One of my favorite books is Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd. Youngme Moon, a professor at Harvard Business School, explores how some companies break through the noise of competition.

The photo above is an exercise from her class where students came up with ideas for a new loyalty program. Loyalty programs are drowning in competition. What company doesn’t have one? I have hundreds of plastic cards collecting from everywhere. And I don’t think a single one has made me more loyal to anything.

What you’ll notice in the image is a constant theme of the book. Companies that escape the herd often do the opposite of whatever everyone else expects.

By definition, for most of us, a loyalty program makes it harder for a customer to quit. But what happens if you throw away the basic premise of a loyalty card and try the opposite. Make it easier for customers to walk away.

Isn’t Zappos a great example of this? Call them up. Tell them the shoes you want on their site are out of stock. They’ll help you find them with a competitor. Sure, Zappos might lose a sale today, but they’ve won my loyalty by prioritizing my happiness above another sale.

My wife sent me another awesome example of this. Patagonia is now encouraging its customers to: Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle, before they consider buying new Patagonia products.

Patagonia doesn’t just give good advice; they provide resources for how to carry out their plan. For “repair” there is an in-house repair service where you can send your torn clothes to, for “reuse” there is a link to the Patagonia eBay store and for “recycle” they provide an address to send your old Patagonia clothes so the materials can be used for new garments.

via Life Edited

Everywhere I turn, someone is trying to sell me more of something: “how can we get them to add more higher margin items to their basket, how can we get them to make more frequent return visits, how can we encourage them to buy more impulsively at the checkout counter”. It’s refreshing to see someone with different priorities. You might just win me over as a customer for life.

I have oodles and oodles of competition with Draft, the tool I made to help people write better.

How can I make it different than what people expect? Not just for the sake of being different, but maybe, just maybe, in that difference people will ultimately find a lot of utility.

I thought about Youngme’s loyalty program a lot when I was making Draft. How can I make it easier for people to escape my product? I use way too many tools where the data seems like it’s held hostage. Sure you might even provide some kind of data dump if I quit your service, but what am I going to do with this proprietary dump of data. Does it work with any other program? No.

So I made it a priority to figure out how to export Draft documents into something really useable in other programs (Dropbox, Evernote, Drive, etc.) before I launched.

I’m glad I did. I turned on premium accounts last week in Draft, and here’s a note I got from one of my customers:

Dearest Nate,

Draft is mother-fucking awesome.

Collaboration is what got me interested. Dropbox sync is the feature that made me pull out my credit card.

Keep up the good work.

-David (@mixteenth)

P.S. It would be awesome to meet you on Twitter: here.


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