Nir’s Note: Justin Mares is the co-author of the new book Traction, a startup guide to getting customers. Justin’s framework provides a simple way for new marketers to discover their most effective triggers. Get 3 chapters of Justin’s book free at tractionbook.com.In his book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products,
Nir Eyal introduces the concept of triggers as they relate to building user habits. As a quick refresher, triggers are anything that cues action. For example, when you see a “Sign-up Now” button on a blog asking for your email, the trigger is effective when it prompts you to submit your email address.
As we learn in Hooked, people will only take an action when they’ve been triggered by some cue. But how do you decide what triggers to use? Furthermore, once you have ideas for your triggers, how do you make them as effective as possible? What insights can we glean from user psychology to help us get more users to start using our product in the first place?
In this post, I’m going to cover how you can use external triggers to get traction: how to use cues in a user’s environment to engage current customers and acquire new ones. By the end of this post, you will have a list of triggers you can immediately implement to get more traction and ultimately make your product more engaging.
Types of Triggers
First, let’s review the different kinds of triggers. Nir mentions four kinds of external triggers in his book:
- Paid triggers. These triggers include advertising, search engine marketing, and other paid channels that attract user’s attention and get them to check out a product or service.
- Earned triggers. These are triggers that you can’t buy directly, but that still generate short-term exposure. Things like press, viral videos, App Store rankings and speaking gigs are all earned opportunities to get wider exposure. Though they can be very effective, these kinds of triggers are also harder to consistently replicate.
- Relationship triggers. These triggers are generated by referrals from people you have a relationship with. Think of tweets you see from friends playing the Kardashian game, things that Facebook connections “Like”, or hearing about products from word of mouth. All are triggers that leverage existing relationships to reach new users, and can be extremely powerful.
- Owned triggers. Lastly, these are triggers that are a part of your user’s environment by their choice: the app icon on a user’s phone, an email newsletter the user subscribers to, or push notifications the user has opted in to.
Owned triggers help drive repeat engagement until a habit is formed. The other trigger types help you acquire new users. For the purposes of this post, I’ll focus on the first three types of triggers, those that help acquire new users by driving first-time use.
The Bullseye Framework
The first step to growth and getting traction is determining what triggers might work to acquire new users and where you want to deploy those triggers. In our research, we found there are 19 ways companies acquire customers.
With so many triggers at your disposal, figuring out which one to focus on can be tough. That’s why we use a simple tool we call the “Bullseye Framework” to help you find the most suitable triggers to drive use of your product.
Step 1: Brainstorm
The goal in brainstorming is to come up with reasonable ways you might trigger users. If you were to advertise offline, where would be the best place to do it? If you were to give a speech, who would be the ideal audience?
In terms of research to feed your brainstorm, you should know what marketing strategies have worked in your industry, as well as the history of successful marketing campaigns in your space. It’s especially important to understand how other companies acquired customers over time, and how unsuccessful companies wasted their marketing dollars. I’d suggest talking to advisors and other founders in your industry to learn what’s worked for others, and what hasn’t. You can also use tools like SEMrush and KeywordSpy to see the paid triggers others are using, and sites like Compete to see where most of their traffic is coming from. What triggers have historically worked in reaching your audience – ads, viral relationship triggers, or earned triggers like PR and email marketing? What triggers have failed?
Step 2: Rank
The ranking step helps you organize your brainstorming efforts. It also helps you to think critically about your potential triggers.
Place each of the triggers into one of three columns, with each column representing a concentric circle in the Bullseye:
- Column A (Inner Circle): which triggers seem most promising right now?
- Column B (Potential): which triggers seem like they could possibly work?
- Column C (Longshot): which seem like worth exploring but only after the low-hanging fruit has been picked?
Your research in the brainstorm step should guide your rankings. Ranking is more gut feel than a science. Usually, a few ideas you thought of will seem particularly compelling – these belong in column A. Triggers that seem less plausible but still worth exploring go in column B. The stretch ideas, that are less practical and promising belong in column C.
How you rank these triggers will depend on your stage as a company, funding and willingness to experiment. Some paid triggers – ads and the like – could be effective, but are too expensive to test in the very early stages of a company. Others (like offline ads) may not make sense given the audience you’re trying to reach.
Step 3: Prioritize
In this step, we’ll identify your inner circle: the three triggers that seem most promising. You should have more than one trigger in your inner circle so you don’t waste valuable time finding your successful trigger by testing them one by one. Instead, you’ll need to run multiple experiments at the same time.
Many of the tests you’ll be running (AdWords vs. content marketing) can be done simultaneously, and may take some time to run after they’ve been set up. This is why running tests in parallel is so important: it helps you figure out what’s working (and what’s not) much faster.
Step 4: Test
The testing step is where you put your ideas into the real world. The goal of this step is to find out which of the triggers in your inner circle are worth focusing-on and which you should dump.
You will make that decision based on results from a series of relatively cheap tests. These tests should be designed to answer the following questions.
- Roughly how much will it cost to acquire customers with this trigger?
- How many customers are available with this trigger?
- Are the customers that respond to this trigger the ones you want right now?
Keep in mind that when testing, you are not trying to get a lot of traction just yet. Instead, you are simply trying to determine what triggers work for you.
Step 5: Focusing
If all goes well, at least one of the triggers you tested in your inner circle produced promising results. In that case, you should start directing your traction efforts and resources towards that most promising one.
The goal of this focusing step is quite simple: to wring every bit of traction out of the trigger. To do so, you will need to continually experiment to optimize your current trigger by testing things like ad copy, demographic targets, and other attributes.
The 5-step bullseye framework helps companies systematically determine which channels make sense to invest their time and effort into. What triggers have worked for you? Let me know in the comments!
Top Consumer Psychology Articles
- The One Fitness App That Hooked Me For Good
- Here’s How Fortnite ‘Hooked’ Millions
- How Apps Can Shape Your Future Self
- How Netflix’s Customer Obsession Created a Customer Obsession
- Want to Design User Behavior? Pass the ‘Regret Test’ First
- How to Trigger Product Usage that Sticks
- How to Get People to Help Each Other, Online and Off
- Here’s How Amazon’s Alexa Hooks You
- How to Use Psychology to Make Persuasive Video
- How to Use Personality Science to Drive Online Conversions
- The Unbelievable Future of Habit-Forming Technology
- The Secret Marketing Power of Evolutionary Psychology
- Don’t Ask People What They Want, Watch What They Do
- How Cognitive Biases Can Help (and Hurt) Your Business
- What Most People Don’t Know About Behavioral Design
- How to Start a Career in Behavioral Design
- Your World is Full of Placebo Buttons (and That’s a Good Thing)
- How to Build Technology that Feels Like a Friend
- 3 Pillars of the Most Successful Tech Products
- Here’s How to Ethically Manipulate Other People
- How Two Companies Hooked Customers On Products They Rarely Use
- How to Hook Users in 3 Steps: An Intro to Habit Testing
- Die Dashboards, Die! Why Conversations Will Reinvent Software
- The Secret to Sending Emails and Notifications That Work
- How to Win Your Competition’s Customers
- Hooked for Good: How Habit-Forming Products Improve Lives
- Good Products Start With Good Questions
- Human + A.I. = Your Digital Future
- Why ‘Assistant-As-App’ Might Be the Next Big Tech Trend
- People Don’t Want Something Truly New, They Want the Familiar Done Differently.
- 4 Ways to Win Your Competitor’s Customer Habits (Slides)
- Here’s Why You’ll Hate the Apple Watch (and the Important Business Lesson You Need to Know)
- The Secret Psychology of Snapchat
- The Psychology of Notifications: How to Send Triggers that Work
- How Technology Tricks You Into Tipping More
- The Limits of Loyalty: When Habits Change, You’re Toast
- 4 Ways to Use Psychology to Win Your Competition’s Customers
- The Real Reason “Stupid” Startups Raise So Much Money
- The Psychology Behind Why We Can’t Stop Messaging
- The Psychology of a Billion-Dollar Enterprise App: Why is Slack so Habit-Forming?
- Framing Reward is as Important as Reward Itself
- A Free Course on User Behavior
- It’s Not All Fun And Games: The Pros and Cons of Gamification at Work
- Getting Traction: How to Hook New Users
- Designing for Behavior Change Book Review
- The Sneaky Trick Behind the Explosive Growth of the Kardashian Game
- How Successful Companies Design for Users’ Multi-Device Lives
- The Link Between Habits and User Satisfaction
- What Triggers The Best Word of Mouth Marketing?
- What Tech Companies Can Learn from Rehab
- The Secrets of Addictive Online Auctions
- Teach or Hook? What’s the Real Goal of Online Education?
- Using Mind Control to Raise Startup Cash
- How To Build Habits In A Multi-Device World
- How To Cope with Your Insane Jealousy Of The WhatsApp Deal
- Why Do Fads Fade? The Inevitable Death Of Flappy Bird
- You’d Be Surprised By What Really Motivates Users
- Nostalgia: A Product Designer’s Secret Weapon
- How You Can Help Users Change Habits
- Is “Lean Startup” Right for Your Idea?
- Hunting for Habits: Keying in on smart design to make a product irresistible
- Are Companies Too Obsessed With Growth? How to Measure Habits
- Refresh: The App a Secret Agent Would Love
- Angel or Devil: Who’s Really Investing In Your Start-Up?
- In 10 Years, We Won’t Use Personal Technology
- 4 Simple Things I Did to Control My Bad Tech Habits
- “Yes, And”: The Two Words that Created a #1 App
- From Laid to Paid: How Tinder Set Fire to Online Dating
- What if In-App Purchases Came to Real Life?
- Hooking Users One Snapchat at a Time
- How To Save Your Startup From The “Spotlight Effect”
- Bible App: Getting 100 Million Downloads is More Psychology Than Miracles
- How to Boost Desire Using the Psychology of Scarcity
- Marketplaces & The Curse of the Network Effect
- Today’s Behaviors, Tomorrow’s Startups
- Venture Capital and The Superstitious Investor
- The Future is Driven by Interface Changes
- Why Business is Addicted to Habits
- Viral Loops Or Viral ‘Oops’?
- Making a Marketplace
- What Killed Turntable.fm?
- What You Don’t Know About Human Intuition Can Hurt You
- Designing to Reward our Tribal Sides
- New Video – “Hooked: Building Habit-Forming Products”
- How Technology is Like Bug Sex
- Ways To Get People To Do Things They Don’t Want To Do
- The Network Effect Isn’t Good Enough
- Mass Persuasion, One User At A Time
- How Investment Drives Engagement (Slides)
- Getting Your Product Into the Habit Zone
- Where Have The Users Gone?
- Infinite Scroll: The Web’s Slot Machine
- Designing User Habits Video
- Psychology of Sports: How Sports Infect Your Brain
- This is Your Brain On Boarding: How to Turn Visitors Into Users
- User Investment: Make Your Users Do the Work
- Behavior by Design Video
- When Designing for Good Is Bad
- Stop Building Apps, Start Building User Behaviors
- The Morality of Manipulation
- The Next Secrets of the Internet
- User Growth and Engagement: A Hacker Metric
- Spotting the Next Facebook: Why Emotions are Big Business
- The Billion Dollar Mind Trick: An Intro to Triggers
- Why Everyone Hates I.T. People
- Hooking Users In 3 Steps: An Intro to Habit Testing
- Abolish The Reference Check
- Variable Rewards: Want To Hook Users? Drive Them Crazy
- How to Design Behavior (The Behavior Change Matrix)
- How To Design For “Normals”
- Hooks: An Intro on How to Manufacture Desire
- User Habits: Why Startups Must Be Behavior Experts
- What Is, and Is Not, Your Product’s Job
- Pinterest’s Obvious Secret
- Personalized eCommerce Is Already Here, You Just Don’t Recognize It
- Where is the Web Going?
- The Developer Divide: When Great Companies Can’t Hire
- Being a Quitter Makes You a Good Entrepreneur
- Behavior by Design
- Why You Should Run Your Business Barefoot
- Are you a Startup Star, Wacko, or Wannabe?