Book Review: Traction – A Startup Guide to Getting Customers

Well, it has being some time since my last review, but I still read! Truth be told, I have been occupied with some baby reading, preparing for parenthood, but I haven’t still quit on the startup-related literature. So, this time I am shortly reviewing Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers.

This book is exactly what the title promises. Having been involved in some “customer-chasing” or “customer-hunting” during my professional life so far, I already know the terms and some of the theories that come with, but I really wanted a book that would pick everything up from square one, and give me the basics. And this was just the book I needed. It can be daunting at first with its 167 pages and multiple chapters, but I tell you, it was as easy to read as the next one. Its modular format also allows you to focus on the chapters you really need without reading all of them (although I could not rest until I finish each one).


Starting to work on an idea, making it a startup at some point, you will definitely need the wisdom and the case studies (lots of them), within this book. Having an idea without to support it, or at least like it, seems like having nothing at all, and that’s why this book will come in handy. I liked the fact that the book really reflected some parts of the lean approach that I am a fan of, so it was also easier to follow the authors’ logic. I really agreed with defying the notion of “if you build it they will come”. Of course they won’t come if you do nothing about it. Or at least for most of what we build. There have been cases where something was built and people fled to it, but this is not the usual case.

My takeway from the book is that picking the traction channels you are going to go after, is not an easy task. Picking the right mix is difficult as it also depends on the budget you can spare. And with this in mind, you always know that you may have to kill a traction channel, although you feel that it’s the right one, if you lack the money for it. On top of that, as ideas become startups and startups try to become companies, it seems that the right mix of traction channels changes as well. Like a quick sand… So, on top of needing the right mix, you also need the right mix on the right time. Nobody claimed this would be easy..! 😉

Traction is a bitch!!! (photo taken from here)

I really enjoyed the discussion around the concepts of viral marketing and how it works, and really felt that looking at the viral coefficient and viral cycle time is important. Picking the right metrics and not vanity metrics is always a challenge no matter the traction channel you use. And of course, for some channels is easier to measure than in others. Reading through concepts and cases, I picked up a trick or two which will be really useful in the future. Really liked the Help A Reporter Out (HARO) approach and was equally amazed with the use of publicity stunts (despite the possibility of them backfiring at you).

I definitely understood the worth of online and offline traction channels alike. To add to that, being a Greek, with the internet penetration and customer maturity in Greece being completely different than in the US, it seems that the offline world is equally important. At least there you won’t be getting people that are not claiming to be someone else, or fake accounts for that matter. Offline channels may as well help you find potential customers, even more concentrated than Google AdWords can offer, or targeted Facebook campaigns. But then again, the discussion comes to the necessity of you understanding what your audience is and planning accordingly. No matter how much Facebook excites you, if you’re looking at mid-senior level executives of IT companies, well Facebook is clearly not the place for you.

Another thing that I came to value even more by reading this book is the old-classic email that never goes out of style! It seems that with all our connectivity and different platforms, email is still the easiest and more reliable way to show on someone’s doorstep and make your case about your product/service. And of course, another thing that is of great importance, is that you share quality content about your product/service. This is something I have been doing for quite some time with our family business that has paid off in a way. I have been writing blog posts about other, similar businesses, hosted in our blog, promoted through our social media, to engage into meaningful story-sharing and story-telling with our audiences.

And then again, to wrap it up, in all of this plethora of traction channels, sometimes it comes down to also building your own brand name. To be able to create a persona that closely resembles yourself, picking up “fans” and “followers” as you go, building upon your expertise and experience. To create a meaningful and value-adding representation of you on social media, that will also be close to who you truly are, but that will also keep a level of distance from your personal life, to allow you to have one. And maybe just then, you will be able to become for your customers what Grout is to his minions!

Imagine them as customers! (credits here)

Overall, a great read with tons and tons of valuable case studies! I think that this is a book that you will always return to and look at specific chapters again and again. And of course, there are lots of things that I did not mention, mainly cause these reviews are meant as my own humble opinion on parts of the book and not as a duplicate of the actual content!

Stay tuned for the next one!





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