Why do some products rocket to success?
How do you become as infectious as Snapchat?
What if I told you there was a ready bake recipe for user retention?
Each overnight proliferation of tech startups evidences our new collective dream:
Be Instagram. Be bought by Facebook. Be billionaires.
That most startups fail far short of sustainability (let alone acquisition) is a statistic that doesn’t seem to be deterring today’s entrepreneurs.
We can’t win if we don’t play.
But the narrative that’s been emerging out of the Lean Movement says, “don’t just roll the dice.”
Starting a business will always be risky but there are more ways than ever to practically reduce risk early in the product development process, such as Alex Osterwalder’s “prototyping business models just like you prototype products,” and Steve Blank’s sell-before-you-build concept of customer development.
What these voices are offering us are frameworks for predicting the success of your business in advance and ideas for preventing pitfalls.
Most recently among these product frameworks is The Hook Model - a reverse analysis of the mechanisms that drive today’s stickiest products.
Introduction to the Hook Framework
In his best-selling book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, author Nir Eyal introduces a radical way for product builders to understand the science of behavior and architect winning solutions upfront.
So how does it work?
External Triggers. You may already be so accustomed to the experience of your favorite products that you overlook the hooks that first brought you in. Commonplace functions such as email alerts, notifications and even app icons are all what Eyal calls “external triggers” that cue your mind to act.
Action. “If the user does not take action, the trigger is useless...Action must be easier than thinking.” Triggers prompt the action but it’s the (promise of) reward in step 3 that motivate users to act.
Variable Reward. Humans are rewards-driven, but Eyal flags a key principle: “Predictable loops don't create desire.” As an example, the first time we discover the light turns on when we open our fridge door, we may feel a hit of excitement, but soon after the response becomes predictable and boring. By contrast, it’s the promise of different treats waiting for us in the fridge that keeps us coming back. Anybody who has ever opened the fridge again and again even after knowing what’s inside has demonstrated the habit-forming power of variable rewards.
Investment. Simply put, whenever a user invests time, data, effort, social capital or money, they are more likely to return. Skeptical? How many of you are still trying to reach 100% profile completion on LinkedIn?
Internal Triggers. Like word of mouth as a marketing channel, internal triggers are the hidden fifth step that habit-forming products successfully unlock, creating a forever loop back into the product. Unlike external triggers which are visual indicators, internal triggers fuse with our thoughts and feelings to synonymize certain products with certain emotions. An example Eyal describes is how Facebook photos trigger memories of social experiences and, over time, Facebook itself becomes a place for “having social feelings.”
An Exclusive Interview with Nir Eyal
Recently, 100 PM sat down with Nir himself to ask some burning questions about product development and solicit fresh insights on the Hook Model, since the book’s first release in 2014.
For more great resources, check out our recommended Reading List.