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What in the world is “traction” and why does it matter? | Slangbusters Blog
Dec 23, '19

What in the world is “traction” and why does it matter?

Or maybe it doesn’t — because ‘traction’ in itself is abstract. But you see, we can talk about it.

Okay, let’s park this for a while. We don’t want you to tear out of the door and plunge into jargon right away. Let’s start clearing the fog with a few simple questions.

How do you feel now since you are your own boss? What questions hover your mind day in and out as a business owner? Where do you see your business two years or five years down the line and what are the strategies you have decided to act upon?

And perhaps the most important question of the day — how are you going to measure the outcome of those strategies? What is it that’s going to define if your business is heading on the right trajectory or having too many plateaus?

Too many questions? Well, sitting with a pen and paper (literally) is necessary if you have only just begun to take charge of your newly established business. Soon, you would want to know where you stand, soon your investors will be inquisitive if you are bringing home the bacon. And in no time, you will have to define traction for your business.

Which brings us to the most obvious question –

What is traction?

We could wind it up here saying traction is growth. But then isn’t growth very subjective?

Now since you are already sitting with a pen and paper, jot down as to what growth means for your business. Can you say that your business is running well because you have started making some profits? Do you think that it’s a successful venture since you already have a dozen names of loyal customers in your phone book? Or it’s only been a year and you are on your way to launch a new product series?

Traction can be either of these things or all of these factors combined. You can define traction across several metrics and if you define it right, everything else falls in place. Ideally, you might want to stick to one of these single metrics that determine the health of your business and then make sure that this metric grows monthly and consistently.

And then don’t miss out to be realistic about your goals. If your resolution is to hit the gym six days a week when you have never even touched a treadmill, it’s only going to be a new year syndrome. Go with milestones that are safely achievable and then take baby steps in the right direction.

While the word has been discounted to only mean social media traction, the traction that your business deserves is a little more complex than the number of hearts on your Instagram or thumbs up on your Facebook.

Let’s look at a case study.

Uber’s Super Traction

What came first the chicken or the egg?

For Uber, ‘drivers’ were first. The brand went on a search for limo licensed drivers who were already making good money, had vehicles of their own and wouldn’t mind a little cherry on the top. ‘Everyone’s Private Driver’, that’s how they campaigned. After the driver hunt, the brand started pushing for customers. Uber also had a carefully established strategy to expand into smaller areas and then launching into new cities, going with the drivers-first approach.

The brand not only came up with this amazing app but made a lot of effort to create the buzz. Partnering with organizations to help cope up a bus worker’s strike or beginning an animal shelter (UberKittens), the brand left no stone unturned to obtain massive publicity.

Now, Uber hardly adds a dime to its marketing campaigns and when it does, it’s only to kickstart another fleet of drivers and giving them incentives to become an Uber driver. The traction (whatever the brand’s metric is) comes on its own.

Very well, now let’s take the notes and answer some more questions.

How to develop traction for your business?

Traction is probably the most crucial bit about launching and running a business. Maybe your business will take off in the initial stages, but after that, if you do not build the traction, things can get unsteady. If your graphs are going in the right direction then funding will find you, you’ll figure out a way to be profitable, you’ll attract great talent and will also be able to retain them. And most importantly, you will like going to work each day, which means you will enjoy what you are doing.

But all of this isn’t going to come easy, just by swirling that big black chair. You will need to identify some ways (that work particularly for your business) to gain traction in the initial stages. Then in the long haul, you are either tasting the fruits of your hard work or you are simply lucky. In both cases, growth will find you.

Cosmic tip (in light humor): Learn the trade and then learn the trick of the trades to gain traction.

So let’s get going, shall we?

1. There is no harm in asking

Let’s get the cliche out of the way. He/she who asks a question remains a fool for five minutes, the one who doesn’t, remains a fool forever.

So the next time a customer comes smiling into your store and even if you feel stupid, do not hesitate to ask, ‘How can I help you?’ You are still the small fish, only just learning your way, so there shouldn’t be any hesitation in asking for sales. And know this, even the biggest of brands ask for it. Maybe they try talking in circles, but they still do.

Supposedly, you want to order a cake and you walk into this big store where the staff-members simply do not make any eye-contact. You see two of them busy with their phones, playing Candy Crush. Perhaps they are assuming that you will place your order when you make up your mind after seeing over-the-counter options. But as a customer, you find this whole experience overwhelming. Then, you walk out of the store and hop into another one next door where the staff is amiable, people are happy to help and you leave the store with a good-will feeling.

Woman standing in a cake shop

(Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash)

The first store that lost you, won’t undergo a major loss by losing one customer. But what if this keeps happening? What if more and more people undergo similar experiences and then it multiples so much so that it starts burning a hole in their pocket? All that the staff members had to do was ask for sales. Were they shy, overconfident or they just didn’t care. You can imagine their growth trajectory, already.

The top-most funda of getting sales is asking for the sale. This also applies if you are seeking users for your freemium model start-up. Just walk-in and ring the doorbell, pick up the phone and dial the number or win them when they come to your store looking for something. Just ask!

2. There is no harm in giving

Just like there is no harm asking for sales, there is no harm in giving freebies. Why do you think they ask women to go for a makeover by trying out cosmetic products at the malls? That is one way to lure people into trying your products and get them to make the leap or rave about it. A popup shop at some fair, a tradeshow, online testing or simply getting people to try your product is a simple yet effective idea to generate initial traction.

Giveaways or inviting testers should not be expensive. What you offer them might not be your main product; it could be something relevant. Like for instance, if you are into ready-made fruit juices, you can offer people pet bottles of your product and ask them to try and review it. You can also collect these reviews, record it and use it on social as user-engagement posts.

Then again, both of these ideas can be very valuable if you want to reach out to influencers in your particular niche. We are not saying that Vikas Khanna or Sanjeev Kapoor will be ready to try the new range of your spices and will share it on their TV shows. But you can look at micro-influencers who should be easy to reach and will be willing to accept your offer.

3. Team it up

People riding boat on body of water

(Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash)

Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.

Somewhere in last February, Fatherly (the merchant running the campaign) teamed up with Greatist and SkinnyMom. Since most people are still on with their New Year’s resolution of a fitness regime, this time of the year was a perfect pick for these companies to collaborate and offer a prize pack of athletic gears and health-bars. Amidst them, they agreed to split their leads on Facebook and promote the campaign together. The campaign turned out to be an excellent collaboration and a great way to spread the giveaway love since, for these brands, their target group nearly overlapped one another.

But before you nod for such collaborations, partnerships or mergers (at a small scale for giveaways or for shaping the company’s future kind of intentions), you need to shake hands with the right people. Whether it is traction on a charity round or online user-based traffic, your goal should be to know who’s who and what will it take to open the right doors for you.

Winning the race and overcoming hurdles to hack the traction will be a lot easier if you know how to tap into existing audiences and circle of influence. Maybe you want to check who it is that has already a big audience of your target users. Go back and check their strategies and funding and then propose your big idea. You can also announce it through a press release and divert the buzz around your brand.

When you are only just a start-up, your primary intention is to save some bucks as you go on with your marketing efforts. Collaborating on marketing and minimizing your own marketing expenses is one way of doing this. Scroll up and go back to Uber. You will probably learn something from their collaborations, even if it was for a social cause.

4. Data is the new oil

Jar of oil

(Photo by Malvestida Magazine on Unsplash)

Every business is different. The way it operates is different too. And while most entrepreneurs are unique in the way they handle their business, there is one common link among them: they track everything.

Generating traction is almost impossible without tracking. Unless you don’t track, you won’t know what works for your business and what does not. Did you get this new customer base through online marketing or by that popup shop during the summer break? You will keep guessing. Also, without tracking the data, it’s difficult to figure out the inefficiencies; thinking about improvisations can seem a distant dream.

The best way to track data is to become the eyes and ears of your organization. Get into the habit of tracking everything — website, customers, employees and things that you think don’t even matter.

Tools like Google Analytics are great to track data online and realize how customers are behaving with your service or product. But no matter if your ways are traditional or tech-savvy, the key is to get the figures right. How else will the graph throw the results?

Now how does all this add up to become your brand? Well, branding will give you the direction in which your marketers will design these activities. The effects of branding will reflect on how the audience perceives and the marketing will determine how many will perceive.

So now that you know the tricks of the trades, attracting traction shouldn’t seem difficult. You can straight away dive into it or purse your lips, give it another thought and ask for the expert opinion. If you want to go with the latter, you know what numbers to punch. At Slangbusters, we believe that Jack of several trades is a master of advertising and branding. Maybe you would want to sit with one of us and narrate your brand story. The big answer, your traction, is somewhere between the lines of your story. We are keen to lend a word to the wise.

— by Tasneem Baldiwala, Freelance Content Writer, Slangbusters Studio

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