Interview with Traction Book’s Justin Mares

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Interviewee: Justin Mares, Co-Author at @TractionBook, @jwmares

Interviewer: Jorge Soto, Founder at @Sales4_StartUps, @sotoventures


Jorge: How did you meet your co-author Gabriel and what inspired you to write Traction Book?

Justin: I met him through a cold email. Shortly before I graduated college I was listening to an interview he had with Andrew Warner of Mixergy where he talked about this book he’d been trying to work on, Traction, but didn’t have time for because DuckDuckGo (his startup) was taking off.

I wrote him a cold email [note – happy to provide the text of that email if interesting] and pitched him on working together to finish the book project. After a few scoping calls and thoughts, he was game for it. And now, almost 2 years later, we’re launching Traction!


Jorge: How did you get intro startups and what’s your professional background?

Justin: I got into startups because I failed to get an internship I wanted at a bank my Sophomore year of college. I majored in finance in school, and after not getting this banking internship I wanted I spent a summer working as a janitor at LA Fitness and plastering pools.

That was the last time I worked outside of startups, as I started my own company shortly after.

Jorge: What do you see early stage startups struggle with most often when pursuing traction?

Justin: A lot of things, but the biggest is falling into what we call the “Product Trap”. This is the (false) belief that if you build an awesome product, customers will flock to you.

In practice, this means that founders spend 95%+ of their time on the product, and no time on traction. That means that when they launch, they don’t have any customers or any traction and have to scramble to get traction before running out of seed funding.

After falling into the Product Trap, the next biggest mistake is failing to consider each of the 19 traction channels when starting to think about getting traction. Most people just default to what they know – blogging, some AdWords, some Facebook ads – in channels that are expensive and crowded.



Jorge: What do you think an early stage B2B startups should focus on first, building an outbound sales process or inbound and content marketing?

Justin: I hate that I’m giving this answer, but I think it depends. If you’re targeting social media marketers with some B2B tool, things like inbound make sense because that’s where the target customer lives – online.

I have a friend doing a logistics company – there’s no way he should be first focused on inbound marketing. His customers (trucking companies) just don’t live online, so to wait for them to get online would take too long. Ultimately, I think a combination of the two is the best way to go.


Jorge: What is your take on the current state of sales automation or CRM software?

Justin: It’s good, rapidly getting better. Tools like are good and improving quickly, and customer intelligence tools are only getting better and better. I’m definitely keeping an eye on tools like Sendbloom and the like – think there’s a lot of room left to improve here.


Justin: What are your favorite sales and marketing tools?

Marketing: I love Perfect Audience,, AdEspresso, SEMrush and

Sales: Sendbloom is awesome, Spreadsheetbooster allows you to do some really cool data and sales analysis, is great, and a Chrome extension called Zenbox are all awesome. LinkedIn and Rapportive are obviously great too.


Jorge: What are the common mistakes that you see early stage startups commit when trying to build a B2B or enterprise startup?

Justin: Again, not taking traction seriously. Not realizing how hard it is to scale a business to 1mm ARR, and not realizing that traction/marketing/sales is often harder than creating a product when it comes to B2B or enterprise. That, and I see a lot of early stage companies that severely underprice their products, which narrows their options when it comes to hiring, marketing and acquiring customers.


Jorge: What is the profile of the first sales hire that a B2B startup should make? Should they wait until they get traction and/or product market fit?

Justin: Product market fit, definitely. I think you should make that first hire once you have a process and more leads than you (as a founder) can handle. A good first hire should be hungry, organized and want to learn and grow with your company: not be an enterprise guy who wants to walk in, have call scripts and processes completely laid out and he just has to execute and cash checks.

You want someone who wants to build process and grow with the company.


Jorge: Who should use Traction Book and what kind of lessons can they experience from using the book as a startup guide?

Justin: Any serious startup founder or marketer should read and apply Traction. They’ll learn how to think holistically about growth, sales and marketing, and be far ahead of their peers when it comes to getting traction.

We introduce the concept of the Bullseye framework, a tool that helps startups determine which traction channels make sense for their business – much like Lean but for getting traction.


Jorge: Anything else you’d like to share about yourself, Traction Book, or startup life in general?!

Justin: <pitch> Startups are a win/lose game. If you win, you make millions of dollars. If you lose, you make next to nothing. I truly believe that Traction Book can increase the chances of you winning, so spending $11 to improve your odds could be one of the best investments you ever make.


If you want to see for yourself, you can grab the first 3 chapters for free here. </pitch> Other than that, I’m a big music junkie. Find me on Soundcloud if you’re a fan of deep house or ambient rock.