Startup Secret 53: Seduce like Evernote

Don't sell. Let customers buy. It takes guts, but you'll end up with fans, not just users.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
2 min read

"People like to buy. They just don't like being sold to."

--Phil Libin, CEO, Evernote

Phil Libin likes Apple stores. As a nerd and "a huge Apple fanboy," he told me, he finds a stroll through an Apple store soothing. So much so that when he strolls into one, he'll find himself just looking for something to buy. He often leaves with a new case or accessory for a device in his family's fleet of Apple gear.

Evernote's sales model, he says, is based a little on that feeling. Phil wants people to love the free Evernote product. Of course he also wants them to buy the premium service ($5 a month), but the pitch to upgrade from free to paid is not very forceful. There are useful premium services, but users can stay on the free app forever without any fear of an escalating pitch or guilt trip coming their way. Eventually, when their love for Evernote becomes so overwhelming, they'll pay. And they'll do it, Phil believes, with a song in their heart.

Evernote is a model of success (Phil says the company tripled in size last year and will do so again this year), so it is valuable to pay attention to this lesson.

The exercise for today, then, is this: What are you doing to seduce your users? How are you driving them crazy with lust for your product -- so crazy that they end up begging you to take their money? And how are you keeping the sales pitch subtle, or even nonexistent?

Do note that seducing users isn't enough. You also have to put out. The original Napster was the ultimate seductris but users couldn't pay the company for the product even if they wanted to. You don't want to be in that spot.

Related: We're not paying enough for apps.

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