June 22, 2015

Traction: How to spur growth for your startup

Attendees at last week’s Traction conference in Vancouver (Photo by JD Lasica).

This is the first of a two-part series on the Traction conference.

Target audience: Startup teams, entrepreneurs, small businesses, marketing professionals, SEO specialists, PR pros, brand managers, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

JD LasicaI‘m just back from one of the best inaugural tech events on the West Coast: the two-day Traction conference, which drew some 800 entrepreneurs, startup team members, marketers and angels to Vancouver last week.

Speakers included marketing superstar Neil Patel, Lynda Weinman (whose Lynda.com was purchased by LinkedIn for $1.5 billion), Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, Marketo CEO Phil Fernandez, SurveyMonkey president Selina Tobaccowala, Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio, and a host of others.

Here’s my Flickr album of 23 photos taken at the conference.

Highlights of the Traction conference

I’ve been on Twitter for eight years, but I’m a bit old-fashioned in that I think a blog post summary will offer more long-term value than thousands of uncontextualized tweets, so here are some of the highlights I gleaned while attending the conference as both an entrepreneur and journalist:

• “In a world where 1,200 startups are launching every year, the hard thing is no longer, Can you build a product as a startup? The hard part is, Can you get traction? … Traction trumps everything.” — Justin Mares, co-author, “Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers.”

• Mares on Marc Andreessen and his famed venture capital firm Andreessen-Horowitz: “The No. 1 reason they pass on entrepreneurs they’d otherwise back is because the founders focus on product to the exclusion of everything else.”

• Great insights from Aliisa Hodges, growth manager at Mixpanel: “If you’re not using A-B testing, you’re not serious about growth.” And: “Pick just one metric of success and focus on that.” And: “Focus not just on user acquisition but on user retention.”

Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite: "Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, at Traction conference “One of the pieces of advice I have for anybody is just look for the big waves, If you can find a big, economic seismic shift in the market and get in front of that, you are going to be in a way better place than trying to change something that is not as progressive,” he said.

Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite: Look for a big wave and get in front of it.

• Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite: “One of the pieces of advice I have for anybody is just look for the big waves. If you can find a big, economic seismic shift in the market and get in front of that, you are going to (do well).”

• Aatif Awan, head of growth at LinkedIn, agreed. “Your one metric shouldn’t be your sign-up number, it should be something like your weekly users and looking at what are they doing for you.”

• “Revenue per customer is the ultimate metric, even more important than conversion rate,” said Ben Yoskovitz, co-author of “Lean Analytics.”

• Nate Moch, VP of growth at Zillow: “Build urgency into your product. Include messaging like, ’50 other people are looking at this right now!’” … “When you send emails to your customers, you should be sending them content, not marketing.”

• Robert Cezar Matei, head of growth at Quora, offered this secret of success: “It’s about dozens of small or medium-size wins.”

• Ivan Kirign, CEO of YesGraph, offered this tip on getting things done: “Some people on the Airbnb growth team learned Android just so they could make changes to the code base directly.”

• Brian Balfour, VP of growth at HubSpot: “The most powerful word in metrics is ‘Why?'”

• “It’s significantly harder to get traction for apps than for the Web,” observed one speaker.

• “Hitting the gas pedal on growth prematurely can spell disaster,” said another.

• Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio: “A/B testing, followed through to its logical conclusion, would lead every site to become a porn site.”JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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