Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why You Want Your Marketing Guy to Play Poker

As many of you know, I have won a free entry into a World Series of Poker (WSOP) event, which will take place next week (June 18-20) at the Rio Casino in beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada. I have been playing poker for the past 2.5 years, and obviously have obtained a certain level of skill in the game. As I've been thinking of late about both poker and marketing, two things dawned on me: 1) the similarities between the two (in broad terms) and 2) my belief that it's a GOOD THING if your marketing consultant or marketing person is a great poker player. Why?

Reason 1: Both involve strategy
Both marketing and poker involve creating and then executing a strategic course of action. In the poker tournaments I play, for example, I have very specific ways I play the different tournament stages (early play, mid-level, final table, final three, heads up). Your marketing as well should be written down, and have specific elements for different phases and/or customers related to your business.

Reason 2: Both involve reading people
Poker isn't about just the cards; a large part of the game hinges on your ability to guess (called 'reading') what cards the other person has. Likewise, you want your marketing expert to be a good reader of people, i.e., someone who understands customers and prospects and, even more importantly, can quickly determine the messages they send to a business.

Reason 3: Both involve spending money to make money
In poker, you can't play a hand unless you call the minimum bet at that time (called the 'blind'). Likewise, marketing often involves spending some money (X) with the idea of making more money than your initial investment (X+Y). Good poker players --and great marketing folks -- invest money wisely, understand percentages, and have the experience to limit, as much as possible, your exposure to risk.

Reason 4: Both involve (or should!) a bit of a gambler's mentality
At some point in poker, you will be making bets with nothing, in hopes of winning a pot by having the other player fold. That's gambling. Likewise, marketing often involves trying something new in hopes that it will work out. That's gambling too (not just the money invested in the new venture, but also the time and energy required). The key is this: great poker players/marketing consultants aren't reckless gamblers; yes, they'll try something new, in hopes of hitting it big. But they are savvy enough to limit exposure and investment, and wait until something is a proven winner before going full-bore.

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See you at the tables/in the meeting room!

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