Every Startup Needs to Have Wow Factor

There is a favorite quote of mine borrowed from Zappos.

WOW is such a short, simple word, but it really encompasses a lot of things. To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means doing something a little unconventional and innovative.

You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver. We are not an average company, our service is not average, and we don’t want our people to be average. We expect every employee to deliver WOW.

In a today’s highly competitive market, companies without much differentiation are forced to go out of business no matter how well the companies are funded or how experienced their founders are. It’s simply because market isn’t big enough to sustain all of the incumbents and customers tend to choose the best one or two of them only.

So what’s a WOW factor anyway? For web startups, it might be a product that truly disrupts existing industry. For content startups, it might be something original and unique that makes people say “Wow, I’ve never seen this before.” For startups in general, it might be a superior customer service like one offered by Zappos. It’s easy to say, but difficult to execute.

From time to time I happen to face a meeting where all attendees are discussing topics that are completely irrelevant to their customer’s interest and have nothing to do with differentiation of their company. If it’s an operation level meeting, perhaps that’s okay. If it’s a company board meeting, that’s disaster.

Above statement applies not only to startups, but also to big players. Sony used to WOW people for long time. However, does 4K TV really WOW customers today? Well maybe, but so does its competitor Samsung.

Startup needs to understand WOW is a critical factor and treat it respectfully or startup will have a tough time down the line without it.