The Hook Model

A Simple framework for explosive user retention 💥

The hook model is a four step process created to get your customers hooked. Triggers, actions, investments and rewards create strong user habits that bring repeat buyers along with high customer retention.

hook model

Let’s face it — we all struggle with user retention.

It’s not only that most products suck, but people just aren’t emotionally attached to digital products.

Unless you invest massively in brand building and customer experience, they’re sure to bounce if they find a product with basically the same features for less money.

That’s really annoying, since customer acquisition is expensive and the cost keeps increasing over time.

Fortunately for you, I have a magic wand that will solve all your problems! Simply buy my $4,987,987 course and unlock all its secrets.

Just kidding.

I don’t have a magic wand, but I do have something pretty cool in store.

Full disclaimer: it will require hard work and lots of iterations to successfully implement it, but if you crack it, you won’t have to worry about user retention anymore you’ll have to worry significantly less about user retention.

What is it, Thomas?

Ok, ok… I’ll tell you.

But only if you buy my… Sorry, I really have to stop with this stupid joke. It’s just that those twenty-something gurus annoy me so much. I hope you understand.

It’s called the Hook Model.

What is the Hook Model?

You’ve probably heard about it from the book “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal.

If you have, this will be a good refresher. You should probably keep reading.

If you haven’t, then you must keep reading.

I’ll be focusing on the model applied to SaaS.

The Hook Model is a 4-step framework designed to guide the user through enough retention loops that using the targeted product becomes a habit.

Creating a new habit is no easy task, but it’s the Holy Grail for all growth hunters.

It means your user will unconsciously use your product as a response to a particular (negative) emotion.

As tough as it is to create a new habit, it’s even harder to change one.

“So what does it mean for my business??” I hear you say.

It means that once your users are hooked, your competitors will have a super hard time acquiring them because people are lazy and they don’t want to change their habits.

In other words, you’ll make more money since they’ll stick around longer and you’ll have more opportunities to upsell them.

Here’s a visualization of the 4 steps:

hook modelSource

In life, everything we do is based on the fact that the motivation toward accomplishing a particular action is higher than its friction.

I spend hours looking at Google Analytics because I’m a data freak and I want to make sure our marketing actions are bringing results.

In other words, I log in to GA a few times a day because of one particular feeling: FEAR.

But this is fun for me, so my motivation for looking at GA data is much higher than the friction of logging in and going through the right charts.

Let’s take taxes as another example.

We all love waking up on a beautiful Sunday morning knowing we’re going to file our taxes that day.

Nope.

But we have to.

If we don’t do it, we know the government will knock on our door in the middle of the night and suck away all our hard-earned money.

So, your motivation is at a peak. Regardless of the level of friction, you’ll get it done.

And here again, you’ll accomplish that particular task as a result of fear.

Producing a negative emotion is the most efficient way for our body to communicate with us.

❗ Negative emotions are internal triggers.

❗ Negative emotions are calls-to-action.

You feel lonely? You’ll go check your LinkedIn updates. You fear you’re missing out on important company updates? You’ll go check your Slack messages.

Looking for increasing user retention? The first step is to answer this question: “What negative emotions are you appealing to with your product?”

With Hoppier, we know our users (office managers) feel overwhelmed, anxious and are scared to disappoint management and fellow employees.

The next step is to understand when to appeal to those internal triggers.

❓ When does an office manager feel overwhelmed? Monday afternoon? Sunday evening just before the week starts again?

❓ When does an office manager feel anxious? When does the OM usually report to management? The end of the month? Big quarterly performance assessments?

❓ When does the OM feel scared to let down fellow employees? Three p.m. during ‘snack fatigue’? Two days before Thursday networking events?

Once you figure this out, select the HOW.

How to implement the Hook Model into your business?

What channels – external triggers – should you use to appeal to the right negative emotion at the right time?

An office manager might feel anxious about going over budget when it comes to office snacks and supplies.

WHEN? Probably at the end of every month, but definitely at the end of every quarter before quarterly performance assessments.

HOW? Let’s send our users an email prompting them to go check our financial dashboard.

The prompt to check our dashboard will probably succeed, as the motivating fear of going over budget is higher than the friction of clicking on the CTA in the email and logging into our app.

In the Fogg Behavior Model, we would be above the red line.

hook modelSource

When it comes to the external triggers, don’t overthink it. Simply choose the channel that your users prefer for performing the intended action.

Nobody wants to order an Uber on a desktop app.

The third step of the Hook Model is the (variable) reward.

“Ok Thomas, I clicked on your awesome email. I logged in to your awesome app. What’s in it for me?”

A piece of happiness... in the form of relief.

You’ll be relieved of the fear of not doing a great job… of having overspent… of losing your job and not being able to feed your kids or pay your mortgage.

We’re here to give you just that. That’s the opportunity for you for overdoing it.

“Great job, Anna! Your team happiness has never been higher, and you still have $250 to spend this month.”

Here’s the thing. We humans are weak and not that unique. Oh, and Santa Claus does not exist. There you have it: the three big lies of your childhood.

We all love roulette because of one thing: variable reward. We never know on which number that stupid ball is going to stop. Of course we love rewards, but when they also change over time, we can’t get enough of them.

The leftover budget amount will change, our congratulations message will change, the gifts available as a reward for engagement will change, and the available products will change.

And those are dopamine shots right there.

The last and most important step of the framework is the investment phase.

It’s pretty straightforward.

The more you use a particular product, the less you’re tempted to switch to a competing product.

Think about your task management tool. Once your team learned how to use Trello, once all your projects and tasks were documented, would you randomly decide to switch to Asana?

Maybe that’s why Twitter still exists? Hmmm… a debate for another day.

The energy invested in the product creates new internal and external triggers for the user, creating a retention loop, a hook.

The more Anna relies on Hoppier for her office purchases, the easier it gets to go over budget. The higher the fear, the more often she logs in, and so on.

And there you have it. The 4 steps of the Hook Model. Trigger => Action => Reward => Investment => Trigger…

I truly hope it will help you in your user retention efforts.

Any questions?

Connect with me on LinkedIn.

About the Author

Thomas Paris, Head of Growth Hoppier

I value honesty so I’ll just say it. I secretly wish the Minions were real and I could adopt one. I also love the field of Growth and Digital Marketing. Not sure how I did it, but I managed to launch and sell two startups: a SaaS and a Growth Agency. I’m now the Head of Growth at Hoppier, simply the best way to order snacks, fruit and drinks for the office.