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Stop Focusing On Unicorn Tears… Start Gaining Traction

How to Get Traction For Your Startup

Your product will go viral, right? Probably… wrong. The only thing that goes viral nowadays is crappy Facebook quizzes and STD’s in a frat house.

Yet, here you are on a hope and a prayer that somehow it will. But we are here with bad news… your focus shouldn’t be on the idea that whatever you do is going to be so good that it will go viral because chances are… there is someone else out there building something better, with more money that has their hopes, dreams, and strategy tethered to the same unicorn.

In fact, assumed virality and lack of strategy are the number one reason startups die in a lonely corner of the internet.

But have no fear… we don’t just bring bad news, we bring strategy.

You don’t want your idea to die all alone do you? Of course, not… so instead of focusing on pulling a billion users out of a magician’s hat, let’s get real and talk about an actual strategy… let’s talk about traction… what it is, why winners are so focused on it and how to get it.

If you have tried to get money from anyone for your business… this is pretty much the only question they will ask you. Well, let me rephrase that… they will ask other questions, but this is the only question they truly care about the answer to.

Traction is how well a startup is getting general market validation of its business and proving out its concept. Basically… It’s a way to measure how well things are going. For some, traction might be revenue, for others users, for others donations… traction is unique to your business model and goals. If you are a free app that has 10k downloads and users have only logged in once… you really don’t have traction. If you are a paid app and you have 10k users that actively use your service… you have significant traction and probably have investors banging down your door to be a part of what you’re building.

So since traction is pretty much the only thing that matters for your business… how do you get it?

This is what winners in the startup game do…

The earlier you get traction the better
Traction is not something you let come to you. You need to be actively looking for ways to gain traction. Whether it is outrageously scalable tactics that are homeruns or small non-scalable actions… traction is traction and whatever works (short of criminal activity) is fair game.

Early traction means early feedback, which helps you build a better product. Better products result in sustained growth.

The earlier you hear from your clients, the fewer mistakes you are bound to make (if you listen to them). Getting an earlier traction can result in assisting you in building products your users will pay for… not products you think your users want.

If it’s not working, abandon it.
Yes, we heard about how AirBnB hacked Craigslist but that may not be a hack that’s applicable to your business… not only that, but it’s been done. With traction, jumping on the bandwagon isn’t the way to go. Coming up with unique ways to grow, that reach your customers in traction channels that work for you is what hacking growth is about.

So let’s get traction.

Product Market Fit
If people want and have heard of your product… traction will come naturally. You find out what people want by speaking to them. Determining product market fit in the industry goes something like this… send an email to all of your users and ask them how would they feel if your product no longer existed tomorrow. If over 40% respond “disappointed” according to Sean Ellis, you have product market fit.

How do you get to product market fit?

Build an MVP
Spend the least amount of time and money to build something that is good enough to get a sense of whether or not users will adopt your product. Now good enough to people is completely subjective but by staying focused, building a core base of passionate users, and then optimizing constantly will get you on to the path of product market fit.

Once you have your MVP, connect with influencers.
It’s good practice to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Build your network and in turn… you will position yourself as an expert and your software as a solution.

Use content
Just like with connecting with influencers… content has a wide reach. Writing consistently about your industry drives people to you in droves… just look at any Hubspot or Buffer Case Study.

Be in the conversation
Content and connections can get your foot in the conversation, but you need to be active in your community to really grab a stronghold.

Make it easy to share your service
If you are great… make it easy for your users to tell people. Prepopulated tweets… referral programs, all these go a long way to getting people to take the first step in sharing your message.

Optimize each part of your sales funnel. Whether it is split testing your homepage call to action buttons or getting users to the a-ha moment in your product immediately… spending your time measuring and optimizing is never time wasted.

These are only a few tactics that can help your startup grow. There are millions of ideas out there, but traction really depends on your business’s goals. Defining them, coming up with growth hacks and then testing those traction channels are the only way you will get answers to what works for your company. Start by reading books like the Traction book or studying your competitors and once you have tried tactics that have worked for other people, continue to come up with new ideas for your business’s growth.

And don’t get discouraged… it took only one successful traction channel for companies like AirBnB and Dropbox to have explosive growth. Keep trying and testing, mates!