4 Surprisingly Easy Steps To Make Your Product Into A Habit For Customers | Hacker Noon

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Former VC at Daphni, now Startup Coach at startupaction.co

I did a survey this summer: I asked the founders what they want help with for their startup. I created a long list of options including sales, metrics, marketing, and product development. 

There was actually a tie for what they requested most! It came as no surprise that “How to generate traffic with inbound marketing” was at the top. What did surprise me, though, was that startup founders also wanted to know “How to build product users love and return to.” 

I was faced with the challenge of putting into words something I knew through experience but had difficulty explaining. 

Knowing what the founders needed, I bought a new book to read during my August vacation this year: Hooked by Nir Eyal. And let me tell you, I was hooked! This book was a series of “aha!” moments for me. It explained why I see some startups struggling to make their product stick, while others seem to do it effortlessly. 

It put the knowledge I have from years of experience into terms I could share with the founders I work with. 

That’s what I want to share with you today! I want to show you what I learned from this book, including the most common mistakes I see founders make. If you want to find out more about how tech changes users behaviours and habits, and how to harness that for your product, keep reading! 

For you to get started into the process of making your product into a habit for customers, Click here to access the Hook Model Template and identify the hooks in your product.

The Hooked Model

The Hooked model is split up into 4 different steps: Trigger, Action, Variable Reward, and Investment.

 It’s a model that relies on all of the working parts in conjunction to be successful, so don’t fool yourself into thinking you can pick and choose. This works because it is a whole process! 

Initial Trigger

The hook begins here! The first step is the initial trigger that prompts the user to perform an action. And this trigger consists of two equally important parts. 

The first, and more straightforward, is the external trigger. It is something that will queue the next action. An initial external trigger is what people usually call marketing. This can take the shape of ads, sales, content marketing… You name it! Any way that you make potential users aware of your product. 

The second trigger, the one that tends to get overlooked, is the internal trigger. In this case, the information of what to do next is contained within the associations in the user’s memory. 

This is arguably the more powerful of the two triggers because it is how we develop habits. Our emotional response to a given situation prompts us to take certain actions. 

Because emotions responses are so personal, it’s important for founders to understand exactly what kind of internal trigger they’re forming an association with. For example, Instagram intentionally forms an association with a user’s FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. By providing a response to that negative emotion, the user’s internal trigger to use Instagram is prompted. 

That simple bit of insight has powerful results! 

So when you’re marketing your product, use that opportunity to develop an effective trigger that potential users will respond to. You want people to get triggered by your initial trigger! 

But make sure that your trigger is relevant… it needs to respond to a real problem that they have or a subject that they’re interested in, otherwise they won’t be prompted to take action. 

Speaking of… 


The next step is action! But what exactly does that mean? 

Well, action is made up of 2 parts: Motivation to perform the action, and the ability to do it. 

In the framework of the Hooked model, Eyal describes action as “The simplest behaviour in anticipation of a reward.”

It does not have to be complex, either. It can be something as simple as pushing a button. 

And let me tell you — one of the most common mistakes I see founders make is demanding far too much from their users when they first come to your website or download your app. New users are not looking for a chore… So keep it simple! Make it something that only needs a few clicks to be done. 

To make sure they’re motivated, you need to inform users what the reward of the action will be. Of course, the larger the action the more motivation they’ll need!  

But remember: As I said before, the Hooked model is a complete system. So even if a user’s motivation and ability are high, without the trigger to prompt action, nothing happens. 

Now that you’ve prompted them to take an action, you have to give them something for their effort… reward them! 

Variable Reward

Here’s where things get interesting. When you think of a reward, you think of it as a response to an action, right? But it’s more than that… it’s a fulfilment of the anticipation of the reward. 

What does that mean? That means that if a user is triggered to anticipate a reward, they will take action to receive it. And when you provide that reward, you build positive associations in their memory that can be activated in the future. 

If you give users the exact same reward every time, though, they’ll get bored. Variety is the spice of life, and variable rewards keep users intrigued! 

Don’t be fooled by the word “reward.” When I think of a reward, I see a gift. But it can be so much simpler than that… it can be as simple as getting a like on a status update. 

There are, of course, different genres of reward as well. Eyal describes them as Rewards of the Tribe, Rewards of the Hunt, and Rewards of the Self. 

Rewards of the Tribe satisfy the social desire. They generate positive feelings from interactions with other people. Social media is a prime example of this. 

Rewards of the Hunt satisfy the desire for resources. That could be food, shelter, money, or even information. When users scroll through Twitter for updates or check their news feed for the latest info, they are satisfying that desire for resources. 

Rewards of the Self are much more subjective. These rewards come from within the user, rather than from others. They’re non-material and intrinsically motivated, such as mastery of a skill or developing expertise in a field of knowledge. 

Your goal is to satisfy the users’ needs while leaving them wanting to re-engage. If you do that successfully, users will invest in your product! 


Investment does not always come in the form of money. For a user, an investment is any sort of commitment to your product. That might be something like creating an account, signing up for an email newsletter, or even just adding info to a profile! 

One of the other important aspects of an investment is that it stores value. As a user invests in a product, whether that’s data, music, followers, etc., the product becomes more valuable to the user. That value strengthens the users’ habit of engaging with the product. In some cases, that investment becomes a reputation, and reputation can become real monetary value. 

A user that stores value in your product is a user taking an action in anticipation of a future reward. It loads a new trigger so that when the time comes, the user responds, and the cycle begins again. 

A word of caution: The biggest mistake that I see among founders is that they demand the user to make an investment, while the user has no idea if the reward will ever come!  Without anticipation, they have no reason to take action, and so the whole thing falls apart. 

For Nir Eyal, those are the 4 steps of the Hooked model, but I’d like to add one more for you to think about… 

Retention Trigger

This step is what I call the Retention Trigger. This can come in the form of an alert, notification, or email, and it’s a crucial external trigger that helps turn a one-time user into a returning user! 

The goal is to activate the user’s internal trigger so that every time they feel a certain emotion, they open your product. Before that happens, you need to keep on sending external triggers.

New users need to go through the hook cycles x number of times to create their new habit, and these external retention triggers will facilitate the reactivation of this cycle. When they finally make a connection between opening/using your product and the feeling they get from using it, they’ve developed an internal trigger. 

From then on, using your product will reinforce those feelings. 
That’s when they’re hooked! 

Do you see how powerful this can be? This simple process can turn your product into an everyday essential for your users. 

But you might be wondering how to identify exactly what you need at each step of the process… 

If you want to turn your product into a habit for your customers, click here to access my ready to use template to map out all the hooks so that you can redesign your product such that the user is taken through one hook after another.


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