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5 Strategic Business Lessons From Game Of Thrones

Chances are that this isn’t the first Game of Thrones post that you’ve read. For die-hard fans of the popular HBO television series based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice and Fire book series, it’s common to have your Facebook feed flooded with articles on the show. The topics can range from recaps of recent episodes to memes to popular Reddit fan theories. I’ve decided to take a different approach. Unlike other series where the most noble and/or honorable protagonist tends to win, Game of Thrones has a much more realistic (some would say ruthless) approach to determining the likely victor in a scenario.

One of the reasons why the show has become so popular is because of the various strategic approaches employed by the characters. Below I break down these strategies and highlight how they can be applied to modern day business.

(Spoilers ahead for those not caught up with the television series!)

Lesson #1: Play to Your Strengths

Game of Thrones: Despite having the most feared naval fleet in the show, the Greyjoys decided to focus all of their energy on futile land battles in the North. A curious plan given that the capitol of Westeros is vulnerable to a naval assault. Virtually all the Northern territory that they captured was retaken and they lost many of their best warriors in the process. By not playing to their strengths, the Greyjoys may have cost themselves the chance to rule the fictional world of Westeros.

Business: Many organizations focus on mitigating their weaknesses instead of playing to their strengths. It’s important to remember the things that have made your organization successful in the first place. For retailers this may mean directing customer to shop in-store instead of online or promoting different value propositions that emphasize their unique benefits. Identify the true strengths of your organization and augment them the best that you can in order to achieve competitive advantage. Before long, it may be your business that rules the Westeros of your vertical.  

Lesson #2: Plan Carefully and Be Patient When Necessary

Game of Thrones: Denarys made her clear intention in the first episode that she wanted to return to Westeros. At the time, she had no army, little funds, and an older brother who wanted all the power for himself. Over the course of six seasons, she has amassed wealth, enormous multiple armies, a roundtable of strong advisors, and three large dragons. She did this by seizing opportunities when they presented themselves and growing her position slowly from the continent of Esos, far from her rivals. This distance worked to her advantage as many of her rivals perished from seasons one to six battling amongst themselves.

Business: Oftentimes roadmaps can be pushed aside due to lack of resources or higher priority initiatives from senior executives. Sometimes they are just lost in the shuffle of keeping the day-to-day operations in motion. One reason roadmaps tend to slide is that they are too aggressive and once some items slip, others follow. Another reason is lack of support by executives and failure to clearly highlight the resources needed to accomplish each task.

To build a successful roadmap, take the time to clearly call out organization’s strengths and weaknesses, recent market trends, the latest competitive landscape, and any key gaps that are barriers to success. Prioritize all initiatives based on their level of impact, as well as their ease of execution, and generate a roadmap that is aggressive but achievable. Make sure to check in regularly with the executive sponsors and you will be placed in a good position to succeed.

Lesson #3: Foster Strategic Alliances

Game of Thrones: There is not one house in Game of Thrones with the might to conquer the rest of them. The most successful leaders understand how strategic alliances can be critically important in generating positive outcomes for both parties. The Lannisters joined forces with the Tyrells to help hold back the invading Baratheon army and committed to a series of marriages that would lead to them sharing power in the kingdom. At the time this post was written, the combined Tyrell-Lannister force still rules over Westeros.

Business: With your organization, it can be extremely difficult to succeed over your competitive set without help from others. If you are in retail, leveraging co-registration programs for channels like email can help to bolster the active list sizes of both organizations. If you are in B2B, growing your partner eco-system can be a great way to expose each of your customer bases with the products and services of each organization. To see Oracle Marketing Cloud’s partner list you can click here.

Lesson #4: Think Outside The Box

Game of Thrones: When Tyrion was met with the challenge of preparing King’s Landing, the Capitol city, for a large invasion, he needed to come up with tactics that were unorthodox since they were vastly outnumbered. He decided not to send out the Lannister fleet and to instead use all available men to defend the city while he deployed wildfire to set the opposing fleet ablaze. In the North, Jon Snow challenged the norms by partnering with the wildlings and letting them through the wall. The Night’s Watch had been at war with the wildlings for thousands of years but it’s this outside the box thinking that will provide Jon with additional soldiers for the wars to come.

Business: Always be on the lookout for non-traditional ways to outflank your competition. Smaller companies can get a jump start on larger ones in many areas due to their agility. Consider leveraging emerging channels such as SMS, web push, and mobile push to gain ample list sizes while larger companies are focusing on more traditional channels. Also leverage advanced tactics like multi-channel orchestration with marketing messages which can provide far greater lift than one-off campaign centric messaging. The more you take advantage of channels that are upcoming, the more likely you will be prepared when the next major market shift occurs.

Lesson #5:  Winter is Coming

Game of Thrones: The famous words of House Stark apply to both their armies as well as the long climate cycles in Westeros. In the North, these words are reminders of the challenges that will await them throughout the long winter seasons and the need to prepare for the next winter as soon as the crops begin to foster food. The wealthiest families store food throughout the summer seasons and sell excess crops to those throughout the land.

Business: It is never too soon to start thinking about the holiday season. For many retailers, the holiday season will determine whether they finish the year in the black or in the red. Planning for the holiday season should start as early as possible. Begin looking at what worked over the past holiday season. Which offers, messages, images, and themes were the most effective? Which tests provided to be the winners? What type of content (video, social, landing pages) should be developed now so that it’s in the best shape possible for when holiday season begins?

By combing these key strategies, your business will have a leg up over your competition. That is, unless they have dragons…

When amassing armies, and dragons, for your modern marketing takeover, you need to make sure you have the right people, and dragons, in the right positions. The Argyle ABM Survey will help put the importance of account-based marketing into perspective, so that you can make the right decisions moving forward.

Argyle ABM Survey

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