Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers

It’s book review time. Since its release, Traction has become a fairly popular book, often recommended to start-up founders, aspiring entrepreneurs and anyone who is keen on growing a business exponentially. After having spent a significant time in early-stage ventures, I decided to give this book a shot to see if it resonated strongly with me.

Traction starts off by emphasizing greatly on a method they call the ‘Bullseye Framework’. True to its name, it is a process which involves narrowing down on that ONE channel which will give you the most traction initially. This may seem very intuitive but you’ll be surprised how many companies get that wrong. In summary, the ‘Bullseye Framework’ requires you to brainstorm on all possible traction channels, rank them on the basis of potential, run quick tests for hypothesis testing and then finally focus on that identified channel. As you progress through the book, you’ll realize how central this process is for companies (as shown in the examples) in identifying their first channel.

With that as the crux of the book, the authors go on by enlisting 19 different traction channels that have worked for companies across industries. There is a dedicated chapter to each of those 19 traction channels. Some of the obvious traction channels mentioned are SEM, SEO, Display ads and Public Relations. Some of the not-so-obvious traction channels listed in the book are Engineering as Marketing, Community building and Viral Marketing (yup!). Each of those chapters outline the how-to, benefits and impact of the said traction channel. What adds further value are real world examples. One such example is about Mint, a website which helps users with managing finances. On starting up, the company had a goal of signing up 100,000 users in 6 months. By following the Bullseye Framework, Mint realized they could target personal blogs as their first traction channel. This led to 20,000 users signing up even before the official launch of their full-fledged product. Crazy, right? Once the company realized they were exhausting blogs and weren’t seeing a spike in growth, they resorted to Public Relations as a channel. This eventually led the company to signing up 1 million users during their first 6 months.

What I love about this book is that it appeals to both the layman as well as the seasoned marketer. Unlike many “management” books, Traction does not faff about. There’s no jargon, no worldly business advice, no bullshit. The book stresses upon a simple framework, emphasizes on hustling hard by rigorously testing traction channels and repeating the process in case of failure. The book also talks about the importance of dividing your time between traction and product development.

Traction is a short read but I can see myself getting back to it whenever I have to ponder upon any of the traction channels mentioned here. If it were up to me, I’d prescribe this book as essential reading for all business school students because this is as real as it gets.

You can buy the book here.

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