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How do Startups Avoid the Fickle Factor?

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.

About Mark Evans

I'm the principle with ME Consulting, which provides strategic and marketing services to startups and entrepreneurs. This includes strategic and tactics plans, core messaging, brand positioning and content planning and creation.
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  • http://karmafeeder.com Andrew Johnson

    I passed up Blekko previously as well, but now find myself using it to much satisfaction. If you don’t immediately understand the value of a new product then it is possible that you aren’t their target market or you were not introduced to it from the right perspective. For me it was the latter.

    As I understand it, Blekko is for business search. If you are casually searching for different things, then google is probably good enough. But if you are constantly looking for more and more information in one specific category, like a good journalist would do, then you might find that google will only get you so far. If you want to learn more than what google provides then you will need to expand into specific blogs and news/content sites. Blekko is a tool for managing that second step.

    Google is a good primary search engine. Blekko is good for the deep web. I use them both in different contexts.

    • http://www.markevanstech.com Mark Evans

      Andrew,

      From what I can recall, I didn’t get that impression about Blekko when it launched. Instead, it struck me as another search engine trying to go head to head with Google. I’ll have to take another look. Thanks for the comment. Mark

  • Aziza

    Another great piece. I’m happy I stumbled across your blogs yesterday. Your post has a good point, especially in this day where everyone and anyone wants to launch a start-up. I hope to create value with my new career development tool – yes, offer the shiny features, but the features would be secondary to the value it creates. Your post has a similar message to a recent post by Mark Suster. I think you’d find it interesting: http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2011/05/21/you-need-to-win-the-battle-for-share-of-mind/