Traction (Book Review)

How any startup can achieve explosive customer growth.

April 2020

There are times when you’re reading something online, which links to something else interesting, and before you know it, you’re miles away from where you began. When it happened, I felt like Alice in Wonderland as she tumbled down the rabbit hole. When I finally came to a stop, the prize that awaited me was Traction: How any startup can achieve explosive customer growth by two successful entrepreneurs, Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. This book isn’t new (except to me), but it’s a gem, which is why you should know about it.

Digital Koalas is a new brand. None of the partners are new to digital marketing – or marketing more generally – we’ve all been doing it for years.  It’s the coming together of the three of us, as one team, that’s new. We met in a start-up. We’re now a ‘startup’ ourselves. It’s exciting, and daunting, and hopeful. Given our brand’s age, what a perfect time to stumble across this book.

 

5 things I liked most about Traction:

#1: It’s immensely readable.
There is nothing worse than trying to wade through a book that’s hard to read. Stylistically, sentences are short and points aren’t laboured, so you can move through this read quite quickly and easily. To keep it interesting the authors mix in real world examples, mini cases studies of other start-ups, particularly when you reach the sections that explore different “traction” channels in the book.

#2: I love the real world examples.
Point 1 allows me to neatly segue into the next best thing about this book – practical examples of how channels were used in the real world. While academic theory can be interesting, practical application is more valuable. I’m curious about who did what and how they pulled it off. Possibly one of the most memorable examples cited was Half.Com renaming a town as part of its launch strategy. (To learn some of the others, buy the book!)

#3: Practical advice.
Point 2 allows me to neatly segue into the third best thing about this book – practical advice. I love “simple to follow” and “easy to implement” because it makes information accessible to anyone.

So much of what the authors said sounded like common sense. For example, run your product development in tandem with testing different “traction” channels. (At Digital Koalas, we too are testing advocates.) This improves time to market and ensures your product is a better fit with its customer. Usually, it’s not products that fail, it’s how they’re marketed (distributed). If a channel isn’t working, dump it fast and move on so you don’t squander resources. Look for channels or ways of doing things that your competitors aren’t doing or are under-utilising. All of this is great advice and just scratches the surface of what’s packed inside the book.

#4: Practical frameworks.
The authors have developed a framework for helping you to decide and focus on the best “traction” channel for your business. It’s a three-step process which goes like this:

Outer ring (what’s possible): Brainstorm every traction channel. Don’t dismiss anything (there’s time for that later in the process). Dream up at least one idea for every channel. Make sure you take a look at your industry – what competitors do, how do they acquire customers and where is the wastage.

Middle ring (what’s probable): Cull your options down to what’s best and move it to your middle ring. Run small, cheap tests in the channels that look promising. Look to test in parallel so you save time. Just make sure you don’t scatter your energies by doing too much at once. You have to stay focused.

Inner ring (what’s working): By now, you should know which channel is moving the needle for your start-up. This is your core channel and should be where you focus energy and investment. Test strategies and tactics. Extract every conversion you can from your core channel, until it’s no longer effective. Don’t get distracted by other channels.

Yes, the frameworks are compatible with the Lean methodology.

Then the authors move on to setting measurable goals and the steps required to establish your critical path. For more about these aspects, buy the book!

#5: Speed to Read.
You can read it in a day. So for someone who is time-poor (like me), this is the perfect read. It doesn’t require too much effort from me and it’s super-fast to absorb.

Finally, Traction boasts a long list of notable contributors.

If you’re like us and you’ve begun a startup, you’ll be looking for practical advice that improves your opportunity for success. They way we look at it, if you’re going to learn something, why not learn from the best?

  • 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

This post was written by Fiona Mackenzie, co-founder, Digital Koalas.

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Digital Koalas is a Melbourne-based Digital Marketing Consultancy.
We work with businesses, marketing teams and agencies to develop digital strategy, conduct independent digital audits, manage digital media buying and campaign optimisation, and provide assistance with digital team & talent recruitment.
Ready to talk to us? Say hello.

 

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