Traction Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares: Summary

July 2, 2022


What it's about?

A great guide to marketing and finding customers for any early stage company, whether you're bootstarped, indie or VC backed you will find value in this book.

Traction is a sign that your product is taking off, it is evidence of customer demand for what you are selling.

Almost every failed startup has a product. What failed startups don’t have is enough customers.

Traction and product development are of equal importance and should each get about half of your attention. This is what we call the 50 percent rule: spend 50 percent of your time on product and 50 percent on traction.

  • Question for the Author: "How do you do this at the beginning of a product?"

There are four situations where you could build something people want, but still not end up with a viable business:

  1. You build something people want, but for which you just can’t figure out a how to monetize it. For example, people won’t pay, and selling advertising won’t cover the bills. There is just no real market.
  2. You build something people want, but there are just not enough customers to reach profitability. The market is to narrow, it's too niche, meaning there aren’t obvious ways to expand.
  3. You could build something people want, but reaching them is cost prohibitive. You find yourself in a hard-to-reach market.
  4. You build something people want, but a lot of other companies build it too. You're in hypercompetitive market.

Early customers are likely too close to you, they will most likely tell you what you want to here. You need cold customers, to get these cold customers you have to try different traction channels.

Cold Customers get you additional data, like what messaging is resonating with potential customers, what niche you might focus on first, what types of customers will be easiest to acquire, and what major distribution roadblocks you might run into.

Before you can set about getting traction, you have to define what traction means for your company. You need to set a traction goal. At the earliest stages, this traction goal is usually to get enough traction to either raise funding or become profitable. In any case, you should figure out what this goal means in terms of hard numbers. How many customers do you need and at what growth rate?

Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off…. The most common unscalable thing founders have to do at the start is to recruit users manually. Nearly all startups have to. You can’t wait for users to come to you. You have to go out and get them.Paul Graham

*Initially you have to do things that don't scale.

Traction channels

  1. Targeting Blogs
  2. Publicity
  3. Unconventional PR
  4. Search Engine Marketing
  5. Social Display Ads
  6. Offline Ads
  7. Search Engine Optimization
  8. Content Marketing
  9. Email Marketing
  10. Engineering as Marketing
  11. Viral Marketing
  12. Business Development
  13. Sales
  14. Affilate Programs
  15. Existing Platforms
  16. Trade Shows
  17. Offline Events
  18. Speaking Engagements
  19. Community Building

You should look at all of these channels as potential traction gaining solutions. Each channel has a chapter with relevant information, give each a read and formulate how to use it for your product.


Figuring out which of the nineteen traction channels to go after is tough. The Bullseye framework helps you find the channel that will get you traction.

  1. Brainstorm how you would use every single traction channel. You should have at least one idea per channel. Put these idea's in your outer ring.
  2. Move the highest potential idea's to the middle ring.
  3. Test the channels in the middle ring. Create a spreadsheet with each idea and track the traffic, click through rate, conversion, total users.
  4. If one of the channels you tested in your middle ring went well, move it to you core ring. Now start directing all your traction efforts to this channel.
  5. If the core ring channel stops moving the neddle, find a new core traction channel to focus on.

The biggest mistake startups make when trying to get traction is failing to pursue traction in parallel with product development.

Do not overlook underutilized channels. In fact, those channels are more likely to be the ones that will work best.


Your tests should be designed to answer these questions:

  1. How much does it cost to acquire each customer through this channel strategy?
  2. How many customers are available through this channel strategy?
  3. Are the customers you are getting through this channel the ones you want right now?

Testing is not running 10 ads on social media testing everything about them (ad copy, landing pages, etc.) that is optimization. You should run cheap tests, maybe 2 ads with 2 landing pages that will give you some indication of how successful a given channel strategy could be.

The Law of Shitty Click-Throughs: Eventually marketing strategies will result in shitty click-through rates. Because overtime marketing channels become saturated, as more discouver it as an effective strategy. This makes it crowded and expensive, making it harder to get people to notice. To overcome this you constantly need to brainstorm new channel strategies, and conduct experiments for them.