little things

Are ngato gozamas. That’s what I said upon having my Japanese take-out meal handed to me while making a bow. Even though I could only see the eyes, due to her face mask, the tiny chef seemed to be instantly filled with joy. She, of course, returned the gesture and expressed tons of gratitude. Thanking me for my business as I made my way out the door.

Switch positions. In this case, I was the customer, but as the provider of goods and services, there is tremendous potential to invest in these seemingly random acts of kindness.

Random acts of kindness are immensely undervalued. The little, surprising moments of delight you offer within your product or service, throughout your customer journey, really make a difference. With the potential to create a long-lasting impact.

something to be desired

The hunt is sweeter than the kill. Because our imagination thrives on absence, we often don’t feel as fulfilled as we had anticipated when we finally get that object we so desired.

The risk increases depending on the emotional engagement, better yet, the lack thereof, with the actual object. It’s hard to form long-term emotional connections with things we possess. Post-purchase disappointment often kicks in hard when fantasy becomes a reality.

That’s why deferred gratification is often so rewarding. Resisting a temptation today in favor of a later (perhaps more significant) reward tomorrow.

Even though these principles are well known, they are poorly applied today. When you buy a new car, a rather significant purchase for most of us, nothing happens after signing on the dotted line. That’s basically adding fuel directly to the raging buyer’s remorse fire. After some months, you get a message from the dealership. You go to pick up your car, drive it off the lot, and that’s it. Good riddance.

Whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime purchase or an ordinary commodity that gets bought all the time, leave your customer with something (extra) to be desired.

two hour hook — reward

Well done! Two thumbs up. Just a last push, and you’re there. You can do this! Is a sincere, timely encouragement ever wrong? Doubtful.

Whether it’s a sports app telling you you’re halfway there while running. A language learning app letting you know how many new words you’ve just learned. A productivity tool letting you know how many hours you saved. Reaping the benefits of what you sowed is generally a nice feeling. Knowing exactly what those benefits are is even nicer.

Some people use their own motivation as a reward. Others might need more tangible items to keep them going. Those who find themselves without outside sources of encouragement can get creative with things like certificates or points to work towards tangible goals.

After your customer started exploring your product or service, they should have experienced some carefully crafted (minor) friction. Once they progress towards their goal and the offer (or functionality) has been increased in complexity, it’s time to hand out proverbial medals.

Whether it’s an act of endearment, some kind words, an unsolicited treat. Include rewards throughout your entire customer journey.

two hour hook — increasing complexity

When a goal seems completely out of reach, we have a hard time motivating ourselves to get started. On the other hand, if it takes literally zero effort, we give up easily, after a little while. Bottom line; crafting the perfect challenge is complex.

If a customer walks into a bakery (for the first time) looking for a loaf of bread, ideally, the options are rather limited. With fifty-one different kinds of to choose from, the customer will suffer. Hick’s law states that: the time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices.

For digital products and services offering tons of different features, go slow. Bombarding your customer with advanced functionality too early will turn them against you.

Make your product offering and services as simple as possible for first-time customers. Then, gradually increase complexity.

Increasing complexity is the fourth “two hour hook” principle. Preceded by exploration, friction, and progress.

two hour hook — progress

Exposing progress provides us with two valuable insights. How far along we are on the one hand, and how much ground there is left to cover on the other hand. What a delightful feeling to know exactly where you are en route to your goal. Progress is the third hook principle after exploration and friction.

The more we invest in something, the more likely we will see it all the way through. If you want to make sure your customer reaches the point where your product or service provides the most value, or alleviates the most pain, provide them with the ability to check on the progress they’re making at all times.

If there is much ground to cover, it will take your customer a significant amount of time and effort to end up in the place where you want them to be. In that case, introduce milestones. “Just a tiny push and you’re halfway there.” This type of motivation, at the right time, can work miracles.

two hour hook — friction

Seamless. If I had a buck for every time somebody combined the words: seamless and experience… While there are tons of good arguments in favor of creating actual seamless experiences, there are some arguments against it. “Friction” is after “exploration,” the second out of five hook principles.

A seamless experience is a combination of multiple experiences where the customer doesn’t notice any gaps. A sense of continuation throughout the entire experience is perceived. Uber, for instance, has reduced a rather substantial amount of friction in the cab-hailing experience. Hence, moving from point a to point b using a taxi has been made (much more) seamless than the (analog) alternative.

The issue that arises is this. We remember experiences better when we have to put in a (tiny) bit of effort. Inversely, when experiences are too frictionless, they can feel somewhat generic.

In your product or service, introduce tiny amounts of friction, perhaps tied to milestones or achievements. This way, your customer has a sense of achievement and might grow to love the product or service (more).

two hour hook — exploration

Thirteen years ago, I found myself lost in the middle of Shinjuku Station. One of the busiest stations (connecting trains to subways) in Tokyo, the world’s largest city. Even though I was probably a nuisance to tons of travelers, trying to figure out where to go while obstructing people flows in the process. However, due to Japanese efficiency and politeness, it never seemed to be a problem.

I had an obvious goal; make it back to the hotel. I vividly recall how I felt at the time. Mesmerized by a tremendous amount of people. Flabergasted by the big city lights. Craving teriyaki chicken due to the smell emerging from smokey alleys.

After a while, a compassionate Japanese man approached me and said: “you seem lost, may I help you?”. Minutes later, I was on my way.

If you manage to incorporate this (first) hook principle, you’re on your way to building a successful product or service.

Present your customer with a clear, unambiguous goal. A goal that leads to success. Make sure that the environment is an exciting one to be in. If your customer slows down, or gets stuck altogether, provide kind and timely guidance to help them get back on their way.

Exploring is in our curious nature. Have your product or service cater to it in the right way.

two hour hook

As little as two hours of compelling gameplay, that’s all it takes (for me) to get sucked in and become (temporarily) addicted. What would entrepreneurs give to get people hooked on their product or service in 120 minutes or less? Spoiler alert: a lot.

Five seemingly random elements make for an immersive experience — exploration, friction, progress, increasing complexity, and reward.

Products and services encompassing these principles are sure to get quick adoption and long-lasting retention.