Strategic Square – Whether or Not Marketing is a War

Recently I am getting phone calls from companies that want to talk to me about strategy, usually brand strategy or product strategy, sitting in front of many people who use various terms and different terminology. I must say that I personally am a great believer in long-term planning strategy, however I understand that sometimes conduct is not ideal and planning doesn’t always come through at the end. It’s not as perfect and sometimes we need be quick & dirty. I remember as a boy my parents sent me the play chess.. Well what can you do, my parents believed that through “training” the child = will be smart and they sent me to almost every class possible, I must admit that in retrospect the chess circle was one of the interesting ones, thinking, planning, the ability to read moves, the action (sounds a bit strange I know but this is an amazing war simulator) there is no doubt that this is one of the most exciting games (to my opinion of course) I remember how I admired my teacher, his ability to play with several people simultaneously and often beat them, for me this was another chore that in time became a major part in my life not because I became a great chess player but more learning about strategy principles… as the basis for everything marketing requires today, I got so hung up, addicted, that I even searched for the book “Art of War” by Sun Tzu (I strongly recommend you read the original version), I found the source in Nepal After many wanderings among libraries, publishers and warehouses damps – it cost me $5 – and it’s a Must in every marketing library!

I started playing chess and there was a time when the Internet arrived I found myself drawn to this world of battles and war games (yes I also found myself losing sleep over the game “war of warcraft”), I also remember the game against Kasparov…:-) Do not worry it was not heads ups (I probably wouldn’t stand a chance) I think there were dozens of players, he played against us all at the same time, I lost in 24 moves (I was really proud of it…) checkmate!… and I believe many would agree with me that chess is one of the most influential strategy games and a good start for what I’m going to talk about now.

So what is strategy?

Strategy is essentially a long-term plan aimed to achieve a particular goal, I also emphasize the fact that strategy is not tactics (tactics are the immediate tasks or actions derived from the main strategy) the source to it all is Greek, whom ever saw the movie “300” will probably understand what I’m talking about (great production…….), the ability to defend and attack against a huge army with a small army of skilled soldiers… history teaches us much about such conflicts and it’s beautifully described by “Y. A. Ries (a guru of mine), many countries have wars, even here in our country you understand what war is, especially a large army against a small army, I suppose you’ll agree that there is a very interesting insight here and maybe a little scary one and it raises some questions – Is marketing = war? (A bit philosophical I know but I will try to connect it to the world of the’s a bit long but try to stick around)

If we try to analyze the events and battles in the business world we can agree (not all of us) that there is a strategic marketing square, there are descriptions that “paint” it perfectly:

Defensive marketing – usually being used by a market leader

* Only a market leader should consider whether to use a defensive marketing
* The best defensive strategy is the courage to attack yourself
* Strong marketing moves always needs to be blocked!

Marketing attacks – usually match numbers 2’s (companies which are #2 in the market, a follower)

* The important principle is to check how strong the market leader is
* Always try to find the strengths and weaknesses of the leading company and attack it
* It’s always a good idea to focus a narrow channel attack (see the movie 300:-) )

Marketing “flanking” – is usually been used by small companies

* a good flanking Move will always be a good thing where there is no competition ( “niches”)
* Tactics “surprise” is an essential component
* The chase is critical as the attack

Guerrilla Marketing – As I mentioned the concept of popularity today (almost everyone I meet mentions this):-) – is usually for local / “regional” companies or small companies

* Find one segment that may be small enough to protect
* No matter how successful do not think you are like the market leader
* Be prepared to withdraw and go anywhere on short notice

Be prepared to choose the right strategy, planning and cracking it right will position you better and will allow you to become a serious player in the market.

I cannot help myself but guerrilla marketing is a term which many use today, especially online, it’s actually became a real “sexy” word that everyone uses (we live in a country full of ongoing and daily wars so I wonder maybe that’s what made it so “sexy.” and popular). Many are calling/naming social marketing (social marketing or community marketing as guerrilla marketing which is not entirely accurate, guerrilla marketing literally = a small companies with small marketing resources facing a large company with many resources – it’s not a new marketing theory – just like the army J small army against a large army and it is important to understand it, guerrilla warfare is complex and unique (and we all know that we haven’t won just yet) but it comes from a certain place and has a specific goal, so what is the right strategy than?

it’s maybe a bit philosophical (this post is a bit like that) but I was always taught you should work from top to bottom, in fact philosophy, strategy and tactics, works for me personally and I suppose that for many others… It was important for me to note several important points that I’m afraid are not applied enough

Become more client/customer oriented

Most historical marketing managers were customer oriented, they realized that customers are the company’s pivot, today the Internet has brought with it another passion, passion of productivity, doing things fast and quick, orientation clearly begun to change, low attention to customer = low millions of dollars just disappearing for you, Maybe at the beginning of last century which was a period of industrial making (in the last century undoubtedly productivity and production’s value were it all) it was working but now it’s replaced by a new strategy propellant, market research is one the second is public opinion – from now on…its only customers and what they want So before launching the next startup try digging a little deeper into what your market, who are the customers and what they want – not what you want!

Become competition oriented

To be successful today every company must know the competition, a company must look for the cracks and weaknesses of competing companies in order to attack or make a move, always try to be aware of what competitors are doing, try to create/implement a process which performs a regular collection and analysis of the market competition, especially in the startup scene were competition analysis is usually used for business plans and somehow being forgotten after product launch, it’s an ongoing process, keep an eye on them, read their messages, test their products locate new features, follow their steps, document them and react accordingly… Do not fall asleep please! As San Tzu said – keep your friends close and your enemies closer!

So maybe marketing is indeed a war, competitors are enemies and the goal is to win the battle and the entire war, I know that it’s a bit negative connotation Who knows other analogies maybe would have sounded better but I could not think of a better one (apologies in advance).

Good product strategy

Everyone I meet usually has the best product, it does not matter what market exists or what or who are the players around them, somehow the company’s product is always better than any other product on the market (I often hear the: “No such thing,” or “we are better” but somehow they are market leaders!, you get the picture…), I personally understand that sometimes you fall in love with the product and that’s fine, but do not go blind! And do not underestimate competitors, the point is that you need to respect each and every one working in your space, even the competition…especially the competition the principle is very simple, even if you think that your product is the best for your customers there will two possible responses:

1. wow… it’s an amazing product

2. Not…

You can always try to persuade the client that the answer chosen is correct but once a customer has already decided it would be almost impossible to change his mind – for the customer it’s his/her truth that matters, not yours, even if the product is the best thing ever it doesn’t mean that the client thinks that, it’s in the eye of the beholder and it applies to everything you do, whether it’s brochure, ad or television commercial – what you think or feel doesn’t really matter.

If you’re so smart then why aren’t you rich?

Even if you succeeded in persuading the customer that your product is better he/she would always ask himself, “Wait… if you are so good then how come you’re not leading the market?…” “If you’re so smart… so how come you’re not rich?…” – in a marketing war we can not win just about being right, this is an illusion, in the long run a better product wins, history is written by winners, winners will always have a better product because they are the ones that are available to say it.

Mathematics of being defensive

in an open battlefield it’s pretty obvious (most of the times) for those with more skilled soldiers will probably win but it does not apply to a case where one party chooses to defend itself, if we look historically we find that defense has proven itself as stronger than an attack whether it is in the Korean War, North South War U.S., the Vietnam War and many other wars, in those wars the defender won, maybe the attacker apparently praised himself and claimed that he won but the results showed a different thing (hard to admit that you lost especially if you’re the one who attacked first) attack is more popular and will always grab the aura glow, it raises a question, if protection is a good thing so why not do it all the time?, very simple: a brand that managed to establish himself after a victory could establish himself longer and concentrate on defending himself, Google for example..well they don’t need to attack anyone, they established themselves as a brand and as a major player in the search market and they have done it against big strong competitors (yahoo and Microsoft) and now it’s much easier to defend and block offensive moves – paradoxically I would say…

Reality of conflict in marketing

it’s quite clear to us that we must be innovative and creative, and as time passes, we must invent ways to improve methodologies, know better how to fight and defend ourselves better, this is a natural process I guess, the competition becomes brutal and the game became “Let’s get control of a business of someone else” As a company try to increase sales, each company would find out that in order for it to increase sales and penetrate more it will require to deepen and explore more strategies for warfare… being just aggressive… won’t cut it….it’s not enough, it’s not the only strategy out there, if we look at this insight from the bench it looks rather strange, on one hand we become a generation of “more”, more products, more people, more work, more reports, more administrative meetings, more than anything and not surprisingly we also feel better when we succeed through hard work we feel more satisfied and on the other hand history teaches us the opposite, the Germans even invented a word for it – Blitzkrieg= brutal attack blows when the timing is right, anyway if the attack was not planned properly, you throw your advantage aside, if your boss says “We should double our efforts “you probably listening to a loser’s speech (not meaning to offend anyone, God forbid), it’s a smart man who accompanies me always say:

Think fast and talk slow
Think smarter and not longer.

So What? War or not?

Next post I’ll try to describe a little more depth the issue of guerrilla wars over the internet and how we can win battles even if we are not the market leaders.

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