Startup Lesson #15: How to improve your onboarding (2/3)

Richard Reis
Sep 3 · 3 min read
By Richard Reis

Recently, I started building an app, Gurgee. Every week I learn something new (this is a common feeling among founders). So I decided to share my weekly lessons in the hopes that (1) I don’t forget them and (2) they help you on your own journey.

This is part 2 of a 3-part series on onboarding (you’ll find part 1 here).

Onboarding Tip #2: Sell superpowers

We all know we should build a great product.

That’s all good and well when we’re building, but not when we’re selling.

What do I mean?

When we’re building our product, we focus on it so much that when we need to sell, all we do is talk about how cool our product is!

That’s a mistake.

Remember, your user doesn’t care about your product, she cares about herself.

Don’t talk about what your product can do, talk about what the user can do with your product… How does it make her life better?

“Your onboarding experience shouldn’t be defined by the touchpoints you create, but instead by the improvement you provide. It’s not about getting people from Point A to Point B in your app; it’s about getting them from Point A to Point B in their lives: better video marketers, better daters, better relaxers.” — Samuel Hullick

Notice how it briefly mentions what Facebook is at the top, but then dedicates a lot of space (the red box) talking about what you can do with Facebook.

All that real estate doesn’t say “Facebook can connect people around the world,” or “Facebook is fast and reliable,” or “Facebook is the new craze in social media,” etc…

This is a subtle difference, but boy does it matter!

In fact, this is the reason I recently changed the Gurgee website copy. I used to focus too much on building a great product. Now, I focus on building a great user.

“‘Here’s what our product can do’ and ‘Here’s what you can do with our product’ sound similar, but they are completely different approaches.” — Jason Fried

Here’s how it goes:

  1. Put yourself in your user’s shoes.
  2. Pretend you’re seeing [your product] for the first time.
  3. Imagine you got the aha moment. Now say “whoa, I…!” + list in what way your product makes you better (e.g. “whoa, I can message anyone in the world!”, “whoa, I can get a personal driver within 5min!”, etc…)
  4. Now, you know what “superpowers” your product gives :)

Sidenote: For more on this topic, I highly recommend Kathy Sierra’s 2009 “Business of Software” talk. Samuel Hulick said, “if I could get every web/ product designer in the world to watch a single hour-long presentation, this is the one I’d choose (in a heartbeat).”

“Forget features. Forget benefits. Think superpowers.” — Kathy Sierra

And that’s it for today!

See you next week for more onboarding knowledge.

Be well.


Thanks for reading!😊If you enjoyed it, test how many times can you hit 👏 in 5 seconds. It’s great cardio for your fingers AND will help other people see the story.You can follow me on Twitter at @richardreeze to find out whenever others just like it come out.

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Richard Reis

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"I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other." - Epicurus

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

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