The Science and Art of Marketing Influence Hacking
(Note: This is the third in a series of three introductory installments of the Influence Hacker Journal (IHJ). If you haven’t yet read the first article, When Marketing Is the Answer, and/or the second article, How to Be a Marketing Hero, we recommend that you read them first at their respective links. We would also like to announce that the Influence Hacker Podcast will premier on 10/07/2019.)
As we move deeper into the information age, how successful we are at winning market share for our businesses will be directly proportional to how successful we are at winning mindshare.
The problem is that, as information pollution grows, people’s defenses are up like never before (See article 001).
As a result, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to break through and move people intellectually, emotionally, and practically.
Our belief is that going forward, only the most artful competitors will thrive.
What does this mean for us and our businesses?
Here’s the cold, harsh reality …
If we don’t attain true marketing wisdom, not only will we fall short in our marketing initiatives, but we’ll also continue to produce garbage marketing and be part of the information pollution problem.
If, however, we devote ourselves to becoming the best Influence Hackers in our respective markets (read: effective, ethical marketing influencer), people will grow in their love for us and we’ll increasingly reap the rewards.
Translated: Learn this stuff and we’ll be richer, happier, more fulfilled, and more loved; don’t and we’ll be broke, miserable, empty, and hated.” ;-)
So what does devoting ourselves to becoming a successful Influence Hackers involve?
The short answer is that, for our businesses to reach their maximum potential in the information age, we must understand the science and master the arts of marketing influence.
Understanding the Science aspect of influence hacking relates to our knowledge of how, why, and when people think, feel, and do as they do.
Mastering the Arts aspect of influence-hacking relates to your wisdom and skill in activating people to think, feel, and do as you’d have them do.
But we can be more specific than this.
In articles 001 and 002 of the Influence Hacker Journal, we argued that the only effective, ethical and sustainable approach to marketing influence in the information age is one that builds on trust, mutual understanding, and authentic shared values.
To implement this approach we proposed a simple model of Persuasive Education (see article 001) aimed at building meaningful relationships through dialogue.
So, the science and the arts of influence hacking really comes down to just these two questions:
- The Science: How, why and when do people form meaningful relationships with businesses based on trust, mutual understanding and shared values?
- The Arts: How can businesses successfully initiate and nurture such relationships with their audience, and leverage their power to create win-win outcomes?
Here’s the bottom line: As we continue to move further into the information age, those of us who understand the science and master the arts of marketing influence will be the only serious competitors within any given market.
This installment of the IHJ provides a framework that will help us explore the science and arts of marketing influence hacking so that, as we continue with this series, we can ensure that we are among these “serious competitors.”
02. The Science — Understanding Why People Think, Feel, and Do as They Do
When we attempt to influence what people think, feel, and do for marketing purposes, what we’re really doing is prompting them to update their understanding of reality to the degree necessary that they either consciously or unconsciously incorporate the changes for which we’re advocating.
We’re not merely educating; we’re seeking personal transformation as a direct result of people being affirmatively affected by your marketing influence.
Wouldn’t it make sense, then, that we, as marketers, would know something about how people come to learn about and understand reality? Something about why people are transformed through influence?
The answer is, “Yes; of course!”
But here’s the part that has overwhelmed many of us along the way.
The science of marketing influence draws from a massive body of academic disciplines including anthropology, behavioral economics, data science, linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy, physiology, psychology, and sociology.
Who has time to dig into all of that?
Here’s the good news:
One: Not everything in these disciplines is relevant to the model of marketing influence that we’re advocating.
Two: We’re here to help readers get a handle on the parts that are relevant.
Our aim is to offer a simple model for understanding the art and science of marketing influence.
Think about it like this: We’ve all had the experience of meeting someone with whom we connect, someone whom we feel simply “gets” us, someone with whom mutual influence begins to flow naturally into something that can feel more like persuasion.
Here’s the thing: Persuasion within the context of these highly-connective relationships doesn’t feel like persuasion at all. It feels more like becoming aware of something we already believe and care about, that is brought into consciousness in new and impactful ways.
Our model of Persuasive Education focuses on the dynamics of these kinds of relationships; it focuses on how communication that is based on trust, mutual understanding, and emotional connection can have a transformative influence on what people think, feel and do.
Here are some of the questions upon which we’ll focus in relation to the science of marketing influence:
- What is the psychology of trust?
- What factors influence the creation of trust relationships, at the individual level, and at the group level?
- How can trust be lost, and what is required to regain it?
- How is the success of informative and persuasive messaging influenced by trust and other relationship factors?
- How is empathy perceived and communicated?
- What are the respective roles of reason and emotion in the formation of attitudes?
- How are new habits formed and reinforced?
- When does agreement become effortless?
- When does a value proposition become undeniable?
Our commitment in this series is to spare you the time, effort, and opportunity cost that would typically be associated with exploring the depths of these and other science-aspects of influence hacking.
We aim to present you, our reader, with simple, practical tools that you can place in your own influence hacker toolset.
03. The Art — Successfully Affecting What People Think, Feel, and Do
Whereas the science-side of marketing influence is about knowing how, why, and when people are influenced, the arts-side is about acquiring the competencies and skills necessary to leverage that knowledge in order to have an Activating Effect on the actual thinking, feelings, and behavior those to whom you market.
While most businesses may think of marketing solely in terms of branding, advertising, and other creative ways of making sure that they hit their sales targets, you wouldn’t be reading this article if you didn’t already know that’s only part of the equation.
The part that most often gets left out is the even more fundamental aspect of marketing, which is picking the right targets.
And this doesn’t merely relate to sales and other financial goals, but, even more importantly, to the targets we pick in terms of what we should be marketing and selling in the first place.
Within the context of the Influence Hacker approach to marketing, the following table presents the four categories of practical arts (our simple model) that successful marketers must master in order to both pick and hit the right targets in any given market.
Yep. The key to being successful marketing influencers is to grasp and install these four, fundamental marketing constructs into our brains and into the culture of our businesses.
If this seems new and unusual, we think that’s a good sign that you’re going to add to and strengthen your marketing expertise as a result of following this series.
Stick with us as this information unfolds and you’ll position yourself to be one of the most relevant influence hackers (and successful businesses) in your market.
We promise to make all of this as simple, easy-to-understand, and actionable as possible.
*** WARNING: Fasten your safety harness because we’re going to go deep.
03.02. Market Opportunity Analysis (MOA)
Very few businesses do the due diligence necessary to truly understand the nature of a given “market opportunity.”
Most either copy what the “movers and shakers” seem to be doing …
“I hear there’s oil in them thar’ hills — let’s go dig!”
or rely on what has worked in the past …
“We found oil here before, I’m sure that if we keep on digging that we’ll find it again.”
To be effective, ethical influencers, however, we must develop strong confidence in the appropriateness of our solutions and the viability of our businesses for the fulfillment of legitimate needs that the people and businesses in our markets genuinely have.
Market Opportunity Analysis is the process through which we develop this confidence because it validates the opportunity as being real and accessible to our businesses.
MOA endeavors to ask such validating questions as:
- What is the unfulfilled need in the marketplace?
- Who has the need?
- What is the status quo regarding how the marketplace is currently trying to meet the need? How does the status quo fall short?
- Where do currently available alternatives fall in the product/service/platform innovation curve?
- What is our answer — the “big ideas” that meet needs in unique and compelling ways?
- Are we sufficiently well-situated to meet the need and exploit the market opportunity?
In summary, MOA helps us answer: Why this? Why now? Why us?
This analysis is at the heart of strategic marketing planning and paves the way for us to become both successful and influential in our respective markets.
Because failing to conduct this analysis is, in itself, arguably a breach of fiduciary responsibility to our businesses and of moral responsibility to our markets as it leaves us vulnerable to fail our businesses, your markets, or both.
When we conduct market opportunity analysis properly, however, we get off to a solid start doing the due diligence necessary to ensure that we’re not leading your businesses down rabbit holes when we pursue any given market opportunity.
In short: MOA helps us make sure that we know what we’re doing — making us credible to others (including investors and lenders), but, more importantly, making us credible to ourselves.
03.03. Opportunity Benefit Planning (OBP)
All strategic marketing planning involves setting overarching business goals and then creating the game-plan for achieving those goals.
As successful influence hackers, however, we will take this a step further and identify the underlying motivations and goals of our clients/customers/subscribers/constituents in order to create game plans that detail the specific ways that they will win as a result of doing business with us.
Opportunity Benefit Planning is the process by which we determine this value-proposition-validating specificity because it details the tangible results that all internal and external stakeholders will attain as a result of doing business with us.
At the end of our Opportunity Benefit Planning exercises, we should be able to make the following types of statements.
Here is how the people who say “Yes!” to our value proposition are going to benefit:
- _____ is what we’re going to do for them.
- _____ is what they’re going to get out of it.
- _____ is how they will benefit more than had they chosen an alternative means of attempting to address their underlying need.
- _____ is how they can measure the increase in the benefit that they’ll realize as a result of aligning with us versus one of our competitors.
- _____ is why they’ll love us enough to stick around for the long haul.
How our businesses are going to benefit:
- _____ is the thing that we’re going to offer that will successfully meet their need.
- We’re going to invest _____ capital and resources to deploy what it is we offer.
- We’re going to attract and convert _____ prospects in this given timeframe.
- _____ will be our Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) for each type of client/customer/subscriber that we plan to serve.
- Based on legitimate CAC estimates, _____ is the capital required to meet our marketing goals — and the numbers make sense.
- We’re going to generate _____ revenue, gross margin, and realize an x net operating margin.
- _____ is the level of customer/client/subscriber/constituent-satisfaction that we will achieve.
- We’re going to keep them for an average of _____ period of time.
- _____ is how ROI will compound over time based on realistic churn projections.
So why is all of this so important and relevant to the “art of marketing influence” topic?
The reason is that, if we haven’t done the proper Market Opportunity Analysis (MOA) and Opportunity Benefits Planning (OBP), we neither truly know what we’re doing nor do we have a real sense of the probability that things will work out — both for our businesses and for those whom we influence to do business with ourselves.
03.04. Relationship Mapping Logistics (RML)
If we could diagram and detail the ideal way that our relationships with our audiences could unfold to maximize the benefit for all parties, this would be what we call a Relationship Map.
Relationship Mapping Logistics is the practice of thinking through how our marketing relationships should unfold (planning for all contingencies), mapping them out, and then transcribing that map into the marketing platform technology that we’ll use as our marketing engine (i.e. our “marketing stack,” which comprises the various layers of our marketing technology including our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Marketing Automation (MA) infrastructure).
What we’re doing in this exercise is thinking through the ideal storyline of how our relationships with people in the various segments of our market will develop over time.
Each plot point in this storyline is like a Relationship Milestone that we endeavor to reach — a gateway that we want to pass through with each person such that the story arc reaches the ideal pinnacle and everyone experiences a sense of value, fulfillment, and satisfaction.
It’s similar to how a player’s journey through an interactive roleplaying game is mapped:
- The producers plan the unfolding of story plot-points through a series of storyboards that depict the ideal scenario for how the interactions will be produced by technical and creative teams.
- Rules of logic provide contingencies that kick in based on how people respond in any given interaction.
- Storyboarding helps producers avoid the chaos that would result if no one on the creative or development teams clearly knew where the story should be going in any given moment based on player behavior.
While game designers use storyboards to plan game logistics, Influence Hackers use relationship maps to plan the logistics of how their marketing relationships should unfold over time to maximize Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
The objective in any given moment of interaction is to drive the business relationship forward until we reach the next planned Relationship Milestone with each individual person.
While creativity and strategy are certainly involved in planning how these relationships should unfold, the most important ways that successful Influence Hackers will leverage both our creativity and strategy formulation chops is in our efforts to craft the moments of interaction that occur at each intersection in the “customer journey.” Some refer to this process as Lifecycle Marketing.
03.05. Experience Design Strategy (EDS)
When we move forward in our marketing relationships with people, each moment of interaction that we share is something that these people experience with our businesses.
When combined with the Relationship Maps discussed in the previous section, Experience Design Strategy is the approach that we take to communicating meaning and value in each moment of interaction such that we successfully drive the relationship forward.
What makes for a strong approach to designing these experiences?
To build strong relationships with the people to whom we market, we must ensure that every moment of interaction attracts them to engage their minds in the marketing communication, effectively informs them by guiding both their comprehension of and confidence in our messages, and invokes them to make the act of commitments necessary to pass through each successive milestone on our relationship maps.
Here’s how Influence Hackers attract. We …
- Spark interest by triggering perceptions, thoughts, and feelings that both resonate and allure.
- Quickly answer: What’s in it for me (if I pay attention to you)? and Why should I allow myself to be potentially influenced by you?
- Set the expectation that proceeding with the interaction is going to provide some type of immediate emotional, conceptual, or practical payoff.
Here’s how Influence Hackers effectively inform. We …
- Accelerate insight by guiding comprehension and substantiating claims.
- Emotionally and intellectually involve their audience in the message being presented.
- Provide the necessary qualitative characteristics, the volume of information, the perceived immediate relevance, and the conceptual clarity to keep the audience engaged until they’re primed to take action.
Here’s how Influence Hackers invoke. We …
- Tap into and artfully leverage people’s inherent motivations and effortlessly make it clear that what you’re calling them to do is in their immediate interests.
- Enliven the value proposition such that, when the interaction culminates, it produces the sensation of being undeniable.
- Provide the perfect incentive to move forward to the next relationship milestone.
- Only ask them to take actions in any given stage of the relationship that they’re ready, willing, and able to do.
Based on the level of mediocrity and failure that exists in most marketing communications (i.e. garbage marketing), it’s clear that most marketers simply do not understand this process.
What’s more, following this model is easier said than done because it requires something more than mere knowledge (the science side) — it requires both talent and means.
To wrap up this section, it’s important to note that Experience Design Strategy (EDS) extends well beyond designing the experiences that people have interacting with the marketing communications that lead up to a sale. It most importantly includes designing the experiences that people have interacting with our products, services, and platforms, themselves.
This is the key to maximizing client/customer/subscriber/constituent satisfaction, retention, and lifetime value-maximizing both the value we receive from them and (most importantly) the value they receive from us.
The culture of the marketing field is inherently calibrated to produce garbage marketing that doesn’t resonate with its intended audience.
Our firm belief is that this mediocrity stems from an impersonal, generic approach to influencing people that is too disconnected from the science of human behavior and from the art of Persuasive Education.
From our perspective, it would seem that most marketers want to believe that marketing communications is the craft of moving people without actually having to touch them.
Spoiler Alert: We can’t truly move people without touching them.
This is the secret to being successful influence hackers; to be successful, we must become powerful people movers.
And if we don’t appreciate the seriousness of the wisdom, talent, and knowhow that is required to touch people on the “inside,” we will perpetually struggle to move them on the “outside” to think, feel, and do the things that advance our mutual interests.
To most efficiently, effectively, and consistently move people into our customer/client/subscriber/constituent-base (and keep them there), we simply must break through the background noise and touch their hearts and minds.
As we continue to produce subsequent installments of the Influence Hacker Journal (IHJ) and the Influence Hacker Podcast, we’ll be illuminating the practical science and arts involved in moving people forward in their relationship journey with our businesses. Our emphasis will not only be on what “works” technically, but it will also be on exploring how to ethically reach them — to productively touch their hearts and minds — in this way.
We hope that this article has begun to substantiate how we aim to bring these ideas to light.
In upcoming installments, we’ll be progressively narrowing our focus to tackle specific topics so that you can continue to add to your knowledge of marketing influence and build your practical influence hacking competencies and skills.
This concludes our three-part introduction to the Influence Hacker Journal (IHJ).
Thanks for keeping up with us this far; we look forward to having you along on what we believe will be a stimulating, illuminating, and valuable journey ahead.
These installments are written and tailored to help you use marketing to break through your current success-ceiling so that your business can achieve its maximum growth potential.
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.