Drawing someone in vs getting them to stay

When you’re at the mall and walk by the Gap, you might see a rainbow assortment of colorful t-shirts on the front table. There’s bright coral, lemon yellow, vibrant blue. You decide to go in and take a look.

Most of the time, you’ll walk out with a shirt that’s grey, white, black, navy.

The folks at corporate HQ know this. As an analyst at Gap Inc, it used to be my job to make sure that inventory levels reflected what customers actually bought, not what they thought they wanted to buy.

I think this is a great analogy that applies to marketing, especially for complex and technical startups.

When you talk about your startup, you may feel the urge to give a detailed, technical, comprehensive description of your product right off the bat.
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33% rule

When you’re launching a thing, it’s helpful to think about the process in three roughly equal parts.

What’s considered ‘a thing’? I define a product or project as something that you’re creating to put out into the world.

It could be a web product, website, app, zine, publication, course, poll, physical product, blog post, album, video, collection, survey, directory, event, book, and many other items.

You might be setting yourself up for disappointment if you think that one part of the launch process is 90% of the battle, but it’s really only 33% of it.

I’ve been disappointed by this before, so I wanted to share my take on why ideating and executing may not be enough alone.
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Proximity

Have you ever eaten something because it was in front of you? Those cookies that you don’t even like. The mediocre pizza place that’s downstairs from your apartment. The yoga studio that’s on your home from work.

Understanding how proximity affects you means being more aware of your decision-making habits. You might be on autopilot saying yes or no to things. Without even realizing that you’re on autopilot–that’s the worst part.

I’ve found that it’s surprising how much proximity affects what we choose. We tend to hang out in our neighborhood. We turn down events if they’re too far. Or we go to them because the venue is close by. We might become a regular customer not because we particularly like the food, but because it’s easy.
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No one knows the right answer

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Last week, I spoke at the 2015 Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco. My topic: if you are iterating and trying new things, your new normal is to feel a bit anxious all the time. Here’s a blog post that’s based on my talk. Originally posted on the Lean Startup Blog. Here are event photos on Flickr.

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The truth is that I was attracted to the lean movement because it felt safe. Lean is a relentless march toward the right answer, an evolving process where we go from safe to safest, from new to tested to successful. Sign me up.

It turns out, though, that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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Comparisons heighten drama

Before-and-after comparisons tend to catch my eye in magazines or ads. I’ve been thinking recently, why are before-and-afters so alluring? What draws the viewer in? Why do brands use feature these photos?

In general, comparisons heighten drama, because they make the difference between two objects more apparent. Your mind skips over the part where the two items are similar, and will naturally focus on the point of difference. Comparisons direct your attention in an intentional way.

Before-and-afters are a specific type of comparisons, because it shows the same person/object over time.

The story of possibility

It changes with the product, but the story arc is this: you are the ‘before’ right now, but you COULD be the ‘after.’

Here is an old IKEA bookshelf. After these DIY instructions, it looks like a chic piece from West Elm.

Here are your sparse, sad eyelashes. After this mascara, lash volume is increased by 400x.

Here is a dull t-shirt. After using this detergent, notice how bright the fabric looks.

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