Why marketing is like poker

Marketing is like poker

The uninformed would have you believe poker is a game of luck and gambling a game for mugs. While I would agree with the second part of that statement, I am equally of the opinion that there is no more luck associated with playing poker than with any other game. Think about it for a moment; pretty much every game or sport you can imagine has some degree of luck or outside influence associated with it: Even the most skill-centric ones. Otherwise, the best would ‘always’ win, and that simply doesn’t happen. In fact, all sport would be terminally boring if the underdog didn’t rise above the favourite every once in a while.

So, what has luck got to do with marketing? 

In poker, the wise and skilful player will look at what they can afford to spend (bet) and then try different tactics to maximise the value and application of the products (cards) they have available. Without risking too much at once, they will then present their hand in the most creative way to persuade the market (the other players) that they have the best offering. If they are successful, they will continue to employ the same approach to the hand they were dealt, always paying careful attention to the actions and reactions of their opponents (competitors). 

A few years ago, I worked on a project with a forex trader (buying and selling foreign currencies) who has an exceptional win ratio, close to 80%. He is a good-natured, mild-mannered young man and remarkably humble given his success and significant wealth accumulation. I got to know him quite well and grew to like him a lot. The project lasted around four months, and the only time I saw him irritated by my barrage of questions was when I suggested he was a type of gambler. His response was, “I work hard and study day-in-day-out to ensure my calculated risks are always heavily weighted in my favour – I never gamble.”

So, what about your marketing? A simple translation of poker tactics into marketing strategy would work something like this: Examine your starting position (the hand you are dealt), make a plan, think smart, start small, test your cards against other actions around the table, never commit more than you have available, but always be prepared to play big when you know have the best hand. 

There is no more luck associated with playing poker than with any other game

What about gambling? 

For the record: I have not gambled (in the sense of cards, horses, slot machines, etc) for thirty years (that is an overcoming tragedy story for another day) and in no way condone it. I occasionally play poker for fun, with plastic chips, never money. But I do face risk every single day of my life – we all do! Whether we recognise it or not, we are all risk-takers, risk assessors, winners, or losers each day. And I believe that, in business, the fear of risk holds more people back from success than any other emotion. Like my forex trader friend, I have observed that taking deliberate, informed and measured risks will always win in the long game: Especially if you learn from the inevitable minor losses you are bound to suffer along the way.

So be brave with your marketing, have a plan, adapt your strategy as needed, embrace measured risk, and win yourself a fortune. 

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