Note: This post was drafted on 2/22/2021 and finalized today.
When you go to a business of a known type you have a general idea of what to expect. You know what to expect at a restaurant, a bar, a department store, an escape room, a baseball game, etc.
But at the Eureka Room you have no idea what is going to happen or what you will be asked to do. This is by design, because it adds to the anticipation and surprise. But it presents a big problem for the visitor and also for the Eureka Room.
How do people know if they will enjoy the Eureka Room if the Eureka Room won’t tell them what it is?
How does the Eureka Room make sure that the people who visit will enjoy it?
I’ve had over 1200 people come through the Eureka Room and most seem to have enjoyed it. But I’m sure some didn’t. Some probably thought it was terrible but just didn’t want to tell me.
This might sound crazy but I hope some people thought it was terrible. Or, at least, didn’t like it because it wasn’t for them.
Because when you make something for “everyone” you’ve made it so generic that it probably won’t resonate strongly with anyone. When “everyone” is your customer, nobody is your customer. To paraphrase (or possibly even misunderstand) Priya Parker, meaningful things have disputable value.
Things are meaningful to us when they resonate with those parts of us that have a unique interest in them. If I’m going to make something awesome, I’m going to make something that isn’t awesome at the same time. Because awesome is a individual judgment made by one person.
So this philosophy sheds a light on what I’m trying to do but it doesn’t do the work. Now that I’ve accepted that some people won’t like it (and that’s a good indicator), how do I sort out the good-fit people from the bad-fit people?
Here’s some practical methods I came up with:
Tell them what will happen.
The blunt solution. This will ruin some surprises but not all of them. I consider this the option of last resort.
Keep the website the mysterious thing that it is, but include links to more details about what will happen. Not full spoilers, but more than the ideal visitor would ever want to be told ahead of time.
Pre-Qualify Them With a Quiz.
Before you allow them to buy tickets, make them take a short quiz to pre-qualify them. I don’t view it as a pass-fail test where only those that pass are allowed in. Instead I’d like it to tell them things like, “There’s 95% certainty you will enjoy this.” Or even recommend specific programs based on their comfort needs and interests. I want to get the right people to the right programs.
I like the this idea because:
- The obvious: it helps them know if (or how much) they might enjoy visiting and helps me attract more of the best-fit visitors.
- It extends their experience at a low cost to me. How? Instead of the experience starting when they walk in the front door, the experience starts days or weeks ahead of time for them.
- It helps them (I hope) feel special when they qualify. They can get the “people like me do things like this” feeling.
- The idea can be leveraged for word-of-mouth marketing. What kind of crazy business asks potential customers to take a test to see if they can buy their product?
I can already see some obvious challenges to this: A group leader buys the tickets and not everyone in the group has filled out the form before arrival. People not understanding the process. People getting in a huff about this added step.
And of course, me totally miscalculating that people will do this.
Framing this pre-qualification process is critical here. This has to be a fun thing for them. They get to see how they rank – people love seeing what their “score” is on tests. They should feel really special that they get to take the test, that they get to have their results (for free!). It should feel like they are trying to get into an exclusive club. It should not feel bureaucratic. It should feel like a game. A mystery. Fun. Absurd. Charming.
I attempted the spoilers solution first. I wrote a long and (I think) humorous “spoilers” page, but ultimately I thought it was too big an ask for someone that might have just landed on the page from out of nowhere. I didn’t want to scare potential fans off by asking them to read a lot of crazy talk. I shelved it.
I attempted the Qualification Quiz. While I like the idea of the pre-qualification quiz, I decided to shelve it because:
- I was afraid that people might not want to do work to see if they could visit something they don’t know anything about.
- It was going to be more work for me and I might be solving a problem I don’t have yet.
- I think there’s good reason to believe that the secret nature of the website will self-sort people who are up for novel experiences from the people who want something predictable.
Instead I leaned on the visit page. I put a little copy on the “Visit” page of the website that I hope allow people to qualify themselves quickly. It’s not as much an experience but it’s also not as much work for someone just being introduced to the Eureka Room.
And I decided to make the site mirror the experience in the Eureka Room.. a little. I came up with the idea to make the main page normal professional and then the “Visit” page be really odd. That would mimic the experience of the room and might help the self-sorting of visitors. Currently I just have a hand drawn weird turkey, which sort of indicates that, but I hope to add more.
Maybe as I evolve the room I will go back to a bigger end-to-end experience and do some pre-qualifying, but for now I’m putting it on the shelf.