Summary : Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares

1. Bullseye, a simple three-step process for getting traction. 

2. After interviewing more than forty successful founders and researching countless more, we discovered that startups get traction through nineteen different channels. Many successful startups experimented with multiple channels until they found one that worked.

3. We uncovered two broad themes through our research. First, most founders consider using only traction channels with which they’re already familiar, or those they think they should be using because of their type of product or company.

4. Second, it’s hard to predict the traction channel that will work best. You can make educated guesses, but until you start running tests, it’s difficult to tell which channel is the best one for you right now.

5. The nineteen traction channel : 

  • Targeting Blogs - Targetting blogs prospective customers might read.
  • Publicity - Publicity is the art of getting your name out there via traditional media outlets like newspapers, magazines, and TV.
  • Unconventional PR - Unconventional PR involves doing something exceptional like publicity stunts to draw media attention.
  • Search Engine Marketing - Search engine marketing (SEM) allows companies to advertise to consumers searching on Google and other search engines.
  • Social and Display Ads - Ads on popular sites like reddit, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and hundreds of other niche sites can be a powerful and scalable way to reach new customers.
  • Offline Ads - Offline ads include TV spots, radio commercials, billboards, infomercials, newspaper and magazine ads, as well as flyers and other local advertisements.
  • Search Engine Optimisation - Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making sure your Web site shows up for key search results.
  • Content Marketing - Using your company blog to get traction
  • Email Marketing - Creating a list of prospect that you can email about your offerings.
  • Engineering as Marketing - Creating a side product(e.g. free utility, microsite or app) that helps with promotion of your main product.
  • Viral Marketing - Customers referring other customers.
  • Business Development - Creating Strategic partnerships that benefit your startup and partner.
  • Sales - Focus on creating direct exchange of product for dollars.
  • Affiliate Programs -  An affiliate program is an arrangement where you pay people or companies for performing certain actions like making a sale or getting a qualified lead.
  • Weinberg, Gabriel; Mares, Justin. Traction (p. 159). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition. 
  • Existing Platforms - Focusing your efforts on attracting consumers from an existing platform that has your target audience.
  • Trade Shows - Attending trade shows to attract customers from relevant industry
  • Offline Events - Sponsoring offline events just as small meetups or large conference
  • Speaking Engagement - After speaking at events people start viewing you as an expert and may desire to purchase your service.
  • Community Building - Forming passionate communities around your products that can promote it.

6. If you’re starting a company, chances are you can build a product. Almost every failed startup has a product. What failed startups don’t have is enough customers.

7. Having a product or service that your early customers love, but having no clear way to get more traction is a major problem. To solve this problem, spend your time constructing your product or service and testing traction channels in parallel.

8. Traction and product development are of equal importance and should each get about half of your attention. This is what we call the 50 percent rule: spend 50 percent of your time on product and 50 percent on traction.

9. To be clear, splitting your time evenly between product and traction will certainly slow down product development. However, it counterintuitively won’t slow the time to get your product successfully to market. In fact, it will speed it up!

10. You can think of your initial investment in traction as pouring water into a leaky bucket. At first your bucket will be very leaky because your product is not yet a full solution to customer needs and problems. In other words, your product is not as sticky as it could be, and many customers will not want to engage with it yet. As a consequence, much of the money you are spending on traction will leak out of your bucket.

11. These interactions also get you additional data, like what messaging is resonating with potential customers, what niche you might focus on first, what types of customers will be easiest to acquire, and what major distribution roadblocks you might run into.

12. Before you can set about getting traction, you have to define what traction means for your company. How many customers do you need and at what growth rate?

13. Your traction strategy should always be focused on moving the needle for your traction goal. By moving the needle, we mean focusing on marketing activities that result in a measurable, significant impact on your traction goal.

14. From the perspective of getting traction, you can think about working on a product or service in three phases: 

Phase I—making something people want 

Phase II—marketing something people want 

Phase III—scaling your business 

15. In the leaky bucket metaphor, phase I is when your bucket (product) has the most leaks. It really doesn’t hold water.

16. When you constantly test traction channels by sending through a steady stream of new customers, you can tell if your product is getting less leaky over time, which it should be if your product development strategy is sound. In fact this is a great feedback loop between traction development and product development that you can use to make sure you’re on the right track.

17. Once you have crossed over to phase II, you have product-market fit and customers are sticking around. Now is the time to scale up your traction efforts: your bucket is no longer leaky. You are now fine-tuning your positioning and marketing messages. 

18. In phase III, you have an established business model and significant position in the market, and are focused on scaling both to further dominate the market and to profit.

19. Phase I is very product focused and involves pursuing initial traction while also building your initial product. This often means getting traction in ways that don’t scale—giving talks, writing guest posts, emailing people you have relationships with, attending conferences, and doing whatever you can to get in front of customers.

20. The definition of traction keeps changing as the environment gets competitive. That’s why it is actually useful to look at AngelList and look at companies who just got funded; that will give you an idea of where the bar is right now.

21. With investing, always remember that traction trumps everything.

22. We strongly believe that many startups give up way too early. A lot of startup success hinges on choosing a great market at the right time. Consider DuckDuckGo, the search engine startup that Gabriel founded. Other search startups gave up after two years: Gabriel has been at it for more than seven.

23. It’s important to wrap your head around this timescale. If you are just starting out, are you ready to potentially do this for the next decade?

24. A startup can be awesome if you believe in it: if not, it can get old quickly. 

25. If you are considering a pivot, the first thing to look for is evidence of real product engagement, even if it is only a few dedicated customers. If you have such engagement, you might be giving up too soon.

26. Another factor to consider before you pivot: startup founders are usually forward thinking and as a result are often too early to market, which is another reason why it’s important to choose a startup idea you’re willing to stick with for many years.

27. How can you tell whether you are just a bit early to market and should keep plugging away? Again, the best way to find out is by looking for evidence of product engagement. If you are a little early to a market there should be some early adopters out there already eating up what you have to offer.

28. With nineteen traction channels to consider, figuring out which one to focus on is tough. That’s why we’ve created a simple framework called Bullseye that will help you find the channel that will get you traction.

29. We use the name Bullseye for our three-step framework because you’re aiming for the Bullseye—the one traction channel at the center of the target that will unlock your next growth stage.

30. The first step in Bullseye is brainstorming every single traction channel. If you were to advertise offline, where would be the best place to do it? If you were to give a speech, who would be the ideal audience? Imagine what success would look like in each channel, and write it down in your outer ring.

31. For each channel, you should identify one decent channel strategy that has a chance of moving the needle. For example, social ads is a traction channel. Specifically running ads on reddit, Twitter, or Facebook is a channel strategy within social ads. Through brainstorming, identify the best channel strategy you can think of in each of the nineteen traction channels.

32. The second step in Bullseye is running cheap traction tests in the channels that seem most promising. Go around your outer ring and promote your best traction channel ideas to your middle ring.

33. It is often the case that there are a few truly exciting and promising channel ideas in your outer ring. Stop promoting ideas where there is an obvious drop-off in excitement. That drop-off often occurs around the third channel.

34. For each traction channel in your middle ring, now construct a cheap traction test you can run to determine if the idea really is good or not. These tests should be designed to roughly answer the following three questions: 

  • How much will it cost to acquire customers through this channel? 

  • How many customers are available through this channel? 

  • Are the customers that you are getting through this channel the kind of customers that you want right now?

35. The third and final step in Bullseye is to focus solely on the channel that will move the needle for your startup: your core channel.

36. If all went well, one of the traction channels you tested in your middle ring produced promising results. In that case, you should start directing all your traction efforts and resources toward this most promising channel. You hit the Bullseye! You’ve found your core channel.

37. At any stage in a startup’s life cycle, one traction channel dominates in terms of customer acquisition. That is why we suggest focusing on one at a time, but only after you’ve identified a channel that seems like it could actually work.

38. If, unfortunately, no channel seems promising after testing, the whole process should be repeated. The good news is you now have data from all the tests you just did, which will inform you as to what types of things are, and are not, resonating with customers.

39. If you go through the process several times and no traction channel seems promising, then your product may require more tweaking. Your bucket is still too leaky.

40. In the early days, the channel strategies of sponsoring mid-level bloggers in the financial niche and guest posting allowed Mint to acquire its first forty thousand customers. 

41. When this channel maxed out and stopped moving the needle, Mint repeated the Bullseye process, and found a new core traction channel to focus on: publicity. Within six months of launching, it had 1 million users.