How To Get Traction For Your Business
EntrepreneursAuthor of The Art of Startup Fundraising & Serial Entrepreneur
How do you get and maintain traction for your startup business?
Traction is probably the most important part of launching and running a business today. If you’ve got traction across the right metrics, everything else will take care of itself. The funding will find you, you’ll find a way to be profitable, you’ll attract great talent, and you’ll enjoy what you are doing.
Of course, traction is tricky. Especially in the early days of being a startup, where you can’t just go and buy growth by buying another company that has it. Some will tell new business owners to be realistic and that growth is never a straight trajectory upwards. If you’ve haven’t planned to maintain traction, there will be lots of plateaus.
Yet, today’s investors demand traction. Funding rounds are getting closer together. If you aren’t delivering on your promises of progress and growth, and you only have a 12 month runway, that next fundraising round may be pretty dry and deserted.
In fact you will be expected to allocate one entire slide of your pitch deck to traction. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash. Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Traction doesn’t have to be profit. It doesn’t even have to be revenue. Or it may not be in size of customer base. It may not be rolling out the next two products you hoped. It is probably one of these things, though it doesn’t have all of them. Just show the one single metric that determines the health of your business and make sure this metric is growing by at least 10% month over month consistently. Make sure you have been (boldly) realistic with your milestones so that you aren’t always failing on hitting them. As a founder you always want to under promise and over deliver.
So, how to you keep the graphs going in the right direction?
Ask for the Sale
The number one rule of getting sales is asking for the sale. That applies even if you are seeking users for your freemium model startup. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. The one who asks will get the sale.
This can be a trap any and every business, of all sizes can fall into. Some do it because they’ve become too overconfident and lazy. Others are too shy because they are just starting out.
My friend Tim says he just went into the local Apple store on Black Friday, thinking he’d scoop up the newest phone to document his travels. There were no Black Friday sales deals there by the way. There were 20 or so Apple staff in the store, all seemingly playing on their own tablets in groups, and he wasn’t able to make eye contact with any of them. He left the store without spending a dollar.
He’s not a very patient guy, but tells me the same thing happened at Tesla not too long ago. Walked into the showroom, walked around, waited. No one approached him. He left and bought two new cars from another dealer.
Those sellers may appear to be able to afford to miss out on a $1,200 phone sale or a couple $150,000 car sales. Though, what about 1,000 missed opportunities? What about 1 million? What if that happens next year too. What if each person who went to another brand brought at least 250 people from their sphere of influence over to that brand with them?
You’d never do that, right? You’d never ignore a customer. Not one with money in their pocket and ready to make a purchase on the spot, right?
What if they waltzed into your Wall Street office of Fifth Avenue store in their gym clothes? Would you still be bullish about asking for the sale? Or would you let them slip away? What about the thousands of people who probably see you online on social media and pass you on the street every day? Are you actually asking for the sale? Or are you letting them look around your store (or Facebook page or blog) and then letting them hop over to the competition because you ignored them? Worth thinking about.
Pick Up the Phone
Not many people may actually use the phone as a phone any more. That’s what makes it so great. It’s too easy to shoot off an email or DM. It’s too easy for people to ignore those. Now, if you have them on the phone live, and you ask for their help or a sale, it’s a lot harder for them to say no.
As a side note, make sure you are always leaving your cell phone number in your pitch deck at least twice. This is on the cover slide and on the thank you slide. If an investor wants to talk you should make yourself available always regardless of the time.
Control the Press
Press releases are a fantastic way of creating and controlling the buzz around your brand and company. You no longer have to sit there and hope you get picked up by the media. You don’t have to go buy a whole newspaper like Sam Zell or Jeff Bezos. You can use various online platforms to publish your own news. This can be perfect for breaking through these plateaus and staying trending.
Moreover, you should be following reporters that cover your space on Twitter and engage with them as much as possible so they have you top of mind. Leave thoughtful comments on their pieces as well. There are also other tools such as HARO where reporters are constantly asking for sources and being there as a founder to pick up the opportunity when it comes along is key.
Go Where Your Users are
If you are having problems connecting with those you thought your customers and users were going to be – go where they are. Go get in front of them, be hard to ignore, talk to them. Make them aware of your product. Tell them this solution to their product exists. Get their feedback and record it.
Networking events are great for this. So are other industry conferences and trade shows. Thought this can just as equally be applied to your local gym, the boat club, golf course or pub. You can look for events on platforms like Eventbrite or Crunchbase.
Give stuff away. It may not be your main product, if you can’t afford that. Just make it something that gets their attention and is relevant. It’s a great way to show you notice them and to build relationships.
In this regard, you can also pre-sell your product rather than giving it away by launching a crowdfunding campaign on platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. This could also contribute to building a loyal following.
Whether it’s a popup shop, a tradeshow, or online, getting people to try your product is an excellent gateway to get them to make the leap, and then rave about it. Collect reviews and all the data you can.
Both giveaways and trials can be very valuable when targeted to influencers. Of course, the biggest influencers can also be the hardest to reach. Trying to get Seth Godin to read your book, or Warren Buffett to review your investment algorithm, or Lebron James to wear our clothing may not be easy or fast.
Though there are thousands, if not at least hundreds of micro-influencers who are easy to reach, that will appreciate your offer, and can have a great impact on driving others to you. Many companies are now seeking Instagram influencers as is one of the most powerful engines from an influencer marketing perspective.
If you don‘t have a budget in place to pay these influencers, perhaps you could reward them with advisory shares that have a vesting schedule subject to accomplishing certain type of milestones.
Partnerships & Collaborations
Bigger leaps and hacking traction is easier when you can tap into existing audiences and flows of money. If you could get on the shelves of Walmart, your traction ahead of your next round would probably be incredible.
Ask who it is that has already cultivated a big audience of your target users. Who do they trust and look to for recommendations? Who is already spending money to market to them?
Collaborate on marketing and minimize or eliminate your own marketing expense. Cut a limited time exclusive deal if someone can connect you to a whole store of customers. Exchange content to benefit from that online traffic. Or consider a licensing or affiliate arrangement where you only pay out for leads that are closed.
Ultimately finding powerful organic distribution channels is the best way to grow your company and an unfair advantage to those competitors that are relying on advertising.
Ask for Introductions
Whether it is traction on a fundraising round, users or traffic, ask for introductions. Who holds the keys to these things? Or who knows how to put the right content together to open the doors? Ask for introductions. Ask other entrepreneurs. Ask for introductions on LinkedIn.
Track The Data
You should have tools like Google Analytics or Kissmetrics in place to capture data around how customers are behaving with your service or product. Especially if you are an online operation. By tracking the data you will be able to make better informed decisions and also understand where you need to focus to fix certain issues or where to double down the efforts.
If you are looking for other ways to gain traction and to listen from others that have done it with success in the past, I strongly suggest listening into the DealMakers Podcast to hear how other successful founders have made it, as well as what investors are looking for.AbnAsia.org Software. Faster. Better. More Reliable. +84945924877 (Asia# Mobile, WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber, Zalo); +16699996606 (US# Mobile, WhatsApp, Telegram) [email protected]