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Firing the circuits of human motivation. ( A Y Combinator Website Marketing Tune-up.

by Paul Montreal. Average Reading Time: almost 10 minutes. Y Combinator Website Marketing Tune-up by Paul Montreal

This week I’m looking at Natasha’s website SnapEDA, a Y Combinator backed company that’s building an electronic parts library. Their goal is to help designers and builders make stuff faster. Let’s dive in and see what we can learn…

1. It does what it says on the tin.

Snapeda website marketing makeover.

Click for full size homepage pic.

Technically, a million years ago, I studied Electrical Engineering. So, in theory I understand a little about electronics. In reality I don’t know much at all. So, I was delighted that this electronics-focused website kind of made sense right off the bat.

The Universal Electronics Parts Library
Stop wasting hours creating CAD parts. Download PCB footprints and schematic symbols for millions of parts.

We open with a clear and strong promise. Not only do I know what this place is, I know what I can do here and I know the personal human benefit of doing it.

The only thing I would change about the top panel, is to remove the lifeless printed circuit board background graphic. I’d replace it with an image that shows a real person benefitting from the site.

An icon style image has very little power. It’s symbolic. A product image has more power, it’s an actual, real world thing. A human image has the most power. Our brains are highly tuned to notice other people. In this context, the optimal images are real humans experiencing the different elements of our story. That may be humans struggling with the problem we are going to solve. Or humans enjoying our solution.

Action: In this case, we’re introducing the website, so the more appropriate image is a human enjoying our product. We don’t have to be super specific because this is just a background image. But an image that communicates the message – this site is about people making things with electronics – would add more power to your opening page.

2. Guide people into the process with examples.

Marketing makeover

Once a user is familiar with the site, it’s likely that they will know exactly what they are searching for when they arrive. And so the big search bar as a navigation tool makes perfect sense. But as a marketing page, for first time users, a little guidance might be needed. At this point we might benefit from making some suggestions to help people further understand what the site is all about in a little more detail.

The ideal way to do that is again to combine the product with the people already using it. I’d recommend something like this “trending” bar, which is from another site, marketing makeover.

Action: You could add a single horizontal line of trending products / downloads, underneath the search bar. It will peak the user’s curiosity, and help them understand the specifics of what you offer, while getting them thinking about the community aspects of this site.

3. It only takes a second to send people to zzzz.

Marketing makeover.

These features panels get completely scrolled past unless they’re really well designed. Like the first point, it’s about including a relevant, interesting visual. People just don’t go from box to box reading what we write, even if it’s really short. We have to pull them in with an image, and a compelling headline. In this case, what you’re saying is more likely to be read if you split it into 4 horizontal sections with larger text and a headline that sells the benefit.

Snapeda Y Combinator Makeover

Look how compelling this Apple image is, (which takes up 3/4 of the screen on the Apple site). Humans enjoying the electronic product. With a clear headline. Just to sell us on reading 2 sentences and finding out more.

We really have to sell every single paragraph we want people to read, or they’ll simply skim right past it. Every sentence on a page is effectively selling the next.

Action: Split the features box into larger full width panels, and include a compelling image and an interesting headline for each paragraph you want to talk about.

4. How to do a great video.

YCombinator Marketing Makeover

I love the video you’ve created. I love Josh, with his cardigan and coffee and his nerdy charisma. He makes the pitch human. (This is exactly what we’re talking about above when it comes to other images on this site.)

The video has a clear value proposition. It’s obvious how you benefit your customers. It demonstrates visually the “before and after” from a human, emotional perspective, not just a technical one. It includes examples of actual products you can make, just to add context and help with comprehension. And it also explains the community aspects of the site. Overall it does a great job.

So, what I would recommend first of all is having the video sit directly under your opening panel, so, after the initial headline, brief introduction, login buttons, search bar and trending panel, people see the video first. And it should be as big as possible, full page width.

The only thing I would improve about the video, is the final few seconds, the call to action isn’t as strong as it could be. Young Josh opens with a ton of enthusiasm, but ends a little more subdued with “Why not join now?”

Never ask people why they should NOT do something. You’re the party, presume a positive response. Be just as excited at the end of the video as you are at the beginning – “Click the button below and join us for free right now!”

And of course there should be a button. A giant, unmissable sign-up button right under the video. Even better would be one of those timed buttons that doesn’t appear until Josh is encouraging people to sign-up.

I’d also recommend just a single line, reassuring people of what “signing up” actually means. The brain hates uncertainty. What are they signing up to? A free community in which they can get some cool stuff for free and buy other stuff if they choose? Or are they signing away their house, their children and their kidneys?

At any point in the process, if you want to improve the click throughs, tell people what to expect on the other side, so they can see in advance the cost of each action, so they can predict the future.

Action: Make the video the main feature of the homepage. Big, bold, with a stronger call to action at the end, a giant sign-up button underneath and a one line description of what people can actually expect when they sign-up.

5. Turn testimonials into case studies.

Snapeda website marketing makeover.

I love that you have testimonials, with real people and head shots. I also love that not only do you have a “featured in” panel, but you’ve also linked to the actual featured articles. (I’d open the links in a new window.) So the credibility level of those two things is high, I trust them, so I start to trust the site.

But there’s a huge opportunity to take each of those testimonials further. The beauty of this product is, you’re helping people make stuff. And some of that stuff is going to be cool stuff. (You already touched on that in the existing video). Cool stuff creates all sorts of human emotions. Fun, curiosity, joy. That’s the stuff you want to tap into, because that’s the stuff that motivates people. Or to be more accurate, those are emotions triggered when we’re doing something that’s really close to people’s identity. When we’re tapping into something people identify with.

The more you can define and highlight the core identity of the Maker, the inventor, the creator. With specific examples of the cool, inspiring stuff that people are making, the more people will feel a deep connection and keep coming back.

People are proud of the stuff they make. Especially if they are trying to sell what they’ve made. I’m sure you could turn many of those testimonials into short videos. Stories where real people are compounding the narrative you introduced in the marketing video, with their individual success stories and the resulting creations.

Those videos, with real people and real products, take testimonials to a whole new level. And it doesn’t need to be a big production effort. You can make that kind of video over Skype or Google hangouts and record it with Screenflow. The fact that it looks “real” and not overly produced will add to the authenticity.

Action: Write a 30-60 second script that will allow you to interview your existing testimonials over skype. Have them briefly tell their story and demonstrate the products they’ve made using your service. Make it fun and human, make the inventor the hero, the invention the star and you the wizard / guide who helped make it possible.

6. We get very attached to names, so perfect them as early as possible.

SnapEDA YCombinator Marketing Tune-up

Some acronyms have been around long enough that they essentially become a legitimate word in their own right. But many acronyms, trade terms and buzz words just kill the customers ability to “get it”.

When it comes to naming a company, the stakes are raised to the highest level. So I’d normally stay far away from acronyms and buzzwords altogether.

In this case, I really don’t know what the target audience thinks, but it’s worth raising the issue so we can maybe go ask them and find out.

The company name is SnapEDA.

When I first read the application for this makeover, the name was written in all lowercase – snapeda. My first instinct was “I like the name”. In my head, I was saying “snap-ee-da”.

When I looked at the site, I realized it’s actually “snap-ee-dee-ay”.

Wikipedia describes EDA as: “Electronic Design Automation (EDA) is a category of software tools for designing electronic systems such as printed circuit boards and integrated circuits”.

So, yes it’s technically “snap-ee-dee-ay”. But when it comes to names, it doesn’t matter what’s technically correct. All that matters is – are people going to remember it? Is the name, quite literally, snappy enough?

“snap-ee-da” is easier to say and remember than “snap-ee-dee-ay”. The question is, is it easier to remember for someone in this field? Has the term “EDA” been in use frequently enough and long enough that it’s really seen as its own word, not an acronym that the brain has to translate?

Action: Start a conversation with your customers about which name they find easier to remember. Snap E.D.A. or Snapeda. Not which is technically correct, which is easier to remember, which is “snappier”. Being memorable is a multiplier that makes a big difference to an already solid product when you’re trying to grow.


I wish I had time to go deeper into the site, because this is really a good example of a company doing a lot of things right. Of course there are always things that can be tweaked, but I have a ton of respect for the guys behind this site and what they’ve achieved so far. Over all it’s about taking the symbolic, flat, less energetic world of electronic symbols and components and continually injecting the more emotional, interesting, experimental, inventive, curious world of human beings and their cool creations.

It’s who we are, our identity as makers, inventors, creators. The passion that drives us to join a community of others just like us. The drive to master our craft. These human, identity-based motivations are the things that will lead to financial success for this company. Stay the course, see it through, make your mark!

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Website not giving you the results you expected? How about some non-judgemental feedback from a fresh set of eyes? Apply for an online marketing tune-up with Paul Montreal

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