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How Airbnb used Snow White to create raving customers

Their unique customer experiences grew them to $8.4B

Read time: 3 minutes

Hey there - it’s Brian 👋

You can’t persuade customers to buy, if you don’t know WHY they buy.

Airbnb’s CEO, Brian Chesky, had this “ah-hah” moment when he learned how Disney made Snow White!

So today, we’ll cover:
• Why Snow White helped Airbnb create a unique customer experience
• What most businesses get wrong in understanding their customer
• Your first steps to the Snow White method

In under 3 min.

Last week, 64 people voted to learn why customers buy to create a unique experience so here we go!

Read to the end and you get to choose which topic 11,263 people read next week.

Let’s get you customers!

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The Snow White method created the unique Airbnb experience you crave today

Airbnb needed customers, fast.

So when CEO, Brian Chesky, learned the storyboarding trick Disney used to make Snow White, he found his inspiration.

Brian Chesky, Airbnb co-founder and CEO

You see, Snow White was Disney’s first full-length animated film. So it would have been a disaster if the movie failed.

So to de-risk the project, Disney planned out the film in high-level storyboards. This kept emphasis on the experience the viewers have as they watch the film:

Example Snow White Storyboard

Each panel represents a moment within the broader story. Then, Disney crafts the experience for each moment in the story.

Now, what if you could piece together each moment a customer interacts with your business, then craft your unique customer experience?

Each moment uniquely crafted for the customer (examples):
• Experience the pain
• Hears about your product
• Uses your solution

Customers would rave about their experience with you (much more than any competitor) and they’d love to keep using your solution.

That’s what Brian Chesky thought, too!

So he calls his leadership team to create the story for behind the unique Airbnb experience that over 150 million people use and love, today.

So here’s how they created a unique experience (and your first steps to create your “Airbnb” experience):

So here’s what Airbnb did (and the first steps to your unique customer experience)

So Brian needed to know 2 things:
1) WHY someone rents a place on Airbnb and
2) How the end-to-end experience comes together to satisfy the WHY

So here’s the steps you can take (that Airbnb took to craft their experience):

1. List out each moment in your customer’s journey

Start at the moment a customer hears about your business.

Write out each moment to the last interaction with your business (they finish using your solution and share the experience with others).

Here’s some examples you can use to get started. The customer…
• Experiences pain
• Searches for solution
• Finds your solution
• Decides to buy (or not)
• Payment
• Onboarding
• Uses your solution
• Solves their pain
• Shares with others

Airbnb had 45 moments so yours should be far more detailed than what I listed. Here’s are some real example moments from Airbnb:
• Planning a trip (with a friend)
• Lead up contact with host
• Getting the wifi password
• First impression of Airbnb
• Selecting & booking
• Getting the keys
• Search & find

Airbnb Moments

2. List customer context and motivations for each moment

In each moment, customers are motivated by different things and bring a different background (e.g., different location, with different people).

The goal is to use this understanding to craft the experience that customers crave to come back to.

Here’s some questions to get you thinking about the customer context and motivations for each moment.

Example from Airbnb - Selecting & booking:
• What’s at stake?
• Who are they with?
• Where are customers?
• Why do customers select an Airbnb?
• What’s painful about their alternatives?
• What tools are they using to select & book?
• What are they trying to accomplish (emotionally, financially, functionally)?

I’ll repeat myself every week on this topic - but the best way to get these answers is to ask your customers! (Just ask them these questions)

3. Craft the current experience for each moment

Now we craft the ideal experience for each moment. Write the experience out like a story.

Selecting & booking example (made up myself):

It’s late at night after a long-work day. The customer, Brian, is planning a trip with his friend. Christian says “hey I don’t care about the location. Just book it and I’ll Venmo you.”

Brian is exhausted from work but he feels the pressure. Christian says he doesn’t care but Brian knows that if they show up late at night in Madrid after flying all day and the Airbnb is too far away. Christian will blame him. It’s their first time in Madrid so he has no idea where the best location is.

Brian is on his laptop and he opens up 7 tabs comparing different options: price, distance from the touristy stuff, quality of the room.

He sends his 3 favorites to his friend.

4. Prioritize opportunities to improve the experience a reality

Here’s where we come up with ways that we can create the experiences customers crave.

In creating the story a few pain points come up (examples):
• Customer doesn’t know where in the city is best to book
• Challenging to flip between tabs to compare options
• Fear of being judged for selecting the wrong place

Come up with ideas on how to improve the experience. “Improve” in this case means:
• Make it easier for the customer to reach their goal
• Ease emotional fear / pressures
• Remove friction / pain

Then, prioritize which ideas you’ll make a reality based on which ideas have the best impact to customer experience.

Here’s a previous issue if you’d like a guide on how to prioritize your ideas.

Airbnb project prioritization

Phew. You made it! Now you get to choose next week’s tip:

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