What is the Art of War?

The Art of War is a book written around the 5th century BC by military strategist Sun Tzu. His observations might have been intended for use on the battlefield but deep down it’s about human psychology and is just as important today as it was way back then. In other words, it’s a strategic goldmine that can supercharge your digital marketing campaigns. Join us as we take a look at some of his most famous sayings and how they relate to digital marketing in the 21st century.

Digital Strategy

What can Sun Tzu’s Art of War teach us about digital marketing?

1. The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting

The art of winning a battle is to not start one at all.

That sounds counterintuitive to the nature of war, but Sun Tzu knew all too well that an army that continues to fight becomes weak. Eventually, they’ll succumb to the enemy.

A great leader thinks about positioning.

In a winning digital marketing strategy, brand positioning is everything. It gives your business a unique identity that makes you different from your competitors. And what’s more, it’s easier than even to find your winning formula, just take a look at your content marketing analytics and see what converts, then do more of that.

2. In the midst of chaos, there is always an opportunity

As I write, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and many businesses are struggling on how to address the Coronavirus. But as Sun Tzu says, within the chaos there are opportunities. So how do you grow your business during a pandemic?

One of the biggies is the drop in advertising spend.

That means PPC advertising costs have fallen as ad spend has been slashed. That’s great news!

So maybe it’s time to take a look at your PPC keywords and see if there are any high volume keywords available at a discount price.

3. Mastering others is a strength. Mastering yourself is true power

Some say that digital marketing is killing brands.

We can see their point.

There’s an offset between tightly honing your sales KPIs and building your brand. Without sales, growth is impossible, but without building brand awareness you’re bound to stagnate.

This is one of the reasons we champion content marketing. While your generating awesome new content, you’re also learning about what content and subject matter works best for your audience. From there you can run focused PPC campaigns tailored to different audiences, it’s the best of both worlds.

4. Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected

Keeping an eye on the competitors is important. Insight tools on social media like Facebook’s pages to watch can help to identify where your competitor is going right and wrong with their content. This can be used to your advantage.

Analyse what gets people talking. Conversation is the biggest booster for organic reach in 2020.

More importantly, keeping tabs on your competitors is great for finding out what they’re not doing. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are your competitors going off-brand?
  • Do they place all their digital marketing on one channel?
  • How well do they merge the digital realm with the physical world?

Find those weak spots and march on with haste.

5. Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons, and they will follow you into the deepest valley

While the flow of money might pay the bills, it’s brand understanding that flows through the veins of every successful marketing business.

As Sun Tzu said, ‘treat your men as you would you own beloved sons’.

In other words, listen to your team and make them feel directly responsible for brand growth. Then it won’t be just you fighting the battle, you’ll have an army of marketers projecting on cohesive message.

6. Great results, can be achieved with small forces

A small force has to think strategically.

Why spread yourself too thin if you have limited resources?

Instead, build a straightforward marketing plan that works to your strengths and takes advantage of weaknesses in your competitor’s marketing output.

But most importantly, don’t be a follower. It’s great to keep track of what others are doing but blindly following leads to distraction. Keep your plan on track, focus on your brand positioning.

7. Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust

What The Art of War teaches us about digital marketing is not just about how to build our strategic game plan but how to keep evolving it. Just think of how quickly SEO changes.

Sun Tzu’s rusty sword analogy is just that.

There’s a sea of data available to us, every customer touchpoint is tracked and monitored. So if you’re business is led by a marketing plan of biblical proportions, it might be worthwhile condensing it down into something everyone can read, understand and most importantly, update on the fly.

8. Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across

As with point one, the art of war is to not win the fight, it’s to subdue the enemy. And sometimes the enemy isn’t a competitor, it’s the customer.

It’s true, we all get bad reviews from time to time. It’s a way for customers to vent their frustration.

Don’t take it personally.

Think of it as an opportunity to improve your service or product offering. Handle the issue with dignity, and you’re likely to come off better than fighting fire with fire (most of the time). Give them a reason to back away from the argument, or in other words, ‘Give then a golden bridge to retreat across’.

Top tip: Make it easy for your customers to talk with you direct. That way their frustration might never spill out beyond your control.

Digital Marketing and the Art of War

Is The Art of War good for digital marketing ideas?

Sun Tzu’s gift to us all is an ancient text on human psychology. The lessons in the book don’t just apply to war, they can be applied to digital marketing too, such as:

  1. Find a unique, strong position in the market where you can easily defend.
  2. Keep calm during times of transition and take advantage before someone else does.
  3. War isn’t about a short term gain, neither is digital marketing. The long game of brand building is the priority.
  4. Do what your competitor isn’t doing and keep them guessing at your plan.
  5. Build your brand by involving your team in the discussion process, they’ll be more likely to champion something they feel ownership towards.
  6. Do only what you can excel at. If you can’t put your whole heart into something, it’s probably not worth your time.
  7. Always review and revise your plans. Learn from your successes and failures, then put that knowledge into action.
  8. Give your customers an easy path to communicate with you. It allows you to empower your superfans and diffuse disgruntled customers.

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