7 Psychological Triggers used in Growth Hacking

Learn what Psychological Triggers are used to growth-hack products.

Philipp Muens
9 min readDec 30, 2020

IMPORTANT: The triggers discussed in this post are powerful levers to influence peoples decision making processes. Never ever abuse this knowledge. Apply it in ethical ways and call out unethical usage when you spot it in the wild.

Your Landing Page is finally live and the metrics are promising but your conversion rates are still a little bit behind? It seems like there’s some interest in your product but for some reason people aren’t convinced enough to click that call-to-action.

Maybe you’re running an ecommerce store and sales are great. But aren’t there any tweaks you can apply to increase your sales even further?

Sometimes all that’s necessary is a little nudge. In this blog post we’ll examine what that nudge might be. How you can drive more attention towards action-taking rather than closing the browser tab and moving on. Let’s dive in.

Human needs

Disclaimer: This is by no means a scientific write-up. If you’re interested in the fascinating topic of Psychology I’d encourage you to pick up some legit literature such as “Thinking Fast and Slow” or to connect with an expert who majored in Psychology.

Before jumping right into the triggers, let’s take a step back and understand why knowing the basics of human psychology is such an important and fascinating skill to possess.

Pretty much everything we do on a day-to-day is somehow influenced by our unconscious, the part of our being we cannot directly control. One of the many sources of information that has formed and still informs our unconscious is the basics of human behavior and desires. At the core, humans are very social beings. Forming tribes helped us survive and thrive in uncertain times. It’s important for us to show that we’re worthy being part of the tribe. Being an outsider by taking unapproved actions put oneself at huge risks and disadvantages. Risks that usually translated into pain and death. As it turned out, it made a whole lot of sense to play by the rules and adhere to the consensus.

Times have changed and nowadays there’s a lot less risk involved when making decisions. However the tribal thinking is still deeply rooted in ourselves and therefore influences the actions we take.

Do you study reviews before buying products online? Do you browse through the comments on a YouTube video? Both of those actions are driven by the fact that we want to see what our peers are thinking and how they might think about us when we buy the item in question or like the videos content.

The Triggers

Now that we learned more about basic human needs and what drives us, it’s time to take a deep dive into the different Psychological Triggers you can use to tap into those needs and nudge your visitors to take certain actions.

1. Me vs. You

To some extent, everyone is an egoist. While that might sound harsh it’s a reality that people are obsessed with themselves. Knowing this puts you at a huge advantage because you can articulate your copywriting in a way that speaks directly to your users “self”.

Don’t talk about your company, the achievements and prizes you won. Don’t write a wall of text outlining every single feature your product offers. Your company is in the business since the late 90s? Your app has a “dark mode”? That’s all great but nobody really cares!

What matters are the benefits your users will experience when using your product. What are they dreaming about? What pain does your product address? How does your product help them live a better life? That’s all that matters.

Update your copywriting to talk directly to your users rather than about you. Paint a picture of their dream and how your product helps them turn that dream into a reality.

2. Making Progress

There are only 9 pages left to complete the chapter in your favorite book? You only have to collect one more item to reach the next level in your favorite video game?

People love to make progress. It just feels good to take a project all the way from 0% to 100%. Even better if the progress is visualized and you can see the progress bar increasing with every little step of the way.

Use this love for progress in your products and services. Do you have a time-consuming onboarding process? Break it up into individual pieces and show a progress bar at the top of the page which updates as your users fill out the forms. Are you looking for more Newsletter sign ups? Display a “50% done” progress bar at the top of your Newsletter Form and call out that your visitor is “almost there”.

Whenever you’re looking for more commitment from your users, break the task down into individual pieces and add some information which makes it clear as to what the current status is and what is necessary to make progress.

3. Time

Time is one of the resources which cannot be created. Time will move on, no matter what you do. Given this, everyone values their time more than anything else.

There are a couple of different ways you can work with the “Time trigger”.

The first one being to call out how much your product will help your users save time. Do you automate a time-consuming process? Do the math and clearly show your users how much time they’ll save when they use your app. Time they can spend with their significant other or kids (you want to call that out as well).

Another usage of the “Time trigger” can often be found in conjunction with scarcity. “25% for the next 24 hours”, “Registrations only open today”. Those are the phrases you’ll usually find on ecommerce stores or online course websites. You can do the same and offer time-bound discounts. If you do so, please make sure that your offer is legit. Use time and scarcity in a dishonest way and you’ll immediately lose trust.

4. Comparing and Contrasting

The “Basic Plan” is 99 USD while the “Pro Plan” which has significantly more features is only 129 USD? Most people would pick the “Pro Plan” given that it has more features to offer. Even if those features will never be used. Looking at it through the lens of logic it doesn’t really make sense to go with the “Pro Plan” if the “Basic Plan” would be more than enough in terms of value delivered.

As it turns out, it’s not about what the product is, it’s about what it stands next to. You can use this fact to steer the decision making process in the direction of your liking. Make it easy for your users to compare and contrast different offerings. Even if you don’t plan to sell a cheaper option, offer it anyway and put it next to the one which is slightly more expensive but more feature rich. You’d be amazed to see that most of your users will go with the more expensive option even if they’ll never user all the features it offers.

5. Fear

A huge major driving force which is ingrained in everyone of us is fear. Fear comes in many different forms. We’re fearful of failure, bad things happening to our loved ones and the inevitable death.

Another form of fear is the “fear of missing out” a.k.a FOMO. Always being in the known gives us huge advantages and an edge over our competition. Missing out on a major new trend or business opportunity could have detrimental consequences.

You can trigger the “fear of missing out” by subtly talking about the possibility of missing out on a huge opportunity when passing on your offering.

A prime example which shows this in action are travel booking websites. Remember that “12 people have visited this listing in the last 6 hours” notification on the hotel website. You don’t want to be the person who misses out on this great deal!

6. Social Proof

As we already learned, us humans are social animals. Being social doesn’t only mean that we like to socialize with each other, it also means that we tend to mimic and “copy” one another to be more likeable and therefore accepted in our peer group.

Do you want to buy something but you’re not sure which option to go with? It might be a good idea to study the testimonials, reviews and ratings to make a more informed decision. The new Todo-app you just discovered looks quite compelling but why bother given that you’re already using the stock Todo-app on your phone? As it turns out, at least a handful of Fortune 500 companies and Silicon Valley juggernauts are using it in their day-to-day so it can’t be that bad.

You want to be a part of your tribe so naturally you’re looking at what your peers are doing. This is what “Social Proof” is all about. Showing that you’re about to make the right decision because peers in your tribe did the same.

Do you already have happy customers using your app? Take some time to conduct some interviews and translate those into testimonials you can put on your Landing Page. Maybe you have some large enterprises using your product. Write some Case Studies to show what value your product offers. There are entire software applications you can use to display social proof widgets on your homepage or ecommerce store (“Someone in New York bought this item 2 hours ago”).

7. Acting logical

Everyone wants to believe that all the decisions she makes are entirely driven by logic. As it turns out this is not true most of the time. You and I buy products based on emotion rather than logic. Just pay close attention to the advertisements you see every day. Almost every single one speaks in the language of emotions rather than logic.

But once the decision has been made and the purchase is done we tend to justify our actions based on logic. “I bought the car because there was a discount and a friend of mine knows the car dealership owner. Furthermore I get the first service for free and it’s also an older model so it’s cheaper than buying a brand new one. …”. Observe yourself and others and you’ll notice that all of us try to retroactively fit our decision making into logical bits and pieces. Even if it sometime results in contradictions and lies.

What you want to do is to supply additional information about your product which helps your users justify the purchase in a logical manner. Have a dedicated “Features” page which lists out all the features your product offers. While you’ll never be selling by talking about your products features it will help your users justify their decision after buying your product. You can see this “Emotional Sales Pitch + Detailed Features Page” pattern being used on almost every popular SaaS product marketing page.

Your challenge

I’d like to invite you to take a look at your current Product website / app to identify places where you could use one of the triggers we just discussed.

Is a time-consuming and tedious onboarding process required (e.g. collecting some user information to create a profile)? Maybe you want to split the form up into several pages and show a progress bar at the top of every page.

Does your current Landing Page focus on the features rather than your users pain and the way in which your product alleviates such pain? Update your Landing Page copy to talk about the user rather than yourself and your product.

Use as many different triggers as you need but keep in mind that you should strike a healthy balance and use them in ethical ways.


Human beings are social animals. A lot of our decision making is driven by our emotions and unconscious rather than logic and self-control.

In this post we learned about several Psychological Triggers you can use to nudge your users into taking specific actions. The more you’re familiarizing yourself with these triggers, the more you’ll see them being used in the wild.

Leveraging such triggers is a powerful way to make your product more successful and put it ahead of your competition. However keep in mind to solely use them in ethical ways. Play the long-term game by being genuine and helpful.

I hope that you enjoyed this article and I’d like to invite you to subscribe to my Newsletter if you’re interested in more posts like this.

Do you have any questions, feedback or comments? Feel free to reach out via E-Mail or connect with me on Twitter.

Originally published at https://philippmuens.com.



Philipp Muens

👨‍💻 Maker — 👨‍🏫 Lifelong learner — Co-creator of the Serverless Framework — https://philippmuens.com