Three Rules for Creating a Winnable Game in Marketing

August in Texas means something more than just hotter’n hell weather: It means football. I’m glad the NFL is back, but I’m even more excited about long Saturdays filled with college football games. The chance to spend time with friends, drinking beer and snarfing barbeque at tailgate parties before the game, is my idea of a great afternoon.

But I also love to watch the game and see the chess match unfold. Any team can win on any day with the right strategy. I love watching plays that create mismatches. Sending a tall, fleet-footed receiver on a go route against a smaller, slower cornerback can be an 80-yard touchdown. Forcing a linebacker to choose between covering the run or the pass can create a moment of hesitation that can lead to a first down instead of a tackle for a loss. That’s football.

It’s also true for marketing. You don’t want to have to beat the other guy one-on-one. It’s a lot easier and much more fun to trot into the end zone while the competition looks on helplessly. How do you create mismatches in marketing?

  • Be the early favorite vendor: Your buyer usually has one or two companies in mind as a solution before it ever decides to buy. Using brand awareness, content-driven direct marketing and thought leadership puts you top of mind – and on its vendor shortlist. If there’s going to be an RFP, you want to play to your strengths.
  • Adopt a differentiated position: Too many companies are afraid to be different. Don’t let this be you. Trying to be all things to all people doesn’t gain you yardage or score points. Thoughtful differentiation does.
  • Give it time: You don’t diagram winning plays on the field. You design winning plays by breaking down your opponent’s game film, finding the mismatches, and practicing the plays to exploit mismatches every day. Can you win a game with one touchdown? Rarely. Successful marketing is about consistency over time; it’s not a single campaign. Winners in marketing are in it for the long haul.