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Vancouver Traction Conference 2017

Building a brand and product that people love, picking the right marketing & distribution channels, driving traffic to your site, converting visitors to recurring users & paying customers, building and scaling growth teams, gaining millions of users with zero marketing budget, and determining which experiments will lead to the fastest growth for your business — these are all topics for which the 2017 Traction Conference boasted a worldwide expert speaker.

Michael Pryor, CEO, Trello

Organized by Launch Academy and Boast Capital, and held this year in Vancouver at the SFU Conference Centre (Day 1) and Sheraton Wall Centre (Day 2), Traction’s aim was to bring founders from fast growing tech companies and Silicon Valley based growth experts into the same room, in order to share insights on optimizing product and driving growth and revenue.

The first day at Traction focused on deep dive, laptops out, tactical workshops covering sales pipelines, community growth, hacking SEO, finding product-market fit, driving engagement with humour, leveraging Facebook and using analytics to optimize product. Talks were divided into 3 streams and disbursed throughout the SFU conference centre.

Naomi Pilosof Ionita, VP Growth, Invoice2go

Traction’s opening day was workshop based, with attendees having three separate “track” options for which sessions they could attend. Major themes for the day included tactics for (perhaps unconventionally) leveraging social media channels to drive rapid growth, and ensuring that your business has the proper foundations (product market fit, solid retention metrics, etc) before igniting the growth machine.

After a full afternoon of learning, listening and note taking, attendees were able to let loose and speak up themselves at the opening reception. The ambiance, energy and scenery at the reception was tough to beat. Held at Vancouver’s infamous Sun Yat Sen gardens, guests were spoiled with full service offerings such as ’build-your-own’ ColdStone ice-cream, hot bbq, kettle-corn and flowing beverages, and enjoyed the surprisingly seamless blend of tranquil flora against the beats flowing from a DJ hiding away in the main pagoda.

Traction Day 2’s talks were held in a large (but not quite large enough) single room at the Sheraton, featuring TED style keynotes and fireside chats. Speakers included President of Atlassian Jay Simmons, CEO of Trello Michael Pryor, VP Growth of LinkedIn Aatif Awan, CMO of SendGrid Scott Heimes, and VP of Growth from Duolingo Gina Gotthilf, among many more. The room was bustling with nearly back-to-back engaging conversations and presentations right through to the end of the day. Everywhere you looked on the floor you could see determined, inquisitive and inspired expressions on the faces of people sporting orange lanyards.

Despite there being a wide range of presentations, provided by speakers with a diverse set of backgrounds and business interests, a few key themes/messages emerged by the end of Traction, including:

  1. Don’t fill a leaky bucket. Many companies race to “ignite” their growth engines before ensuring product market fit, and that their product is something that customers will come back to, talk about, and continue paying for. Racing to grow before first clarifying and improving retention metrics will result in wasted marketing dollars, and endless frustration.
  2. Growth is not a one-person, one-department job. For growth efforts to be worthwhile for your company (and results from companies that do it right show that they certainly can be) there needs to be constant two-way communication across all departments. The job of the growth team is just as much to bring clarity on its goals, strategies and results, as is it to run experiments and look at numbers.
  3. Focus focus focus. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off, and trying to employ every single growth strategy at once, is not sustainable, and likely won’t even be effective. As demonstrated at Traction, even the world’s largest and most successful tech companies will boil their growth strategy down to focus on just a few (or even one) “North Star Metrics”.

The event closed out with a final opportunity to connect and ask questions (and drink) during the closing reception, and ensuing after party.

Traction 2017 undeniably demonstrated that entrepreneurs in Canada are working towards the same results as bigger companies from our neighbours to the South. It also shows that we constitute a significant enough community for these experts to take notice and believe it worthwhile to fly out to present to us. Not everyone can afford the time to head south to learn from industry experts, but thanks to events such as Traction these world-class opportunities are becoming increasingly accessible.

Making sure your product is profitable, growing and scalable are key. What better way to tackle these issues than with over 600 like-minded people all learning and growing in the same way? As a huge supporter of local businesses and Canadian scalable startups, Alacrity Canada was happy to participate in this year’s event.

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