In order to have a company that succeeds, you must find an idea that resonates, where “resonates” is defined like this: “If your idea is shown to one person, this person has a high probability of telling someone else about your idea.” The person might send an email, or mention it to friends at dinner, or post about it on Facebook, or stick it on Reddit, or something – people must like your idea enough to tell other people about it. The degree of resonance will determine your growth rate in many cases, and you want to have an idea that is compelling enough to resonate, because growth is important.
We can list thousands of ideas that resonated from the start: Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Trello… But here are two other examples:
Viagra came out in 1996. If you were around at that time, you know that EVERYONE was talking about viagra. It did not matter if you loved the idea, hated it, thought it was a moral abomination, thought it was a joke, whatever. EVERYONE was talking about Viagra. It was and is an incredibly resonant idea.
MrMoneyMustache.com is not quite at that level, but here is the guy’s idea: “It is possible, with a little forethought and planning, to retire at or around age 30, and let me show you how I did it.” This is a resonant idea. Wouldn’t it be great to retire at age 30? When people hear this idea, it is very appealing and there is some probability that they will tell their friends. And many journalists have spread the word too (another example of resonance): Forbes, NPR, the Washington Post, etc.
You want and need your idea to naturally resonate if possible. But if not, then the next best thing is…
When people see an ad for your product, they think, “I need that”
We are talking here about people in your target audience. The people who see/hear the ad need to form a connection and think to themselves about buying your thing. Two examples:
Here’s the funny thing about Viagra – the ad does not necessarily even need to mention the problem anymore. A sultry woman can come on the screen and say with her sultry voice, “Hey Bob, would you like to get your mojo back? Viagra.” If Bob is having trouble with erections, he knows exactly what Mrs. Sultry Woman is talkin’ about, and he wants some of that. The ad is resonant.
Carbonite’s idea is “Backup your computer at your home or office into the cloud.” There was a period of time when Carbonite ran ads heavily on talk radio, and they got a lot of customers. People would hear the ads and think, “wow, if my computer crashes, or my house burns down, I will lose everything.” And they would sign up for Carbonite. It was only $5/month. The ads resonated with people when they heard the ads. You want this to happen with your idea.
The cool thing is that you can actually test for ad resonance very early in your project. Create a simple landing page, and then create some ads to see if people will click on the ads and end up on your landing page (You can create and run ads on Google, Facebook, Reddit, etc. very easily). It is said that when Cars.com got started, all they had was a landing page consisting of a form that people would fill out to order a car. There was nothing behind it: no servers, no software, no nothing. Cars.com wanted to answer a question: Can we send people to this landing page with an ad, and when they arrive will they actually order cars? Turned out they would, so THEN cars.com built the back end. It is a very cool and inexpensive approach to seeing if an idea resonates.
Another alternative: When person A sees that Person B has one, Person A thinks “I need that”
This is also called “envy”. Envy works. It is what powers brands like Ferrari and Lamborghini, and also many high fashion labels, and also many high-end restaurants. Lots of expensive things are powered by envy. Keeping up with the Jones and all that. I’ll have what he’s having. Etc. Envy is a real thing and it works, but it can be a little ephemeral sometimes.
The point is, you must find an idea that RESONATES.