Entrepreneurs and other business people have come to use the word “traction” a little differently than its literal definition of how a tire grips the road. For startups, traction is when you’ve not only developed a great business idea or product but are gaining momentum in terms of sales, hires and other growth markers. With that in mind, the recent Traction conference, which made its debut in Vancouver last week was aptly named.

Produced by the same group behind Launch and Cascadia Summit which closed Vancouver Startup Week, the Traction conference brought together big names from a wide range of both established and emerging firms. We’ve rounded up some of the key insights from speakers and attendees:

Progress Starts With Being Honest About Your Struggles

One of the best tweets from Traction included a photo from a talk by Ben Yoskovitz, a seasoned entrepreneur who is also a partner with an accelerator program called YearOneLabs. His message: “Don’t lie to yourself about where you’re at, even if you’re not very far down (the road you want to go).” In other words, frameworks like Lean analytics break down the many stages of a startup’s life, from “empathy” (recognizing a poorly-met need to “stickiness” (creating a product that meets that need and which people actually use), and so on. Being clear about these milestones will help entrepreneurs focus their priorities accordingly.

When You’re Using Trial And Error, Spend Less Time on The Errors

Traction isn’t just the name of the conference but a book by Justin Mares, who was among the event’s keynote speakers. Several of Mares’ points were captured in social media. For one, startups should not just come up with innovative products and services but an innovative sales strategy: “If you can acquire customers in a way your competitors aren’t, that’s a huge competitive advantage,” he said, adding that while entrepreneurs will inevitably make mistakes, they should focus on the areas where they win. “Once you find something that works, double down on it. Keep doing it until it doesn’t work.”

Social Media Biz captured another important tip from Maron: that go-to-market strategies (or lack thereof) may explain why venture capitalists are reluctant to fund many startups. “The number one reason they pass on entrepreneurs they’d otherwise back is because the founders focus on product to the exclusion of everything else.”

Apply The Concept of ‘Traction’ To Success Metrics

The Vancouver Observer did a great job of interviewing not only organizers but many of the startups who sat in on Traction keynotes and sessions. They all had different ways of categorizing what “traction” meant to them in terms of evaluating their progress. This included:

  • Number of new users (and level of activity, particularly ifit’s a startup t hat needs user-generated content)
  • Increased revenue from each client, as well as how many clients you can retain
  • Quality of reactions to onstage product demos and number of contacts made while attending a conference
  • Quality of user interactions: It’s not just whether they’re using your product or service, but how happy they are or the value it provides them.

The main key takeaway from the conference was, however you define traction, one of the best ways to achieve it is to keep moving forward.

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