It’s what investors everywhere are looking for in order to determine whether to anoint your startup “the next big thing” and inject the cold, hard cash needed to accelerate your business. If you can’t find traction, forget raising capital – your business will struggle just to stay alive. Find traction, and raising capital will never be an issue for you. It’s important, however, to understand what traction really is – and what it isn’t.
Your ability to get a dollar of investment from one investor, and two dollars from another investor the very next day gives you investment momentum but it does not give you real business traction. Convincing investors to give you money does not get you any closer to determining whether or not you have a business on your hands. The only thing it proves is that you have the ability to convince investors to give you money.
Media coverage can be nice. It can result in spikes in traffic and can serve as a nice marketing piece to send to a potential customer when pitching your business. But media coverage is not traction. It’s not a growth engine that your business can rely upon. After all, the traffic that an article brings may not be bringing you the kind of traffic you want.
Not all users or customer dollars are created equal. You start off having a very specific plan for building your business. If that plan includes selling $99 monthly memberships for your software-as-a-service business – and instead you convince a customer to pay you $250,000 to do a custom software development project – not one dollar of that quarter million is proof that your core “engine of growth” will actually work (unless, of course, your business model included offering custom software development work). It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take on that custom software project. In fact, a project like that could help fund your business. Just don’t mistake it as traction for your core business.
Traction is what separates a viable business from a really good idea. It’s what shows that your business can grow and sustain itself. It’s a way to show that a dollar invested into your business will always result in three dollars of revenue. It’s the proof that your business model isn’t based on assumptions, but on actual hard data.