"In order to win the loyalty of their users and create a product that's regularly used, companies must learn not only what compels users to click but also what makes them tick."

- Hooked, page 2

Ever wondered why some products earn millions of dollars from passionate user communities, while other products fail to get traction? In Hooked, author Nir Eyal outlines everything you need to do to get your target customers hooked on your product. It isn’t enough to create a product that catches their attention; it needs to fulfill a fundamental need and ultimately change their behavior. By working through a series of steps, or “hooks”, you can reach a point where users come back to your product again and again, and eventually become rabid fans.

Through consecutive Hook cycles, successful products reach their ultimate goal of unprompted user engagement, bringing users back repeatedly, without depending on costly advertising or aggressively messaging.”

In the Hook Model, the behavior change starts with a Trigger, an action (whether external, such as app notification or email, or an internal prompt from the user themselves) that the new behavior is required. This is followed by the Action, where the user completes the behavior prompted by the trigger.

The difference with Hooked is the importance of understanding that behavior change doesn’t stop with completing the action. Instead, two additional steps are needed, where the user receives a Reward (enticing enough to create a craving, or need to repeat it), as well as makes their own Investment in continuing to use the product. This investment could be taking time to improve the user experience in future interactions (such as customizing an interface, adding data, etc.) or by inviting others to join them (such as invitations to connect on social media). The investment step is particularly important in increasing the likelihood that a customer will become a regular user of your product.

In order to get your users truly hooked, let’s take a closer look at key elements from the Hook Model.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Scratch That Itch

". . . the experience we are talking about is more similar to an itch, a feeling that manifests within the mind and causes discomfort until it is satisfied."
- Hooked, page 33

If you think about the websites, apps or tools you have only recently started using but can’t imagine living without, you’ll be on the right track of understanding the point Eyal is making here. For me, an example of this is Evernote, software that lets me store all kinds of information seamlessly across my devices. It solved a significant issue I was having with managing a massive overflow of data, in a way that was intuitive and simple, and has become a tool I use every day.

As you think about launching a new product, or reexamining the ones you currently offer, think hard about the “itch” you’re solving for your customers. Eyal encourages companies to think about the following key questions:

  • What habits does your business model require?
  • What problem are users turning to your product to solve?
  • How do users currently solve that problem and why does it need a solution?
  • How frequently do you expect users to engage with your product?
  • What user behavior do you want to make into a habit?

Many product developers think about the problem they are solving, but not always about the new user habits they are trying to create, and how best to reinforce and support these habits into becoming long-term behavior changes.

Once you’ve solved the habit question, you need to think about the reward and investment elements as well.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Get Them Hooked

"Our brains are adapted to seek rewards that make us feel accepted, attractive, important, and included."
- Hooked, page 103

It’s easy to get seduced by the “likes” and “follows” that our tweets or blog posts generate, providing us with instant validation of our efforts, and enticing us to repeat the cycle over and over again. If your product doesn’t involve a reward step for its users, the interest is likely to wear off.

Similarly, product developers should not ignore the investment step of the Hook Model. Users spend time customizing their apps, or inviting others to join their community because it improves their own enjoyment of it. As Eyal notes, “[t]he more effort we put into something, the more likely we are to value it”, a concept which extends to changing behaviors in the workplace too, as program engagement levels can increase dramatically if employees are involved along the way.

Product companies looking to reach millions in sales need to push further along the adoption curve though, and create products that inspire their customers to tell others about their purchase.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

From Habit To Evangelist

"Users who continuously find value in a product are more likely to tell their friends about it... Hooked users become brand evangelists."
- Hooked, page 22

Remember my example of Evernote? I have told lots of people, particularly other entrepreneurs, of how my business has benefitted from Evernote, putting me squarely on the “evangelist” side of the commitment spectrum. What’s the ongoing value your product provides to users? What makes them take the investment step to stay connected to your product, and ultimately upgrade, renew or recommend your product to others? These are key elements that need to be defined for long-term success.

I found the Hook Model and its underlying research fascinating, as I think it pushes us to look beyond the typical habit/action models to understand the steps needed for more lasting behavior change. This matters not just in product or service sales, but extends to any situation where behavior change is needed.

The author provides lots of compelling examples of products that have dominated their markets as a result of having elements of the Hook Model in their solution. Thinking about the new habits you wish you could have in your own life might be the first step you take in creating the next million-dollar winner.

Have you built game-changing products, or successfully created passionate (even rabid?) fans? Tell us what worked for you in the comments below . . .

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Alyssa Burkus

ABOUT Alyssa Burkus

As a consultant, I work with entrepreneurs and senior leaders through periods of significant change in their organizations, by delivering strategies, new programs, and coaching to build the workplace foundation they need to shift their company to new levels...
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