As I walked the floor at TechCrunch Disrupt I thought, what makes people stop at one startup’s booth versus another? What is it that grabs people’s attention?

Aisles of the Alley

The idea that people will be interested in your startup just because your product is unique or slightly better than someone else’s is a fallacy. You need to capture people, and you need to do it quickly. Among the highlights of Disrupt, various startups were showcasing their products at the ever-popular Startup Alley, an exhibition floor for companies to feature their products, meet investors, and speak with potential customers.

As I passed through the aisles of the Alley, one thing became starkly apparent: There is a LOT of noise. It’s jam-packed with booths and it’s impossible to notice every single startup as you pass them by. Alex Ratner argues in TechDay News that a company’s banner is “the thing that will determine if people ask about your product or if they walk right by it.” I started to notice this was indeed the one big differentiator. The startups that clearly communicated their products were the ones that got me to stop., Buddy, and all had attention-grabbing, informative banners

Each of these banners quickly answered two important questions:

  1. What problem do you solve?

  2. How do you solve it? — Problem: divorce is hard. Solution: we make it easier in these ways…

-Buddy — Problem: you need companionship. Solution: accessible robot friend (with big puppy eyes) — Problem: time shouldn’t go to waste. Solution: plan and synchronize tasks to boost your productivity

Now, contrast those to banners that didn’t answer these questions:

Although these might be great companies, it was hard to tell what exactly they do

Unless you already know of these companies, I’ll bet you can’t answer the question, “What do they do and how?”

Let’s also consider that a slogan of “XYZ, Reinvented” doesn’t really provide any information at all. Cool, you took something and re-did it, but why the heck is it better? The reinventing part should be implied if you’re really doing something new. For whatever reason, that seemed to be a trend. Buzzwords aren’t anyone’s best friend. These companies definitely allowed for lots of whitespace on their banners, but at the expense of valuable information, that shouldn’t be the goal.

Standing Out

Explaining the problem your product solves and the way in which it solve it is critical.

This lesson translates to any interaction you have with your customers. Whether trying to capture attention through an online ad, a homepage on a website, or a demo video, the same rule applies. An article by Lindsay Kolowich of Hubspot is a useful resource when seeking inspiration for a homepage. In one exampe, she showcases CodeAcademy, who does a great job of communicating their product:

You immediately know what CodeAcademy’s value proposition is from the start.

We also considered this lesson when we designed our own website’s homepage for Chameleon. We wanted to use copy that would concisely describe our product. We thought about this longer than you might think; a couple lines of rich text aren’t always easy to write, but they can make all the difference.

We went through several iterations to decide on copy for our site

Whether you’re marketing through a physical or digital channel, the importance of connecting with your audience shouldn’t be neglected. Quite likely, you have a lot of competition. You need to do the best job of convincing potential customers that they should choose you over anyone else. Explicitly tell people how you can help them and what makes you special.

There are so many awesome products out there, and those who are able to master this skill will be the first ones to get noticed in a world of noise — even if their product is worse than yours.

For more thoughts, follow me @lexishanson or

Thanks to Pulkit Agrawal.

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