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Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers by Gabriel Weinberg, Justin Mares (August 25, 2014) Hardcover Hardcover – 1800
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According to The Economist (2014 Sep 13), "marketers say they have seen more change in the past two years than in the previous 50."
According to the Harvard Business Review (2014 July-August, p. 56) "In the past decade, what marketers do to engage customers has changed almost beyond recognition....we can't think of another discipline that has evolved so quickly."
It can seem like marketing is getting harder each year, but actually in some ways it's getting easier and cheaper, e.g., Facebook's targeted ads. What's needed is a guide to how marketing is changing.
Unlike the zillions of e-books about Facebook marketing, Twitter marketing, etc., my book would cover and compare all marketing channels. Unlike the e-books, my book would include case studies of real companies. Unlike the marketing textbooks, my book would focus on tech startups, not on dog treat bakeries and corner grocery stores. Unlike the books that say you'll get rich if you follow their formula, my book would say that marketing is changing rapidly now, and the marketing plan that worked even a few years ago won't work now. I proposed teaching entrepreneurs instead to make small-scale experiments, see what works and what doesn't, and continuously evolve their marketing.
I scrapped my book proposal because "Traction" is that book.
There are some things I would add (and perhaps Weinberg and Mares will in a second edition). My proposal included case studies of both success and failure. "Traction" only has successful case studies, leading to a sense that every marketing strategy leads to success. Including both successes and failures would lead to a framework for what channels work for what types of companies. E.g., viral social media likes may work for a microbrewery, but not for colonoscopies!
Points I like about "Traction":
- Entrepreneurs should spend 50% of their time on product development and 50% on marketing, but product development sucks up all your time. It's more satisfying to add a new feature to your product than to spend your limited capital on a marketing test that completely fails. We feel comfortable developing our products but feel clueless marketing them.
- Integration with Lean Startup. That was the book I proposed a few years ago, and Eric Reis beat me to it!
- How much traction (downloads, press coverage, sales) investors want to see before they invest increases every year, as marketing gets faster and cheaper to some startups.
- Every entrepreneur has to hand sell the first few customers.
- Building a viral marketing campaign will take one or two engineers three to six months! I.e., viral marketing doesn't magically happen just because your product is so cool.
Stuff that's missing:
- Celebrity endorsements is a 20th channel.
- A chapter about market research, e.g., why you should ask open-ended questions instead of closed-ended questions.
- The PR chapter needs a section on finding journalist contacts, se.g., whether to use the Meltwater or Cision databases.
- Tradeshows are about having outgoing, enthusiastic salespeople, not about having a flashy booth.
Something I appreciated about this book was how much objective research went into it. The list of traction channels wasn't something they pulled out of their backside, but rather something that resulted from extensive interviews with entrepreneurs and business people who have experienced real-life success with them.
The only reason I didn't give Traction five stars is because many of the sections lacked the practical advice needed to put these strategies into action. To that extent, I felt like it left me hanging in quite a few areas. Not every reader is going to know who to contact for a PR campaign, how to get started with SEO, or the best way to setup a sales process/team. If you are looking for very specific information like this, realize that this book won't deliver it to you.
Now to be fair - each of the 19 channels probably deserves its own book to describe such detail, and I don't think this book was intended to be an encyclopedic guide to implementing every channel. This book was surely intended to be more of a top-level overview. To that end, it was great for calibrating one's understanding (from a leadership/executive perspective) of each channel. It inspired me to think outside the box with my own business and projects, and I still found a lot of value in it.
Anyone new to the startup world or who plans to start their own business deserves to read this book - and probably also the Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Some have said Traction and the Lean Startup go hand-in-hand, with Traction focusing more on customer acquisition and Lean Startup focusing more on product development. The build-measure-learn concept is present in each, however, and is a clear theme for all new business owners.
Once again, would certainly recommend to anyone new to the startup world or entrepreneurship. It's a quick and easy read with many good ideas.