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Hooking Customers

Use this framework to attract customers for life

One of the biggest challenges faced by businesses is making an offer inviting and fresh. Nir Eyal is a product of silicon valley where he built and sold two technology companies. He believes that businesses need to provide a solution to customers' problems with sufficient frequency to make it a habit. He describes this process in his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, published in 2014. It is a four phase model which seeks to engage with users repeatedly without depending on costly advertising.

The model's 4 phases are:

1. Trigger - it all begins with a trigger, something that automatically cues to a new behaviour. These triggers could be internal (eg I need something now to solve my problem) or external (eg buy now before it is too late). The trigger could be visual (seeing a product), aural (hearing about it) or sensual (the aroma of fresh brewed coffee).

2. Action - this is the behaviour that is done in anticipation of a reward. The action needs to be easy to perform and the customer needs to be psychologically motivated to do it. In marketing we talk about "call to action" - getting people to do something. It could be as simple as clicking on a website link or the ultimate of phoning up with an order.

3. Variable reward - the key to the framework is creating a craving for more in order to enjoy more of the benefits. Nir Eyal believes that gratification and rewards can be received in different ways: individually (a feeling of a job well done), a reward of the hunt (doing a good deal and saving money), and a reward for the tribe (receiving thanks from colleagues).

4. Investment – in order for a customer to be truly hooked they need to be invested in the product acquisition. This means them investing in regular  communications with the supplier. In this way the connection with the supplier becomes a habit. The more people invest time and effort into a product or service, the more they value it. The key, therefore, is to spark these regular purchase decisions. Of course, it is important that the product does a job of work if it is to increase the likelihood of addiction.

The model is particularly suited to frequently purchased products or services since it is based on regular and frequent behaviours. It could still be relevant to business to business suppliers if they find ways of staying in touch with customers and supporting them with services in between irregular purchases. The key elements of the investment phase is all about future rewards and not immediate gratification.

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