The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 24, 2014

Ask the Mompreneur: Get your customers hooked on you

Last month, Inc. announced it was increasing the price of its Prime membership, which provides free two-day shipping (among other benefits). Instantly, pundits and competitors began buzzing about what impact this would have on the e-commerce giant. Would customers jump ship over an extra $20 at renewal time, or would the pull of their shopping habits be too strong?

Nir Eyal of Stanford University defines a habit as “a behavior done with little or no conscious thought.“ And for many Amazon customers, pulling up the website or app has become an automatic response to everything from running out of diapers to needing a birthday present.

So how can you make your business a habit, too?

In his new book, “Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit-Forming Products,“ Eyal describes the four components of a “hook,“ or an experience designed to connect your customer to your business offering:

STEP 1: Trigger.

There are two kinds of triggers, internal and external. What are the triggers that prompt your customer to think of you?

External triggers include advertising cues, such as television commercials, sponsored items on social media, and billboards on the side of the road. These can be effective at creating awareness, but have the drawbacks of being expensive to place, quickly forgotten, and likely to catch your customer at the wrong moment.

Internal triggers, on the other hand, come from your customer’s experiences, thoughts, and emotions. For example, when I feel pain, I call my massage therapist. When I feel bored, I look up movie show times. And when I feel homesick, I open my Facebook app.

STEP 2: Action.

Once you’ve identified the triggers that lead customers to your door, how can you help them take action?

In my coaching practice, some clients think they have to have a clear list of goals before contacting me. Once they realize that they don’t need to, they are far more willing to schedule an initial session.

This is why the free consultation is such an effective and widely-used tool among businesses ranging from kitchen remodeling to fitness training.

STEP 3: Reward.

Everyone wants reliability, right? We want to know that the people from whom we buy goods and services will fulfill their commitments to us. But we also like a degree of variability, which is another way of saying that a little mystery gets our attention.

For example, compare your level of emotional engagement with a chain restaurant versus a quirky, family-owned bistro. At one, you get superb consistency; the food and service are always good. At the other, you get great food, but sometimes, when the owner is a good mood, you get a free appetizer. You never know for sure, so you’re drawn back again and again.

While you should always be predictably good, it pays to introduce variable rewards to delight your customers. And it can be as simple as the constantly changing candy bowl at your favorite salon.

STEP 4: Investment.

Finally, make your business a habit by creating a sense in your customers that they are building an investment in your product or service over time. Once you’ve been with the same CPA firm for a while, how eager are you to explain the ins and outs of your business to someone all over again? Once you’ve given a virtual assistant all of the contact information for key friends, family, and associates, what would it take to make you switch?

While you’re associating yourself with making your business a habit, don’t be afraid to ask more of your customers. If you are gathering their preferences, customizing your offerings and making yourself sticky enough, you, too, can raise your prices - because your customers are well and truly hooked.

Jennie Wong is an executive coach, author of the e-book “Ask the Mompreneur“ and the founder of the social shopping website Email her at


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