April 22, 2015

A bit of binge watching has helped me realize that the world of “Game of Thrones” is a lot like the world of marketing. Admit it: Winter is coming—and you need to prepare. But what exactly are you supposed to do?

Good Marketing Starts with Planning

Like the battle strategies, political maneuvering, and general gamesmanship on “Game of Thrones,” good marketing starts with planning. And planning starts with analyzing your past results to gain insight that will inform your goals. You’ll also want to take a long, hard look at strengths you can leverage and weaknesses you can minimize. Then, examine what the external landscape looks like in terms of opportunities and threats and what should you do about them. Any dragons—firebreathing or otherwise—on the horizon?

Next, you want to make sure everyone agrees on what makes your products special – their features, benefits, and differentiators. Like great Dornish wine known for its quality, your brand has to stand for something; use that knowledge to position your products correctly in relation to the competition.

Only then can you come up with the right battle plan or strategy. As with any good plan, yours will detail your goals, supporting programs, and expected results. You’ll want to describe what you expect to achieve, exactly how you are going to achieve it, and how you are going to measure results.

For example, how are you getting the word out about your cause, gaining supporters, and supporting them? That’s essentially what marketing is: creating the right battle plan to win against the competition in order to achieve dominance – and keeping that position. In “Game of Thrones,” that strategy is created by scheming and often delivered through soldiers. In the real world, it’s created by planning and delivered through great brand awareness, demand generation, and organizational enablement programs.

A Word About Budgeting

If you are going to be Master of Coin in King’s Landing, you’ve got to know how much to spend and what to spend it on. I have spent as little as 1.75% of annual revenue on marketing (at a small, established subsidiary of a larger subsidiary of an enormous corporation) and as much as 11.3% (at a very small start-up software firm that went out of business because they ran out of money).

Think about how much you need to allocate for programs versus people and what percentage is allocated to which programs. You’ll want to make sure those programs are in line with your goals. If your goal is to get the word out about your company and its products or services and you are spending all of your money on infrastructure, there’s an obvious misalignment.

Finding the Right People

If you are in a pickle and you need help, be sure you can call on your Bannermen as the Starks, Baratheons, and Lannisters did in the War of the 5 Kings. Who do you need on your team to support your goals? More importantly, are you the leader your team needs you to be? If you haven’t set roles, goals, procedures and clarified standards, expectations, and consequences, chances are you will not be able to lead your armies into battle.

Measuring Results

How are you keeping track of everything? I don’t mean keeping score like Walder Frey, but looking at results in an effort to understand what works and what doesn’t. It’s important to ask where your results really come from and what influenced them. Make sure you relate those results back to your initial goals in measuring success.

Supporting Technology

What tools can you use to win the war? Like Wildfire, which was very helpful in blowing up Stannis’ fleet in the battle of Blackwater, use technology to get ahead of your competition. As part of the journey of finding what you need, you’ll go about researching, evaluating, deciding on, and implementing these tools. Like Arya and her Needle, make sure ongoing training is part of the plan—even if you can’t hire Syrio Forel.

That’s good marketing planning in a nutshell – goals, SWOT, positioning, strategy, programs, budgeting, staffing, and measuring, all assisted by technology. Now go forth and rule the Seven Kingdoms!

This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of ChiefMarketer. You can read the original version here.