Below is an interesting dialogue between our marketing manager and me on the topic of Bulleyes Framework VS 80/20 after both reading the book: Traction

Starting question: Does the Bullseye Framework go against 80/20 Principle?

Karl: I think the Bullseye framework incorporates 80/20 Rule deep in its concept because:

1) Out of the 19 possible traction channels, you pick the top 5 that has the most potential to be the traction channel that will move the needle. With the 5 highest-potential channels, you do traction channel testing with minimal time and effort to identify the ones that has the most potential to work. Then you really go ALL OUT on the top 3 channels.

This is using 85% effort to go after the 3/19 or 15% channels that can bring you to the next level.

1.1) One suggestion that is part of traction channel testing is: Look for customers where others aren’t looking. I think this also validates 80/20 rule since if most of your competitors are doing the same thing, then the high competitiveness will result to Law of Shitty Clickthroughs.

If you look for customers where competitors aren’t looking, then you’re trying to find the channel that can give you 80% result with 20% effort.

2) After the Bullseye concept, another critical concept mentioned in the book is called the Critical Path. Basically this says that for every traction channel you decide to go into (the ones in the top 3), you need to:

  1. Set a traction goal
  2. Layout the absolutely necessary steps/milestones that you need to achieve to get to the goal in number 1. This is the called Critical Path.
  3. Do whatever it takes to stick to the critical path BUT consistently re-assess if the steps/milestones along your critical path is still the same, if not, skip or change them.

I think this is also 80/20 because if after re-assessing the critical path, you find one milestone that will require a lot of effort but will only get you a very small step closer to your traction goal, then you should skip it and jump to the next milestone along the critical path.This will ensure that the critical path will stay critical and all the steps you take is contributing hugely to your path towards the goal.

Example: For Shopline affiliate program, the traction goal is 1000 affiliates by end of 2016. Then a rough critical path could be:

  1. Draft plan and payout scheme, start inviting people (get 10 initial affiliates)
  2. Build out dashboard (get 100 affiliates)
  3. Develop the staging store feature (get 500 affiliates with bigger agencies amongst them)
  4. Leads list export – better tracking and analysis for affiliates/partners (Get 750 affiliates)
  5. Directory page listing down all certified partners (Get 1000 affiliates)

So if we assess the critical path along the way, let’s say after number 3, and we realize that the feature to let affiliates export their leads for better tracking and analysis IS NOT something that should be critical anymore, we should skip it and jump to the next big task that can help us achieve the 1000 affiliates traction goal.

I think this is very 80/20 in terms of how you pick your battles. Always go with the things that can provide the biggest boost towards your traction goals.

Marketing Manager’s Follow-up Questions:

1) How are we selecting the top 3 channels? What if we pick the wrong ones to go all out?

2) Although it’s kind of 80/20 in selecting channels, going all out into an individual channel still goes against 80/20? There are still things that are in the 80% portion even in primary top channels?

3) Does this bullseye approach actually only apply when resources is very limited like in very early-stage start ups? Is it still applicable for our stage? My bigger question is: When to hire and expand resources? When to go with bullseye approach and go laser intense into certain channels?

4) It seems to be that bullseye approach kind of treats each channel independently, which is often not true as channels are inter-related and assisting each other. I believe our customers come to us via multiple channels and by cutting back on some seemingly less important channels, will it reduce the effectiveness of the primary channels in the end? The assisting effect of a channel is harder to measure and often underestimated especially when we only look at last click attribution?

5) Even if we select the right top channels to work fully into, how do we predict when they get fatigued and saturated and become less effective at some point? I assume each channel will be once very effective and will die out at some point?

6) Along the line as point number 5, when going with the bullseyes approach, will we become more and over reliant on certain top channels and thus increasing business risks in the long term? What if we failed to react and find out about new top channels before the current ones die out or become less effective?

Karl’s Follow-up Answers:

1) The bullseye framework has 3 levels from outer circle (19 channels) to innermost circle (3 channels). You should already have a rough channel strategy for each of the channels in the outermost circle before promoting them to the middle circle. The middle circle with 6 channels are picked based on the startup founders’ expertise with these channels and how they think these channels have the most potential.

It is at this stage where you test all 6 channels with low-effort and cheap tests to see if the channel could bring you traction at the current stage of the company. If you find 1-2 channels that resulted to positive ROI and high potential volume of customers, then they move on to the innermost circle where you go all out. With this approach, the possibility to go wrong if you already did traction channel tests will be lower.

Middle circle = testing
Innermost circle = aggressive expansion and optimization

2) I don’t fully understand your question. Isn’t focused efforts the principle behind 80/20?

3) I think the examples in the book focus a lot on early-stage startups BUT its core idea still applies to mature startups. Essentially, even if a startup already gained significantly from the first traction success (let’s say double the paid user base), the growth will not be accelerated anymore since the channel strategy could be saturated. At this point, the old traction strategy stops moving the needle and you will need to do the bullseye framework again to determine which traction strategy will bring you the next round of traction.

4) Quote from the book:

“This is additionally confusing because oftentimes focusing on your core channel involves channel strategies that utilize other traction channels. You’re using these other channels to support that strategy, as opposed to pursuing multiple traction strategies at once.”

5) I think this would depend on the traction goal. If you reach your traction goal and don’t think you can milk any more than what you’re currently getting, then it should be a good time to re-do the bullseye framework to see at your current stage, which new channel strategies can move the needle towards your new goals.

6) I think this is a valid question. But there is risk in everything, including spreading your resources too thin and going into every suitable channel.

Additional comment: The book started by stating that startup founders should give 50% effort on product and 50% effort on gaining traction. Both product and traction should feed into each other create optimal growth.


After my last follow-up answer, we just discussed face-to-face and came up with the following conclusions:

  • Bullseye Framework can be an effective framework for new startups that haven’t found their main growth drivers.
  • Although the traction strategies mentioned in the book provides laser-focus and incredibly fast testing and validation of growth hypotheses, it is quite rigid in terms of adapting to external change. What if new things happen on the macro level? Should you change your strategy and focus or still stick with the innermost circle?
  • If it’s a more mature startup, then you might have the freedom to pursue multiple growth initiatives instead of just a few. Spread out the risk by not putting all growth efforts in a few baskets might make more sense for startups with a little bit more resources.