Marketing As A Game Of Chess
Marketing Skills

Marketing As A Game Of Chess

Jon BrodyJon Brody

July 15, 2021

At first glance, marketing and chess may have nothing in common. However, look a bit deeper and you’ll see that they’re practically the same. In a game of chess, the goal is to win, and to do this, you have to checkmate the opponent’s king. The same is true of a marketer. The goal is to establish your brand as number one in the market. 

If you don't already think about your growth marketing and your growth strategy in this way, you're missing out. In chess, as in marketing, you have choices. The best chess players make the best choices because they understand the theory of the game and which choices will work best for them. Marketers work in a similar way, devising marketing strategies that work to their strengths and resources and lead to the results they are trying to achieve. Great chess players always have a strategy. They always prioritize. And it’s in this that marketers often fail. Marketers either don't know how to create a prioritization strategy or they forget how. Prioritization will help marketers execute better strategies and maximize performance outcomes. 

The Opening Moves In Chess

Every single chess game starts with an opening move. This is also true of a marketing journey or marketing strategy. When playing chess, you pick your opening moves because you are very confident and comfortable with the types of situations and scenarios that your initial choices will yield. 

If you're an aggressive player, you're going to make opening moves that might put you in precarious situations where you're not comfortable. But you do it because you’re prepared to continue cautiously and tactically. On the other hand, if you're a conservative player, and you prefer counter attacks, you're going to open with completely different moves. You will probably wait for your openings like a counter puncher and strike when your opponent makes a mistake. 

Whichever type of player you are, your opening moves are important because you're committing yourself to the future. You can’t take a chess move back once you’ve taken your hand off the piece. You have to move forward and deal with the situations you’ve put yourself in, whether that’s in the middle game or the end game. 

The Importance Of Opening Moves In Marketing

In marketing strategy, the channels you choose will naturally lend themselves to certain scenarios or the expertise and resources you’ll need to see things through. Too often, people choose channels or choose a given strategy, and then when they get to the middle game, they flip out because they suddenly realize they are unprepared for what comes next. They panic and fall into reactive mode. That's the worst thing you can do. In chess, even the best players have to adapt and refine their game based on how their opponent plays. If they don’t, they will lose. 

Nobody wants to do things they are not good at. Just as chess players don’t want to find themselves in a situation where they are unsure of their next move, marketers don’t want to spend money or engage in certain types of marketing activities that they don't feel comfortable doing. That’s why you have to make sure your opening move strategy gives you the best opportunity to avoid leading you into this type of scenario. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation anyway, you need to be prepared to adapt and push through. If you don't choose your opening moves wisely, you're most likely going to be disappointed and unsettled when things go in a direction you aren’t prepared for. When you become reactive, you aren’t able to commit to your strategy and see an opening in the middle game or end game. 

How To Choose Your Opening Moves In Marketing

Think your strategy through. You might need to commit to a combination of SEO and earned media. Maybe you should go all-in on content and partnerships. Your strategy might even be a combination of these approaches. You don’t want to just randomly go all-in on one or the other, though. As in chess, that’s never a good idea. 

Be Intentional

You need to choose your moves from the beginning, being intentional about what your marketing plan is. That’s what will set you up for the future. If you aren't thinking about your marketing strategy in this way, then just like the chess player who doesn’t think out their opening moves, you'll always find yourself unprepared at some point in the game.

Go With Your Company’s Style

In boxing, styles make fights. Every boxer matches up differently with different opponents. You might be great against one style and struggle with another. Digital marketing is the same. Styles make your marketing what it is. Just like you choose your opening move in chess based on your style of play, you choose your opening marketing moves based on your style of marketing. 

Poker is another example. You can find many different styles of playing poker. Some players are aggressive and will take risks with a marginal hand, holding onto it for a chance at bigger rewards. Others are very conservative and will quickly fold when they don’t have the cards they think are good enough to win. Depending on the choices you make, you will have different experiences playing the game and seeing how far you advance. 

See Your Strategy Through

Your approach to marketing needs to be the same. When you commit to a given strategy and a style of how your marketing organization is going to run, see it through and make sure you have the right people and resources to fit that style.

Be Creative And Bold

You want your marketing organization to be creative. You want to stand out and be bold. You also want to use data to help you make good decisions. To do these things, you have to make sure that your marketing resources, from the cultural level down to the people, are empowered and are consistent with your strategy. That is an essential ingredient in running a high-performing marketing organization. The best chess players in the world, as well as the best poker players and the best boxers, have a style. They commit to that style. The style they use, and the style you use in your marketing strategy, aren’t as important as long as you choose one that you're happy with, you're comfortable with, and you’re committed to.

Marketing Is A Game

Just as chess is a game, so is marketing. But, it’s not a game that you go into without strategy. They both require risks, strategy, and practice to get right. At Ladder, we’ve worked tirelessly to sharpen our skills, plan out strategies, and create amazing campaigns that shine. If you’re ready to take the next steps in the marketing game, drop us a line to learn how we can help.

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