The wow effect

 
There is a startup proverb that says you have to be 10x better than your competition to get people to switch. A related one is that you should concentrate on being a painkiller as opposed to a vitamin.

Certainly if you're 10x better or are a real painkiller, your job of getting people to switch will be easier. Nevertheless, I've come to think there is an easier way to get people to really try out your product. I call it the wow effect.
The wow effect is when you show someone something and they truly go "wow!" or have a substantially similar response. It is genuine amazement because you've gone above and beyond in some way. You've done something new or cool or that someone really cares about regardless if it is core to the product or related to a pain point.

At DuckDuckGo our privacy policy and various goodies often produce the wow effect. Some other ones I've personally experienced recently are using foursquare + AMEX for the first time, Hipster images on Android, and seeing the resolution of the Path app on Android (though they just unfortunately killed it in their latest update). 

A good proxy for the wow effect: is it something you want to immediately share on Twitter or with friends? If so, then you're on to something. 

Getting to 10x better or being a painkiller maybe difficult or impossible in some markets. Yet generating the wow effect in a variety of ways and situations and for different user demographics is something you can shoot for and achieve more easily.

However, it's just a hook. It's a signal that you're onto something awesome. It gets people to try you out and then you have to do other things to keep people coming back

 

If you have comments, hit me up on Twitter.
I'm the Founder & CEO of DuckDuckGo, the search engine that doesn't track you. I'm also the co-author of Traction, the book that helps you get traction. More about me.