The Yellow Book that my friends keep accusing me of working for

The Sea of Startup Literature

Let’s face it. Writing about startups is cool. Punch “startup” into the search box on Amazon, hit Enter and a list of over 9,000 results appears. If you’re particularly into this sort of thing, the first 20 or so will look familiar. Everything after that starts blending together.

“Was this the book on founders that my friend was talking about?”

“Wait, was it this book exposing all the secrets of startup CEOs?”

“I woke up and need my dose of ‘I, too, can start a startup.’ to get out of bed today.”

“I want to start something for only $100.”

Crazy, isn’t it? You can find a startup book for anything.

The Yellow Book

I discovered this little yellow book through the Buffer blog. Initially, I thought it would be yet another startup book, but I downloaded the 3 sample chapters by joining their list, and was hooked. Since then, I have actually gotten 5 other people to start reading it. (Some with more brute force and convincing via repetition than others.)

With thousands of other options out there, why do I tunnel in so hard on getting people to read Traction?

The Bullseye Framework

The Bullseye Framework is one of those great ideas where you read about it, give it 5 minutes, and then kick yourself for not doing it yourself. Then you read it again, give it another 5 minutes, and kick yourself for all the other things you also never thought of.

The Bullseye Framework is actually one of the free 3 chapters, so you have no excuse! Join their list and get it free. Each of the 5 steps has something valuable to consider.

1. Brainstorm

Brainstorming seems like an obvious thing to do when you’re stuck for what to do next. But the key point here is to cover each traction channel. Make some educated guesses if you need to, but make sure you actually consider every channel in your brainstorming. The funny thing is, everyone comes with biases. This is why you end up with engineer-led projects that only do all the techie things to try to grow. Sometimes non-artists will have a great aversion to anything that involves design.

2. Rank

It’s as obvious as it sounds — group the brainstormed ideas into 3 columns based on how likely you think they are to work. This takes your brainstormed ideas and helps you think of them as a whole.

3. Prioritize

Now comes the hard decision. Narrow your traction channels down to 3. Why not one? Well, you don’t want to be working serially. On the other hand, you don’t want to be taking on too much at a time, or shoving poor ideas in because you are bored.

4. Test

This section is so important that it ends up having its own chapter. The testing step is where you invest a little bit of time and money to validate whether or not your prioritized traction channels could work. For example, if Social and Display Ads was one of your channels, you could try out a few different sets of copy, to a few different audiences. The goal here is not to get thousands or millions of users, but rather it is to figure out what the costs are, whether or not the acquired customers are useful, and how many customers you could potentially reach.

5. Focusing

Once you have tested out your channels, it’s time to pick one. As the book says, “At any stage in a startup’s lifecycle, one traction channel dominates in terms of customer acquisition.” Now that you’ve found the best one for your startup at that moment, it’s time to ride it out. Stay in that channel, get creative, and keep going until you start running out of customers. Each traction channel gets its own chapter in the book, filled with case studies for inspiration.


The last, unnumbered step is to go through the whole process again. Maybe now that you have more users, or you have more paid users, some of the previously discarded channels may become more valuable. Maybe your 2nd place from the last iteration is now your first place. The point of having the Bullseye Framework is to allow you to clear your mind, and start again without bias to find what the best channel is for you.

And really — that’s what’s great about the Traction Book. It’s filled with simple insights that make you wonder, “why didn’t I think of that?” Each page is a bias-clearing experience to help you find what is best for you. If not for this book, I probably would be hovering around all the channels that were engineering related. Sometimes you just need someone to point out the obvious to help you get past yourself and to the next level — as far as growth goes, the Traction Book is the book to read for that.

Convinced to give it a shot? I still swear I don’t work for them, but help me out with this Amazon link: Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers

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