as fuck, and he is getting richer through all this because Amazon is becoming more of an essential service than ever. And it’s hard to see that changing in the immediate future.
To an extent, you may not even need all the details provided above to get the gist. Some of the most noticeable aspects of this speak volumes:
The stock market has been soaring with historic gains. The Fed's attempt at stabilizing financial markets has worked for now, and the wealthiest people in the country have regained whatever they lost and then some. As CNN reported last week, American billionaires have gained $565 billion since March 18th. Speaking of Jeff Bezos, he's worth $32 billion more now than he was in March. All of this has happened while we suffer from double-digit unemployment.
To add insult to injury, so much of this disaster came just as progressive challenger Bernie Sanders gets trounced and drops out of the Democratic primary. Do I think Bernie would’ve fixed everything? Of course not. And while you can think you’re a genius for saying “he never would’ve won,” (it’s really not a hot take), the timing of it all still sucks.

POLICE STATE

Compounding the seizure of the economy are events breaking out in Minneapolis and many other cities across the country.
Police have been increasingly militarized. It is no longer uncommon to see tanks in the street, run by local police. But that's been a trend over a decade in the making, and thus not really what I'd care to focus on.
Even more worrying are the newer developments. On May 30th, when unrest first broke out in Minneapolis, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said he was receiving military intelligence from the Pentagon on protestors. While we are lacking further info on this statement, if it’s true, it would represent a major step forward for the security state. There are countless examples of domestic surveillance, but this is the military monitoring its own citizens as though they were terrorists within days of the unrest starting.
And then, of course, there’s Trump’s decree that antifa will be designated a terrorist organization. It is unclear if he has the authority to do so. But even if his formal legal authority to do this is unclear, it will almost certainly represent at least SOME ramping up of surveillance and crackdown from the executive side. There's already ample infrastructure--physically and legally--for the executive branch of government to pursue domestic anti-terror practices.
Attorney General Barr already said the FBI is working in coordination with most major cities across the countries as part of its anti-terrorism partnerships with local PDs. In other words, we only need to do so much speculation: protests and unrest are almost certainly being treated with the gravity of a domestic terror threat. We’re not at 9/11 levels of hysteria from the feds, but the infrastructure is there and waiting to be used. The first bit of proof of this: The Intercept reported last week that the FBI has been interrogating arrested protestors on their political beliefs. We may well find out in a few years how much high-tech mass-surveillance has been conducted.
With the first week of June now over, there are examples of local governments instituting reforms or at least de-escalating to make peace with protestors. Trump, for now, appears to have backed off the idea of deploying the military, and the National Guard has begun withdrawing from Washington DC.
Still, there’s a fair chance that Trump will campaign on a law-and-order backlash and ramp up law enforcement. There's a fair chance these reforms will be such in name only, or that they will lead to privatized, para-military police forces across the country. Now that would be cyberpunk.
I’ve got one more thing that I just found out about a couple hours ago, from The Intercept. Facebook has been working on its version of Slack, Facebook Workplace, and debuted some features in an internal meeting. If you’ll allow me to quote the article:
A bit random, but that’s yet another bit of insidious Facebook news I wanted to throw out there. Though it does tie into the consolidation argument (Facebook trying to compete with Slack) and the security state analysis (yet another means of surveillance and censorship, even if in private hands for now).

Okay...TO SUM UP:

That's my assessment of the state of dystopia. Anyone off the street could tell you (correctly) that these events have been years in the making. I’m one of those people. Even so, the last few months have taken a particularly dark turn.
I thought those of us who love cyberpunk might benefit from being candid—and even meta—about it. Anyhow, thanks for reading!
submitted by presentpunk to Cyberpunk [link] [comments]

/r/Scams Common Scam Master Post

Hello visitors and subscribers of scams! Here you will find a master list of common (and uncommon) scams that you may encounter online or in real life. Thank you to the many contributors who helped create this thread!

If you know of a scam that is not covered here, write a comment and it will be added to the next edition.

Previous threads: https://old.reddit.com/Scams/search?q=common+scams+master+post&restrict_sr=on
Blackmail email scam thread: https://old.reddit.com/Scams/comments/g8jqnthe_blackmail_email_scam_part_5//
Some of these articles are from small, local publications and refer to the scam happening in a specific area. Do not think that this means that the scam won't happen in your area.

Spoofing

Caller ID spoofing
It is very easy for anyone to make a phone call while having any number show up on the caller ID of the person receiving the phone call. Receiving a phone call from a certain number does not mean that the person/company who owns that number has actually called you.
Email spoofing
The "from" field of an email can be set by the sender, meaning that you can receive scam emails that look like they are from legitimate addresses. It's important to never click links in emails unless absolutely necessary, for example a password reset link you requested or an account activation link for an account you created.
SMS spoofing
SMS messages can be spoofed, so be wary of messages that seem to be from your friends or other trusted people.

The most common scams

The fake check scam (Credit to nimble2 for this part)
The fake check scam arises from many different situations (for instance, you applied for a job, or you are selling something on a place like Craigslist, or someone wants to purchase goods or services from your business, or you were offered a job as a mystery shopper, you were asked to wrap your car with an advertisement, or you received a check in the mail for no reason), but the bottom line is always something like this:
General fraudulent funds scams If somebody is asking you to accept and send out money as a favour or as part of a job, it is a fraudulent funds scam. It does not matter how they pay you, any payment on any service can be fraudulent and will be reversed when it is discovered to be fraudulent.
Phone verification code scams Someone will ask you to receive a verification text and then tell you to give them the code. Usually the code will come from Google Voice, or from Craigslist. In the Google version of the scam, your phone number will be used to verify a Google Voice account that the scammer will use to scam people with. In the Craigslist version of the scam, your phone number will be used to verify a Craigslist posting that the scammer will use to scam people. There is also an account takeover version of this scam that will involve the scammer sending a password reset token to your phone number and asking you for it.
Bitcoin job scams
Bitcoin job scams involve some sort of fraudulent funds transfer, usually a fake check although a fraudulent bank transfer can be used as well. The scammer will send you the fraudulent money and ask you to purchase bitcoins. This is a scam, and you will have zero recourse after you send the scammer bitcoins.
Email flooding
If you suddenly receive hundreds or thousands of spam emails, usually subscription confirmations, it's very likely that one of your online accounts has been taken over and is being used fraudulently. You should check any of your accounts that has a credit card linked to it, preferably from a computer other than the one you normally use. You should change all of your passwords to unique passwords and you should start using two factor authentication everywhere.
Boss/CEO scam A scammer will impersonate your boss or someone who works at your company and will ask you to run an errand for them, which will usually be purchasing gift cards and sending them the code. Once the scammer has the code, you have no recourse.
Employment certification scams
You will receive a job offer that is dependent on you completing a course or receiving a certification from a company the scammer tells you about. The scammer operates both websites and the job does not exist.
Craigslist fake payment scams
Scammers will ask you about your item that you have listed for sale on a site like Craigslist, and will ask to pay you via Paypal. They are scamming you, and the payment in most cases does not actually exist, the email you received was sent by the scammers. In cases where you have received a payment, the scammer can dispute the payment or the payment may be entirely fraudulent. The scammer will then either try to get you to send money to them using the fake funds that they did not send to you, or will ask you to ship the item, usually to a re-shipping facility or a parcel mule.
General fraudulent funds scams The fake check scam is not the only scam that involves accepting fraudulent/fake funds and purchasing items for scammers. If your job or opportunity involves accepting money and then using that money, it is almost certainly a frauduent funds scam. Even if the payment is through a bank transfer, Paypal, Venmo, Zelle, Interac e-Transfer, etc, it does not matter.
Credit card debt scam
Fraudsters will offer to pay off your bills, and will do so with fraudulent funds. Sometimes it will be your credit card bill, but it can be any bill that can be paid online. Once they pay it off, they will ask you to send them money or purchase items for them. The fraudulent transaction will be reversed in the future and you will never be able to keep the money. This scam happens on sites like Craigslist, Twitter, Instagram, and also some dating sites, including SeekingArrangement.
The parcel mule scam
A scammer will contact you with a job opportunity that involves accepting and reshipping packages. The packages are either stolen or fraudulently obtained items, and you will not be paid by the scammer. Here is a news article about a scam victim who fell for this scam and reshipped over 20 packages containing fraudulently acquired goods.
The Skype sex scam
You're on Facebook and you get a friend request from a cute girl you've never met. She wants to start sexting and trading nudes. She'll ask you to send pictures or videos or get on webcam where she can see you naked with your face in the picture. The scam: There's no girl. You've sent nudes to a guy pretending to be a girl. As soon as he has the pictures he'll demand money and threaten to send the pictures to your friends and family. Sometimes the scammer will upload the video to a porn site or Youtube to show that they are serious.
What to do if you are a victim of this scam: You cannot buy silence, you can only rent it. Paying the blackmailer will show them that the information they have is valuable and they will come after you for more money. Let your friends and family know that you were scammed and tell them to ignore friend requests or messages from people they don't know. Also, make sure your privacy settings are locked down and consider deactivating your account.
The underage girl scam
You're on a dating site or app and you get contacted by a cute girl. She wants to start sexting and trading nudes. Eventually she stops communicating and you get a call from a pissed off guy claiming to be the girl's father, or a police officer, or a private investigator, or something else along those lines. Turns out the girl you were sexting is underage, and her parents want some money for various reasons, such as to pay for a new phone, to pay for therapy, etc. There is, of course, no girl. You were communicating with a scammer.
What to do if you are a victim of this scam: Stop picking up the phone when the scammers call. Do not pay them, or they will be after you for more money.
Phishing
Phishing is when a scammer tries to trick you into giving information to them, such as your password or private financial information. Phishing messages will usually look very similar to official messages, and sometimes they are identical. If you are ever required to login to a different account in order to use a service, you should be incredibly cautious.
The blackmail email scam The exact wording of the emails varies, but there are generally four main parts. They claim to have placed software/malware on a porn/adult video site, they claim to have a video of you masturbating or watching porn, they threaten to release the video to your friends/family/loved ones/boss/dog, and they demand that you pay them in order for them to delete the video. Rest assured that this is a very common spam campaign and there is no truth behind the email or the threats. Here are some news articles about this scam.
The blackmail mail scam
This is very similar to the blackmail email scam, but you will receive a letter in the mail.
Rental scams Usually on local sites like Craigslist, scammers will steal photos from legitimate real estate listings and will list them for rent at or below market rate. They will generally be hesitant to tell you the address of the property for "safety reasons" and you will not be able to see the unit. They will then ask you to pay them a deposit and they claim they will ship you the keys. In reality, your money is gone and you will have no recourse.
Craigslist vehicle scams A scammer will list a vehicle on Craigslist and will offer to ship you the car. In many cases they will also falsely claim to sell you the car through eBay or Amazon. If you are looking for a car on Craigslist and the seller says anything about shipping the car, having an agent, gives you a long story about why they are selling the car, or the listing price is far too low, you are talking to a scammer and you should ignore and move on.
Advance-fee scam, also known as the 419 scam, or the Nigerian prince scam. You will receive a communication from someone who claims that you are entitled to a large sum of money, or you can help them obtain a large sum of money. However, they will need money from you before you receive the large sum.
Man in the middle scams
Man in the middle scams are very common and very hard to detect. The scammer will impersonate a company or person you are legitimately doing business with, and they will ask you to send the money to one of their own bank accounts or one controlled by a money mule. They have gained access to the legitimate persons email address, so there will be nothing suspicious about the email. To prevent this, make contact in a different way that lets you verify that the person you are talking to is the person you think you are talking to.
Cam girl voting/viewer scam
You will encounter a "cam girl" on a dating/messaging/social media/whatever site/app, and the scammer will ask you to go to their site and sign up with your credit card. They may offer a free show, or ask you to vote for them, or any number of other fake stories.
Amateur porn recruitment scam
You will encounter a "pornstar" on a dating/messaging/social media/whatever site/app, and the scammer will ask you to create an adult film with hehim, but first you need to do something. The story here is usually something to do with verifying your age, or you needing to take an STD test that involves sending money to a site operated by the scammer.
Hot girl SMS spam
You receive a text from a random number with a message along the lines of "Hey babe I'm here in town again if you wanted to meet up this time, are you around?" accompanied by a NSFW picture of a hot girl. It's spam, and they'll direct you to their scam website that requires a credit card.
Identity verification scam
You will encounter someone on a dating/messaging/social media/whatever site/app, and the scammer will ask that you verify your identity as they are worried about catfishing. The scammer operates the site, and you are not talking to whoever you think you are talking to.
This type of scam teases you with something, then tries to make you sign up for something else that costs money. The company involved is often innocent, but they turn a blind eye to the practice as it helps their bottom line, even if they have to occasionally issue refunds. A common variation takes place on dating sites/dating apps, where you will match with someone who claims to be a camgirl who wants you to sign up for a site and vote for her. Another variation takes place on local sites like Craigslist, where the scammers setup fake rental scams and demand that you go through a specific service for a credit check. Once you go through with it, the scammer will stop talking to you. Another variation also takes place on local sites like Craigslist, where scammers will contact you while you are selling a car and will ask you to purchase a Carfax-like report from a specific website.
Multi Level Marketing or Affiliate Marketing
You apply for a vague job listing for 'sales' on craigslist. Or maybe an old friend from high school adds you on Facebook and says they have an amazing business opportunity for you. Or maybe the well dressed guy who's always interviewing people in the Starbucks that you work at asks if you really want to be slinging coffee the rest of your life. The scam: MLMs are little more than pyramid schemes. They involve buying some sort of product (usually snake oil health products like body wraps or supplements) and shilling them to your friends and family. They claim that the really money is recruiting people underneath you who give you a slice of whatever they sell. And if those people underneath you recruit more people, you get a piece of their sales. Ideally if you big enough pyramid underneath you the money will roll in without any work on your part. Failure to see any profit will be your fault for not "wanting it enough." The companies will claim that you need to buy their extra training modules or webinars to really start selling. But in reality, the vast majority of people who buy into a MLM won't see a cent. At the end of the day all you'll be doing is annoying your friends and family with your constant recruitment efforts. What to look out for: Recruiters love to be vague. They won't tell you the name of the company or what exactly the job will entail. They'll pump you up with promises of "self-generating income", "being your own boss", and "owning your own company." They might ask you to read books about success and entrepreneurs. They're hoping you buy into the dream first. If you get approached via social media, check their timelines. MLMs will often instruct their victims to pretend that they've already made it. They'll constantly post about how they're hustling and making the big bucks and linking to youtube videos about success. Again, all very vague about what their job actually entails. If you think you're being recruited: Ask them what exactly the job is. If they can't answer its probably a MLM. Just walk away.

Phone scams

You should generally avoid answering or engaging with random phone calls. Picking up and engaging with a scam call tells the scammers that your phone number is active, and will usually lead to more calls.
Tax Call
You get a call from somebody claiming to be from your countries tax agency. They say you have unpaid taxes that need to be paid immediately, and you may be arrested or have other legal action taken against you if it is not paid. This scam has caused the American IRS, Canadian CRA, British HMRC, and Australian Tax Office to issue warnings. This scam happens in a wide variety of countries all over the world.
Warrant Call
Very similar to the tax call. You'll get a phone call from an "agent", "officer", "sheriff", or other law enforcement officer claiming that there is a warrant out for your arrest and you will be arrested very soon. They will then offer to settle everything for a fee, usually paid in giftcards.
[Legal Documents/Process Server Calls]
Very similar to the warrant call. You'll get a phone call from a scammer claiming that they are going to serve you legal documents, and they will threaten you with legal consequences if you refuse to comply. They may call themselves "investigators", and will sometimes give you a fake case number.
Student Loan Forgiveness Scam
Scammers will call you and tell you about a student loan forgiveness program, but they are interested in obtaining private information about you or demanding money in order to join the fake program.
Tech Support Call You receive a call from someone with a heavy accent claiming to be a technician Microsoft or your ISP. They inform you that your PC has a virus and your online banking and other accounts may be compromised if the virus is not removed. They'll have you type in commands and view diagnostics on your PC which shows proof of the virus. Then they'll have you install remote support software so the technician can work on your PC, remove the virus, and install security software. The cost of the labor and software can be hundreds of dollars. The scam: There's no virus. The technician isn't a technician and does not work for Microsoft or your ISP. Scammers (primarily out of India) use autodialers to cold-call everyone in the US. Any file they point out to you or command they have you run is completely benign. The software they sell you is either freeware or ineffective. What to do you if you're involved with this scam: If the scammers are remotely on your computer as you read this, turn off your PC or laptop via the power button immediately, and then if possible unplug your internet connection. Some of the more vindictive tech scammers have been known to create boot passwords on your computer if they think you've become wise to them and aren't going to pay up. Hang up on the scammers, block the number, and ignore any threats about payment. Performing a system restore on your PC is usually all that is required to remove the scammer's common remote access software. Reports of identity theft from fake tech calls are uncommon, but it would still be a good idea to change your passwords for online banking and monitor your accounts for any possible fraud. How to avoid: Ignore any calls claiming that your PC has a virus. Microsoft will never contact you. If you're unsure if a call claiming to be from your ISP is legit, hang up, and then dial the customer support number listed on a recent bill. If you have elderly relatives or family that isn't tech savvy, take the time to fill them in on this scam.
Chinese government scam
This scam is aimed at Chinese people living in Europe and North America, and involves a voicemail from someone claiming to be associated with the Chinese government, usually through the Chinese consulate/embassy, who is threatening legal action or making general threats.
Chinese shipping scam
This scam is similar to the Chinese government scam, but involves a seized/suspicious package, and the scammers will connect the victim to other scammers posing as Chinese government investigators.
Social security suspension scam
You will receive a call from someone claiming to work for the government regarding suspicious activity, fraud, or serious crimes connected to your social security number. You'll be asked to speak to an operator and the operator will explain the steps you need to follow in order to fix the problems. It's all a scam, and will lead to you losing money and could lead to identity theft if you give them private financial information.
Utilities cutoff
You get a call from someone who claims that they are from your utility company, and they claim that your utilities will be shut off unless you immediately pay. The scammer will usually ask for payment via gift cards, although they may ask for payment in other ways, such as Western Union or bitcoin.
Relative in custody Scammer claims to be the police, and they have your son/daughtenephew/estranged twin in custody. You need to post bail (for some reason in iTunes gift cards or MoneyGram) immediately or the consequences will never be the same.
Mexican family scam
This scam comes in many different flavours, but always involves someone in your family and Mexico. Sometimes the scammer will claim that your family member has been detained, sometimes the scammer will claim that your family member has been kidnapped, and sometimes the scammer will claim that your family member is injured and needs help.
General family scams
Scammers will gather a large amount of information about you and target your family members using different stories with the goal of gettimg them to send money.
One ring scam
Scammers will call you from an international number with the goal of getting you to return their call, causing you to incur expensive calling fees.

Online shopping scams

THE GOLDEN RULE OF ONLINE SHOPPING: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Dropshipping
An ad on reddit or social media sites like Facebook and Instagram offers items at huge discounts or even free (sometimes requiring you to reblog or like their page). They just ask you to pay shipping. The scam: The item will turn out to be very low quality and will take weeks or even months to arrive. Sometimes the item never arrives, and the store disappears or stops responding. The seller drop-ships the item from China. The item may only cost a few dollars, and the Chinese government actually pays for the shipping. You end up paying $10-$15 dollars for a $4 item, with the scammer keeping the profit. If you find one of these scams but really have your heart set on the item, you can find it on AliExpress or another Chinese retailer.
Influencer scams
A user will reach out to you on a social media platform, usually Instagram, and offer you the chance to partner with them and receive a free/discounted product, as long as you pay shipping. This is a different version of the dropshipping scam, and is just a marketing technique to get you to buy their products.
Triangulation fraud
Triangulation fraud occurs when you make a purchase on a site like Amazon or eBay for an item at a lower than market price, and receive an item that was clearly purchased new at full price. The scammer uses a stolen credit card to order your item, while the money from the listing is almost all profit for the scammer.
Instagram influencer scams
Someone will message you on Instagram asking you to promote their products, and offering you a discount code. The items are Chinese junk, and the offer is made to many people at a time.
Cheap Items
Many websites pop up and offer expensive products, including electronics, clothes, watches, sunglasses, and shoes at very low prices. The scam: Some sites are selling cheap knock-offs. Some will just take your money and run. What to do if you think you're involved with this scam: Contact your bank or credit card and dispute the charge. How to avoid: The sites often have every brand-name shoe or fashion item (Air Jordan, Yeezy, Gucci, etc) in stock and often at a discounted price. The site will claim to be an outlet for a major brand or even a specific line or item. The site will have images at the bottom claiming to be Secured by Norton or various official payment processors but not actual links. The site will have poor grammar and a mish-mash of categories. Recently, established websites will get hacked or their domain name jacked and turned into scam stores, meaning the domain name of the store will be completely unrelated to the items they're selling. If the deal sounds too good to be true it probably is. Nobody is offering brand new iPhones or Beats or Nintendo Switches for 75% off.
Cheap Amazon 3rd Party Items
You're on Amazon or maybe just Googling for an item and you see it for an unbelievable price from a third-party seller. You know Amazon has your back so you order it. The scam: One of three things usually happen: 1) The seller marks the items as shipped and sends a fake tracking number. Amazon releases the funds to the seller, and the seller disappears. Amazon ultimately refunds your money. 2) The seller immediately cancels the order and instructs you to re-order the item directly from their website, usually with the guarantee that the order is still protected by Amazon. The seller takes your money and runs. Amazon informs you that they do not offer protection on items sold outside of Amazon and cannot help you. 2) The seller immediately cancels the order and instructs you to instead send payment via an unused Amazon gift card by sending the code on the back via email. Once the seller uses the code, the money on the card is gone and cannot be refunded. How to avoid: These scammers can be identified by looking at their Amazon storefronts. They'll be brand new sellers offering a wide range of items at unbelievable prices. Usually their Amazon names will be gibberish, or a variation on FIRSTNAME.LASTNAME. Occasionally however, established storefronts will be hacked. If the deal is too good to be true its most likely a scam.
Scams on eBay
There are scams on eBay targeting both buyers and sellers. As a seller, you should look out for people who privately message you regarding the order, especially if they ask you to ship to a different address or ask to negotiate via text/email/a messaging service. As a buyer you should look out for new accounts selling in-demand items, established accounts selling in-demand items that they have no previous connection to (you can check their feedback history for a general idea of what they bought/sold in the past), and lookout for people who ask you to go off eBay and use another service to complete the transaction. In many cases you will receive a fake tracking number and your money will be help up for up to a month.
Scams on Amazon
There are scams on Amazon targeting both buyers and sellers. As a seller, you should look out for people who message you about a listing. As a buyer you should look out for listings that have an email address for you to contact the person to complete the transaction, and you should look out for cheap listings of in-demand items.
Scams on Reddit
Reddit accounts are frequently purchased and sold by fraudsters who wish to use the high karma count + the age of the account to scam people on buy/sell subreddits. You need to take precautions and be safe whenever you are making a transaction online.
Computer scams
Virus scam
A popup or other ad will say that you have a virus and you need to follow their advice in order to remove it. They are lying, and either want you to install malware or pay for their software.

Assorted scams

Chinese Brushing / direct shipping
If you have ever received an unsolicited small package from China, your address was used to brush. Vendors place fake orders for their own products and send out the orders so that they can increase their ratings.
Money flipping
Scammer claims to be a banking insider who can double/triple/bazoople any amount of money you send them, with no consequences of any kind. Obviously, the money disappears into their wallet the moment you send it.

Door to door scams

As a general rule, you should not engage with door to door salesmen. If you are interested in the product they are selling, check online first.
Selling Magazines
Someone or a group will come to your door and offer to sell a magazine subscription. Often the subscriptions are not for the duration or price you were told, and the magazines will often have tough or impossible cancellation policies.
Energy sales
Somebody will come to your door claiming to be from an energy company. They will ask to see your current energy bill so that they can see how much you pay. They will then offer you a discount if you sign up with them, and promise to handle everything with your old provider. Some of these scammers will "slam" you, by using your account number that they saw on your bill to switch you to their service without authorization, and some will scam you by charging higher prices than the ones you agreed on.
Security system scams
Scammers will come to your door and ask about your security system, and offer to sell you a new one. These scammers are either selling you overpriced low quality products, or are casing your home for a future burglary.
They ask to enter your home
While trying to sell you whatever, they suddenly need to use your bathroom, or they've been writing against the wall and ask to use your table instead. Or maybe they just moved into the neighborhood and want to see how you decorate for ideas.
They're scoping out you and your place. They want to see what valuables you have, how gullible you are, if you have a security system or dogs, etc.

Street scams

Begging With a Purpose
"I just need a few more dollars for the bus," at the bus station, or "I just need $5 to get some gas," at a gas station. There's also a variation where you will be presented with a reward: "I just need money for a cab to get uptown, but I'll give you sports tickets/money/a date/a priceless vase."
Three Card Monte, Also Known As The Shell Game
Unbeatable. The people you see winning are in on the scam.
Drop and Break
You bump into someone and they drop their phone/glasses/fancy bottle of wine/priceless vase and demand you pay them back. In reality, it's a $2 pair of reading glasses/bottle of three-buck-chuck/tasteful but affordable vase.
CD Sales
You're handed a free CD so you can check out the artist's music. They then ask for your name and immediately write it on the CD. Once they've signed your name, they ask you for money, saying they can't give it to someone else now. Often they use dry erase markers, or cheap CD sleeves. Never use any type of storage device given to you by a random person, as the device can contain malware.
White Van Speaker Scam
You're approached and offered speakers/leather jackets/other luxury goods at a discount. The scammer will have an excuse as to why the price is so low. After you buy them, you'll discover that they are worthless.
iPhone Street Sale
You're approached and shown an iPhone for sale, coming in the box, but it's open and you can see the phone. If you buy the phone, you'll get an iPhone box with no iPhone, just some stones or cheap metal in it to weigh it down.
Buddhist Monk Pendant
A monk in traditional garb approaches you, hands you a gold trinket, and asks for a donation. He holds either a notebook with names and amounts of donation (usually everyone else has donated $5+), or a leaflet with generic info. This is fairly common in NYC, and these guys get aggressive quickly.
Friendship Bracelet Scam More common in western Europe, you're approached by someone selling bracelets. They quickly wrap a loop of fabric around your finger and pull it tight, starting to quickly weave a bracelet. The only way to (easily) get it off your hand is to pay. Leftover sales
This scam involves many different items, but the idea is usually the same: you are approached by someone who claims to have a large amount of excess inventory and offers to sell it to you at a great price. The scammer actually has low quality items and will lie to you about the price/origin of the items.
Dent repair scams
Scammers will approach you in public about a dent in your car and offer to fix it for a low price. Often they will claim that they are mechanics. They will not fix the dent in your car, but they will apply large amounts of wax or other substances to hide the dent while they claim that the substance requires time to harden.
Gold ring/jewelry/valuable item scam
A scammer will "find" a gold ring or other valuable item and offers to sell it to you. The item is fake and you will never see the scammer again.
Distraction theft
One person will approach you and distract you, while their accomplice picks your pockets. The distraction can take many forms, but if you are a tourist and are approached in public, watch closely for people getting close to you.

General resources

Site to report scams in the United Kingdom: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/
Site to report scams in the United States: https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
Site to report scams in Canada: www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/reportincident-signalerincident/index-eng.htm
Site to report scams in Europe: https://www.europol.europa.eu/report-a-crime/report-cybercrime-online
FTC scam alerts: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts
Microsoft's anti-scam guide: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/safety/online-privacy/avoid-phone-scams.aspx
https://www.usa.gov/common-scams-frauds
https://www.usa.gov/scams-and-frauds
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts
https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes
submitted by EugeneBYMCMB to Scams [link] [comments]

Three Mistakes I See Many New Affiliate Marketers Make

Good morning my fellow affiliates. I run eight affiliate sites, and made these mistakes myself when I first got started. Being aware of these subtle things and changing them can take your site from amateur to professional pretty fast. For some context, I'm an affiliate content writer and I do stuff like this for clients all day long, so this is based on trial and error throughout my years on both sides of the fence.

1. Stock Image Overuse

You have blog content to support your buying guides, or to subtly push a product or idea at the end. That's great, but royalty-free stock images are not the way to go about augmenting these posts.
After you spend enough time researching and reviewing competitors, you notice the same images everywhere. Consider purchasing a license for a premium stock service, such as Shutterfly.
If you can't afford one, that's okay. If you're going to use royalty-free stock images, consider cropping images and adding a slightly colored filter in a similar hue to the design of your website. It creates cohesion while also not looking like every other site in your niche.

2. One and Done

You don't just need to be an Amazon affiliate site. In my own experience and that of my clients, it's better to have three to five programs that you focus on (and it's okay to be part of more, once you have the content to support it) . One of my sites makes about 60% of all affiliate income through Amazon, while another earns about 15% through Amazon, and the other 85% through Walmart, Lowe's and Home Depot.
Amazon isn't going anywhere anytime soon, but it's not your only option. Many affiliate programs are enthusiastic about welcoming new marketers, and offer competitive royalties with longer cookie times.

3. Expecting the World

Some sites kick off in three months, and others can take two years. Factors like SEO, content length, keyword competition and others all wrap into that.
I gave up on four sites before finally kicking myself in the ass. My first successful site took four months to make a single sale. It snowballed from there.
Add content. Revisit pages that get low traffic compared to others. Keywords change, so research them often and change them if you can't compete with the big sites. It is absolutely a continued effort, and you need to be able to commit or it's not going to take off. Effort is everything: keep moving even when it seems like it's for nothing. These things take time.
TL;DR: Less stock images, don't stick to only one single affiliate program, and give it effort and time before expecting any results.
If you have any questions about making better content, just ask them here and I'll give you a detailed response. I'm happy to help.
submitted by MrContentMan to Affiliatemarketing [link] [comments]

How to achieve explosive startup growth!

Here is the summary of the book Traction: How any startup can achieve explosive growth.
I hope that you find it useful!

Traction is a sign that your startup is taking off. If you charge, it means customers are buying. If your product is free, it means your user base is growing.
If you have traction, all your technical, market, and team risks become easier to handle. It becomes easier to fund-raise, hire, do press, partnerships, and acquisitions.
Traction trumps everything.

How to think about Traction?

Almost every failed startup has a product. What failed startups don’t have is enough customers.
You should spend your time in parallel, both constructing your product and testing traction channels.
This is what we call the 50 percent rule: spend 50 percent of your time on product and 50% on traction. This rule seems simple but it’s hard to follow because the pull to spend all your attention on the product is strong. You’re probably making a startup because you want to build a particular product. You have a vision, but a lot of traction activities are unknown and outside your vision and comfort zone. So you try to avoid them. Don’t.
Doing product and traction in parallel has these benefits:
Before trying to get traction, you’ll need to define what traction means for your company. You need to set a traction goal. Maybe your current startup goal is to raise funding or become profitable. How many customers do you need and at what rate? You should then focus on marketing activities that result in a significant impact on your traction goal. It should move the needle.
Your startup has 3 phases:

Phase I: Make something people want

In phase 1, your product has the most leaks, it really doesn’t hold water. You shouldn’t scale up your efforts now, but it’s important to send a small amount of water through the bucket so you can see where the holes are and plug them. \ Your goal in phase 1 is to get your first customers and prove your product can get traction. You focus on building your initial product and getting traction in ways that don’t scale: giving talks, writing guest posts, emailing people you know, attending conferences, and doing whatever you can to get in front of customers.

Some founders believe that startups either take off or don’t. Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off!
– Paul Graham

Phase II: Market something people want

Once you hone your product, you have product-market fit and customers are sticking around. Now is the time to scale up your traction efforts. You fine-tune your positioning and marketing messages.

Phase III: Scale your business

As your company grows, smaller traction strategies stop moving the needle, so you’ll start to scale.
In phase 3 you have an established business model and significant position in the market, and you’re focused on scaling to further dominate the market and to profit.

Traction for funding

When pursuing funding, first contact individuals who understand what you’re working on. The better your investors understand what you’re doing, the less traction they’ll need to see before they invest. Also, try friends and family who may not need to see any traction before investing as they’re investing in you personally.

To pivot or not to pivot

Many startups give up way too early. The first thing to look for is evidence of real product engagement, even if it’s only a few dedicated customers. If you have such an engagement, you might be giving up too soon. Look for the bright spots in your customer base and see if you can expand from that base.

How to get traction? The Bullseye framework

The Bullseye framework helps you find the channel that will get you traction. Most businesses actually get zero distribution channels to work. If you can get even a single distribution channel to work, you have a great business. If you try for several but don’t nail one, you’re finished.
You’re aiming for bullseye: the one channel at the center of the target that will unlock your next growth stage. Here are the 3 Bullseye framework steps:

Find what’s possible: The outer-ring

The first step in Bullseye is brainstorming every single traction channel. It’s important not to dismiss any channel in this step. Think of at least one idea for each channel. For example, social ads is a traction channel. Running ads on Facebook or Twitter is a channel strategy within social ads. You could research what marketing strategies worked in your industry as well as the history of companies in your space.

Find what’s probable: The middle-ring

Go around your outer-ring and promote your best and most exciting ideas to your middle-ring. For each traction channel in your middle ring, now construct a cheap traction test you can run to find if the idea is good or not. These tests need to answer the following questions:
  1. What’s the cost of acquiring customers?
  2. How many customers are available?
  3. Are they the right type of customers for you now?
You want to design small scale tests that don’t require much up-front cost or effort. For example, run 4 Facebook ads instead of 40.

Find what’s working: The inner-ring

The final step in Bullseye is to only focus on one channel that will move the needle for your startup: your core channel. At any stage of your startup, you should have one traction channel that you’re focusing on and optimizing.
Most founders mess this up by keeping around distracting marketing efforts in other channels.
If search engine marketing is significantly better for you than other channels, you should focus all your efforts on this core channel and uncover additional strategies and tactics within it.
If no channel seems promising after testing, the whole process should be repeated. If you tried several times with no success, then your product may require more tweaking and your bucket might be still leaky.

How to test traction?

Middle-ring tests: You should be running several cheap tests that give you an indication of how successful a given channel strategy could be.
Inner ring tests:
You’re doing two things:
  1. Optimize your chosen channel strategy to make it the best it can be.
  2. Discover better channel strategies within this traction channel.
There is always a set of things you can tweak. For targeting blogs, you can tweak which blogs to target, type of content, call to action, etc. For search engine marketing, you can tweak keywords, ad-copy, demographics, and landing pages.
A common approach is to use A/B testing, where A is the control group and B is the experimental group. The purpose of it is to measure the effectiveness of change in a button color, an ad image, or a different message on a web page. If the experimental group performs significantly better, you can apply the change, get the benefits, and run another test.
You can use tools such as Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer, and Unbounce.
Over time, all marketing channels become saturated. To combat this, you should always be trying to discover new strategies and tactics within your channel and conduct small experiments. Also, experiment with new marketing platforms while they’re still in their infancy.

Tools

To track your tests you could start with a simple spreadsheet or use an analytics tool with cohort analysis. You’ll need to answer these questions:
  1. How many people landed on the website?
  2. What are the demographics of my best and worst customers?
  3. Are customers who interact with my support team more likely to stay?
A basic analytics tool like Clicky, Mixpanel, or Chartbeat can help you with these questions. You can use a spreadsheet as the tool to rank and prioritize traction channel strategies. You should include columns like how many customers are available, conversion rate, the cost to acquire a customer, lifetime value of a customer for every given strategy.

How to focus on the right traction goals? The critical path framework

Define your traction goal

You should always have an explicit traction goal you’re working towards. This could be 1,000 paying customers or 100 new daily customers, or 10% of your market. You want a goal where hitting the mark would change things significantly for your company’s outcome.
Once that is defined, you can work backward and set clear time-based subgoals. Such as reaching 1,000 customers by next quarter.
The key is to follow the critical path towards that goal and exclude all features and marketing activities that don’t help you reach your goal. Everything you decide to do should be assessed against your critical path.

Avoid traction biases

Your competitive advantage may be acquiring customers in ways your competition isn’t. That’s why it’s critical to avoid have traction biases. Stop your urge to refuse channels like speaking engagements, sales or affiliate marketing, business development, or trade shows just because you hate talking on the phone or you find the channel annoying or time-consuming.

Targetting blogs

Targeting blogs that your prospective customers read is one of the best ways to get your first wave customers.
Mint’s initial series of tests revealed that targeting blogs should be its core channel. They asked users to embed an “I want mint” badge on their personal blogs and rewarded them with a VIP access before other invitations were sent out. They also directly sponsored blogs. They sent bloggers a message with “Can I send you $500” as the subject and told them a bit about the product.
To find smaller blogs in your niche:
You can also target link-sharing communities like Reddit, Product Hunt, and Hacker News.
Dropbox, Codecademy, Quora, and Gumroad all got their first customers by sharing their products on HackerNews because their products were a good fit for users on that site.

Publicity

Starting out, an article in TechCrunch or The Huffington Post can boost your startup in the eyes of potential customers, investors, or partners. If you have a fascinating story with broad appeal, media outlets will want to hear from you.
It’s easier to start smaller when targeting big media outlets. Sites like TechCrunch and Lifehacker often pick up stories from smaller forums like Hacker News and subreddits. Instead of approaching TechCrunch, try blogs that TechCrunch reads and get story ideas from. It’s easier to get a smaller blog’s attention. Then you might get featured on TechCrunch and then The New York Times which reads TechCrunch!
What gets a reporter’s attention?
A good press angle makes people react emotionally. If it’s not interesting enough to elicit emotion, you don’t have a story worth pitching.
A good first step is using a service like Help A Reporter Out (HARO), where reporters request sources for articles they’re working on. It could get you a mention in the piece and help establish your credibility. Also, you could offer reporters commentary on stories related to your industries.
You can use Twitter to reach reporters online; almost all of them have Twitter accounts and you’d be surprised how few followers many of them have, but they can be highly influential with their content.
Once you have a solid story, you want to draw as much attention to it as you can:
Once your story has been established as a popular news item, try to drag it out as long as you can. Offer interviews that add to the story. Start “How We Did This” follow-up interviews.
As your startup grows you may consider hiring a PR firm or consultant.

Unconventional PR

Nearly every company attempts traditional publicity, but only a few focus on stunts and other unconventional ways to get buzz.

The publicity stunt

Customer Appreciation

Be awesome to your customers. Shortly after Alexis Ohanian launched Hipmunk, he sent out luggage tags and a handwritten note to the first several hundred people who mentioned the site on Twitter.
Holding a contest is also a great repeatable way to generate publicity and get word of mouth. Shopify has an annual Build a Business competition.
Great customer support is so rare that, if you make your customers happy, they’re likely to spread the news of your awesome product. Zappos is one of the best-known examples of a company with incredible customer service and they classify support as a marketing investment.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM is placing ads on search engines like Google. It’s sometimes called “pay-per-click” because you only pay when a user clicks on an ad.
SEM works well for companies looking to sell directly to their target customer. You’re capturing people who are actively searching for solutions.
Click-Through Rate (CTR) The percentage of ad impressions that result in clicks to your site.
Cost per Click (CPC) The amount it costs to buy a click on an ad.
Cost per Acquisition (CPA) How much it costs you to acquire a customer, not just a click. If you buy clicks at $1 and 10% of people who hit your site make a purchase. This makes your CPA at $10.
CPA = CPC / conversion percentage

SEM to get early customer data

You can use SEM as a way to get early customer data in a controlled and predictable way. Even if you don’t expect to be profitable, you can decide to spend a certain amount of money to get an early base of customers and users to inform you about important metrics such as landing page conversion rates, average cost per customer, and lifetime value.
Archives.com used AdWords to drive traffic to their landing pages, even before they built a product, to test interest in a specific product approach. By measuring the CTR for each ad and conversions, they determined which product aspects were the most compelling to potential customers and what those people would actually pay for. When they finally built their product, they built something they knew the market would want.

SEM strategy

Find high-potential keywords, group them into ad groups, and test different ad copy and landing pages within each ad group. As data flows in, remove underperforming ads and landing pages and make tweaks to keep improving results.
Use tools like Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer to run A/B tests on your landing pages.

Keyword research

Use Google’s keyword planner to discover top keywords your target customers use to find products like yours. You could also use tools such as KeywordSpy, SEMrush, and SpyFu to discover keywords your competition is using.
You can refine your keyword list by adding more terms to the end of each base term to create long-tail keywords. They’re less competitive and have lower search volumes which makes them ideal for testing on smaller groups of customers.
SEM is more expensive for more competitive keywords, so you’ll need to limit yourself to keywords with profitable conversion rates.
You shouldn’t expect your campaigns to be profitable right away, but if you can run a campaign that breaks even after a short period of time, then SEM could be an excellent channel for you to focus on.

Writing ads

Write ads with titles that are catchy, memorable, and relevant to the keywords you’ve paired with it. Include the keyword at least once in the body of your ad and conclude with a prominent call to action like “Check out discounted Nike sneakers!”
Each of your ads and ad groups will have a quality score associated with it. A high-quality score will get you better ad placements and better ad pricing. Click-through rate has the biggest influence on quality score, so you should tailor your ads to the keywords. Google assigns a low-quality score to ads with CTRs below 1.5%

Tactics

Social and Display Ads

Display ads are banner ads you see on websites. Social ads are ads you see on social sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Large display campaigns are often used for branding and awareness, much like offline ads. They can also elicit a direct response such as signing up for an email newsletter or buying a product.
Social ads perform exceptionally well is when they’re used to build an audience and engage with them over time, and eventually convert them to customers.

Display ads

The largest display ad networks are Google Display Network, BuySellAds, Advertising.com, Tribal Fusion, Conversant, and Adblade. Niche ad networks focus on smaller sites that fit certain audience demographics, such as dog lovers or Apple fanatics.
To get started in display advertising, you could start to find out types of ads that work in your industry. You could use tools like MixRank and Adbeat to show you ads your competitors are running and where they place them. Alexa and Quantcast can help you determine who visits the sites that feature your competitors’ ads.

Social ads

Social ads work well for creating interest among potential new customers. The goal is often awareness oriented, not conversion oriented. A purchase takes place further down the line. People visit social media sites for entertainment and interaction, not to see ads.
An effective social ad strategy takes advantage of this reality. Use ads to start conversations about your products by creating compelling content. Instead of directing people to a conversion page, direct them to a piece of content that explains why you developed your product or has other purposes than immediately completing a sale. If you have a piece of content that has high organic reach, when you put paid ads behind that piece, magic happens. Paid is only as good as the content you put behind it. You should employ social ads when you know that a fire is starting around your message and you want to put more oil on it.
Major social sites you may consider are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Foursquare, Tumblr, Reddit, YouTube, and many others.

Offline Ads

Even today, advertisers spend more on offline ads than they do online. When buying offline ads, You should try to advertise to demographics that match up with your target audience. Ask for an audience prospectus or ad kit.
Not sure if magazine ads are a good channel for you? Buy a small ad in a niche publication and give it a test. Want to see if newspapers would be good? Buy a few ads in a local paper. You can also try radio ads and billboards.

Magazine ads

A compelling magazine or newspaper ad will have an attention-grabbing header, an eye-catching graphic, and a description of the product’s benefits. Also, you should have a strong call to action, like an offer to get a free book.

Direct mail

You could also try direct mail by searching for “direct mail lists” and find companies selling such information. (Beware that it can be perceived as spammy)

Local print

You could also try local print ads like local fliers, directories, calendars, church bulletins, community newsletters, coupon booklets, or yellow pages. These work really well for cheap if you want to get early traction for your company in a specific area.

Outdoor advertising

If you want to buy space on a billboard, you could contact companies like Lamar, Clear Channel, or Outfront Media. Billboards aren’t effective for people to take immediate action, but it’s extremely effective for raising awareness around events, like concerts and conferences.
DuckDuckGo bought a billboard in Google’s backyard and it got big attention and press coverage.
Transit ads can be effective as a direct response tool. You can contact Blue Line Media to help you with Transit ads.

Radio and TV

Radio ads are priced on a cost per point (CPP) basis, where each point represents what it will cost to reach 1% of the station’s listeners. It also depends on your market, when the commercial runs and how many ads you’ve bought.
TV ads are often used as branding mechanisms. Quality is critical for it and production costs can run to tens of thousands. Higher-end ones can cost $200K to make. You’ll also need an average of $350,000 for actual airtime. For smaller startups, you could try local TV spots which is much cheaper.
Infomercials work really well for products in categories like Workout equipment, household products, health products, and work-from-home businesses. They can cost between $50,000 and $500,000, and they’re always direct-response.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is improving your ranking in search engines in order to get more people to your site.
The most important thing to know about SEO is that the more high-quality links you have to a given site or page, the higher it will rank. You should also make sure you’re using the keywords you want to target appropriately on your pages, like in your page titles and headings.
There are 2 strategies to choose from: fat-head and long-tail.
Fat-head: These are one and two-word searches like “Dishwashers,” and “Facebook.” They are searched a lot and make about 30% of searches and are called.
Long-tail: These are longer searches that don’t get searched as much but add up to the majority of searches made. They make up 70% of searches.
When determining which strategy to use, you should keep in mind that the percentage of clicks drops off dramatically as you rank lower. Only 10% of clicks occur beyond the first page.

Fat-head strategy

To find out if fat-head is worthwhile, research what terms people use to find products in your industry, and then see if search volumes are large enough to move the needle. You can use the keyword planner tool for that. You want to find terms that have enough volume such that if you captured 10% for a given term, it would be meaningful.
The next step is determining the difficulty of ranking high for each term. Use tools like Open Site Explorer. If a competitor has thousands of links for a term, it will likely take a lot of focus on building links and optimizing to rank above them.
Next, narrow your list of targeted keywords to just a handful. Go to Google Trends to see how your keywords have been doing. Are they searched more or less often in the last year? You can further test keywords by buying SEM ads against them. If they convert well, then you have an indication that these keywords could get you strong growth.
Next, orient your site around the terms you’ve chosen. Include phrases you are targeting in your page titles and homepage. Get other sites to link to your site. Links with exact phrase matching from high-quality sites will give you a significant boost.

Long-Tail strategy

Because it’s difficult to rank high for competitive fat-head terms, a popular SEO strategy for early-stage startups is to focus on long-tail. If you bundle a lot of long-term keywords together you can reach a meaningful number of customers.
Find out what are search volumes for a bunch of long-tail keywords in your industry? Do they add up to meaningful amounts? Also, take a look at the analytics software you use on your site or google search console to find some of the search terms people are already using to get to your site. If you’re naturally getting a significant amount of traffic from long-tail keywords, then the strategy might be a good fit. Also, check if competitors use this strategy. If they have a lot of landing pages (search for site:domain.com in google), then it’s a sign that this strategy works for your market. Also, check Alexa search rankings and look at the percentage of visitors your competitors are receiving from search.
If you proceed with a long-tail SEO strategy, you’ll need to produce significant amounts of quality content. If you can’t invest time in that, you can pay a freelancer from Upwork to write an article for every search phrase you want to target.
Another way is to use content that naturally flows from your business. Ask yourself: what data do we naturally collect or generate that other people may find useful. Large businesses like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Wikipedia all gained most of their traffic by producing automated long-tail content. Sometimes the data is hidden behind a login screen and all you need to do is expose it to search engines, or aggregate it in a useful manner.

How to get links?

Don’t buy links, you’ll be penalized by search engines for it. Instead, you can do:

Content Marketing

Companies like Moz and Unbounce have well-known company blogs that are their biggest source of customer acquisition.
Unbounce started a blog and an email list from day one. They used social media to drive readers to your blog. They pinged twitter influencers to ask for feedback, gave away free infographics, and e-books. These actions don’t scale but they push them to a point where their content will spread on its own.
OkCupid is a free online dating site. They intentionally wrote controversial posts like “How your race affects the messages you get” to generate traffic and conversation.

Tactics

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a personal channel. Messages from your company sit next to emails from friends and family. That’s why email marketing works best when personalized. It can be used to build familiarity with prospects, acquire customers, and retain customers you already have.

Email marketing to Find customers

Email marketing to Engage customers

If a customer never gets the value of your product, how can you expect them to pay for it or recommend it to others?

Email marketing to Retain customers

Email marketing can be the most effective channel to bring people back to your site. Twitter sends you an email with a weekly digest of popular tweets and your new notifications.
More business-oriented products usually focus on reminders, reports, and information about how you’re getting value from the product. Mint sends a weekly financial summary to show your expenses and income over the previous week.
You can also use it to surprise and delight your customers. Planscope sends a weekly email to customers telling them how much they made that week. Photo apps will send you pictures you took a year ago.

Email marketing to Drive revenue

You can send a series of emails aimed at upselling customers.
WP Engine sends prospects an email course about Wordpress, and near the end of the email, they make a pitch to signup for its premium Wordpress hosting service.
If one of your customers abandoned a shopping cart, send her a targeted email a day or two later with a special offer for whatever item is left in the cart.
You can use email to explain a premium feature a customer is missing out on and how it can help them in a big way.

Email marketing to get referrals

Groupon generates referrals by incentivizing people to tell their friends about discounts.

Tactics

Viral Marketing

Viral marketing is getting your existing customers to refer others to your product. It was the driving force behind the explosive growth of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Dropbox, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest.
It’s so powerful that even if you can’t achieve exponential growth with it, you can still get meaningful growth. If your customer refers a new customer within the first week, you’ll go from ten customers to twenty and double every week without any additional marketing.
The oldest form of virality occurs when your product is so remarkable that people naturally tell others about it — pure word of mouth.
Inherent virality occurs when you can get value from a product only by inviting other customers, like Skype, Snapchat, and WhatsApp.
Others grow by encouraging collaboration like Google Docs.
Some embed virality like adding “Get a free email account with Hotmail” or “Sent from iPhone” to default signatures. Mailchimp and other email marketing products add branding to free customers’ emails.
Some incentivize customers to move through a viral loop, like Dropbox giving you more space if you invite friends to sign up. Airbnb, Uber, and PayPal give you account credits for referring friends.
Some add embedded buttons and widgets to grow virally, like Reddit and YouTube.
Some broadcast users activities on their social networks, like Spotify posting on Facebook when you play a song, or Pinterest when you pin content.
The viral coefficient K is the number of additional customers you can get for each customer you bring in. It depends on i, the number of invites sent per user, and conversion percentage (who will actually sign up after receiving an invite)
K = i * conversion percentage
Any viral coefficient above 1 will result in exponential growth. Any viral coefficient over 0.5 helps your efforts to grow considerably.
You can increase the number of invites per user i by including features that encourage sharing, such as posting to social networks. You can increase the conversion percentage by testing different signup flows. Try cutting out pages or signup fields.
Viral cycle time is how long it takes a user to go through your viral loop. Shortening your cycle time drastically increases the rate at which you go viral. You can do it by creating urgency or incentivizing customers to move through the loops.

Tactics

Engineering as Marketing

You can build tools like calculators, widgets, and educational microsites to get your company in front of potential customers.
HubSpot has Marketing Grade, a free marketing review tool. It’s free, gives you valuable information, and provides HubSpot with the information they use to qualify you as a potential prospect.
Moz has two free SEO tools, Followerwong and Open Site Explorer. They’ve driven tens of thousands of leads for Moz.
WP Engine has a speed testing tool that asks only for an email address in exchange for a detailed report on your site’s speed.

Business Development

With business development, you’re partnering to reach customers in a way that benefits both parties.
Google got most of its initial traction from a partnership with Netscape to be the default search engine and an agreement with Yahoo to power its online searches.
Business development can take the form of:
You should have already defined your traction goal and milestones, and you shouldn’t accept any partnership that doesn’t align with it. Many startups waste resources because it’s tempting to make deals with bigger companies.

Sales

Sales is the process of generating leads, qualifying them, and converting them into paying customers. It’s particularly useful for expensive and enterprise products.

Structuring the sales conversation

Situation questions. Ask one or two questions per conversation. The more you ask situation questions, the less likely they’re going to close.
Problem questions. Use sparingly.
Implication questions. Meant to make a prospect aware of the large implications that stem from the problem.
Need-payoff questions. Focus attention on your solution and get buyers to think about the benefits of solving the problem.

Cold calls

Be judicious about the people you contact. You want someone who is one-two levels up in the organization. They have enough perspective on the problem and some authority for decision making. Avoid starting at the top unless you’re calling a very small business.
Try to get answers about:

Tactics

It’s better to gain traction through a marketing channel first, then use sales as a conversion tool to close leads. The next stage is lead qualification: determine how ready a prospect is to buy. Once you’ve qualified the leads, you should lay out exactly what are you going to do for the customer. Set up a timetable for it and get them to commit with a yes or no whether they’re going to buy. Closing leads can be done by a sales team who does a webinar or product demo and has an ongoing email sequence that ends with a purchase request. In other cases, you may need a field sales team that actually visits prospective customers for some part of the process.
A checklist that can help you with sales:
I removed the last sections because of the post character limit. Here are two:
submitted by alollou to startups [link] [comments]

Free marketing guide for startups: How to achieve explosive growth!

Here is the summary of the book Traction: How any startup can achieve explosive growth.
I hope that you find it useful!

Traction is a sign that your startup is taking off. If you charge, it means customers are buying. If your product is free, it means your user base is growing.
If you have traction, all your technical, market, and team risks become easier to handle. It becomes easier to fund-raise, hire, do press, partnerships, and acquisitions.
Traction trumps everything.

How to think about Traction?

Almost every failed startup has a product. What failed startups don’t have is enough customers.
You should spend your time in parallel, both constructing your product and testing traction channels.
This is what we call the 50 percent rule: spend 50 percent of your time on product and 50% on traction. This rule seems simple but it’s hard to follow because the pull to spend all your attention on the product is strong. You’re probably making a startup because you want to build a particular product. You have a vision, but a lot of traction activities are unknown and outside your vision and comfort zone. So you try to avoid them. Don’t.
Doing product and traction in parallel has these benefits:
Before trying to get traction, you’ll need to define what traction means for your company. You need to set a traction goal. Maybe your current startup goal is to raise funding or become profitable. How many customers do you need and at what rate? You should then focus on marketing activities that result in a significant impact on your traction goal. It should move the needle.
Your startup has 3 phases:

Phase I: Make something people want

In phase 1, your product has the most leaks, it really doesn’t hold water. You shouldn’t scale up your efforts now, but it’s important to send a small amount of water through the bucket so you can see where the holes are and plug them. \ Your goal in phase 1 is to get your first customers and prove your product can get traction. You focus on building your initial product and getting traction in ways that don’t scale: giving talks, writing guest posts, emailing people you know, attending conferences, and doing whatever you can to get in front of customers.

Some founders believe that startups either take off or don’t. Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off!
– Paul Graham

Phase II: Market something people want

Once you hone your product, you have product-market fit and customers are sticking around. Now is the time to scale up your traction efforts. You fine-tune your positioning and marketing messages.

Phase III: Scale your business

As your company grows, smaller traction strategies stop moving the needle, so you’ll start to scale.
In phase 3 you have an established business model and significant position in the market, and you’re focused on scaling to further dominate the market and to profit.

Traction for funding

When pursuing funding, first contact individuals who understand what you’re working on. The better your investors understand what you’re doing, the less traction they’ll need to see before they invest. Also, try friends and family who may not need to see any traction before investing as they’re investing in you personally.

To pivot or not to pivot

Many startups give up way too early. The first thing to look for is evidence of real product engagement, even if it’s only a few dedicated customers. If you have such an engagement, you might be giving up too soon. Look for the bright spots in your customer base and see if you can expand from that base.

How to get traction? The Bullseye framework

The Bullseye framework helps you find the channel that will get you traction. Most businesses actually get zero distribution channels to work. If you can get even a single distribution channel to work, you have a great business. If you try for several but don’t nail one, you’re finished.
You’re aiming for bullseye: the one channel at the center of the target that will unlock your next growth stage. Here are the 3 Bullseye framework steps:

Find what’s possible: The outer-ring

The first step in Bullseye is brainstorming every single traction channel. It’s important not to dismiss any channel in this step. Think of at least one idea for each channel. For example, social ads is a traction channel. Running ads on Facebook or Twitter is a channel strategy within social ads. You could research what marketing strategies worked in your industry as well as the history of companies in your space.

Find what’s probable: The middle-ring

Go around your outer-ring and promote your best and most exciting ideas to your middle-ring. For each traction channel in your middle ring, now construct a cheap traction test you can run to find if the idea is good or not. These tests need to answer the following questions:
  1. What’s the cost of acquiring customers?
  2. How many customers are available?
  3. Are they the right type of customers for you now?
You want to design small scale tests that don’t require much up-front cost or effort. For example, run 4 Facebook ads instead of 40.

Find what’s working: The inner-ring

The final step in Bullseye is to only focus on one channel that will move the needle for your startup: your core channel. At any stage of your startup, you should have one traction channel that you’re focusing on and optimizing.
Most founders mess this up by keeping around distracting marketing efforts in other channels.
If search engine marketing is significantly better for you than other channels, you should focus all your efforts on this core channel and uncover additional strategies and tactics within it.
If no channel seems promising after testing, the whole process should be repeated. If you tried several times with no success, then your product may require more tweaking and your bucket might be still leaky.

How to test traction?

Middle-ring tests: You should be running several cheap tests that give you an indication of how successful a given channel strategy could be.
Inner ring tests:
You’re doing two things:
  1. Optimize your chosen channel strategy to make it the best it can be.
  2. Discover better channel strategies within this traction channel.
There is always a set of things you can tweak. For targeting blogs, you can tweak which blogs to target, type of content, call to action, etc. For search engine marketing, you can tweak keywords, ad-copy, demographics, and landing pages.
A common approach is to use A/B testing, where A is the control group and B is the experimental group. The purpose of it is to measure the effectiveness of change in a button color, an ad image, or a different message on a web page. If the experimental group performs significantly better, you can apply the change, get the benefits, and run another test.
You can use tools such as Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer, and Unbounce.
Over time, all marketing channels become saturated. To combat this, you should always be trying to discover new strategies and tactics within your channel and conduct small experiments. Also, experiment with new marketing platforms while they’re still in their infancy.

Tools

To track your tests you could start with a simple spreadsheet or use an analytics tool with cohort analysis. You’ll need to answer these questions:
  1. How many people landed on the website?
  2. What are the demographics of my best and worst customers?
  3. Are customers who interact with my support team more likely to stay?
A basic analytics tool like Clicky, Mixpanel, or Chartbeat can help you with these questions. You can use a spreadsheet as the tool to rank and prioritize traction channel strategies. You should include columns like how many customers are available, conversion rate, the cost to acquire a customer, lifetime value of a customer for every given strategy.

How to focus on the right traction goals? The critical path framework

Define your traction goal

You should always have an explicit traction goal you’re working towards. This could be 1,000 paying customers or 100 new daily customers, or 10% of your market. You want a goal where hitting the mark would change things significantly for your company’s outcome.
Once that is defined, you can work backward and set clear time-based subgoals. Such as reaching 1,000 customers by next quarter.
The key is to follow the critical path towards that goal and exclude all features and marketing activities that don’t help you reach your goal. Everything you decide to do should be assessed against your critical path.

Avoid traction biases

Your competitive advantage may be acquiring customers in ways your competition isn’t. That’s why it’s critical to avoid have traction biases. Stop your urge to refuse channels like speaking engagements, sales or affiliate marketing, business development, or trade shows just because you hate talking on the phone or you find the channel annoying or time-consuming.

Targetting blogs

Targeting blogs that your prospective customers read is one of the best ways to get your first wave customers.
Mint’s initial series of tests revealed that targeting blogs should be its core channel. They asked users to embed an “I want mint” badge on their personal blogs and rewarded them with a VIP access before other invitations were sent out. They also directly sponsored blogs. They sent bloggers a message with “Can I send you $500” as the subject and told them a bit about the product.
To find smaller blogs in your niche:
You can also target link-sharing communities like Reddit, Product Hunt, and Hacker News.
Dropbox, Codecademy, Quora, and Gumroad all got their first customers by sharing their products on HackerNews because their products were a good fit for users on that site.

Publicity

Starting out, an article in TechCrunch or The Huffington Post can boost your startup in the eyes of potential customers, investors, or partners. If you have a fascinating story with broad appeal, media outlets will want to hear from you.
It’s easier to start smaller when targeting big media outlets. Sites like TechCrunch and Lifehacker often pick up stories from smaller forums like Hacker News and subreddits. Instead of approaching TechCrunch, try blogs that TechCrunch reads and get story ideas from. It’s easier to get a smaller blog’s attention. Then you might get featured on TechCrunch and then The New York Times which reads TechCrunch!
What gets a reporter’s attention?
A good press angle makes people react emotionally. If it’s not interesting enough to elicit emotion, you don’t have a story worth pitching.
A good first step is using a service like Help A Reporter Out (HARO), where reporters request sources for articles they’re working on. It could get you a mention in the piece and help establish your credibility. Also, you could offer reporters commentary on stories related to your industries.
You can use Twitter to reach reporters online; almost all of them have Twitter accounts and you’d be surprised how few followers many of them have, but they can be highly influential with their content.
Once you have a solid story, you want to draw as much attention to it as you can:
Once your story has been established as a popular news item, try to drag it out as long as you can. Offer interviews that add to the story. Start “How We Did This” follow-up interviews.
As your startup grows you may consider hiring a PR firm or consultant.

Unconventional PR

Nearly every company attempts traditional publicity, but only a few focus on stunts and other unconventional ways to get buzz.

The publicity stunt

Customer Appreciation

Be awesome to your customers. Shortly after Alexis Ohanian launched Hipmunk, he sent out luggage tags and a handwritten note to the first several hundred people who mentioned the site on Twitter.
Holding a contest is also a great repeatable way to generate publicity and get word of mouth. Shopify has an annual Build a Business competition.
Great customer support is so rare that, if you make your customers happy, they’re likely to spread the news of your awesome product. Zappos is one of the best-known examples of a company with incredible customer service and they classify support as a marketing investment.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM is placing ads on search engines like Google. It’s sometimes called “pay-per-click” because you only pay when a user clicks on an ad.
SEM works well for companies looking to sell directly to their target customer. You’re capturing people who are actively searching for solutions.
Click-Through Rate (CTR) The percentage of ad impressions that result in clicks to your site.
Cost per Click (CPC) The amount it costs to buy a click on an ad.
Cost per Acquisition (CPA) How much it costs you to acquire a customer, not just a click. If you buy clicks at $1 and 10% of people who hit your site make a purchase. This makes your CPA at $10.
CPA = CPC / conversion percentage

SEM to get early customer data

You can use SEM as a way to get early customer data in a controlled and predictable way. Even if you don’t expect to be profitable, you can decide to spend a certain amount of money to get an early base of customers and users to inform you about important metrics such as landing page conversion rates, average cost per customer, and lifetime value.
Archives.com used AdWords to drive traffic to their landing pages, even before they built a product, to test interest in a specific product approach. By measuring the CTR for each ad and conversions, they determined which product aspects were the most compelling to potential customers and what those people would actually pay for. When they finally built their product, they built something they knew the market would want.

SEM strategy

Find high-potential keywords, group them into ad groups, and test different ad copy and landing pages within each ad group. As data flows in, remove underperforming ads and landing pages and make tweaks to keep improving results.
Use tools like Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer to run A/B tests on your landing pages.

Keyword research

Use Google’s keyword planner to discover top keywords your target customers use to find products like yours. You could also use tools such as KeywordSpy, SEMrush, and SpyFu to discover keywords your competition is using.
You can refine your keyword list by adding more terms to the end of each base term to create long-tail keywords. They’re less competitive and have lower search volumes which makes them ideal for testing on smaller groups of customers.
SEM is more expensive for more competitive keywords, so you’ll need to limit yourself to keywords with profitable conversion rates.
You shouldn’t expect your campaigns to be profitable right away, but if you can run a campaign that breaks even after a short period of time, then SEM could be an excellent channel for you to focus on.

Writing ads

Write ads with titles that are catchy, memorable, and relevant to the keywords you’ve paired with it. Include the keyword at least once in the body of your ad and conclude with a prominent call to action like “Check out discounted Nike sneakers!”
Each of your ads and ad groups will have a quality score associated with it. A high-quality score will get you better ad placements and better ad pricing. Click-through rate has the biggest influence on quality score, so you should tailor your ads to the keywords. Google assigns a low-quality score to ads with CTRs below 1.5%

Tactics

Social and Display Ads

Display ads are banner ads you see on websites. Social ads are ads you see on social sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Large display campaigns are often used for branding and awareness, much like offline ads. They can also elicit a direct response such as signing up for an email newsletter or buying a product.
Social ads perform exceptionally well is when they’re used to build an audience and engage with them over time, and eventually convert them to customers.

Display ads

The largest display ad networks are Google Display Network, BuySellAds, Advertising.com, Tribal Fusion, Conversant, and Adblade. Niche ad networks focus on smaller sites that fit certain audience demographics, such as dog lovers or Apple fanatics.
To get started in display advertising, you could start to find out types of ads that work in your industry. You could use tools like MixRank and Adbeat to show you ads your competitors are running and where they place them. Alexa and Quantcast can help you determine who visits the sites that feature your competitors’ ads.

Social ads

Social ads work well for creating interest among potential new customers. The goal is often awareness oriented, not conversion oriented. A purchase takes place further down the line. People visit social media sites for entertainment and interaction, not to see ads.
An effective social ad strategy takes advantage of this reality. Use ads to start conversations about your products by creating compelling content. Instead of directing people to a conversion page, direct them to a piece of content that explains why you developed your product or has other purposes than immediately completing a sale. If you have a piece of content that has high organic reach, when you put paid ads behind that piece, magic happens. Paid is only as good as the content you put behind it. You should employ social ads when you know that a fire is starting around your message and you want to put more oil on it.
Major social sites you may consider are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Foursquare, Tumblr, Reddit, YouTube, and many others.

Offline Ads

Even today, advertisers spend more on offline ads than they do online. When buying offline ads, You should try to advertise to demographics that match up with your target audience. Ask for an audience prospectus or ad kit.
Not sure if magazine ads are a good channel for you? Buy a small ad in a niche publication and give it a test. Want to see if newspapers would be good? Buy a few ads in a local paper. You can also try radio ads and billboards.

Magazine ads

A compelling magazine or newspaper ad will have an attention-grabbing header, an eye-catching graphic, and a description of the product’s benefits. Also, you should have a strong call to action, like an offer to get a free book.

Direct mail

You could also try direct mail by searching for “direct mail lists” and find companies selling such information. (Beware that it can be perceived as spammy)

Local print

You could also try local print ads like local fliers, directories, calendars, church bulletins, community newsletters, coupon booklets, or yellow pages. These work really well for cheap if you want to get early traction for your company in a specific area.

Outdoor advertising

If you want to buy space on a billboard, you could contact companies like Lamar, Clear Channel, or Outfront Media. Billboards aren’t effective for people to take immediate action, but it’s extremely effective for raising awareness around events, like concerts and conferences.
DuckDuckGo bought a billboard in Google’s backyard and it got big attention and press coverage.
Transit ads can be effective as a direct response tool. You can contact Blue Line Media to help you with Transit ads.

Radio and TV

Radio ads are priced on a cost per point (CPP) basis, where each point represents what it will cost to reach 1% of the station’s listeners. It also depends on your market, when the commercial runs and how many ads you’ve bought.
TV ads are often used as branding mechanisms. Quality is critical for it and production costs can run to tens of thousands. Higher-end ones can cost $200K to make. You’ll also need an average of $350,000 for actual airtime. For smaller startups, you could try local TV spots which is much cheaper.
Infomercials work really well for products in categories like Workout equipment, household products, health products, and work-from-home businesses. They can cost between $50,000 and $500,000, and they’re always direct-response.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is improving your ranking in search engines in order to get more people to your site.
The most important thing to know about SEO is that the more high-quality links you have to a given site or page, the higher it will rank. You should also make sure you’re using the keywords you want to target appropriately on your pages, like in your page titles and headings.
There are 2 strategies to choose from: fat-head and long-tail.
Fat-head: These are one and two-word searches like “Dishwashers,” and “Facebook.” They are searched a lot and make about 30% of searches and are called.
Long-tail: These are longer searches that don’t get searched as much but add up to the majority of searches made. They make up 70% of searches.
When determining which strategy to use, you should keep in mind that the percentage of clicks drops off dramatically as you rank lower. Only 10% of clicks occur beyond the first page.

Fat-head strategy

To find out if fat-head is worthwhile, research what terms people use to find products in your industry, and then see if search volumes are large enough to move the needle. You can use the keyword planner tool for that. You want to find terms that have enough volume such that if you captured 10% for a given term, it would be meaningful.
The next step is determining the difficulty of ranking high for each term. Use tools like Open Site Explorer. If a competitor has thousands of links for a term, it will likely take a lot of focus on building links and optimizing to rank above them.
Next, narrow your list of targeted keywords to just a handful. Go to Google Trends to see how your keywords have been doing. Are they searched more or less often in the last year? You can further test keywords by buying SEM ads against them. If they convert well, then you have an indication that these keywords could get you strong growth.
Next, orient your site around the terms you’ve chosen. Include phrases you are targeting in your page titles and homepage. Get other sites to link to your site. Links with exact phrase matching from high-quality sites will give you a significant boost.

Long-Tail strategy

Because it’s difficult to rank high for competitive fat-head terms, a popular SEO strategy for early-stage startups is to focus on long-tail. If you bundle a lot of long-term keywords together you can reach a meaningful number of customers.
Find out what are search volumes for a bunch of long-tail keywords in your industry? Do they add up to meaningful amounts? Also, take a look at the analytics software you use on your site or google search console to find some of the search terms people are already using to get to your site. If you’re naturally getting a significant amount of traffic from long-tail keywords, then the strategy might be a good fit. Also, check if competitors use this strategy. If they have a lot of landing pages (search for site:domain.com in google), then it’s a sign that this strategy works for your market. Also, check Alexa search rankings and look at the percentage of visitors your competitors are receiving from search.
If you proceed with a long-tail SEO strategy, you’ll need to produce significant amounts of quality content. If you can’t invest time in that, you can pay a freelancer from Upwork to write an article for every search phrase you want to target.
Another way is to use content that naturally flows from your business. Ask yourself: what data do we naturally collect or generate that other people may find useful. Large businesses like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Wikipedia all gained most of their traffic by producing automated long-tail content. Sometimes the data is hidden behind a login screen and all you need to do is expose it to search engines, or aggregate it in a useful manner.

How to get links?

Don’t buy links, you’ll be penalized by search engines for it. Instead, you can do:

Content Marketing

Companies like Moz and Unbounce have well-known company blogs that are their biggest source of customer acquisition.
Unbounce started a blog and an email list from day one. They used social media to drive readers to your blog. They pinged twitter influencers to ask for feedback, gave away free infographics, and e-books. These actions don’t scale but they push them to a point where their content will spread on its own.
OkCupid is a free online dating site. They intentionally wrote controversial posts like “How your race affects the messages you get” to generate traffic and conversation.

Tactics

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a personal channel. Messages from your company sit next to emails from friends and family. That’s why email marketing works best when personalized. It can be used to build familiarity with prospects, acquire customers, and retain customers you already have.

Email marketing to Find customers

Email marketing to Engage customers

If a customer never gets the value of your product, how can you expect them to pay for it or recommend it to others?

Email marketing to Retain customers

Email marketing can be the most effective channel to bring people back to your site. Twitter sends you an email with a weekly digest of popular tweets and your new notifications.
More business-oriented products usually focus on reminders, reports, and information about how you’re getting value from the product. Mint sends a weekly financial summary to show your expenses and income over the previous week.
You can also use it to surprise and delight your customers. Planscope sends a weekly email to customers telling them how much they made that week. Photo apps will send you pictures you took a year ago.

Email marketing to Drive revenue

You can send a series of emails aimed at upselling customers.
WP Engine sends prospects an email course about Wordpress, and near the end of the email, they make a pitch to signup for its premium Wordpress hosting service.
If one of your customers abandoned a shopping cart, send her a targeted email a day or two later with a special offer for whatever item is left in the cart.
You can use email to explain a premium feature a customer is missing out on and how it can help them in a big way.

Email marketing to get referrals

Groupon generates referrals by incentivizing people to tell their friends about discounts.

Tactics

Viral Marketing

Viral marketing is getting your existing customers to refer others to your product. It was the driving force behind the explosive growth of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Dropbox, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest.
It’s so powerful that even if you can’t achieve exponential growth with it, you can still get meaningful growth. If your customer refers a new customer within the first week, you’ll go from ten customers to twenty and double every week without any additional marketing.
The oldest form of virality occurs when your product is so remarkable that people naturally tell others about it — pure word of mouth.
Inherent virality occurs when you can get value from a product only by inviting other customers, like Skype, Snapchat, and WhatsApp.
Others grow by encouraging collaboration like Google Docs.
Some embed virality like adding “Get a free email account with Hotmail” or “Sent from iPhone” to default signatures. Mailchimp and other email marketing products add branding to free customers’ emails.
Some incentivize customers to move through a viral loop, like Dropbox giving you more space if you invite friends to sign up. Airbnb, Uber, and PayPal give you account credits for referring friends.
Some add embedded buttons and widgets to grow virally, like Reddit and YouTube.
Some broadcast users activities on their social networks, like Spotify posting on Facebook when you play a song, or Pinterest when you pin content.
The viral coefficient K is the number of additional customers you can get for each customer you bring in. It depends on i, the number of invites sent per user, and conversion percentage (who will actually sign up after receiving an invite)
K = i * conversion percentage
Any viral coefficient above 1 will result in exponential growth. Any viral coefficient over 0.5 helps your efforts to grow considerably.
You can increase the number of invites per user i by including features that encourage sharing, such as posting to social networks. You can increase the conversion percentage by testing different signup flows. Try cutting out pages or signup fields.
Viral cycle time is how long it takes a user to go through your viral loop. Shortening your cycle time drastically increases the rate at which you go viral. You can do it by creating urgency or incentivizing customers to move through the loops.

Tactics

Engineering as Marketing

You can build tools like calculators, widgets, and educational microsites to get your company in front of potential customers.
HubSpot has Marketing Grade, a free marketing review tool. It’s free, gives you valuable information, and provides HubSpot with the information they use to qualify you as a potential prospect.
Moz has two free SEO tools, Followerwong and Open Site Explorer. They’ve driven tens of thousands of leads for Moz.
WP Engine has a speed testing tool that asks only for an email address in exchange for a detailed report on your site’s speed.

Business Development

With business development, you’re partnering to reach customers in a way that benefits both parties.
Google got most of its initial traction from a partnership with Netscape to be the default search engine and an agreement with Yahoo to power its online searches.
Business development can take the form of:
You should have already defined your traction goal and milestones, and you shouldn’t accept any partnership that doesn’t align with it. Many startups waste resources because it’s tempting to make deals with bigger companies.

Sales

Sales is the process of generating leads, qualifying them, and converting them into paying customers. It’s particularly useful for expensive and enterprise products.

Structuring the sales conversation

Situation questions. Ask one or two questions per conversation. The more you ask situation questions, the less likely they’re going to close.
Problem questions. Use sparingly.
Implication questions. Meant to make a prospect aware of the large implications that stem from the problem.
Need-payoff questions. Focus attention on your solution and get buyers to think about the benefits of solving the problem.

Cold calls

Be judicious about the people you contact. You want someone who is one-two levels up in the organization. They have enough perspective on the problem and some authority for decision making. Avoid starting at the top unless you’re calling a very small business.
Try to get answers about:

Tactics

It’s better to gain traction through a marketing channel first, then use sales as a conversion tool to close leads. The next stage is lead qualification: determine how ready a prospect is to buy. Once you’ve qualified the leads, you should lay out exactly what are you going to do for the customer. Set up a timetable for it and get them to commit with a yes or no whether they’re going to buy. Closing leads can be done by a sales team who does a webinar or product demo and has an ongoing email sequence that ends with a purchase request. In other cases, you may need a field sales team that actually visits prospective customers for some part of the process.
A checklist that can help you with sales:
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