Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

Traction

How do you get traction with the people who are using your new app?

Why do some people switch from quietly enjoying this new thing they found to feeling a connection with it and telling everyone they know? [1]

People, especially early adopters, watch your company and your employees carefully, looking for clues. 

They want to see two things: Commitment and Momentum.

How do you show momentum?

The most common way to demonstrate momentum is through updates.

How often are:

  • improvements made to the site?
  • features introduced?
  • bugs fixed?
  • Twitter, Facebook, and the blog updated? [2]
  • email updates (not advertising) sent?
  • emails and @ replies responded to?

People want to see action and progress, no matter how small. [3] They want to hear about milestones and rave reviews. Even if you’re not adding new users and customers rapidly, you can still show momentum within the company and product. And if product updates aren’t forthcoming, hopefully you can be forthcoming about why. There are many different ways to make and measure progress, the point is to share them with your community regularly.

Momentum fuels traction. As with sports teams and candidates, if the two begin to multiply, you have the start of a bandwagon.

How do you show commitment?

People tend to be protective of their social capital. No one wants to spend it promoting something to their friends that seems to have little chance of success. When you’re building something new, people want to see that you and your team believe in it.

People want a sense of an ongoing story, especially at the beginning. Who is behind this, why did they build it, and what does the future hold? What’s new and what’s next?

Belief and commitment are demonstrated by how the team uses and evangelizes the product. It’s shown through the stories of employees going the extra mile for the company, the product, and the people who use it.

The community feeds off of the energy and passion of the people behind to product.

Finally, people watch for consistency and follow-through. How often do you change the way you talk about the product? It’s hard for people to embrace and spread your message if it’s constantly changing.

If you rally your community to help out in some way (posting reviews, inviting friends, etc…), do you show the results and offer thanks? If you say you’re going to do something weekly (release a new product, run a contest, post an update on the progress of a new version), do you do it? Is your marketing tied to broad, recurring themes or is it a series of fleeting experiments?

Of course, things will always change and people understand that. Just be up front when they do.

If you mix momentum and commitment with a great product and experience (or even just great potential), you’ll quickly gain traction with your core users and have a great chance of success.


[1] I wrote about the downside of this in Means to an End.

[2] Sorry, I’m just not ready to start including Pinterest in this list.

[3] I actually don’t think this is entirely healthy and it become the focus just for the sake of meeting other’s expectations. Nevertheless, I understand that people are hesitant to invest their time and money in an app or service that may have a limited future (specifically ones you fill with content, from photos to todos, not $0.99 games). it’s the reality of software that people expect a purchase to be the start of an ongoing relationship. If that’s not how you view it, be sure to be as clear as possible about that from the beginning.