Marketing Strategy 101: What I've learned from chess (Part 1)

As a professional marketer and avid chess player, I often draw inspiration from studying the game. Learning chess has improved my decision making and has changed the way I approach problems in business and marketing.

Over the years I have heard both marketing and chess described as intimidating, and it’s easy to understand why. There are countless options and possibilities, making it easy to feel lost, or worse, as though you are making the wrong move. But you don’t learn chess by analyzing the 30th move a master makes, you start by practicing a few basic principles, and it’s the same in marketing.

Everyone knows how to win at chess, capture your opponent’s king. That’s easier said than done, and completing your mission is going to take a plan… and a maybe a backup. Success is the result of properly executing on bite-sized goals both on the board and in marketing. You cannot simply place an ad and expect customers to line up at your door. In chess you have to find targets and weaknesses, and in marketing you have to create goals and identify opportunities.

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Here are three steps to help you get started.

1. Get to know the playing field

Your products and services or current clientele will likely provide a basic picture of a target demographic. Are they 20 somethings and active on Instagram, or retired and start the day reading the local paper? Knowing your ideal customer will help you craft effective messages and appropriate offers.

2. Do some homework

Data is everything in marketing today, take advantage of it. Every media outlet should be able to estimate the number of potential customers you will reach. Ask to see results from similar ads, and calculate the number of sales/conversions it will take to offset costs.

3. Select a target

Marketing is an investment, and you should know what you want to get out of it. Having a goal will tell you if your efforts are working. the goal is often revenue but it could also be social followers.

In chess it’s common to overlook your opponent's strategy and find yourself looking at an unfavorable position. It’s important to be flexible and remember that success takes time. Few games are won in the opening moves. Approach marketing with persistence and a desire to learn and you will uncover a path that suits your business.

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