Posts Tagged: Larry Page

Does your product pass the toothbrush test?


Photo credit: Wade Brooks

Repeat usage is one of the most important success factors for building a large, stand-alone company. It’s hard to grab people’s mindshare and create a loyal user base when people only need to use your product or service occasionally.

One of the best metaphors I’ve come across to describe this reality is Google’stoothbrush test” – where Larry Page insists that new products must be important enough that people will use them at least twice a day.

The toothbrush test is definitely a great benchmark for any social networking site. It’s why Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest have done so well. And it’s also why social networks for travellers or events have struggled to really scale. For the majority of users, there’s just too much time in between trips or events when the app is completely unnecessary (except those lucky few who spend a year traveling around the world).

The toothbrush test is valid for SaaS products as well. Products that are critical to the daily workflow, like business management software and collaboration tools, tend to have the lowest churn rates. Yet, both marketing automation and HR tools often struggle (unless they are addressing core functions).

Commerce is certainly a different beast when it comes to this benchmark. My own rule of thumb is that customers should have a reason to visit a commerce site at least once per month. Monthly subscription services like Julep have a natural touch point every time they send out their new products. Frank & Oak has created monthly-curated product releases that create an important monthly rhythm.

High repeat usage = large potential business

Repeat usage is the basis to build a large business and is generally driven by two things:

  • How often people need to use the services/products your site offers
  • If people remember your site in the moment they need the service/product

So think deeply about what kind of feature set and/or product depth and breadth you are offering in order to maximize the reasons why people visit your site (of course, you want to do this without completely diluting your brand in the process). In addition, find smart and scalable ways to remind people of your site’s offering…without crossing the line into becoming spam.

If you fail to give people a reason to visit your site and remember you, users will turn to Google to find the best products and services for their current need. And this is exactly why Google’s search passes the toothbrush test so easily…

P.S.: Which products you are using pass the toothbrush test?

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Why Google became so successful – reviewing Steven Levy’s “In The Plex”

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

I just finished reading “In The Plex”, Steven Levy‘s book on Google, and can highly recommend it to anybody who wants to better understand Google’s success. While many things are not completely new if you have followed the company for a while, the systematic recount of Google’s history and the decisions they have taken along the way offers some really unique insight.

If I had to condense Google’s success to a few factors, I would chose the following 4:

  • Google’s culture: Google developed a very specific culture from the beginning on that even phrased a specific term for it: “Googly” stands for smarts, analytics, unique approaches, open communications,… and everything and everybody were measured against being “googly” enough – from the people that the company hired, to the way the office was designed to how the company communicated internally. This persistence to live a company’s culture every day and in every aspect that makes it powerful – and both founders were not only good in creating a unique culture but preserving it as the company scaled
  • Obsession with data: everybody has probably heard about Google’s obsession with data but the company has taken it further than most people can imagine. Example: Google relied heavily on academic metrics in the recruitment process, to a point that the company was asking candidates with more than a decade of work experience for their college admission test score and GPA’s
  • Pushing the boundaries: building and running your own data centres is probably not the first thing a company would think of given the large supply of cheap data centres around the world but with the rapid growth of the number of computers Google operated the company was continuously chasing for additional efficiencies that existing data centre providers could not or were not willing to provide. So it decided to build its own data centres by applying existing ideas that no one had yet put into practice, e.g. completely new ways to approach cooling. Google ultimately found ways to make it work and hence built data centres that were more efficient than the companies who’s main focus were data centres. Google’s history is full of such examples of pushing the boundaries of what seemed to be impossible at the outset and proved possible after Google tackled it.
  • Acquisition strategy: Google is probably one of the best companies when it comes to acquisitions by combining acquisition discipline (by doing a very good job thinking through how a potential acquisition can (or cannot) help the company achieve its goals) with a smart way of integration the acquired company into Google (or even leaving it as a stand-alone unit if this turns out to be the better set-up as in the case of YouTube). This smart M&A strategy is how some of the most successful Google products were born: AdSense (Applied Semantics), Android or Google Analytics (Urchin). And I hope the same thing will happen with my portfolio company Sparkbuy that got acquired by Google yesterday.

So I can only recommend you reading this book – you can get it here or here.


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