Knowledge Center

Dec 05

Posted by:Sanket Nikte
4 Step Startup guide for Dummies - Part 3


Oxford dictionary defines traction as the motive power provided to draw or pull something. Transposing it to business parlance, it means the movement or velocity of your product which is nothing but a growing consumer base. Creating a traction plan is nothing but unlocking the growth model or creating your growth hack. One of the most famous growth hacks is the Facebook one- 7 friends within 10 days of signing up- and the user is hooked. That’s the hook you need to find. Read some more hooks here.

Here, you need to answer 2 of the most important question of any marketing plan- what is the critical mass of consumers needed to achieve self propelling growth and how to achieve that number.

Critical mass

The critical mass is the number of consumers required for self propulsion. There is no fixed metric for this and changes from industry to industry. A specialized product that provides data analytics services to e-commerce websites like Wigzo, may need only 10 customers to adopt its product whereas a search engine like DuckDuckGo will require a few hundred thousand hits a day to gain momentum. An easy way to solve this puzzle is by asking these 4 questions

  • Is my product target specific or generic?
  • Am I targeting high margins or high volumes?
  • How big is the target audience?
  • How close knit is the audience community?

A target specific product which is designed to solve the needs of a specific group of people needs comparatively smaller volume of initial consumers. These products are also typically high priced. On the contrary, generic products need high volumes. Such products are low priced or even free with inbuilt paid premium features like LinkedIn. Understanding the number of unique potential users is key. A B2B product has comparatively less unique consumers than a B2C product. Even within B2C products, a geography specific product will have smaller target audience. A prime example of this will be “m-indicator”, an app providing the updated timetable of local trains, buses, metro and monorails in Mumbai. It is highly geography specific as compared to Goqii, a wearable fitness band that also offers remote personalized coaching which works just as well anywhere in the world.


There is a multitude of ways to generate traction. These have been succinctly enumerated in “Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth” by Justin Mares and Gabriel Weinberg. Finding the right fit for your product is the key to success. Some of the traction channels are blogs, community building, SEO, SEM, social media advertising, affiliate marketing etc. You will have to think long and hard about your target consumers, their attributes and your product features to decipher this code. The blind study survey conducted earlier will be extremely useful and provide you with a host of data points to base your decision upon. One example of a traction channel is viral marketing or word of mouth advertising. It does not happen overnight and is not easy to achieve. It is not the only way to market or sell a product and is not the primary strategy for most products. It is however, a very effective secondary tool that needs to be gained over a period of time. This is where the coalescence of the target audience comes into picture. The closer the crowd to each other; stronger are the lines of communication between them and this provides the perfect way to hack viral marketing. Gaming industry and some other software industries use this method very effectively. The gaming community is very close knit and a dedicated and disciplined approach to pre-launch marketing their product in these communities have paid huge dividends over the years.

An important objective of the traction plan is pre-launch sales. Generating a dedicated consumer base before launch provides a super charged adrenalin shot to your venture. Pre-launch sales help in delivering a public perception of strength and something that people need. It is a long known marketing gimmick that people tend to use a product if it is known to be used by many others. This is based in proven psychological theory of herd mentality.

Robert Cialdini, a professor and author of the book “Influence” who is interested in how social norms can be used to encourage positive or “pro-social” behavior, conducted a real life experiment at hotels in Phoenix, Arizona, to find out which printed message in the bathroom would encourage more guests to re-use their towels. There were 4 separate messages printed and posted on the bathroom door.

  • The first message asked guests to reuse their towels for the good of the environment. This served as the baseline for the experiment.
  • The second asked guests to “cooperate with the hotel” and “be our partner in this cause.” This was 12% less effective than the first sign.
  • The third said the majority of guests in the hotel reused their towels at least once during their stay, which was 18% more effective.
  • The final message said “…a majority of people in this room have reused their towel” which saw a 33% increase in responsive behavior compared with the first message.

As you can see, when it was shown that most people have reused the towel, irrespective of the fact whether it was true or not, others followed suit. Translating this finding to a business environment, it means that if people perceive that the product is being used by many, they will follow suit simply to ensure that they are not left behind. Consider book and movie ticket sales. Historically and statistically it is proved that their sales during their run usually follow the opening sales or the advance sales. This is meta but nothing sells a product like sales.


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