There was an article in the New York Times yesterday about how Blekko is hoping to establish a foothold in the ultra-competitive search engine market by taking a different approach that involves technology and people.
To be honest, I hadn’t given Blekko much thought since its launch last October. For all the good intentions to try new and different kind of services, it didn’t take long before I went back to using Google. One of the truths is I didn’t give Blekko much of a chance to unseat Google. Before long, Google had become top-of-mind again, while Blekko blurred into the startup background.
For many startups, this scenario is a harsh reality. While consumers like variety and the idea of shiny new things coming at them on a regular basis, there seems to be a limited ability to truly embrace new services. I suspect most users have a small group of services that meets most of their needs, and that it’s rare that a new service can join the club.
For a new service to resonate, it needs to do the following:
1. Have a powerful, yet, simple value proposition. It needs to fill a need or a perceived need in such a way that a potential users says “Yes, I need that”. Freshbooks is a good example by making invoicing easy.
2. The new service and the value it delivers has to be crystal clear and blatantly obvious. Most consumers are lazy; if they don’t understand a service right away, they’ll move on even if the service is something that meets an obvious need.
3. The process from registering, using and paying (if it’s a premium service) has to be user-friendly and grit-free. If, at any point, you force the consumer to do something that’s difficult or they’re reluctant to do (e.g. provide lots of personal information), they’ll back off. A good example of a grit-free process of NoteLeaf.com’s signup process, which is simple, clean and fast.
4. There should be regular communications (perhaps monthly) with the user that is friendly, helpful but not a hard sell. Let’s face it, people are busy so a friendly reminder from a service can often be enough to catch someone’s attention. This is particularly relevant if the service has a strong value proposition.
5. Encourage other people to spread the word by making it easy and/or giving them incentives. A great example is DropBox, which rewards its users with 500MB of storage if you share a file with someone, and then open a DropBox account.