Influence Is Everywhere: A PM’s Blueprint for Daily Mastery

The principles of influence, how to spot them, the dark side of incentivized user growth

Welcome to Carl’s Newsletter.

In today’s issue:

  • The principles of influence and how PMs can use them

  • How to master these principles with infinite real-world examples

  • An incredible analysis on the dark side of incentivized user growth

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Today’s post is sponsored by Alex Rechevskiy. He’s an ex-Google Group PM turned top-tier product content creator and career coach.

Last month, he launched the Product Career Accelerator. It’s an all-inclusive monthly program designed to help you land the right next product role, with at least three live sessions every week, including:

  • Resume review

  • Interview & negotiation prep

  • Application & Follow-up Methodology

Alex’s clients have received offers from Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Others have negotiated $50k - $100k+ salary increases during the offer process.

Every spot in the January cohort sold out almost immediately, but he’s still enrolling students for February now!

Mastering the Art of PM Influence

A product manager’s success is ultimately defined by one thing: Impact

But a product manager’s ability to drive impact is limited by something else: Influence

If a product manager isn’t able to influence others, there’s no way they’ll be able to make an impact, internally or externally.

Internally, product managers need to influence all kinds of stakeholders. They need to get buy-in from their team for their strategy, convince leadership on their approach, the list goes on.

Externally, a product manager must be able to convince potential users that their product will solve their problems effectively, that it will do their job-to-be-done better than any other option, that they need to take a certain action right away, etc.

Both kinds of influence rely on the same underlying principles, and understanding them will help you influence stakeholders and customers alike.

Using the force was out of scope for this newsletter.

Today, we’ll cover:

  1. The 6 principles of influence and how a PM can apply them

  2. How to learn these principles by observing them in action all around us

The Six Principles of Influence and their Application for Product Managers

Stanford Professor Robert Cialdini is the godfather of all research on the concept of influence. In his seminal book Influence, he defines it’s 6 core characteristics.

There’s a good chance you’ve seen these before, so I won’t go too in-depth here, but I will suggest some resources to learn more.

Mainly, I want to show you how they can be applied both internally and externally.

Keep these in mind as you continue.

Learning to Apply the Principles from the Real World

The best way to learn to apply these principles is by observing how they’re being applied all around you.

And trust me, they are being applied all around you.

Any time someone is trying to get you to do anything, they’re trying to influence you. Every ad, invitation, stakeholder request, email subject line (including the one on this email!) – it’s all about influence.

(click on this image to expand, or turn your phone sideways)

This might sound kind of dystopian, but thers is an upside: Every one of these attempts is a lesson, a real example for you to learn from.

Let’s go deeper than these hypotheticals and look at the email campaign for Justin Welsh’s new “Creator MBA” course.

I wasn’t personally super interested in this course, but kept myself subscribed since Justin is a master email marketer, and much of his success is attributable to his ability to influence others. So I wanted to see what I could learn.

In the month leading up to the launch of his course, Justin sent 20 (!) emails.

They did, indeed, turn out to be a masterclass in influence.

Let’s see what we can learn. Here’s a breakdown of:

  • Which principles are used

  • An explanation of how they’re used

  • And a quick lesson you can take from each

(click on this image to expand, or turn your phone sideways)

(click on this image to expand, or turn your phone sideways)

That’s a lot of lessons! You could, of course, go as deep as you’d like with this analysis. But this is already a ton of tactics you could consider for any kind of influence you are trying to drive. (And this doesn’t even look at the bodies of the emails…)

Now, you might be thinking “this is just what copy-writing marketers do, not product people.”

But take a look at this email campaign, from our very own Shreyas. 14 emails in a month.

Lots of different, interesting tactics are applied here. I’ll leave this analysis as an exercise for you.

My challenge for you over the next week: For any podcasts you listen to, shows you stream, or newsletters you read: Don’t skip any ads. Instead, pay close attention and look for the principles of influenece being employed.

(Astute readers will notice the principle of scarcity used in the sponsored section above.)

Further reading

  1. Influence by Robert Cialdini. You need to read this book.

  2. Pre-Suasion also by Robert Cialdini, and you also need to read it. It’s a more modern follow-up to his first book.

  3. Great thread about getting people to agree with you enough to take action.

From Across the Product-Verse

  1. The Problem with Incentivized Growth: In this fantastic mini-essay, Andrew Chen does a nuanced teardown of incentivized user growth and explains exactly why these users are worse. Most impactful thing I read this week.

  2. Shaping Up: Basecamp is legendary for their unconventional ways of working. Every few months, something about how they operate goes viral, like about how they never AB test, or don’t allow meetings to have more than 3 people. But it’s hard to get the complete picture. This week, they finally published a massive, complete guide to how they work. Lots of thought provoking content.

  3. The Linear Equation: Atlassian competitor Linear is famous for neverhiring PMs… until now. I guess PMs are needed even when they aren’t wanted. I guess that’s nice?

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That’s All For Today

Last things:

  1. Upcoming AI course: I am getting close to finishing my first-ever paid course “AI for Product Managers” which goes in-depth with tactical ways PMs can leverage AI tools to save hundreds of hours at work. If that sounds interesting to you, drop your email in this 1-question form and I’ll send you updates, sneak previews, and a discount code when the course is launched.

  2. Sponsors: Carl’s Newsletter has its first official sponsor starting in two weeks! But there is still room beyond February, so if you or your company is interested in sponsoring this newsletter, I’ve posted sponsorship information on this snazzy new sponsorship page.

Here’s where else you can find me:

  1. Follow me on X, where I post the most content, including lots of memes.

  2. Follow me on LinkedIn, where I post longer-form content.

  3. Follow me on Instagram if you just want the memes.

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