The “Asshole Test” Hack to Win at Influencer Marketing

Matt Ward
5 min readFeb 14, 2022


Influencer marketing is one of my favorite promotional strategies. Nothing beats a tried and true recommendation from someone you know, like and respect. And that’s what influencers are — at least the ones that don’t whore themselves out to the highest bidder and flaunt any and every product on Instagram…

The truth about influencer marketing is that it can be THE most powerful marketing channel to grow your business (outside of customer word of mouth, of course, which you can engineer with these 9 product hacks).

But it only works if you do it right.

First of all, DON’T pay for product recommendations!

With influencers, if you have to pay cash upfront, you’ve probably already lost. A) you probably can’t afford any influencers that would actually be able to move your needle marketingwise and B) influencers that want cash upfront often could care less about you and your product and are only in it for the money.

Just like advertising on Facebook or Google, that’s not a sustainable, scalable strategy for any startup… not unless VCs are throwing so much money at you that you can’t possibly spend it all. That said, if they are though and if handing out cash to influencers and algorithmic advertising helps you acquire customers and even more long term revenue, by all means blow money like it’s going out of style.

But for everyone else in the “real world” where startup funding doesn’t grow on A16z trees, consider influencers as affiliates. Rather than paying them upfront to pimp your product, get them to love your brand and support your movement. Then, on top of the commissions they’ll earn every time one of their fans buys your gear/app/etc…, they will feel committed to your cause, attached to the outcome and part of the team.

And who is more incentivized to help sell your product: the Insta influencer that charges $10k per product review or the hustling podcaster that earns a 10% lifetime commission everytime someone buys through their link?

It’s not a very hard question.

The harder question is, how do you get game changing influencers to say yes. That’s where the asshole test comes into play 🙂

The Asshold Test Hack to Win Influencer Marketing

The key to getting most any influencer to promote your product making them HAVE TO feel like an asshole for saying no. (Like when Sarah McLachlan’s song comes on for the ASPCA animal rights commercials asking you to donate).

This should be your only goal: guilt tripping them into trying the product, buying into the vision and sharing your product with the world.

Sound a bit obscure? How about a few examples.

Let’s say you run a subscription therapy app (like Better Help) and were trying to get mental health activists (or Brené Brown) to promote your service.

What if you said something like this?

Hi Brené, I know helping spread mental health and well-being is a huge topic for you. Thanks for helping change my life.

At Better Help, we’re trying to do something similar and empower anyone (not just rich people) to have access to and be able to afford the critical counseling they need to live a better, happier life.

If helping spread mental health and fight depression, anxiety and suffering matters to you, we’d be honored if you’d try out Better Help and, if you love it, to share it with your fans.

But of course, if you’re not interested or too busy to help us heal our broken world and put better mental health in reach for millions of Americans, I totally understand as well…

Is there any possible way she could say no without feeling like a horrible person? Not a chance.

She’s going to say yes, she’s going to try the service and, if she likes it, there’s a good chance she’ll promote it to her fans or give you a special advertising deal.

What about a less obvious example — maybe getting Dave Ramsey to promote your investing app for low income households.

Hey Dave, I love your Financial Peace program and thank you for all you’ve done to help us and so many others sure up our future finances. I believe it is such a meaningful cause.

Hence why I built Wealthfront, the automated robo advisor to provide all the benefits of investment diversification to the millions of Americans who can’t afford a car payment, let alone an expensive financial advisor.

If you believe everyone (not just the educated upper/middle class) deserve financial stability and to be able to build a better future for their families, we’d love if you’d try out Wealthfront, and, if you love it, to share it with your fans.

But if you’re not interested or too busy to help us democratize financial well-being for everyone, no worries and thanks anyway.

Suddenly, Dave is stuck… he can either pretend like he never saw the email and feel terrible, reply with some excuse and feel even worse… or, say yes.

And if it is a 33% chance at getting Dave Ramsey or Brené Brown to promote your product, that’s pretty great odds 🙂

And that is Influencer Asshole Test in a nutshell.

To recap:

How can you position your product and mission so influencers feel morally obligated to help?

How can you subtly call them out on their beliefs and core values to see if they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is, or, if they only talk a big game?

Figure that out, find your influencers and happy hunting.

And remember, people share things for one of two reasons: to make themselves look good or to complain, attack or criticize something.

So, if you can help influencers look good in front of their fans while also making money promoting your product or service, the world is your oyster.

Good luck!

Want help figuring out this and other marketing and growth hacks to boost your business and your bottomline? Schedule for your free strategy session today.

About the author

Matt Ward is a multiple exit entrepreneur, growth and strategy consultant, startup advisor, ex-tech investing and futurism podcaster, and occasional angel investor looking to join a venture fund, startup studio, or top accelerator in Zurich, Switzerland to promote and invest in world-positive, game changing entrepreneurs. If you are interested in learning more about me or possibly working together, please feel free to reach out here:



Matt Ward

Climate Syndicate Lead @ 4WARD.VC | Startup Strategy & Growth Advisor @ | Serial Founder: 3 Exits | Looking to join top Climate/Impact VC Fund