A Prime Day Thought (feat. Sharks w/ lasers)

6 min readJun 22, 2021

A quickie.

Today is Amazon Prime Day and Amazon Prime Day is made up. It’s not a thing — it doesn’t commemorate anything and neither 21 nor 621 are even Prime numbers. I checked.

I have no idea how or why it started but here’s how I imagine that first meeting going:

Manager: “Hey! We need more people to buy stuff on Amazon. Fred — ten ideas, now… GO!”

Fred: “I don’t know. I mean, most people already just buy stuff on Amazon when they need it. We make it pretty easy — we’ve got physical buttons, we’ve got a device in their homes listening at all times and suggesting them things, we use Jedi pricing mind tricks, and we don’t even pay taxes …maybe we’ve sold people enough stuff? Maybe we can think about a way to give back, help the community, and…”

Manager: “Actually Fred you’re probably right, people do have enough stuff, we should probably just roll over and… FIRED”

<The floor opens up beneath Fred and he drops into a pool of sharks with frickin’ laser beams on their heads like Austin Powers>

Manager: “Jennifer! You’re up. Go.”

Jennifer: “We…we….we could make a day called — let’s say “Amazon Prime Day” as a placeholder but we’ll obviously come up with something better — where we slightly discount a bunch of stuff and do massive volume? We’ll do a ton of marketing and get affiliates on board? Then we’ll learn more about what people impulse buy and what’s slightly too expensive and we can use that data for pricing and personas and — “

<Jeff Bezos floats out of a pitch black corner of the room on a hoverboard, clapping slowly. His vest reflects in his aviators.“Prime day. Prime…Day. It’s so simple. It’s so dumb. GO!”>

Iced Coffee and Donuts

We’ve been talking about inertia lately and Prime Day is the perfect example.

Because however dumb Prime Day is, it’s massive. It’ll generate over $11 billion dollars and likely be the biggest e-commerce event of 2021.

Which brings us to iced coffee and your startup.

If you talk to any of the startups from the past few cohorts of Tacklebox and say to them “you won’t get people to leave their apartment to buy an iced coffee,” they’ll probably roll their eyes and if they happen to be drinking an iced coffee they might throw it at you. That’s because I’ve repeated that line to them all probably 50 times, and I’ll repeat it another 50, because it matters.

Startups fail because entrepreneurs drastically overestimate how much people will change.

So if you’re selling iced coffee, you won’t be able to convince someone to leave their apartment for the sole purpose of trying your iced coffee, no matter how good your Instagram ads are. You won’t change or create behavior.

But you can intercept it.

To get your first customers to buy your product, you’ll need two things. Unfortunately, you can only control one of them:

  1. Trust. You’ll need customers to trust you extremely quickly. Luckily, trust is straightforward. It’s hard, but it’s straightforward. Trust is just being specific.

If you’re trying to sell me coffee, and you say “We have the worlds best coffee,” I won’t trust you as far as I can throw you (unless…).

But, if you say: “You can’t sleep if you have coffee after 1pm, but a cup of coffee at 4pm leads to your most creative work. Our coffee is 3/4 decaf, but tastes like regular coffee. It gives you a jolt but won’t keep you up.”

I’m in. You’re talking specifically to me — you know a secret I didn’t know you knew.

Note: we love “you statements” for marketing:

“You have x (rare-ish thing), you have y (rare-ish thing), we’ll help you z (niche, specific outcome that X and Y often preclude)” = magic.

2. Inertia. This one you don’t control — you’ve got to uncover it. The customer owns their process and you have no say in it. But you can — must — learn that process better than anyone. Understanding what creates and facilitates inertia is the key.

The second part of the iced coffee saying our startups are sick of is the hopeful part: no one will change their behavior for you — but, you can intercept existing behavior.

If I decide that I need that 4pm coffee despite how it ruins my sleep, and on my way out the door you somehow hit me with the messaging from above — you better believe I’m trying your 3/4 decaf coffee.

Inertia + Trust = New Customers

Decision Momentum

I’m getting married in September.

Once we picked a date, we made a flurry of decisions. Band, food, tent, lights, flowers. When we were deciding on food the venue asked if we’d like grilled cheese handed out at midnight. It was an extra cost that we thought about for maybe 5 seconds.

“Uhh… yeah.”

And that was one of about 40 decisions that we made startlingly fast that as soon as we left we were surprised by. It was like we’d gotten drunk and ordered a bunch of stuff on Amazon and then been flabbergasted when it all arrived. What… happened?

This is magic for entrepreneurs. I had inertia — I was solving the wedding logistics problem — and I had what we call Decision Momentum. Decisions are often stacked — when you get an apartment, you buy a bunch of furniture. When you start fly fishing, you buy a bunch of equipment. There’s a window with a lot of purchases, and then there’s a massive drought.

If you tried to sell me that grilled cheese now, separate of all the other decisions, I’d think about the cost. How much per sandwich was that? What cheese are we talking? There’s no decision momentum — I’m back in a vacuum — so I’m rational.

Decisions in a vacuum are bad for entrepreneurs.

Here’s what decision momentum looks like:

You need to be part of your customer’s clustered decisions. Which brings us back to Prime Day.

Decision Framing: Should vs. Which

My inbox is FILLED with emails selling me stuff today.

Prime Day is a day when people shop. We are in that “clustered decision” section on the graph above. Amazon has changed our decision framing from “should I buy something?” to “which things should I buy?”

“Which” is roughly 10,000x easier to work with than “should.”

I wrote forever ago about the psychology of choice and how two bagel shops thrive next to each other because they’re able to shift the decision from “should we get bagels” to “which bagels should we get,” doubling each shop’s total business.

The same thing happens here.

Everyone is out “looking for coffee,” so retailers are trying their best to grab your attention. Since the question in your mind is “which,” the goal is to beat Amazon head-to-head. Which is why I had exactly 17 emails today which referenced Amazon in their subject line:

“40% — Better than Prime Day”

“Cheaper than on Amazon”

“Better Deals Than Prime Inside”

Amazon did the heavy lifting and retailers are now trying to beat them on the “which” decision.

“So… I should only sell my products on Prime Day?”

No. That’s not the takeaway at all.

Prime Day is a bad inciting incident. It’s for lazy marketers. Great marketing is specific — Prime Day is as general as it gets.

The takeaway is to not send your startup out there naked. The right side of that Decision Mountain graph is cold and lonely. You will not succeed there.

Your job is to find answers to the tough questions

  • What are some inciting incidents that you can piggyback off that are hyper-specific to your customer?
  • What ingrained habits do your customers have that you can stack on top of or enhance?
  • Where is the momentum?

Your marketing should feel like a scripted play. Your customers go through a defined, entrenched process and build momentum. You show up with trust and guide them to your product.

Hard, but straightforward.

If you made it this far, you’re our people. Check out http://gettacklebox.com




We help founders with full-time jobs validate their startup before they quit. The posts are tactics we use. http://gettacklebox.com