3 Takeaways from Traction Conference 2017


Two days, twelve cups of coffee, sixty-eight tweets, six phone charges, and seven pages of notes later, we’ve wrapped up our time at the Traction Conference in Vancouver. After hearing from over thirty amazing speakers, we learned the latest insights on how to scale a business, measure success, and increase conversions. Though each speaker covered a very different topic, we noticed a few key trends that the industry’s best all tended to agree on, and we wanted to share them here.

Here are our three key takeaways from Traction 2017.


1. How and When to Focus on Growth

Growth is about accelerating the realization of your vision, not about moving metrics left and right.
— Aatif Awan (VP of Growth, LinkedIn)

With regards to growth, there were a few “ifs” that are important to consider while you make decisions:

  • If you’re unsure about product-market fit, don’t focus on growth. You wouldn't want to risk taking a bad product and telling as many users about it as possible. 
  • If you can’t keep customer retention above 20%, don’t focus on growth. If you can make it to 40%, hit the gas.
  • If you have a leaky bucket (i.e., customers are coming into the funnel, but not converting), don’t focus on growth. Instead, work on fixing the hole in the bucket.

Even if you’re not in a place to focus on growth, there are a few effective strategies you can implement now to optimize for growth in the future. A/B testing aspects of your product, marketing, or even sales efforts and measuring the results of each test can help you verify what works best for your customer base and what does not. If you are unsure where to begin, focus on making your product easier to adopt and use, communicating the value of your product/services more effectively, and asking your users for feedback so that you can deliver as much value as possible.

Once you have optimized your product/service, don’t jump ship too soon. It’s important to keep optimizing as markets and user needs evolve.

2. How to Measure Your Performance and Leverage the Results

If you can’t measure it, you really can’t improve it.
— Gina Gotthilf (VP of Growth and Marketing, Duolingo)

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) should be treated as metrics that indicate a particular outcome. "Revenue" is a not a KPI. Instead, focus on indicators like acquisition, conversion, engagement, and retention rates to indicate the performance of a particular effort. KPI’s can also be used to forecast revenue by identifying revenue levers. These are elements that represent revenue earned or costs incurred that can impact profitability depending on how you manipulate them. Below is an example of how manipulating the numbers of new paid subscriptions, the average revenue per user, and the subscription churn can help subscription-based businesses predict revenue:


These KPIs should be digestible to everybody — not just your marketing and sales teams — so that anybody in the company can be clear about what you are measuring. Once you’ve carefully defined your KPIs, you are then in a place to track them to ensure the progress you measure is meaningful to your business. 

Remember: the data you collect from tracking these KPIs is only enough to tell you what happened.  As I mentioned above, it’s also important to test variables. Even if you see negative results from these tests (expect 30-50% failures), finding out what doesn’t work can help inform you of what does.

3. How to Make Design Work for Your Customers

Design thinking comes from empathy–It’s about end users before business goals.
— Zack Onisko (CEO, Dribbble)

These days, just about anybody can put together a beautiful website, and design in other areas is becoming more approachable too. Because of this, it’s no longer enough to have a trendy-looking website. Your design has to stand apart from your competitors’, and it has to be optimized to convert users.

So how can you set yourself apart?

Design thinking refers to creative strategies designers utilize during the process of designing. Our graphic designer outlined the process below:


When you apply the principles of design thinking to a process such as building a new website or product, you optimize the resulting product for user appeal. This optimization occurs because understanding your customer is the foundation on which everything is built and tested.  The resulting product is not just good-looking, but easily understood, adopted, and evangelized by your customers too.

Tying it all Together

At the end of the day, it became clear to us that the underlying principle of optimization is ubiquitous for any product in any stage. Optimizing your processes, content, and products to most efficiently prepare for growth, convert customers, and meet user needs provides a stable foundation for your business to take off and stick around for the long run.

Keep testing, validating, and using this data to innovate and inform business decisions.  

Samantha Grandinetti