Marketing Strategy 101: What I've learned from chess (Part 2)

Gain Leverage In Your Marketing

Did you know that the term “rookie” is derived from chess? The rooks are powerful pieces, more so than knights or bishops. However, leveraging a rook takes time. They start on the worst possible square for a piece that wants to zip from one side of the board to the other. It takes development and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each piece (or tool) to build a favorable position. In marketing, you have tools like television, social media, retargeting and obviously many many more. With so many options, it is important to familiarize yourself with the role each channel can play so that you get the most from the time and money you spend.

To help you understand what a specific medium can do for you, we will look at some of the advantages and drawback for a few favorites.

Direct mail:

Strength :
Sort of the pawns of the marketing world, direct mail remains incredibly popular in this digital age. And with good reason, we know people check their mail. Advertisers know someone is going to see what is sent-and it can be incredibly cost effective compared with other media.

Every day the United States Postal Service hand delivers an uncanny number of colorful postcards and PRE-APPROVED letters to every corner of the country. I was recently .

part of a study that measured the positive and negative reactions to several versions of a mail piece. Most of the results were what I expected, but in one instance, nearly everyone hated the version I had picked to win. Upon closer inspection, we found that the overwhelming negative response was due to one word at the very bottom of the page. “PRE-APPROVED.” It soured a great concept to the point where respondents said they distrusted the company based solely on one word. Spam is seen very negatively, and that is an obstacle you face when marketing to the mailbox.

Like the pawn, direct mail seems simple enough enough. But pawns only move in one direction, and an inaccurate move leads to a tough game. If you are going to venture into direct mail, remember that the thought you put toward your piece could mean the difference between sales and the shredder.


I love billboards. It’s fun to see your business hoisted high into the air. And, given the affinity brands like coca-cola have for billboards, we pretty much know that they work. Everyone is going to see your message. Better still, billboards can really leave an impression. Years ago I worked for a client who took a chance on something a little sillier than his competitors would risk. That board put his personality on full display and it worked beautifully. Consumers felt more comfortable with less serious and my client was able to start building relations with potential customers because they recognized him and struck up a conversation.

Space. Text has to be large to be legible, and experts say that you have 6 words or around 3 seconds to get your message across. Good locations can be quite expensive and many advertisers make the mistake of trying get more out of the investment by cramming more onto the poster. More on your billboard means less time to process everything you are trying to communicate.

The conclusion:
Use billboards primarily for branding and connect your organization with an idea or a cause. Do not use billboards as a call for action. Drivers have plenty of distractions while on the road, making it difficult to memorize a web address or phone number.

Side note-if you are going to use billboards, make sure they are in an area of high traffic and visibility. The price will go up, but the benefits far outweigh the real risk in selecting obscured or remote locations.

Social media:

This one really gets two thumbs up. Modern technology means you can be anywhere your customers take their tech… basically everywhere. The internet has brought us all so close together, and so much of that is owed to applications like instagram and twitter. Whatever your business, good social media delivers you to your customers in the way they prefer most.

Most of us use several social channels, and it is easy to see how messages can get lost in the fray. It isn’t easy to get attention quickly, and that can be frustrating for businesses.

The conclusion:
Social media is about connecting with an audience, not necessarily selling to them. Sharing things like how-tos and instructional videos provide your audience the valuable content, and in turn, they are more likely to do business with you when the time comes.

Knights are better equipped to block an advancing pawn than your queen and knowing that can prune the number of options you have to calculate in a game of chess. You won’t spend precious time because you did your homework and are familiar with the pieces. You also saved other resources-every queen deserves a more important task than holding back pawns.

The principle rings true for the time and money spent marketing your business. Look for blogs to subscribe to and spend at least 10 minutes googling for advice before commiting to an ad purchase. As a small business, a little study can go a long way to minimize effort and maximize impact.

What’s Next?

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Kyle Parker