How to Get Your Ideas to Stick

There’s an adage that goes:

Ideas are easy, execution is hard.

Everyone can create ideas for new businesses, new companies, new products, and new marketing campaigns. But executing on the idea – not just making it a reality, but making it successful, is the hard part.

In 2007, the Heath Brothers helped us all out by publishing the book Made to Stick. In that book, they described the six things needed to make an idea sticky. It’s called their SUCCESs framework:

  • Simple
  • Unexpected
  • Concrete
  • Credible
  • Emotional
  • Stories

You don’t need all of these in a sticky idea, but you will need a few of them. The more of them you have, the better the chance your message will stand out.

Co-author Chip Heath gave a presentation where he outlined 5 of the 6 points in the book. This blog post serves as a review of his talk. And if you haven’t already read the book, we highly recommend you pick up a copy.


A simple message means prioritizing to the core of your idea. If you say 10 things, you say nothing. This requires a little constraint, because most marketers and companies have a lot things they want to say.

Prioritize the most important things you want to get across. Be sure to get the first most important thing out before the 2nd, 3rd, etc. A good, simple message means that you can make decisions off that idea.

Here are a couple simple messages that get the idea across in a succinct manner:

Movie pitch
“Die Hard on a bus.”

The movie: Speed

Business pitch
“Blockbuster without the late fees.”

The business: Netflix

What you need to do:

Find the essence of your concept.


Unexpected ideas are surprises that stop us and make us listen to that idea. To surprise people, you need to break a pattern or violate a schema.

Each of us has a pattern of how things work or the way things are. We have a mental schema of what a diet should be, or the way the market operates.

The burger industry is one of America’s treasures, but the issue for companies is that it becomes difficult to stand out. There are dozens of burger joints in every city, so how do you make yours stand out?

The Heart Attack Grill is a company that has broken the patterns of the market. The burger names – single bypass, double bypass, triple bypass, and quadruple bypass make it clear that they don’t try to hide how unhealthy their food is. They embrace it and use it as a differentiator.

There are also unexpected ideas or phrases that stick with people, such as:

“You only use 10% of your brain.”

This is complete nonsense, but it sticks around because it’s unexpected, as well as retaining a few other principles in the SUCCCESs framework.

What you need to do:

Find the pattern in your industry, and break that pattern.


To be concrete, use sensory language. Perhaps the best example of a concrete statement comes from President Kennedy:

“This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

What are we doing? Landing a man on the moon.

When are we doing it? Within a decade.

This is a bold, concrete idea. If Kennedy said he wanted to people to space someday, it wouldn’t have been as concrete. By sticking to concreteness, the idea of going to moon stuck in people’s minds, and kept the goal in place at NASA.

What you need to do:

Be specific with your ideas


Ideas need to have emotion, but they shouldn’t have negative emotion. Showing negative emotion will cause people to shut down and tune out. Showing this Vine to smokers wouldn’t help, because it’s negative and doesn’t help them quit. They already know smoking is harmful.

Instead of something like this, you should create hope in your message.

A car wash had a loyalty program that provided a free car wash. After you bought eight car washes, your ninth was free. They created two cards and distributed them evenly to customers. One card had eight sections, and after each section the car wash would stamp one of the sections. The other card had 10 sections, but two of them were already stamped. It’s the exact same amount of car washes needed, but one gave them the illusion of having a jump start.

The result?

The card that already had two sections stamped got nearly double the customer loyalty than the ones that didn’t have any stamped.

This is because it gave the customer a sort of emotional hope. They were much more likely to complete the loyalty card knowing that it had already been started. Get one car wash and you already have three sections stamped!

What you need to do:

Connect emotions to ideas to make them more sticky.


People bond by telling stories to each other. They’re not just entertainment, they are ways to exercise our abilities. Hearing a story, we often think how we may act if we were the person in the story. Stories are flight simulators for our brains.

One of the most successful marketing campaigns was run by Subway, where they told the story of Jared Fogle, who weighed over 400lbs. After eating Subway for 15 years, Fogle lost over 200lbs. This story exercised people’s own abilities – eat Subway, walk a lot, and lose weight. Even if you’re not interested in losing weight, you’ll still get a healthy sub. This story stuck with people and led to a 20% sales jump for Subway after the first national commercial.

What you need to do:

Add a story to your ideas.

The Curse of Knowledge

The curse of knowledge is what works against you. If you’re an expert in your field, you’ll have a difficult time creating an idea that’s sticky. You think in abstract and complex ways, which makes it difficult to prioritize and create a simple idea. Speaking abstractly helps when you’re talking to other experts – but if you’re speaking to non-experts, you’ll lose them quickly. Crossing the boundary from expert-to-expert to expert-to-beginner becomes the challenge.

To beat the curse of knowledge, follow the principles in the SUCCESs framework. This will help align and focus your idea to make it more sticky.


EP16: How do you launch if you don’t have an audience?

While we wait for Season 2 to start, Justin answers listener questions:

How do you launch if you don't have an audience?

Derek Moreno and Hassan both asked this question.

Your product needs a target market, and you need a way of reaching that target market.

Questions about the Build & Launch experience

Mike Dario asked:

1. What was the biggest challenge?

Find the time and energy each day, for sure. Staying focused and on-task.

2. How did you track the changes each day?

I used Sprintly (project management software). I'd log in each day, look at what I had to do in my backlog, and do that.

3. What was one thing you'll change for next season?

I'd like to do the "next iteration" sprint for each of the projects. Example: for Network Effects, I'd go out and try to get the first 10 customers in a week (record my sales calls, etc).

4. Did any of the projects seem too small, too big?

Network Effects and the WordPress plugin were definitely big projects; but the hardest was probably writing the book by myself.

5. What was the hardest part about teaming up?

Giving up control. In the past, I've been a lone wolf. Sharing everything with a partner was hard at first, but definitely a good decision in terms of our ability to get things done.

6. Why did you start Build and Launch?

I really wanted to kick my own butt into gear. I knew that committing to building and launching something every week would force me to just do it.

7. What type of project would be too big?

Most software projects I think are too big. A really long book (100+ pages) would be difficult as well.

8. In what ways was a weekly sprint helpful for these particular products? Harmful?

It was really helpful in terms of focusing on creating the smallest, tiniest version of each project. Not much harmful actually.

9. How did your wife handle this experience?

Lol. I'll have to get her on the show and have her talk about her side. ;)

10. How much after work time did you devote to this?

An average of 2 hours a day (14 hours a week). Most of this was after work, with big chunks on weekends.

Season 1 launches

  1. The Build & Launch podcast
  2. The Product Hunt Handbook
  3. Network Effects: a web app for notifying groups via SMS
  4. Irresistible Podcasting
  5. Productify: Gumroad plugin for WP Membership Sites

Show notes

Podcast hosting provided by

The Psychological Trigger That’s Confusing Your Customers (and What to Do about It)

For countless years, businesses have been searching for their own unique selling propositions, trying to differentiate themselves from their competitors and convince customers to choose them.

Businesses go about this in many ways, such as by highlighting the different features they have, lowering prices (or, in some cases, increasing prices), or focusing on the competitor’s disadvantages.

More progressive businesses focus on the emotional value their product or service provides. They emphasize how they change their customers’ lives, not by supplying them with endless pairs of socks, but by “paving their way to a brighter and more comfortable day.”

How Customers Make Decisions

In order to capture the attention of visitors in just a few seconds and turn them into customers, landing page design requires careful planning. There are many elements to take into consideration while planning a landing page, starting with strategy and goals and ending with a finished page, including image, colors, call-to-action button, and informative content.

Visitors rely on all these elements on the landing page to make good decisions. However, there are other elements that affect the decision-making process that people aren’t necessarily aware of. These elements are commonly referred to as cognitive biases.

“Cognitive biases are tendencies to think in certain ways that can lead to systematic deviations from a standard of rationality or good judgment.” (Wikipedia)

In other words, cognitive biases are tendencies of our brains to think in certain ways and patterns according to our environment. Although we aren’t aware of this most of the time, the way things are presented to us has a huge impact on our decisions.

Some marketers study cognitive biases to learn how to affect the decision-making process of their potential customers. By understanding how people make decisions and what can affect that process, marketers can design better marketing campaigns, better landing pages, and as a result, better products.

The Cognitive Bias That Confuses Customers

Our daily routines require us to make many decisions, from what to eat for breakfast and what to wear each morning to important business and personal decisions. We’re overloaded with too many decisions every day, and we need help making them.

In fact, when we’re presented with too many options, our brain’s default solution is to not choose. (Have you ever skipped answering a few emails just because you weren’t sure how to answer them?) This particular cognitive bias is commonly referred to as analysis paralysis.

“Analysis paralysis or paralysis of analysis is an anti-pattern, the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome.” (Wikipedia)

Why Customers Are So Confused

One of the most common situations in which we meet analysis paralysis on a daily basis is while watching TV. There are hundreds of channels for us to choose from, yet we spend the majority of our time zipping between channels saying, “There’s nothing on to watch.” The endless channel possibilities cause us to either turn off the TV or stick to the same 5 channels we always watch.

Whether it’s choosing from a restaurant menu or channels on TV, people need guidance and help in knowing what to choose. This is why restaurants commonly add comments next to specific items, such as “recommended,” “best value,” or “most requested” to help customers choose a specific dish and make the choice easier.

A similar tactic is used online with pricing pages that direct customers to a specific plan. Just as people need guidance in the offline world, they need guidance in the online world, too, and the elements in our landing pages provide just that.

Unfortunately, many landing pages overload visitors with information and options. All of the choices end up confusing visitors, which results in fewer customers.

How Not to Confuse Your Landing Page Visitors

1. Help Visitors Take the First Step

The first rule about not confusing people with too many options is…give them fewer options. Though challenging to some, it is crucial to minimize the number of actions you ask visitors to take on your landing page. The purpose of a landing page is to allow people to start the process and get their foot in the door. It’s where the visitor begins the journey with you, so the fewer choices a visitor has to make on your landing page, the better.

Take a look at the Shoeboxed landing page below. It has quite a few calls to action above the fold: “enter to win,” “sign up,” “sign in with Google +” and “enter your email.” The number of options a visitor has on one page is overwhelming.


The top part of a landing page should have only one call to action. By minimizing the number of initial requests you ask of visitors, you have a better chance of getting them to take a first step and initiate the process.

Five Simple Steps does a great job of helping their visitors take the first step by having just one call to action and structuring the page in such a way that all images and elements on the page point toward the CTA, so the visitor’s attention is immediately focused on it.


2. Avoid an Overload of Information

When it comes to your landing page, supplying information is important, but so is the location of the information. Though you may have many great advantages over your competitors, along with great features and a hundred reasons why a visitor should choose you, showering visitors with all those facts can be a major conversion killer.

The landing page below is an example of one with a lot of text that is both hard to read and distracting.


This information could be easily optimized by either introducing it entirely below the fold or placing the most important bullets above the fold in a less distracting area. Then, visitors who require further information or who would like to learn more about the service/product could scroll to get the information.

While designing the landing page below we decided to place the most important information – a strong headline and subtitle, the call to action, and a few main bullets – above the fold. Additional information was placed below the fold. (The red line indicates the fold area.) Visitors who scroll below the fold can see information on how the platform works and additional features.


3. Lead the Way for Your Customers

Help visitors take the first step in your funnel and tell them what to do. When visitors arrive on your landing page, they need direction. Do not assume that people will just read all your content and know what they need to do next.

Note how AT&T’s landing page below has many elements on it, many colors, and various calls to action. From “submit” to “order now” and “call us today,” the amount of content on the page and the various offers can be extremely distracting and hard to take in.


Your landing page elements play a vital role in directing your visitors’ attention to a certain action. Use these elements to tell visitors what to do. For example, text isn’t enough; our brains process images 60,000 times quicker than they process text, meaning an image will be the first element noticed by visitors. So, if used properly, an image can trigger people into action.

Note how Charity Water uses the different elements of the page below very well:

  • The image of the girl looking at the call-to-action area directs visitor attention toward the button and shows people what to focus on.
  • The call-to-action button is used to focus people on one task only. Getting people to donate money online is a huge challenge, but by placing bullets and additional information below the fold, Charity Water directs visitors to focus on only one task.


4. Watch Your Visitors

One way to understand how people engage with your landing page and find out if it is successful in not confusing your visitors is to watch others engage with it. There are two main ways to do this:

  1. Actually watch people – Ask friends, colleagues, and family who have never seen your landing page to check it out. Don’t comment or explain the page to them. Watch intently and see what confuses them, what they find easy to do, and what their first natural reaction is to your page. Note the action they take when they first land on your page. These observations will allow you to see the positive emotions or frustrations of visitors.
  2. Use heatmaps – There are some great products and tools that can help you analyze visitor behavior. Using heatmaps, you can see what visitors are clicking on, where they start their experience, and what they actually do on your landing page. This data will help you immensely as you optimize your landing page.

An interesting case study on Crazy Egg demonstrated how using a heatmap (shown below) increased an ecommerce site’s conversion rates with less than 5 minutes’ work.


Examining their heatmap, this client noticed that visitors were not interested in the video they set up on their homepage. In fact, most people found it distracting and didn’t watch the video or click on the promoted links below the video. With a better understanding of visitor experience, the client moved the video to a different area on the homepage (a 5-minute fix) and immediately saw uplift in conversion rates.

Wrapping Up

There are many cognitive biases that impact the decision-making process. By identifying them and being aware of them, we can make our visitors’ decisions easier and quicker and, in turn, increase our revenue.

About the Author: Talia Wolf is a conversion optimization advisor and keynote speaker. As Founder and CEO of Conversioner, Wolf helps businesses build and execute their conversion optimization strategies using emotional targeting, consumer psychology, and scientific data to generate more revenue, leads, engagement, and sales. Follow her on twitter at @taliagw.

So, you’ve got some Safari and ebombs. Now what?

ebomb, n – our special 30×500 term for actionable educational content marketing. Yeah, cuz that’s a mouthful. So drop a knowledge bomb on ‘em. Ebomb ‘em.

“So, I took the 30×500 Bootcamp in November of 2013 and learned a lot. The main thing that stuck out in my mind as this Giant To-Do was the ebombs, because I make content, that’s what I do, that’s what I’ve always done. Did a lot of research, hit the ground running, and just started making a whole bunch of stuff. And that’s kind of where I am today… making a lot of ebombs, a lot of marketing, and… not really sure when is the right time to step into action making a product. Should I wait until my audience is sizable? But I don’t know what that size would be…”
— Nick Piegari

Sooo… you’ve got some Sales Safari data, you’ve got some quality ebombs under your belt, now what?

  • How big should your ebombs be?
  • What if it feels like you’re exhausting a small watering hole?
  • How do you go from ebombing to a product?
  • What thing should you try, if your ebombs aren’t getting great traffic or signups?
  • What’s the best way to open up (and sell) a (free) ebomb?
  • When’s the right time to start on the product, anyway?
  • Ummm soooo… if you hear things over and over in the watering holes, what do you do with it?
  • What if the pros in your audience… uh… aren’t in love with you?
  • How is it actually kind of magical and productive to be annoying?

These are all topics we talk about in our newest “Pain to Product” coaching session with Nick Piegari from Fixing Your Video. Since taking 30×500, he’s been doing Sales Safari and using the results to create great video ebombs!

Nick’s further along than our last coachee — by a lot! — so we can dig into the meatier issues that you’ll need to tackle once you’re in motion.

Listen on your iPhone with iTunes: Stacking Bricks Podcast episode #12. Don’t forget to subscribe for automatic updates!

Or you can listen right here, right now:

Even if you’re not a 30×500 alum (…yet?), the advice in this coaching session can be crazy impactful for your value-based business.


Inside 30×500 Bonus: Pop-up ebomb with Safari data!

Nick made us a special “pop-up-video” version, just for you, that includes all of the elements of Sales Safari that went into creating the ebomb – pains, dreams, fixes, worldviews, and more:

Want to learn how you can apply this to your business?

For starters, our podcast feed is chock full of more insider dirt. And stay tuned, because every week we’re publishing more discussions like this one as we build out the brand new 30×500. Including behind-the-scenes time lapses of me designing the lessons themselves!

Wanna stay a part of this story as it develops? Want more real dirt as it’s dished, not the post-facto narrative?

Learn by watching us work.

Watch us use 30x500 and JFS techniques to build our next product. Exclusive behind-the-scenes conversations and videos.


PS: The early bird spots go on sale this tomorrow (Friday, March 6) at 1 pm eastern! And they’re only going on sale to folks on our list. So if you’re ready to pull the trigger and save some cash on the brand new 30×500 Pioneers program… definitely pop your name and email in the box above.

The 2015 SaaStr Annual Videos Are Here (Commentary and Transcriptions Are Coming Soon)

It’s possible you’ve seen them hanging out on the sidebar of, but we’ve now got all the sessions of the 2015 SaaStr Annual organized and up on the YouTube:

  • David Sacks (Yammer/Paypal/Zenefits) and Stewart Butterfield (Slack/Flickr) on The Two Types of Freemium
  • Aaron Levie (Box) on The First $250m in ARR
  • Bob Tinker (MobileIron) on Selling to The Mobile Enterprise
  • Leyla Seka (Salesforce, on How to Partner with the Big Guy
  • Parker Conrad and Sam Blond, CEO and VPS of Zenefits:  Hyperscaling from 1-100 Sales Reps in 12 months.
  • Keith Kitani and Shep Maher, CEO and VPS of Guidespark:  Hyperscaling from $2 to $20m in 24 months all using Outbound Sounds.
  • The Second-Timers Live!  Nick Mehta (Gainsight), Kris Duggan (Betterworks), and Mark Organ (Influitive/Eloqua)
  • The 20%ers (Month-over-Month):  Tiago Paiva (Talkdesk), Nicolas Dessaigne (Algolia) and Daniel Chait (
  • Learning to Love Enterprise Sales :) – David Ulevitch, CEO of OpenDNS


I know though, if you are like me, sometimes you also just like to read the stuff.  And talk about the stuff.

  • So first, We’re in the process of not only transcribing all the sessions, but also turning each one into a SaaStr post along with the core learnings and insights from the sessions.  So look for those over the coming weeks.
  • And second, we’re going to do live Spreecast interactive webcasts with many of the ’15 (and ’16) speakers where you can ask questions and we can do deeper dives on their topics.  Up first will be a live, interactive session you can join with Mamoon Hamid from Social+Capital and Daniel Chait of on the Why Sh*t Gets Funded Session.  The Slideshare from it already has almost 100,000 views on Slideshare.
  • You can sign up for the Spreecast SaaStr webcasts with the ’15 and ’16 speakers by signing up for the new SaaStr newsletter here or just at the bottom of this post.  We’ll give you dates and times for SaaStr Live from the newsletter primarly.  So sign up!

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 8.32.31 AM Also, we’re getting ready to launch the first sign-ups for the 2016 SaaStr Annual.  Our goal this time is 5,000 post-revenue SaaS founders, execs and investors.  To make it Ever Better, we’re going to expand to 3 days.  Thursday, February 11 will be the Main Event, like in ’15, with single-track, talk-show discussion with the Best in SaaS.  The Tuesday and Wednesday before will be more interactive days, with deep dives on How to Build a Sales Team, How to Scale Demand Generation, Customer Success, Money … all the core stuff in Scaling SaaS … from a totally practical, hands-on perspective.

So make plans for that entire week of Feb 9-11 in ’16 to be in San Francisco with us at The SaaStr Annual ’16.  Ultra Early Bird tix go up very soon.



First contact: How to survive your first call with a potential client

I recently asked some of our customers at Nusii how we could help them win more business. The quality of replies was amazing, but one stood head and shoulders above the rest. “How do you deal with that first client meeting? What do you say, how do you get the information you need to write a great proposal?” Jumping on a call with a potential client can be an uncomfortable experience, by anyone’s standards. Nerves set in, the sweats follow and your mind goes into overdrive. But these first calls are crucial to your success...

La entrada First contact: How to survive your first call with a potential client aparece primero en Nusii: Proposal software for creative professionals..

A usefully-sensible guide to mobile and SEO

Google have recently made mobile more important for SEO. Here’s what to do about it. Note: I’ve tried to keep this as brief as possible, but I recommend that you read the whole thing. Skimming may result in a less-than-optimal experience!

STEP 1: Don’t panic.

You may think that you have the only website that isn’t ready for mobile, but you’re wrong.

More importantly, Google’s announcements should never constitute an emergency.

For example we saw too many businesses drop everything and frantically apply HTTPS to their websites when Google announced the importance of this in August 2014. I don’t know of anyone who’s benefited from this so far – including our own company.

I’m not saying that you should ignore the issue of mobile, but there’s nothing to panic about.

STEP 2: Understand what Google actually said. (Not what people said Google said.)

Here’s a direct quote from Google’s announcement:

More mobile-friendly websites in search results

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

Google pick their words carefully, and there are a few semantic choices that the masses are missing.

When Google say “This change will affect mobile searches” they don’t necessarily mean searches on all devices.

Here’s the good part; the part that most panic-merchants are missing:

John Mueller from Google was recently asked whether the update would have any effect on desktop search, and his answer was “as far as I know – no“. You can see the Google Hangout here.

While I’m not disputing the impact that the update may have on mobile search results, Google’s use of “will have a significant impact in our search results” is deliberately vague. It’s also worth noting Google’s terrible history when predicting the impact of other updates in the past.

STEP 3: Understand what “mobile ready” means. 

A website isn’t mobile-ready if it merely loads onto your iphone.

If you have to zoom in and out, it isn’t mobile ready. And if you need a magnifying glass it definitely isn’t mobile ready.

Gary Illyes, another Google employee, defines mobile friendly as having three characteristics:

– available
– legible
– usable

I’m not going to dig any deeper into this, as I think all the information we need is right there. From a mobile perspective, if the pages on your website can tick all three boxes, then (broadly speaking) you’re good to go.

STEP 4: Understand whether you need to fix your whole website or just specific pages.

Eventually we’re all going to have to make sure that all of our website content works on all devices. But not today.

As confirmed by Google, the mobile-friendly test works on a page-by-page basis.

So the boost that you may get from having mobile-friendly content will be applied to individual pages that are being searched for from mobile devices.

And non-optimised pages?

John Mueller has made it clear that non-optimised content will not be removed from the search results; just that content that accommodates mobile users would be given an additional boost.

Most interesting is the fact that in the previously mentioned Hangout, John actually pointed out that websites that don’t offer a strong mobile experience could still rank highly on mobile devices if the content was deemed to be relevant enough.

Is this sounding a little familiar?

STEP 5: Taking a step back from the brink of madness.

Mobile matters. We know that.

On our own website we’re seeing around 14% of our visitors using a mobile device. That figure will only rise over time.

And for the record, we’re not set up for mobile either. We’re working on it, but it’s not ready just yet.

My prediction is that over the coming years we’re going to see the lines between different device types blur, and I think that Google realise that too.

So yes, mobile matters. And yes we all need to make sure our websites are mobile-friendly. But I recommend against emergency-meetings, knee-jerk responses or frantic emails to website designers.

STEP 6: All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.

Good SEO strategies involve putting the human visitor first. Always.

If you’re creating mobile-friendly content so that your visitors have a better experience on their mobile devices, then this is healthy. Doing so primarily for Google isn’t.

I suspect that within a few years “mobile friendly” will more or less become the norm, and therefore offer no real SEO advantage. The tail-chasing SEOs will move onto the next thing, and so the cycle continues.

The ramifications of a poorly thought-out or sloppily-executed mobile solution could be far more damaging than a slow and careful response. Work out the best solution for your website, and then how you’re going to apply it to your content.

If you’re interested in digging a little deeper:

Google Guide to Mobile Friendly Sites

Google’s Mobile Friendly Test

Google Webmaster Tools Mobile Usability Report

Be careful; be smart.

How to Build Your Content Strategy

Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg, KISSMetrics, and Quick Sprout, talks with us about all things marketing and sales. He shares his approach to content strategy, his recent experiments in Lifestyle Marketing, and how his sales strategies differ from company to company.

Show Notes:

  • Crazy Egg
  • Quick Sprout
  • Hello Bar
  • Neil's Personal Blog
  • KISSMetrics
  • HostGator
  • Hiten Shah
  • Timothy Sykes
  • Intro Song by Alex Koch of Digital Dust Studios
  • Outro Song Tok Tok Tok - "A Day in the Life"
  • How to Activate New Customers With the IKEA Effect

    I lugged around a 3-shelf bookcase from IKEA through multiple years of moves, through three different states. Despite the fact that these bookcases often go for as little as $10 or for free on Craigslist, I could never bring myself to sell mine for that low a price.

    I knew this affection for a particle-board, wonky bookcase didn’t make any rational sense. Then I learned about the IKEA effect, where you assign more value to products that you’ve had a hand in creating.

    If you’ve ever had the pain and pleasure of putting together IKEA furniture, you also know that almost ridiculous sense of pride when you finish assembling the ümlauted thing. That this creation came into being by the grace of your sweat and a tiny allen wrench can be supremely satisfying, so much so that even though you and a hundred people in your neighborhood have that same exact table, you value yours almost laughably highly.

    It turns out this surprising phenomenon can play a pivotal role in your customer onboarding and activation. Here’s why.

    IKEA manual happy people

    Why You Love Your Own Work

    People were actually willing to pay more for products that they’d built themselves.

    When Dan Ariely, Michael Norton, and Daniel Mochon studied the IKEA effect, they had people assemble things like plain old IKEA storage boxes and origami creatures. Even when it came to cardboard boxes, people became attached to their work simply because of their own efforts.

    The researchers explain:

    labor alone can be sufficient to induce greater liking for the fruits of one’s labor: even constructing a standardized bureau, an arduous, solitary task, can lead people to overvalue their (often poorly constructed) creations.

    In fact, when participants who had built the IKEA boxes were asked to bid on their creations, they were willing to pay 63% more than non-builders.

    The IKEA effect can be so strong that people value their DIY creations on par with that of masters. The researchers asked both study participants and origami experts to construct paper frog and cranes. Apparently these study participants didn’t have a knack for the art of origami, as non-builders this time “saw the amateurish creations as nearly worthless crumpled paper.”

    Meanwhile, the builders valued their own creations almost 5 times higher than non-builders, about on par with the price that non-builders were willing to pay for the expertly crafted origami.

    What’s driving the IKEA effect? We have a basic human desire to feel effective and competent, able to make something happen. Increasing those feelings boosts the value of our work in our eyes.

    A Solution to the Blank Slate Problem

    Is the first impression your new users get an unwelcoming blank slate in your app? Consider the very similar problem of a writer facing the blank page. The bare, chiding emptiness induces paralysis (hello writer’s block!) and a hurried escape into procrastinatory reaches of the Internet. It’s no wonder that when people sign up, see a blank slate, get overwhelmed, and never return.

    “Ignoring the blank slate stage is one of the biggest mistakes you can make,” as the veritable experts at Basecamp explain. They continue:

    Unfortunately, the customer decides if an application is worthy at this blank slate stage — the stage when there’s the least amount of information, design, and content on which to judge the overall usefulness of the application. When you fail to design an adequate blank slate, people don’t know what they are missing because everything is missing.

    Without innards to give your product or app shape and meaning for people, there’s little to compel.

    Here’s where the IKEA effect comes in. Increase a new user’s commitment by putting them to work. Instead of dumping them onto an empty page and telling them what to do, this is your opportunity to show them, as Patrick McKenzie puts it “a vision of the future they’ll have if they’re using the software, ideally a vision more focused on them than just focused on your software” — by having them participate.

    This doesn’t require real data or content. Weave sample and educational content into your product by default to encourage people to spend time and effort to perform small tasks. As Ariely and his colleagues confirmed in a follow-up study, competence plays a “crucial role … in creating consumer interest in self-created products and in making their efforts feel rewarding.”

    How to Put New Users to Work

    Sometimes companies do this confusing dance when it comes to onboarding, hesitating to ask too much of newcomers for fear of turning them off but also wanting them to return.

    The IKEA effect is powerful enough so that it kicks in even for creations that aren’t “unique, customized, or fun to build.” And as any learner knows, the difference between reading about something and actually doing it is the key unlocking a meaningful sense of competence and investment. The context you need to arrive at that point is real-world practice.

    Don’t let people’s tendencies towards consumption over creation doom your product. Rather than cramming all your tips in a list of instructions or a guided tour that people speed-click through without truly comprehending, give them material to work with and manipulate to increase their sense of competence, which leads to increased commitment.

    First, provide sample data, pre-filled defaults, and editable templates to help make your app feel animated with content and connections, and alive to users. Then use email triggers, prompts, and guidance to get people to interact with that content — even if it’s just to move a card around on a board or reply to an email. This helps to lower the fear and frustration of dealing with a new product while increasing capabilities.

    Here’s how 3 companies employ the IKEA effect in their onboarding process inside their app and by using the trigger action of activation and onboarding emails.


    Wistia helps people be awesome at video marketing, but to take advantage of their marketing and analytic tools, you need a video.

    The tool is set up so that you can’t do anything until you confirm you email address. Once you click on your activation email and finish setting up your account by entering a password, you can get started by creating your first project.

    The problem is: what if you don’t have any videos ready to upload? You’d be left with a sad, blank page with only a “no projects yet” message. Instead, Wistia kickstarts the IKEA effect by giving you the option to borrow a video.

    Wistia start page

    Having a cute video with Lenny the dog to customize and share gets you immediately into using the tool, creating your own version of content while giving Wistia the opportunity to guide you along the way.

    Customizing borrowed video on Wistia


    iDoneThis is a productivity and management tool that helps individuals and teams make and share progress every day. After you set up your account, you are faced with a blank slate, but like Wistia, iDoneThis offers you a quick “done” to borrow and use right away. Having input prompts in the entry fields also encourages you to type away.

    iDoneThis IKEA effect on web

    Even if you don’t stick around the website after setting up your account, a team confirmation email also encourages you to make an entry right away:

    iDoneThis IKEA effect onboarding email All you have to do is reply to the email with the response to the question, “What’d you get done today?”. That reply gets entered, the blankness is no more, and the new user gets to see how to use the tool.


    True to their word, Basecamp designed a helpful, interactive “blank” slate by providing a sample project into their project management app.

    Basecamp sample project listing

    Pre-filled content such as comments, files, and due dates here performs double-duty to show you what a project-in-progress actually looks like while providing instructions and tips.

    Basecamp sample data

    This allows you to explore the product to perform tasks with the sample data at your own pace, without forcing you through a guided tour.

    The IKEA effect can help new users break away from their inertia to give your product a real go by increasing their rewarding sense of competence, and as a result, boosting their investment.

    Remember, the IKEA effect breaks down if the labor isn’t productive. In order for the link between your work and the positive feelings of liking and investment to happen, the task must be successfully completed. So putting the IKEA effect into practice is also a valuable exercise in itself for product creators. It makes you think about what success means from the customer’s perspective and whether you can deliver that vision of the future, even with borrowed or sample data.

    New users’ fleeting interest and attention seem to be a persistent thorn that causes many to exclaim, “but if only I could get people back to actually try the app!” But your job neither ends after pushing out a product nor after you get somebody to sign up. It includes getting someone to care about what they can do with your product.

    Your turn! Have you seen the IKEA effect in action? Share your response or any thoughts with us in the comments!

    Brilliant AdWords Features You Didn’t Know Existed

    First, there is Google, the search engine that performs 3.5 billion searches every day. Then, there is AdWords, the advertising platform that can display ads on the first page of search results.

    Advertisers can use both to their advantage. However, in a bid to catch the #1 spot on Google, many advertisers are missing the brilliant AdWords features that provide incredible opportunities to target potential customers.

    And, the universally popular AdWords advertising platform is being changed every day to give advertisers more flexibility with their ads. So, read on to learn more about the features provided and how to use them:

    1. Distribute Video Ads to Blogs

    Video ads are played in YouTube before the start of a video. (Setting up video ads is the same as setting up text ads.) Google allows viewers to watch the first 5 seconds of an ad and then decide whether to watch the complete ad. If the viewer doesn’t like the ad, they can skip through it.

    This is beneficial for advertisers as well. You pay Google only when a viewer chooses to view your ad. If they skip the ad, you don’t have to pay Google.

    Of course, this can be disappointing for advertisers who have an amazing offer they want viewers to see. Sometimes you really want people to look through more than just 5 seconds.

    The cool thing is, this is possible! Your video ads can appear on blogs, online newspapers, video sites, etc. In short, your AdWords ad can reach a user who is not even watching a video. As long as your ads are configured to display on the Google Display Network, you can reach people on over a million websites.

    Also, you can narrow down your target audience through demographics, specific kinds of websites, interests, keywords, remarketing, etc. This gives you more control over where your ads are placed. You can choose which platform is the most profitable one for you.

    Wherever you wish to display your video ads, be sure to keep them short, crisp, and to the point.

    2. Get Your Overall Quality Score

    Quality Score is a calculated number that determines your Ad Rank and Cost Per Click of each ad. It depends on your click-through rate, keyword relevancy, ad text relevancy, landing page quality, and your overall AdWords account performance.

    Quality Score is the single most important element that influences cost and effectiveness of your paid search campaigns.


    Keyword Level Quality Score is the one most of us are aware of, as it is displayed in our AdWords accounts. This is calculated through search queries that match our keywords.

    However, Keyword Level Quality Scores don’t give you a clear picture of the performance of your entire account. It’s like getting individual grades for your university courses, but not knowing your average cumulative grade.

    Well, there is a way to view your Account Level Quality Score! Though Google doesn’t advertise this openly, you can follow the steps in this article to help you.

    At first glance, this might seem technical, but it really isn’t if you carefully follow all the steps. This is definitely something you should be using to see how your changes positively or negatively affect your account’s Quality Score.

    3. Find Your Competitors

    Knowing your competition is one of the most important aspects of a successful business. You have to know what they’re doing that’s working and what they’re doing that’s not working, so you can learn from their successes and failures. Google understands this and helps you find your Google search competitors.

    You can check your competition at the keyword level, ad level, ad group level, and campaign level. The report that helps you do this is the Auction Insights Report. Here’s how to get it:

    1. Log in to your AdWords account
    2. Tick the keyword, ad group, or ad you would like to view this report for
    3. Click on the Details tab next to Edit and Bid strategy
    4. Click on Selected under Auction Insights
    5. Voila! Your report is displayed


    This report is different for Search and Shopping campaigns in these ways:

    1. Auction Insights Report for Search campaigns provides 6 statistics: impression share, average position, overlap rate, position above rate, top of page rate, and outranking share. You can generate a report for one or more keywords, ad groups, or campaigns. You can further break down these reports by time and device.
    2. Auction Insights Report for Shopping campaigns provides 3 statistics: impression share, overlap rate, and outranking share. You can generate a report for one or more ad groups or campaigns. You can further break down these reports by time and device.

    This report is brilliant in giving you an overall picture of how your ads compare with those of your competitors. Use this report and make wise changes in your ads.

    4. Use the Display Ad Builder to Create Ads

    You know that Image Ads work the best and have the best conversions. However, you don’t know how to create them! No worries! AdWords does it for you.

    You can use the Display Ad Builder to create amazing animated ads within a few minutes without any knowledge of sophisticated design software. AdWords scans your site for imagery, and uses previous text you used, to create Image Ads for you. And, all of these are editable, too!

    Here’s how to use the Display Ad Builder:

    1. Log in to your AdWords account
    2. Click on your desired ad group and click on +Ad and select Image Ad


    1. Select the link you want to promote with the ad, and click on Create Ad


    1. The tool scans the link and creates an ad based on images and previous copy from text ads.
    2. Image ads have different sizes. You can click on “See All Variations” to see how your ad looks on different dimensions
    3. You can click on Edit on the tile to edit the image, text, and link
    4. Since these ads are auto-created, make sure they look good on all sizes
    5. Click on Save

    Below is a snapshot of impression share on different Image Ad specifications (Courtesy: Wordstream) to help you decide what you should focus on more.


    If you still haven’t used this feature, make sure you do, so that you can enjoy all the benefits.

    5. Include Extensions in Your Ads

    This is seriously the most valuable, yet the most underused, feature of Google AdWords! You can use all kinds of extensions in your ads. They provide you more space to display your USP’s and eventually lead to more click-throughs and conversions. Here are the major types of ad extensions to consider:

    Sitelink Extension

    This extension gives you more space to promote any other areas of your site along with your regular text ad. For example, if you are a car dealership, you can use this space to promote New Car Specials and Used Car Specials and provide a link to the same. Sitelink extensions allow you to include additional links in your standard text ad.


    Click to Call Extension

    This extension gives you a space to display your number along with your text ad. Audiences who are looking for you through their smartphones can call you directly from their phones.


    Location extension

    Similar to the click to call extension, this allows you to display your business address. When a user taps on your address on a mobile device, it opens up the relevant location app and gives a quick view of where you are located.


    Callout extension

    These let you add additional text below your text ads. Unlike sitelink extensions, they are one-liners and are not clickable. Use them to promote any offering: timed, seasonal, or year-round! They are brief and succinct and give viewers more than what they are looking for.


    App extension

    Lets you add a link to your downloadable app.


    Reviews Extension

    Lets you showcase positive reviews along with your text ad.


    In conclusion, your goal with AdWords advertising should be an optimal Cost Per Click resulting in high ROI. Use these features to be on top of your game and have an edge over your competition.

    About the Author: Tania Hoque is a Digital Marketing Professional who worked with Emirates Airlines in Dubai, UAE. She has vast experience in SEO, PPC, Website Development, and Social Media Management for corporations.