Understanding “traction”, the dirty word.

Traction is what entrepreneurs need to show to get investors interested. Simple as that. However, it’s a concept that doesn’t just mean “bigger numbers”, it is something more intricate.

In my world, the word “traction” depicts a clear direction you see from the users active on your site. Think about it from the root of the word: a tire that is slowly gaining traction in the desert sand is about the right metaphor. Forget about F1, and think about Granada-Dakar.

Where to identify traction without huge growth numbers:

  • Is there a specific, identifiable group of people on your site who use it in a particular way? If you can find that group, communicate clearly about their activity and the value they get from the product.
  • Are there some metrics that you can reliably track that make usage or signups grow? This can be a viral coefficient for sharing activities, a traceable growth rate that isn’t just a vanity metric, but something tangible (prolonged use, ideally), or a metric that influences said growth/usage rate.
  • Are some specific users coming to your product from a specific source? See how Checkthis grew their early user base in the creative space, see how Soundcloud enabled DJs to share sets better than other sites, or how pinboard is attracting a very specific type of user from places like delicious.

This is the traction that shows your company is going into a specific direction, and that shows where the product, user base, and therefore company, is going to be in the future.

The above mentioned insights are something that you will most probably see if you are already very clear about the value set you provide. If not, trying to identify them will most often give you a clear view of who you should focus on or what features you should actually build to cater to that group.

Besides a clearer focus, this can bring forth a very deep understanding of the USP you provide – not in your own words and understanding, but much more so from the perspective of your users, underlined by the evidence of their actions.