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The Manipulation Matrix: Is Your Business Improving Lives or Peddling a Product?

The Manipulation Matrix: Is Your Business Improving Lives or Peddling a Product? Blog Feature

Ramona Sukhraj

Head of Editorial Content, Strategized Initiatives That Increased IMPACT’s Website Traffic From ~45K to ~400K

July 9th, 2018 min read

We all know the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.

In this classic fairy tale, poor little Jack’s mother gets majorly miffed when her son comes home with a hand full of “magic beans” instead of the money she hoped for after sending him out to sell their only cow.

In her eyes, Jack was taken advantage of and manipulated into an unfair exchange and chances are, she wouldn’t be alone in these feelings. (I mean, let’s face it, those beans must’ve had one heck of salesman.)

Like in the story, salesmen and marketers often get a misleading rap of being manipulative or tricking people into buying things they usually wouldn’t (or shouldn’t.)

In a world where virality is the goal and people are taking their gadgets to bed with them, businesses like yours are trying everything they can to capitalize on these habits, but at the end of the day, what is your attempt accomplishing?

Is your product or service helping improve your users’ lives with something they actually need or are you tricking them into buying “magical beans?”

Nir Eyal explores this idea and what he calls “The Manipulation Matrix” in his book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.

The Manipulation Matrix

As Eyal describes, the Manipulation Matrix is a simple tool for entrepreneurs, employees, and investors to assess the value of their product to the consumer. Overall it helps organizations determine the best (and most honest) way to position their product to their buyers, analyze product/market fit, and consider what the implications of bringing it to market might be.

To use the Matrix (seen below in an image from Eyal’s website), simply ask yourself and answer these two questions:

  • Would I use this product/service myself?
  • Will it help users materially improve their lives?


Depending on your answers, you will fall into one of the following four categories: Facilitator, Peddler, Entertainer, or Dealer.

The Facilitator

  • Would I use this product/service myself? Yes
  • Will it help users materially improve their lives? Yes

In a perfect world, everyone would be a Facilitator, someone who offers a product or service that they would use themselves and that they believe improves people’s lives, but in reality, anyone can claim to be this.

To be a credible Facilitator, according to Eyal, you have to have experienced the problem you aim to solve firsthand at some point in your life. For example, a former teacher creating a software that helps improve classroom learning or a hair stylist inventing a new type of trimmer.

What does this mean for business? Firsthand experience (as any talent recruiter will tell you), is like currency. It gives you more credibility as an expert in your field and helps you relate to your audience, build trust, and show deep understanding of their pain points.  

Understanding leads to conversions and delight, and the more delighted your customers are, the more likely they will be to return and spread the good word about your product.

The Peddler

  • Would I use this product/service myself? No
  • Will it help users materially improve their lives? Yes

Unlike a Facilitator, a Peddler wouldn’t use their own product or service.

Perhaps they have the best intentions of improving the lives of others with their product, but they themselves have no need or interest in using it.

What does this mean for business? Trying to create a solution for a problem or pain you have no experience with is extremely difficult. Coming from an outside perspective, it is unlikely that you will fully understand all the intricacies of the problem or know if your product can truly make a difference.

In this situation, you are more likely to have a mental disconnect between your team and real-life users, and this disconnect leaves more room for shortcomings in your offering or marketing materials.

To overcome this issue, your business will need to invest heavily in research, development, and thorough testing to ensure relevance and effectiveness.

The Entertainer

  • Would I use this product/service myself? Yes
  • Will it help users materially improve their lives? No

Eyal’s Entertainer is as fun as it sounds.

This marketer or businessman would use their product, but knows that it adds little to no value or material improvement to their users’ lives.

Their products don’t solve a real user problem (other than perhaps, boredom.) They exist purely for enjoyment and psychological satisfaction -- and there’s nothing wrong with that!

What does this mean for business? Whether it’s Instagram, Spotify, XBOX, or Candy Crush, products and apps built for art or entertainment can find great success, but as Eyal warns, “art is often fleeting.”

Over time, even a once beloved form of entertainment can become boring and abandoned. (Think of all those hit songs that get overplayed or the rise and fall of games like TriviaCrack.) Long-term growth or success can be hard to come by.

If you’re an Entertainer, you need to get as much of your product out while it’s still trendy or find a way to add variation or a new twist on it to keep your audience interested.

The Dealer

  • Would I use this product/service myself? No
  • Will it help users materially improve their lives? No

So, let’s be real. When you first hear the word “Dealer,” it may be difficult to think of something other than your money stealing poker host.

According to Eyal, when you’re a Dealer, you wouldn’t use your product and you know that it doesn’t provide any benefit or value to your audience.

You’re offering your product purely to make a buck off of your audience (even if it ultimately is at their expense.)

What does this mean for business? If your product is habit-forming or addictive (as the products discussed in Hooked are) and also offers no recognizable value to your user, you’re likely to develop a bad reputation.

Yes, your product may sell, but at what cost? Being a Dealer is a highly volatile approach to your marketing and business in general.

If you’re looking for long term success and answered “no” to our two qualifying questions, your business is more than likely not built for growth or customer delight.

So where do you fit in?

Looking at this breakdown, where does your product or service land in the Manipulation Matrix? Hopefully, you’ve found your feet firmly planted in the Facilitator realm, but if you haven’t, ask yourself and your team “what are we missing?”

Ultimately, it is more than likely that you will find that you either lack a product/market fit(learn how Mint mastered this here) or that you do not fully understand your buyer persona.

Use this Matrix to evaluate your product and then apply the knowledge gained to begin crafting a detailed inbound marketing strategy.

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