June 23, 2019

The Game of Marketing

By Louis Tanguay, California Business Journal correspondent

There are different ways to think about marketing your business. Some are a little dry, such as “Marketing is Math,” which means that analytics, data and numbers will tell you if you’re successful or need improvement. This is great for left-brain thinkers. Then there are the super-creatives who want to connect with people on a human level and reach their emotions artistically, creatively, and without worrying about getting bogged down with the details. There are pros and cons for different approaches, but I’m going to try to give you one other approach that might work for both brains.

Not to be confused with “gamification” or “game theory,” we’ll be looking at how to play the game of marketing, and how to win. The game of marketing is more like a puzzle game with incomplete information where you have to guess the outcomes of each action and see if you’re correct. Winning, or getting to the next level of your business, will be the goal here. Ages 10 and up, parental observation not required.

Look at marketing as this incomplete puzzle. There are people you need to reach. There are goals you need to achieve. There are prizes and results you need to unlock and discover. Milestones can be achieved and you can advance to the next stage.

First, what is your product and service and who does it appeal to. Now this is where most business owners and marketers go off the deep end without realistic identification. If you have a moisturizing cream, your target is NOT “everyone with skin” because all people are different. You have to be soberingly realistic about who truly is going to be interested in your product or service. What are the unique benefits your business has that your customers are looking for?

Next challenge is finding the customers. Having a customer list, or knowing who your customers are is a great first step. Next, you need to identify them. What’s their age, what do they like, are there any demographics or psychographics you need to list in order to reach them appropriately?

Now that you know the strengths of your business from a marketing perspective, you know who your customers are, now we have to reach them. The game is afoot.

Marketing Channels: Where are we going to play this game? Which arenas? Will they be on social media pages, looking for engagement? Or will they be targeted advertising? Maybe they’ll be on talk radio stations? Identify the strongest channels for these potential new customers.

The Game of Marketing is always done on a trial-and-learning playing field. No matter how long one has been in marketing, they always need to go through the discovery process, testing phase, and recalibration phase. Each product, audience, demographic and psychographic are different. So are the different business types, economic climates, competitive landscapes, etc. That said, a seasoned marketer can always quickly find the answers to the clues and help solve the riddles of the game.

The game is playing in three areas. Acquisition, Conversion, and Retention.

First up, try testing different headlines, images, copy lines, and calls to action. Mix and match and see which posts/ads/collateral have the most success. Spend only a small percentage of your total outreach budget on testing (maybe 10% to 20%, depending on size of budget and time constraints). When you found a winner, or a few winners, then you can spend a larger chunk once you’ve identified a few winners.

Conversions happen when someone comes into your world after having seen and ad, post, or piece of collateral. They “convert” from a stranger to a lead, or a cold lead to a warm lead, or a stranger to a client/customer. Make sure during your testing phase for Acquisition you’re also testing your conversion percentages. How many are hitting your landing pages and taking action? Is it 5%? 10%? 20%? Adjust the copy, images, and calls to action on your landing pages in order to optimize conversions.

Last part of the game: Retention. This is often an after-thought, but it’s arguably the most important phase. Instead of thinking something like, “well, they’re a customer now, so let’s not worry about them,” remember that if they have a positive experience with your product or service they’ll write great reviews, refer others to your business, and are most likely to repeat as customers/clients. This customer satisfaction can stabilize your business month over month and help you win the Game of Marketing with increased profits and a growing business.

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