The Role and Responsibilities of a Marketing Influence Hacker
(Note: This is the second in a series of three introductory installments of the Influence Hacker Journal. If you haven’t yet read the first installment, we recommend that you do so now.)
“The first step in playing a roleplaying game is to decide which role we’re going to choose to play. In the same way, we’ll need to decide to play the role of hero versus villain in the marketing influence game — and this is not as obvious of a distinction as one might imagine.” — From the Upcoming IH Podcast
The only real success in marketing comes from building successful, long-term relationships. Our Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), as marketers, is simply too high for it to be otherwise.
This is so obvious that the subjects of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM), and Customer Innovation Management (CIM) occupy a large domain within the business literature.
But what is the true essence of success when it comes to building these relationships?
Simply stated: Successful, long-term marketing relationships form when all parties, as a direct result of the relationship, succeed. (i.e. when everyone wins.)
As marketers, we want to be effective in building these successful win-win relationships.
So what does effective marketing mean?
Effective Marketing = Well-Targeted x Well-Executed x Well-Mannered
When our marketing is …
- Well-Targeted: this means that we’ve taken the time to properly identify real people and/or businesses with real needs in the marketplace and have also determined that we’re sufficiently well-positioned to gainfully meet the need.
- Well-Executed: this means that we’ve sufficiently crafted our solution such that, over the long-haul, a substantial proportion of the market will embrace our solution because our value proposition is undeniable.
- Well-Mannered: this means that our marketing behaves itself — that everything related to our marketing efforts (from market research and analysis to solution design, to marketing communications) respects the dignity of the people whom we serve such that it has inherent power to attract, inform, and invoke.
We believe that when these factors are given top priority, they act as success multipliers for our businesses (note the “X” symbols in the formula).
This well-targeted, well-executed, well-mannered marketing formula is at the core of the Influence Hacker philosophy.
2. Effective Marketing is Intrinsically Ethical
We believe that in the Information Age (where accountability is ingrained into the marketing ecosystem), marketers can only succeed by building relationships that honor the role and responsibilities of an ethical marketing influencer.
We get to call ourselves “ethical” marketing influencers when all parties (including we, ourselves) consistently win as a direct result of the people in our target market listening to our advice and following our lead.
That choice — the choice to manifest outcomes that benefit everyone who falls within our sphere of marketing influence — comes with a set of responsibilities that defines the hero role of a true Influence Hacker.
First, we’ll take a look at all possible roles that a marketing influencer can play, then we’ll examine the responsibilities of effective, ethical influencers — true Influence Hackers.
3. Loser, Martyr, Crook or Winner: What Role Will You Play?
One way to think of the different roles an influencer can play is to focus on both the positive and negative outcomes that can issue from interactions between the influencer and the influenced (asking who wins and who loses in these interactions).
For every situation, you can keep score in a payoff matrix:
In these scenarios, “You” (deliberately switching to the second person for this section ;-) could be you, personally, acting as an individual, or you acting on behalf of a group, business or organization.
The “Target” could be another individual or group of individuals, a client, a member of your audience, another business or organization, etc.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the influencer roles.
Note: As long-time fans of the Peanuts comic strip we were struck by how closely some of the familiar relationships depicted in the strip mirror the archetypal influence relationships that emerge from this payoff matrix, so we’ve included a few to help illustrate the concept.
3.1. The Loser
Lose-Lose: Both you and your target lose as a result of your target being affirmatively affected by your marketing influence.
Goals are not achieved, preferences are not satisfied, outcomes are not what was expected or that for which we had hoped.
This outcome is usually a consequence of misjudging something fundamental about the context in which your influence strategy is being applied.
You were wrong about the facts that were relevant to the success of your influence strategy.
Example: In the Peanuts Halloween special It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Linus convinces Sally to sit with him in the pumpkin patch to wait for the Great Pumpkin. She goes along with Linus because she earnestly believed that she would be rewarded and because her affection for Linus induced her to suspend her disbelief. Linus was successful at influencing Sally, but he was in the grip of a false belief about Reality that ensured that both he and Sally would lose in the end.
3.2. The Martyr
Lose-Win: Your target benefits when affirmatively affected by your marketing influence but you lose (your target wins but your goals are frustrated).
This can happen when you overestimate the benefit that will accrue to you if your marketing strategy is successful.
As a result, others may wittingly or unwittingly take advantage of you, exploiting your goodwill or your ignorance.
This makes you a martyr because you sacrifice yourself (lose) for the benefit of others (win).
Example: As depicted in the Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown often acts the martyr. He follows his conscience and tries to succeed, but others are constantly taking advantage of his good intentions. For example, when Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty organize the baseball game schedule, everyone knows that Charlie Brown’s team routinely loses, so when they agree to play, they do so knowing they will experience victory at the expense of another defeat on the part of “Good Old Charlie Brown.” He’s known by that moniker because of his reputation as being a chump (when it comes to sports), someone who predictably loses and is easily taken advantage of.
3.3. The Crook
Win-Lose: You play this role when, while you benefit when your target is affirmatively affected by your marketing influence, you either knowingly or negligently lead your target to harm when he or she responds positively to your marketing influence (you win, your target loses).
Example: When Lucy persuades Charlie Brown to attempt to kick the football — knowing full well that she intends to pull the football away — she’s playing the Crook. She exploits Charlie Brown’s gullibility for her own entertainment.
When you win and your target loses because of either witting or unwitting misrepresentation, you’re playing the role of Crook in the marketing influence game. This representation can be in the form of commission (misrepresenting the truth) or omission (not telling the whole truth).
Example: Lucy is also guilty of negligently playing the Crook when she persuades Charlie Brown to pay her five cents in exchange for her psychiatric advice (“Psychiatric Help — 5¢ — The Doctor is in”). It may be her narcissism that blinds her to the fact that she has absolutely no idea what she’s talking about and, therefore, has no business selling advice to others, but this does not make her any less guilty of negligence.
3.4. The Winner
Win-Win: You play this role when both you and your target win as a direct consequence of your target being affirmatively affected by your marketing influence.
You open yourself to the Win-Win scenario when you realize that influence doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game, that it’s possible to create marketing influence strategies that lead to positive outcomes for all parties.
When you, as a marketer, are able to plan and execute these win-win scenarios (win-win-win when you’re a marketing consultant helping your client), you become a marketing hero.
Example: Continuing with the Peanuts examples, Linus is represented as the archetype of the good influencer in his relationship to Charlie Brown. In almost every case where Charlie Brown has been hurt by the unkind acts of others, Linus is there with the perfect advice. When Charlie Brown listens to Linus, he is always better off. And because Linus gains respect as an influencer, he also wins because he benefits from his status as a trusted voice.
4. Hero or Zero?
In a 21st-century marketing context — where information pollution is making it harder for businesses to build successful consumer relationships — the Winner role takes on even greater significance.
When we pursue win-win strategies for the people that we’re targeting in our markets, we’re saving them from going down a path that would otherwise do them harm (or at least, “less good”) in the long run.
And when we do this with care, respect, responsibility, and grace, we’re showing them a better way to do business.
This is what heroes do — they rescue people.
They save people from something worse and lead them to something better.
When we successfully deliver win-win strategies for our clients/customers/subscribers/constituents, we’re not just marketing winners — we’re Marketing Heros.
When we play the role of a true marketing hero, we have every confidence that we can transport the people, whom our marketing initiatives are targeting, from something worse to something better.
This confidence comes from our track record of having successfully rescued others in the past.
- When we misjudge our ability to provide a benefit for our target and they lose their investment as a result of our failure to deliver, we’re marketing zeros — losers.
- When we misjudge our ability to profit from our goods or services rendered such that our businesses are unsustainable and our target must scramble to find an alternative, we’re marketing zero s— martyrs.
- When we successfully market sugary breakfast cereal to kids — knowing full well that the more we succeed, the more kids will have long-term health issues, we’re marketing zeros — crooks.
- When we conduct a careful market opportunity analysis, identify a tangible need that we can gainfully and sustainably meet in the marketplace, and then deliver excellence and value, we’re marketing heroes — real winners.
When it comes to the marketing influence game, our role is not what we say it is. What we are is what we are actively engaged in doing right now, which is a natural progression of the pattern that our behavior and performance have established over time.
4.1. Reality Check
It’s important to note that these roles are idealized archetypes. The Loser role applies when we have a reputation for “losing” in regards to those with whom we have a history.
In reality, however, no one wins or loses all the time. Real people exhibit a diversity of behaviors and habits, with a corresponding diversity of outcomes.
This is part of what it means to become experienced, responsible marketers.
The pivotal questions become: When we know enough to know better, what do we choose to do; who do we chose to be?
The value of comparing our behavior against these idealized archetypes is that they give us a framework for honestly assessing our own performance as marketing influencers, for envisioning ways of improving as we move our marketing initiatives and our business interests forward, and for striving to make the world just a little bit better by both making people’s lives better and by doing our part towards cleaning up information pollution).
5. The Responsibilities of an Influence Hacker
We’re now in a position to define the responsibilities of a successful Influence Hacker.
Simply put, the responsibilities of a successful Influence Hacker are the actions that are required to fulfill the role of an Influence Hacker, i.e. to play the Winner role and adhere to the Winner strategy in the game of marketing influence.
In other words, once we’ve chosen to pursue Win-Win outcomes, the next question to ask is “How do we succeed at doing this consistently?”
The answer to this question is what frames the responsibilities of an effective, ethical influencer.
As a successful influence hacker, we must …
- Do the due diligence necessary to both properly identify and understand the true nature of the need in the market.
- Objectively qualify ourselves as being able to meet the need profitably, effectively, and sustainably.
- Artfully plan, design, develop, and implement our solutions.
- Artfully execute on the promotion and communications of our value proposition and communicate that value with integrity at every point of interaction with our audiences.
- Recruit people to advocate on our behalf who are genuinely good representatives.
- Continuously solicit feedback from those we serve, learn from our mistakes, and diligently endeavor to make constant improvements.
- Anticipate what’s going to break and fix it before it does.
- Be proud of who we are and what we do and represent ourselves honorably (to actually be the heroes our puppies believe us to be).
6. The Call to Adventure
Being an effective, ethical marketing influencer (a to know how to hack marketing influence for the good of all humankind) requires an understanding of the science and art of influence.
But it demands more than mere mastery of the craft side of marketing influence.
To be a successful Influence Hacker is to choose to wield the power of influence within a marketing context, to affect what people think, feel, and do.
That choice commits us to a role that has moral significance.
We can wield that power recklessly, and play the role of villain, or we can choose to play the role of hero by knowing, being expert at, and seriously committed regarding our responsibilities as ethical, effective marketing influencers.
In this article, we’ve argued that the pursuit of win-win scenarios is both the most ethical strategy and the most effective strategy for achieving long-term success in the marketing influence game.
This choice defines the role of the Influence Hacker within the broader social context in which we live.
In order to perform this role successfully in a marketing influence context, there are certain actions that must be performed, such as doing due diligence, preparing adequately, executing artfully, and so on.
These actions define the responsibilities of an effective, ethical marketing influencer.
In upcoming installments of the IHJ, we’ll dive deeper into the ideas presented in this article.
But in our next article, we’ll finish off this three-part introduction to our journal by taking a closer look at the science- and art-aspects of influence hacking.
These installments are written and tailored to help us use marketing to break through our current success-ceilings so that our businesses can achieve their maximum growth potential.
(Note: This is the second in a series of three introductory installments of the Influence Hacker Journal. Here’s a link to the first installment: When Marketing Is The Answer. Here is the third installment: How to Be a People Mover. We would also like to announce that the Influence Hacker Podcast will premier on 10/07/2019.)
About Your Author-Hosts
We, John Lenker and Kevin deLaplante, Ph.D., have teamed up to produce this journal because we believe that, coming from such different backgrounds, we have a breadth of knowledge and experience that is unique, and we share a common vision regarding what’s missing in the marketing thought-space.
Namely, what’s missing is a deep understanding of what’s required for a business to make its marketing influential in the Information Age, and a sensitivity to the responsibilities that come with being influential — what it means to influence with responsibility and integrity.
John Lenker is the founder and CEO of the marketing firm, LENKER. He’s spent the past 20+ years helping small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, and cultural institutions maximize their success.
He’s been the recipient of several awards by organizations such as the American Institute of Graphic Arts, The Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, Communication Arts Magazine, and The United Nations.
His mission is to help guide businesses to formulate and implement smart marketing plans that achieve their overarching business goals.
Dr. Kevin deLaplante is LENKER’s Chief Knowledge Officer, but he’s spent most of the past twenty years working at Iowa State University in the Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies and served as department chair.
He left academia a few years ago to become an independent educator and consultant with the goal of helping people and organizations improve their critical thinking and communication skills.
He also produces The Argument Ninja podcast, where he discusses a wide range of topics relating to critical thinking and the psychology of persuasion.