The Marketing Therapist

It’s interesting when I think back on it.

Years before I became an all-in marketer I worked in publishing. I honed my craft (and it felt very much like a craft), learned about as many aspects of the industry as possible and revelled in the thought that I was part of a profession that reached back centuries. Of course, one of the things that I did was to actively disrupt the very publishing tradition that I loved. But that is another story.

One of the first books that was given to me by my boss was Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It had been around for years, but I was assured it would play an important role in my professional life. And sure enough, my boss, the eagle-eyed publisher, Eve Ross, was right.

I started learning a different perspective immediately. I could read “influence” into many aspects of my work – from design and layout to the way I worked with authors. It changed small things about my ways of working and it changed my mindset in quite profound ways. And I still encourage my new team members to read it. I just ask them to read it with a creative mindset and thoughts on a future horizon (and how we will get there).

The infographic below captures some key insights that we can use to connect our work in marketing with the customer’s mindset. Some of the tactics are a little clunky, but with some creativity (and some A/B testing) you’ll find a happy medium.

What I have learned over the years is that psychology plays a major role in our lives – but also in our work. And if we think of ourselves as marketing therapists, you’ll go a long way to solving your customers and your clients challenges.

Now, just take a seat and tell me about your mother …

Peddling Influence in the Digital Age

There once was a time when we knew who to trust. We knew the organisations and people. We knew the media and channels. And we even knew the professionals. I can remember the awe and esteem my Nan bestowed on her slightly dodgy and doddery GP. His word was gold. So was media personality, John Laws.
But times change and so too does our sense of trust.
In a matter of a few decades, we have seen trust in our institutions, professions and media dissipate. We are more distrustful and even fearful of those people and institutions we once felt secure and supported by.
Interestingly, as these institutions faded, they were replaced with digital versions of themselves. Just look at the media. Brands. Government. Professions. But in the process of digitising, we have also shifted our trust to those organisations and companies which deliver these digital services. Think about Google. Apple. Microsoft. Even Facebook with whom we share our most personal of information.
In this shift to digital, we are all now more aware of the process of influence, building trust and activating networks. We are more aware because the tools to do so are in our own hands. We have “personal brands”, see ourselves as our own mini media networks, and wield our online influence remorselessly.
While many marketers and many individuals have embraced this approach – many still have not. And companies, businesses and governments continue to be left in the digital dust. But there are ways of understanding this new media landscape and the influencers which inhabit it.
David Armano has put together a neat diagram showing the three styles of influencers:
  • Cultural – celebrities and those who have sway over lifestyle decisions
  • Media – journalists and bloggers along with media companies who can still set trends and direct our attention around topics
  • Reputational – employees, thought leaders and subject matter experts.
Understanding where and how influence flows between these groups can help direct strategy, focus and attention. As well as budgets. Because let’s face it, it might be nice for some influencers to work for exposure, but if you want them to work hard for your messaging and your brand, the investment will be worth it.

Influencers and Social Recommendation

In a world where the impact of traditional advertising is shrinking and where the option to simply block ads from our internet use is an easy option, it is clear that marketers the world over are having to rethink the way that they do business. In fact, they’re having to rethink the way that they do everything.

Some are leaping onto the hackathon bandwagon. Some are becoming more social. Some agencies are diving head first into data. And some are imploding, sending shockwaves through the lives of the freelancer networks who rely on their steady patronage.

And while everything is changing, in many ways, it all remains the same. Back in 2009, I came up with a concept I called the Auchterlonie effect. It was the digital version of playground storytelling and the concept seemed to ring true. In order for a story to spread through a network (think a class of 12 year old boys, or a group of connected Twitter friends), there are certain conditions which need to be met. It is about building and spending your social capital within that network. It is about generosity, action and reputation.

Years later, and despite various efforts to map and score our “influence”, it still remains elusive. But we do know a little more about the conditions and the triggers. And this infographic from the Smiley360 folks helps connect some of the dots. It’s just that there are always new and emerging dots that we have to take into account.


Influence: Be the First to Give

In the digital world we are fascinated by influence. We want to know who has influence and we want to know who is influenced by whom. We strive for influence in our personal and professional lives and we reject the overt nature of influence that impacts us through advertising and messaging (even though it still affects us).

Robert Cialdini’s book on Influence is a must-read for marketers. His six principles of influence work together to connect intention and action and are vital to the success of any marketing activity. However, in digital and social marketing, the focus tends to rely on just two elements – social proof and liking. It’s partly why we often feel marketers and brands are “yelling” at us online. There is a simple antidote to this:

Be the first to give.

In this infographic from Everreach, summarising the six principles, they call out that proactive use of reciprocity as a “weapon of influence”. Working this way creates a faster and more immediate bond between brands and their customers. More importantly, it sets the scene for the remaining elements. So, next time – before you ask someone to buy, think about what it is that you can give.


Lead Generation, Community, ROI and Other Games of Chance

Back in April I had the opportunity to speak at the ConnectNow conference. It was quite a daunting situation as I was the first speaker at the three day event featuring people such as Tara Hunt, Darren Rowse, Brian Solis, Katie Chatfield, Jim Stewart, Debs Shultz, Stephen Johnson, Hau Man Chow, Laurel Papworth and Gary Vaynerchuck, but I saw my role as setting the scene – creating a platform for the following days.

I looked at lead generation, community, ROI, discussing:

  • What works
  • How to sustain it
  • What to expect

Along the way, I pick up on the recurring themes that I write about here on my blog. Topics such as how audiences are changing (the new B2C), the Auchterlonie Effect and why it is the future of your brand, continuous digital strategy, influence and fat value

Resonance Agents

I am working on a project at the moment which has influence at the very centre of its strategy. But as soon as we mention the word “influence” it brings a whole hierarchy of associations along for the ride. For example, I’m sure that you, reading this, have already leaped ahead 10 steps – and that is the challenge. Many of you will have read Gladwell’s Tipping Point and will, no doubt, be thinking about the way that a small number of influencers can create the kind of network effect that drives consumer behaviour. But as I have written previously, when it comes to social or digital strategy (in particular), we can’t just focus on reaching the tipping point. We need to go well beyond this – to impact behaviour, create lasting and beneficial change and deliver against business and organisational objectives.

Yet, in doing so, we have no choice but to work with “influencers” – after all, we are working with people, not numbers. I was reminded of this great post, Curating Resonant Agents, by Katie Chatfield on the work of Duncan Watts, and the presentation that came along with it. Take a read, it provides a context for the type of thinking you will need to undertake to be able to apply the concept of influence to your business or brand.

iCitizen 2008: Duncan Watts

View more presentations from Resource Interactive.


So, where does this leave us? I like Katie’s focus on resonance. When Stanford’s Eric Sun conducted research into Facebook “dispersion chains” – the length of connections through which a message/story would travel across a cluster of connections – he found that resonance and resonance agents are important. More important than sheer numbers. Influence, it seems, does not accrue to a particular person or even a particular group of people – certainly not, at least, when you are focusing on changing behaviour. Influence accrues to those resonance agents willing, able and (perhaps) predisposed towards sharing that message/story.

Where do you find them? Clearly they are not the people with the loudest voices. They are those individuals who facilitate the “weak links” between clusters. They are the connectors. And they sit in the cubicle next to you. They are often, as non-descript as a face in the crowd. How do you find them? You just have to listen.