Which Acquisition Channels Actually Work

The Growth Report #39

Happy Friday my Friend!

So as promised last time around, I wrote a little essay on “Finishing Things” for this week’s newsletter. For the marketing section I’ve been a lazy bastard today (😏) and copy pasted a list of an acquisition channel report that I think is well worth the read for creators, founders or marketers like you.

But, if you only read one thing from all the resources in today’s newsletter, make it the Friendship Report from Snapchat (referenced again later in the resource section).

Oh also, it’s Black Friday and Namecheap has up to 90% off domain name registrations. So if you like me have a list of domain names you always wanted to buy, today’s your chance (I am looking at you growthhacking.sucks)!

Reality check: Next week it’s already December, can you actually believe it? I don’t even know where to start with reviewing what happened this year. 😳

If your past self from one year ago would read this years recap, he’d probably get an anxiety attack.

But I digress…let’s get started…


Today's topics include

📈 Marketing Strategy:
Which Acquisition Channels Actually Work (according to 483 founders)

⚒️ Tools of the Trade:
Educational Resources and Inspiration for Marketers

⛑️ Reflections from the Trenches:
On Finishing Things: Why the last 20% are the hardest


📈 Marketing Strategy

Which Acquisition Channels Actually Work (according to 483 founders)

One crazy guy from ZeroToUsers spent hundreds of hours listening to 483 podcast interviews to find out which acquisition channels have worked consistently for founders and marketers to get traction for their projects early on.

It's worth skimming his full report (pdf), it gave me tons of inspiration for the promotion of upcoming projects. And even if you are working for a well-established company, you'll find some nuggets on this list to launch your next feature, side project or content piece. I really recommend to at least browse through it and get some inspiration for your next years' marketing activities.

Here are his top 20:

  1. SEO (after getting results with another acquisition channel) (Worked for 84 founders)

  2. Marketplaces & Existing Platforms (Worked for 78 founders)

  3. Product Hunt (Worked for 78 founders)

  4. Reddit (Worked for 45 founders)

  5. Cold email outreach (Worked for 42 founders)

  6. "Powered by" marketing (Worked for 42 founders)

  7. Hacker News (Worked for 39 founders)

  8. Having an existing media brand (Worked for 39 founders)

  9. Using your own network (Worked for 37 founders)

  10. Google Ads (AdWords) (Worked for 31 founders)

  11. Affiliate marketing (Worked for 30 founders)

  12. Niche communities (Worked for 30 founders)

  13. SEO (where founders started immediately) (Worked for 29 founders)

  14. Twitter posting / engagement (Worked for 28 founders)

  15. Facebook groups (Worked for 28 founders)

  16. Mainstream press outreach/being mentioned (Worked for 27 founders)

  17. Niche authority websites outreach/coverage (Worked for 27 founders)

  18. Partnering with someone with a similar audience (Worked for 23 founders)

  19. Influencer outreach (Worked for 22 founders)

  20. Engineering as marketing (Worked for 21 founders)

I personally have seen that a healthy mix between long-term focused channels like SEO or partnerships and short-term results channels like Google Ads and cold email outreach works best. The former is often neglected and we only recognize it when it's already too late.

In the full report you find an explanation and further information on each of the acquisition channels.

Read full report detailing all 34 acquisition channels (PDF)


🛠️ Tools of the Trade:

Educational Resources and Inspiration for Marketers

Quote of the week:

"If you genuinely care about the goal, you’ll focus on the system." - James Clear

Marketing Education

  • Multi-SKU-Creator - If you are looking to make money on the side with your content or consulting, this article explains how we can think about the diversification of our value streams.

  • How to Succeed on Twitter - A visual guide on how to make it on Twitter nowadays.

Brands and (Digital) Products that caught my eye

  • Arena - An all-in-one fitness device for your home. The website has great copy and visual explanations of the product. A real example of how to do it right.

  • Human Race - What if Pharrell Williams would create a skin-care brand. Well, here you go.

  • Starterstory - A huge database of startup ideas, backed by research and data. A treasure trove for inspiration.

  • Shortform - Similar to Blinkist. Written short summaries of books. I have tried some of them and they are really well written.

Interesting reads

  • Friendship Report 2020 - If you only click one link in this section, please make it this one. A surprisingly in-depth report from Snapchat on the joys, challenges and perils of friendships.

  • In Praise of the Gods - This thought provoking article makes the case for why in a rational, scientific world we forgot the benefits of religion people enjoyed for thousands of years and why it's probably a bad idea to abandon them altogether.


⛑️ Reflections From the Trenches

On Finishing Things: Why the last 20% are the hardest

I hinted at it in last week's newsletter introduction.

For me finishing important projects is hard.

To start things off, Taylor Pearson got a really good cooking analogy for not finishing projects 🦃

Even if your Turkey isn't going to come out quite like you hoped, you should at the least make sure it is cooked all the way through. After all, most turkey cooks often find that they are a bit harder on themselves than anyone else is. A mediocre turkey covered in stuffing, dressing and cranberry sauce is still delicious. And, most people are two drinks deep by the time the food is served and won’t notice. So, the worst mistake you can make when cooking a turkey is not taking it out of the oven. Even if it was a little overcooked or under-seasoned or whatever, you should always finish cooking it and take the turkey out of the oven.

Most of us really only have 2-3 big projects per year that move the needle and actually make a difference. And those are the ones for me that are the hardest to finish.

The worst mistake that we make with most projects is that we get about 80% of the way done and realize that it didn’t turn out quite as we hoped. Then, we leave it in the metaphorical oven, an 80% done project with little raw bits in the middle.

Why do we struggle at the finishing line?

If you are anything like me, as a project that means something to us approaches its finishing touches we start to think about what other people will say about our work. You know, that little voice that tells us we are not good enough. Well, this voice is usually screaming in my ear just before I ship, release or publish any important work.

And that's totally okay. It happens to most of us. It's the natural way of our brain to avoid danger and potential social fallout. The only problem is that it confuses our imperfect projects with wild saber tooth tigers chasing us through the savannah. 🦁

A then the second thing that usually happens, is that we learn new things as we work on a longer project. Pretty much everyone I know who has launched a business, released an important feature, or worked on a massive marketing campaign is always kind of unhappy with the finished product. They learned so much working on it that they now see all these things they would do differently if they started again from scratch.

And you know what? That's an unsolvable problem. If we start a project we will inevitably learn something new, but in this moment we must be vigilant and focus on finishing what we started. We can always get to the new thing later (that paragraph is me speaking to myself btw.).

Because as Leonardo da Vinci famously said:

"Projects are never finished, only abandoned"

Why it's so crucial to finish things

Maybe a few of the early parts of the project being completed create some work that could be used somewhere else - an almost done book can be turned into a few blog posts - but the vast majority of the value is realized at the end.

This following paragraph from Sebastian Marshall, is what sparked this article:

Getting 80% of the way done and quitting usually means you did 80% of the work and only got 10-20% of the value.

An "almost done" project is precisely about as valuable as an almost done turkey.

An hour or two of polish and delivery while we got the entire problem space loaded in our head becomes 3-5 hours after we've forgotten it. Even worse, it becomes 20-30 hours if in the meantime we get a key person change on a project or request for a changed scope from a collaborator or client.

It means we don't get the joyful feeling of completion and momentum.

If it was a paid project, it pushes back getting paid, keeps our accounts receivable worse, and screws up our cashflow.

Even if it’s not as much value as we'd hoped when starting the project, it’s still silly not to get across the finish line. The worst thing we can do is get a project to "almost done" and quit.

So let's take that Turkey out of the oven. Letss crawl and drag ourselves over the finish we have to.

Our future selves will be happy we did.


That's it for this week.

Enjoy your well-earned weekend 🏡

See you next week,

Sandro