Bala

@tractionfinder

Has your startup found Traction?

Find the one channel that works for you

How we reached here and where we are going from here — The story below…

So you have a great idea and you decide to take the plunge, test the riskiest assumptions and now you are in it for real.

Where is your core audience? 
What tests are you running every week, 
to make decisions, to move forward.

Most startups struggle at this stage. Finding that one channel which will lead you to Product Market Fit. You are not trying to hit the growth graph just yet. (so please keep that hockey stick away… for now).

The back story: My personal frustrations led me to find ways to run tests that would help me find that one channel (or channels? unlikely). I haven’t found it yet. But I have a way of running & measuring tests that tell me if the test performed well or otherwise. A guide that leads to more tests — Its like climbing steps (just know when to climb down).

Some perspective on this, by Brian Balfour of — Coelevate

Does all this make sense? If you have a similar problem and are pulling your hair out, don’t worry. You are not alone.

This is where it started -

The Traction Book

I read the Traction book — By Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares about 2 years ago. The book talks in detail about the 19 different channels that your startup should look at if it wants to get anywhere near Product Market Fit.

It goes on to talk about assumptions you make on each idea for the tests you will run, rate them, brainstorm with the top rated ideas, leave out the long shots and go with the ones that sound the most promising. Find out how each test performed and move on to the next one… and so on.

For an early stage startup constrained by resources — people & money, this could be an uphill task. You are concentrating all your efforts on the product and are pretty much left with very few options to run weekly tests to see what moves the needle.

A team of 2 or 3 co-founders with little or no financial resource will find it hard to run these tests, track them and move to the next test.

Running one full cycle of tests on these 19 channels will take a good part of 3 months or more depending upon the resources at hand.

I wanted a way to run the tests, store & share the outcomes with my team and also wanted the team to access all this information easily. The Traction Book comes with an excel document that lists all the channels and what you should do with them.

Working with that excel doc is good but its stored away from view on a device. I was looking for something like the lean canvas or the business model canvas that can be put up on a wall. Something the team has visibility of. People could walk up to it and see — what tests are we running this week, whats expected of the tests, how much do we intend to spend, how long is the test running, what ideas stick and which don’t etc.

I started with the excel document as inspiration and improvised it to a wall chart that people can write onto, make notes etc. We were ready with a first version that was put up on the wall. It was about 5ft tall. Yes I know — pretty large compared to a lean canvas but I wanted to get this out so people could use it and we could get some early feedback.

We started running weekly tests (more like 1 test every 2 weeks), but started noting everything on the wall chart. This quickly brought curious eyes from team members who wanted to see what was happening in a given week. People looked at the wall chart, commented, discussed about the tests and suggested ways we could do more with the tests.

All this was valuable feedback coming from team members in engineering, marketing, sales & product.

But I wanted some feedback from outside of our team. I wanted to see what other startups were doing to solve this problem. I needed a group who I can ask questions and possibly get some answers.

Why would someone even bother replying to my questions? What was in it for them? I need a community base which will at the least, like what I had to share and then possibly respond to my queries.

I thought - lets turn to possible social media channels where I have some friends or colleagues who know me. This would be an easy place to ask for some help. I had not used Facebook for a while and my twitter account was empty.

I felt twitter could be good place to start because I was following about 300 influential names from the startup world. I read their blogs, followed their tweets and dreamt that someday I could do something similar.

I now urgently needed a community of people 
who liked what I shared or said.

This led me to find a way to grow my twitter followers from 124 to 5000 in under a year.

(More on that story will come later)

Coming back to my wall chart story..

I wanted some fresh pair of eyes to look at this wall chart and give us some feedback — if we were doing this right or it was just dogs breakfast.

I thought, why not ask about this traction chart to someone who has some serious background in startup traction — Some influencer, startup founder or VC who has done this before and could give us some valuable insights. But why would they bother?

By this time my twitter account was gaining about 400 followers a month and I felt that I should just tweet about this chart and see how people respond.

Actually, I went one step further. I send a direct message to one influencer who possibly knows the most about startup traction (sorry, I can’t mention the name here!). I did not expect any kind of reply as I was sure that my tweet was more of a spam than a message. A top founder, VC or influencer could get thousands of requests a day and there’s no way they could respond back if they don’t immediately connect to the story.

I was proved wrong. The next morning, I casually opened twitter on my mobile and was looking through the feed. I had a few likes, some RTs and a few messages. I checked the messages and could not believe a reply from this influencer. He felt this was a good angle on the tests and I requested for a skype chat if it was ok with him.

To my surprise he agreed and we had a 30min skype call, in which I explained my take on the idea of running tests. He was absolutely fabulous on giving some cool insights that helped me simplifying wall chart.

It was a great push for the team too, as they now felt that we are on the correct direction. The influencer was more than happy to answer further questions via twitter messages and the conversation picked up speed and saw some major changes to the wall chart.

I was keen to find out what other startups felt about their traction story and how they were solving this.

I set up a landing page and submitted it to Betalist

The page got accepted on Betalist after a month and I start tweeting about it on my twitter account. We got about 220 opt ins in 4 days.

Now I want to revisit this project via Producthunt Maker Festival and get this out to more people so they build products that sell and loved by customers.

View progress on ProductHunt Maker festival here

And a good place to start would be to read the TRACTION book by Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares. And don’t stop testing.

It’s still a long road ahead. If you feel you have a similar story to share, why not say hello on twitter — @tractionfinder

or if you liked this post, head to my blog to find some interesting stuff to read at — Doesitfly.io

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