Traction

Author:
Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares

Description

Most startups end in failure.


Almost every failed startup has a product. What failed startups don't have are enough customers.

Founders and employees fail to spend time thinking about (and working on) traction in the same way they work on building a product. This shortsighted approach has startups trying random tactics - some ads, a blog post or two - in an unstructured way that's guaranteed to fail.

This book changes that. Traction Book provides startup founders and employees with the framework successful companies have used to get traction. It allows you to think about which marketing channels make sense for you, given your industry and company stage.

This framework has been used by founders like Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Alexis Ohanian (Reddit), Paul English (Kayak.com), and Alex Pachikov (Evernote) to build some of the biggest companies and organizations in the world. We interviewed each of the above founders - along with 35+ others - and pulled out the repeatable tactics and strategies they used to get traction.

We then cover every possible marketing channel you can use to get traction, and show you which channels will be your key to growth. This book shows you how to grow at a time when getting traction is more important than ever.

Below are the channels we cover in the book:

Viral Marketing

Public Relations (PR)

Unconventional PR

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Social and Display Ads

Offline Ads

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Content Marketing

Email Marketing

Engineering as Marketing

Target Market Blogs

Business Development (BD)

Sales

Affiliate Programs

Existing Platforms

Trade Shows

Offline Events

Speaking Engagements

Community Building


This book draws on interviews with the following individuals:

Jimmy Wales, Co-founder of Wikipedia

Alexis Ohanian, Co-founder of reddit

Eric Ries, Author of The Lean Startup

Rand Fishkin, Founder of SEOmoz

Noah Kagan, Founder of AppSumo

Patrick McKenzie, CEO of Bingo Card Creator

Sam Yagan, Co-founder of OkCupid

Andrew Chen, Investor at 500 Startups

Justin Kan, Founder of Justin.tv

Mark Cramer, CEO of SurfCanyon

Colin Nederkoorn, CEO of Customer.io

Jason Cohen, Founder of WP Engine

Chris Fralic, Partner at First Round

Paul English, CEO of Kayak.com

Rob Walling, Founder of MicroConf

Brian Riley, Co-founder of SlidePad

Steve Welch, Co-founder of DreamIt

Jason Kincaid, Blogger at TechCrunch

Nikhil Sethi, Founder of Adaptly

Rick Perreault, CEO of Unbounce

Alex Pachikov, Co-founder of Evernote

David Skok, Partner at Matrix

Ashish Kundra, CEO of myZamana

David Hauser, Founder of Grasshopper

Matt Monahan, CEO of Inflection

Jeff Atwood, Co-founder of Discourse

Dan Martell, CEO of Clarity.fm

Chris McCann, Founder of StartupDigest

Ryan Holiday, Exec at American Apparel

Todd Vollmer, Enterprise Sales Veteran

Sandi MacPherson, Founder of Quibb

Andrew Warner, Founder of Mixergy

Sean Murphy, Founder of SKMurphy

Satish Dharmaraj, Partner at Redpoint

Garry Tan, Partner at Y Combinator

Steve Barsh, CEO of Packlate

Michael Bodekaer, Co-founder of Smart Launch

Zack Linford, Founder of Optimozo


Notes

Really liked this book and took a lot of value from it. Here’s the best stuff:


The Bullseye Framework

Brainstorm

  1. Come up with reasonable ways you might use each traction channel
  2. Do not dismiss any traction channel in this step!
  3. Be sure to research other companies in your space to see how they leveraged those channels
  4. Make a spreadsheet
  1. How likely is it to work? 1-5
  2. What is the CTA?
  3. How many customers could you reach?
  4. How long will it take to test?


Rank: Place each channel into one of three columns: Inner circle, the most promising ones; Potential, ones that could work; Long shots, self-explanatory

Prioritize: Now identify your inner circle, the three channels you think are the most promising. If you have more than three then narrow it down

Test: Now that you have your three in the inner circle, design some relatively cheap tests to assess how effective the channels are


The tests should answer:

  1. How much will it cost to acquire customers through this channel
  2. How many customers do you think are available through this channel
  3. Are the customers that you're getting through this channel the ones you want now


You're not trying to get a lot of traction through this channel yet, just testing it

If, after testing, none of them are viable, go back and test others!

Focusing: At any stage in the startup lifecycle, one traction channel dominates for customer acquisition

So focus on one at a time once you've proved it's viable, and keep using it until you've wrung out every possible piece of value

Traction Thinking

Every failed startup has a product... what they don't have is enough customers

50% Rule: Spend 50% of your time on product, and 50% on traction

Always pursue traction at the same time as product development

Only focus on activities that move the needle

Start with manual recruiting! Do things that don't scale

The better an investor understands your space the less traction they'll need to see to invest

Traction Testing

Constantly running tests will allow you to stay ahead of your competitors pursuing the same channel

Make A/B tests a habit

Always quantify your results

Look for cutting edge tech that hasn't yet succumbed to the law of shitty click throughs


Critical Path

You should always have a traction goal you're working towards

  • i.e. 1000 dailies, 10% of your market
  • Draw out all of the milestones along the way

The path to reaching your traction goal in the fewest steps is the "Critical Path"

  • Everything you do should be checked against your critical path

Get good mentors to help you along the way

Define sub-goals for your traction goal to make it more approachable

Don't rule out any possible channels just because of your biases


Viral Marketing

A viral loop:

  1. A user is exposed to your product
  2. The user tells a set of potential users about your product
  3. These potential users are exposed to your product and become users themselves

Types of virality

  1. Word of mouth
  2. Inherent virality: users get value by adding users
  3. Collaboriation: products encourage you to use them with others
  4. Communications: it's meant to be used to talk to others within it
  5. Incentives: giving rewards for inviting others
  6. Embedding: sites like reddit or youtube embedding on other sites
  7. Social networks

Viral math

  1. The viral coefficient (K) = invites sent per user * conversion percentage
  2. Any viral coefficient above .5 helps your product grow considerably

Viral cycle time: how long it takes a new user to come through your loop. Shortening this drastically improves growth


Viral Strategy

  1. You need to measure your virality from the start
  2. Draw a map of the entire process and try cutting out unnecessary steps, find ways to make it faster and easier


Distribution Mechanisms

  1. Social media and email are most common
  2. Look for new and unexpected ones


Things to test:

  1. Button vs text links
  2. Location of your CTA
  3. Size, color, contrast of your buttons
  4. Page speed
  5. Adding images
  6. Headlines
  7. Site copy
  8. Testimonials
  9. Social proof
  10. Number of form fields
  11. Allowing users to test the product before signing up
  12. Ease of signup
  13. Length of the signup process
  14. Nothing is too small to test!


Public Relations (PR)

When a blog or traffic based site writes about you, you're doing them a favor by giving them something to talk about

Start small and ladder up, Trust Me I'm Lying style

How to pitch

  1. Milestones: raising money, launching a new product, breaking a usage barrier, a PR stunt, big partnership or a special industry report all get attention
  2. There's a great pitch template in the book, and another from Ryan Holiday

Follow influencers in your industry and reach out to blogs they frequently target

Amplify stories once they're written

  1. Submit to communities like HN, Digg, Reddit
  2. Share on social networks, amplify with social ads
  3. Email it to influencers for comments
  4. Ping blogs in your space, show them it's getting buzz, then they might want to cover you too


Unconventional PR

Publicity stunt

  1. Doing ridiculous things that get people / media attention
  2. Viral videos

Customer appreciation

  1. Sending gifts
  2. Contests and giveaways
  3. Good customer support


Search Engine Marketing

Starting out

  1. Just test four ads for your main target keywords

Quality score tells you how nice of an ad it is, and ones with higher Q scores will rank higher


Advanced SEM

  1. Advertising on the content network, not just in Google
  2. Retargeting, bringing people back to your site
  3. Conversion optimizer, automatically adjusts your ads to perform better
  4. Negative keywords, prevent your ads showing up for some words
  5. Scripting your ads to run automatically


Social and Display Ads


Display ads

  1. Large ad networks like Google's Display Network, also TribalFusion, ValueClick, Adblade
  2. Niche ad networks, usually specific sites
  3. Figure out what ads work


Social ads

  1. Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Foursquare, Tumblr, reddit, Youtube


Offline Ads


Offline ads are super cheap if you get them the right way

You have to know your demographic, then figure out where they spend their time

To do it cheap, look for remnant advertising: Ad space currently being unused, especially for publications approaching print deadlines

  1. Manhattan media or Novus Media help you find them

Track with special URLs, Coupon codes, asking how they found you when they sign up


SEO


Your ability to rank on the first page for any keyword should determine whether or not you go for it

Figure out what your customers are interested in, then create the content that will attract them

Don't waste time on terms that don't yield traction

The core is to create content that's good enough to be worth other people linking to


Content Marketing


Can be pursued at any phase really, great for drawing in free users.

Fastest way to grow your readership is guest posting.

Also a great way to build a reputation for yourself.

Create a content calendar.


Email Marketing

Email is still the most effective way to re-engage with your customers, users, readers, etc.

Ask for email addresses in your posts.

Good for referrals, have users refer in friends.

Always be building an email list.


Engineering as Marketing

Hubspot "Marketing Grader" get people to the site and shows them how hubspot can help their marketing

WP Engine speed tool shows how switching to their platform will increase your site speed

Tactics

  1. Annual promotions: Codecademy's "code-year" micro-site
  2. Mico-Sites: Hubspots marketing grader, DuckDuckGo's donttrack.us
  3. Widgets

High level

  1. Provide something of value for free, no strings attached
  2. Make that offer extremely relevant to your core market
  3. Demonstrate that value as quickly as possible


Targeting Blogs


Business development

Partnerships with companies in similar spaces

Create a pipeline of deals, track everyone you could be working with


Sales

Cold calling, good techniques in the book

Cycle

  1. Generating leads
  2. Qualifying leads, determine how ready they are to buy
  3. Closing leads, making the sale

Look for blockages in your onboarding / starting / purchasing that might prevent people from buying, this is anything that makes the process confusing or slow

Better for high price products


Affiliate Programs

Common programs

  1. Retail
  • Coupon / deal sites
  • Loyalty programs
  • Aggregators
  • Email lists
  • Vertical sites
  1. Information products
  2. Lead generation


Depends on how much you're willing to pay for a customer

You can use your existing users as affiliates, or pay outside people to promote the product

Major affiliate networks

  1. Commission junction
  2. ClickBank
  3. Affiliate
  4. Pepperjam
  5. ShareASale
  6. Adknowledge
  7. Linkshare
  8. MobAff
  9. Neverblue
  10. Clickbooth
  11. WhaleShark Media


Existing Platforms

  1. App stores
  2. Social Platforms
  3. Add-ons and extensions
  4. Other platforms i.e. Airbnb going through Craigslist
  5. Jumping on newer platforms


Trade Shows

The best way to pick a trade show is to go to a lot of them, and see which one you fit best

Put extensive prep into it, make sure you have a significant plan for it

Set up meetings with other people who are going to be there

Go around and actively send people back to your booth


Offline Events

Conferences: Find a way to stand out beyond just buying ads or giving a speech

Host your own conference

Meetups and smaller scale events

Day-long mini conferences live-streamed could be a great tactic


Speaking Engagements

Usually better for B2B and Enterprise companies where one sale move the needle more

Pitching talks

  1. Make a list of all of the events in your industry, different events have different crowds
  2. Premier events are the big ones, might take 6-12 months to land, only a few types a year
  3. Regional events bring together industry players within a day's drive, two to four month lead
  4. Local events are usually for a city, lead times might be 1-3 months


Expert credentials makes landing talks much easier

Start by speaking at places for free to build a reputation

The more practiced and comfortable you are, the better the talk will be

Record your talks so you can put them online later


Community Building

How to build a community

  1. Build an initial audience
  2. Establish a mission, people need to feel like they're a part of something
  3. Foster cross-connections, let them talk about the community
  4. Communicate with your audience
  5. Be transparent, get feedback
  6. Ensure quality with what's being promoted, good Yelp reviews, good Wikipedia pages

Community Benefits

  1. Building assets, let your community improve your product
  2. Product development
  3. Inbound hiring

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Analysis

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

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What I Learned By Losing a Million Dollars

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Analysis

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Analysis

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

The Dip