Habit is tech

Golden hamster running in a wheel, depicting the concept of habit
Hamster Wheel” by sualk61 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

In 2010, I started a company that forever impacted how I approach product marketing. The company sold data, specifically sales prospecting lists for B2B marketing technology companies. Instead of simply delivering CSV files, our data was packaged in a web app that customers could use to interact with the data. The interface was original. Early feedback from customers indicated they were eager to use it. But, the heat was about to rise.

We signed up a handful of customers. Customers logged in. They exported lists. Then they logged out – returning only once or twice after we chased them with follow up calls and emails. Most of the customers who tried us forgot about us; the company began to melt like an ice cube. As a 24 year old entrepreneur, the experience was devastating. It taught me a valuable lesson: bake triggers into your product that encourage habitual usage. In 2012, I started another company that followed this advice and enjoyed success.

If you too have ever forgotten about the human element of technology, you are not alone. The term can be ambiguous because ‘technology’ has taken on many meanings over time. In the Neolithic era, technology meant stone tools. In the Renaissance, it was the printing press. Today, technology has become synonymous with computers and digital information. My favorite definition of technology comes from Nobel prize winning economics professor, Robert Shiller, who says, “Finance is a technology for making things happen.” Dr. Shiller’s definition of finance characterizes technology itself: technology is a tool for making things happen.

Habits are also tools for making things happen. According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, our brains form routines so that we do not have to relearn the same things constantly. Imagine if tomorrow we awoke and all habits permanently disappeared. Each day, we would have to relearn how to brush our teeth, navigate to work, and check email. Little work would get done. Society would melt – the terror! Thankfully, this will not happen. Habit is a permanent feature of biology, and marketers who leverage it can make things happen for their customers and their careers.

Leave a Reply