13 Lessons from Sun Tzu’s Art of War for Marketing

13 Lessons from Sun Tzu’s Art of War for Marketing

Having strategized, fought, and written in the 5th century B.C., Chinese General Sun Tzu published one of the most influential military strategy books of all time “The Art of War”. 2,500 years later, the Art of War is an unconventional and creative approach to thinking. It has impacted business, sports, education, lifestyle, and law.

This week, Tenba Group tackles the chapters in the Art of War for marketing, utilizing the thirteen principles to win out over your competitors in today’s world of digitalization warfare. Prepare to be an SEO warrior by the end of the article. 

The Art of War in Marketing – 13 Steps to Beat Your Digital Competitor

Get your pencils at the ready! Learn how to transform your marketing strategies into online branding success with these Art of War marketing techniques.

1. Laying Plans: Gain Victory Before You Even Begin

The biggest takeaway from The Art of War is right in Chapter One, win the war before you even begin to fight. General Sun Tzu states, “The skillful leader subdues the enemy’s troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field.”

For a business, establishing an effective content marketing campaign is imperative. The war is determined by successful sales and the terrain is played out among consumer’s mindsets as they pick which brands to support, use, or purchase from online.

In The Art of War marketing strategy, know the mission, market, consumer preferences, legal regulations, and marketing methods available in order to gain strong values that build trust with consumers.

Utilize SEO keywords throughout your content and continue to research high volume words that push your content further. In this way, businesses can calculate their chances of victory before even putting their marketing strategy to use online.

2. The Challenge: Win Fast for the Economy of Warfare

No one has time for length marketing campaigns that are expensive and drawn out over time. Digitalization has made the online world of commerce change daily. General Sun Tzu proposed, “In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.”

What does this mean for digital marketing strategies? It translates to engaging digital warfare with quick, small victories before fatigue and strength to keep up become too overwhelming to overcome.

Every day, you can pull ahead of your competitors by becoming more global and better connected. Enter into growing markets with lots of potentials, such as the Chinese market. Understand why China SEO is important for your business and then focus your weekly marketing content on quick wins on digital Chinese platforms.

Optimize your SEO keywords to that of your Chinese audience and understand how each platform uses SEO keywords. Keep in mind to place them correctly in the right space for better results when your potential consumers search. Work smarter and more effectively to tire your competitors out.

3. The Plan of Attack: Develop a Strategy Based on Your Niche

Digitalization has made it easier than ever before to know your market: its brand preference, competitors, and influencers. In relation to digital content marketing strategy, it means understanding the environment so well that you can plan your attack with SEO keywords and the right online platforms on which to publish.

To quote General Sun Tzu, “Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” In other words, study and then position yourself into the minds of consumers by being the business that just gets it the best before they even become your clients.

Utilize the strategies of others and develop your own. Figure out in which situations an indirect approach may be more fruitful than a direct one just as if you were developing your own military strategy in the modern, complex world.

In terms of SEO optimization, gather information on popular SEO keywords for your niche. What terms are your competitors using? Then find related words that are still high volume keywords that make you stand out and bring in new consumers that may find your content valuable in connected niches.

4. Positioning: Map Your Competitive Position

“Know your enemy and know yourself.” Analyze your competitors’ strategies, weaknesses, and also strengths. Don’t forget, however, to turn that assessment on your own brand.

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It isn’t about feeling pressured to match your competitor. Your business can take the strategies that are effective, discard or amend the ones that don’t quite fit for you and develop new ones that lead to a greater discussion between consumers in the marketplace.

More importantly, position yourself to understand your competitor, but not so to allow your competitor to understand your branding strategy. Remain adaptable when the usual approaches aren’t working.

When dealing with SEO optimization, this can be as simple as combining well-established keywords with fresh SEO keywords that are trending. Be sure to always keep returning to SEO research through your own online searches, observing competitors’ content, compiling updated SEO metrics in an Excel sheet, and getting creative to cross-apply SEO to related fields with your own.

As General Sun Tzu puts it, “He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.”

5. Energy: Build Momentum with Timing and Creativity

Traditional marketing strategies include resources that are limited, energy-draining, and often costly, such as advertisement slots and printed sales goods. Luckily, digital marketing has a lot of free or cheap tools to use. It is available to anyone online hoping to generate amazing SEO-driven content.

More importantly, the Art of War marketing also takes into account the unlimited supply of opportunities in harnessing the timing and creativity of business. Team members are great sources of talent and creative solutions to digital marketing challenges.

Brainstorm ways to market SEO content in a variety of ways: social media updates, infographics, or a weekly newsletter, to name a few. Many free tools can be found online to create your own content that is visually appealing, valuable to the audience, SEO driven, and versatile for all types of engagement.

Even though digitalization is a computer-based strategy, the core is about connecting to people. What better way to build momentum than to recognize, structure, and implement creative new methods of engagement than with opportunities in timing and unique solutions by your team for potential consumers?

6. Illusion and Reality: Opportunities by Weaknesses and Strengths

We’ve already discussed understanding your competitors’ weaknesses and strengths. These are useful in taking opportunities to outsmart your digital enemies that require them to play catch-up rather than to be industry leaders.

Yet another online marketing strategy is to be truthful in your own branding potential. Generate content and brand visions that are meaningful, not just to you, but more significantly to your potential consumers. When consumers find themselves valued and memorable, they relate more to that brand and will remember them during their purchasing choices moving forward, saving you media and branding costs.

As a brand, build up your list of SEO keywords that represent who you are and what you do. Although these keywords may not be the focus keyword for every article, they should continually be used throughout all your content as a support to the focus keyword and as a representation of your values and mission as a brand.

Tenba Group has a team of professional consultants who can help you understand new markets or re-evaluate your current one and then assist you in creating successful branding campaigns to speak to the right audience. One of our key strengths is building you a better website that puts you ahead of your competitors and connects you with your ideal Chinese consumers.

7. Engage the Force: Communication and Branding as Power 

Following military strategy number six comes engaging the collective force of a united line of communication and clear branding goals within your business. As your team works to meet the demands of the online world, having a clear and concise vision can help avoid burnout and gaps in marketing potential.

Establishing strong lines of communication and branding principles gives power to the whole team as well as develops trust in each other as you each battle it out with your competitors online. Collecting SEO research and creating quality content takes time. Consider dividing the task, as one team member can always focus on SEO trends and data collection, and then pass that on to another team member to create the content.

For this to work, however, there need to be useful platforms such as Google Docs or Slack that can enable each team member to connect with each part of the process and ensure that information does not get lost as it changes hands. In this way, each team member is better able to accomplish their tasks effectively and efficiently so that your business can keep getting those quick, small victories to win the war.

8. Variations in Tactics: Be Flexible in Tactics

Interestingly, there is a lot of debate about whether General Sun Tzu was a real man or simply a legendary vision of several military strategists of the time. Either way, the result was an unstoppable influence of military strategy that has reached beyond the battlefield and is still current even in today’s society and landscape.

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The lesson? Be flexible in your tactics and always seek to have a variety of strategies beneficial for your brand. Even if General Sun Tzu was really the collection of wisdom from many military strategists, the combination of all the lessons and talents created something impressive.

A flexible business can harness the collective power and many talents of its team to open new paths in Art of War marketing tactics. Your team may have unique skills that could be used to market SEO content in fresh and exciting new ways beyond article writing and standard social media updates.

As online consumers themselves, your team already knows what type of content structuring makes them feel more connected and engaged with the brands they follow. Find ways to be flexible in your own marketing to use these new ways to get your own content noticed. “There are not more than five primary colors (blue, yellow, red, white, and black), yet in combination, they produce more hues than can ever be seen.”

9. Moving the Force: Respond to New Changes in the Industry 

When it comes to The Art of War marketing, the terrain isn’t the land, but the online marketplace. It adapts daily and can seem like a daunting environment to keep up with. However, many SEO practices are still useful despite how the algorithms of search engines change. Healthy SEO strategies tend to need only little modifications over time.

Another great aspect of a digital landscape is the new opportunities that arise constantly. This gives your business more options when deciding the right method to get your message across to different types of consumers. One of the most promising new ways to get more consumers is to create a website for the Chinese market.

Understanding SEO for Chinese consumers and then working towards content that will generate favorable results on popular Chinese search engines, such as Baidu, greatly increases your chances of success.

SEO optimization is not one size fits all. Narrow down your market or if you have multiple markets tailor your content to fit that audience and then post to the platform(s) your audience(s) use the most.

Moreover, the changing landscape of digital platforms means that your business can adjust its marketing strategy. Do this when things just aren’t working out for you and try new ones.

In General Sun Tzu’s time as well as online, “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” A successful branding campaigning responds to new changes, while at the same time finding ways to be the new change.

1o. Situational Positioning: The Leader Bears the Responsibility

General Sun Tzu discussed the idea that strong unity and leadership can make all the difference in winning the war. His belief was that the leader, or upper management, bears the responsibility of the decisions and outcomes.

It is up to the upper management to keep up with current marketing trends for 2020 or to recognize common mistakes in SEO to avoid so as to provide more effective and clear marketing strategies for the entire team. Investing in SEO courses for your team and developing SEO strategies or important brand keywords helps guide the whole team with a clearer vision.

Follow the idea that “Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows”. With this, management must also be truthful about challenges and the obstacles that were overcome to create a product. Transparency builds trust and a greater understanding of a brand’s vision and values.

11. The Nine Situations: Navigate Any Environment You Face 

“Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory. But let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.”

In The Art of War marketing strategy, a business needs to prepare for each digital situation with a fresh new outlook. Continuing to research and observe the industry, competitors, and related areas. With this, a business can use updated digitalization solutions to navigate any environment.

For instance, optimizing a website for voice search can not only prepare you for digital platform changes but also put you ahead of the curve. Google estimates that within the year at least 50% of voice searching inquiries will be done using voice commands, which have implications for SEO strategy.

12. Fiery Attack: Weaponize Your Digital Brand 

Of course, having a strategy is non-negotiable, but it is nothing without implementation. To win the marketing war, a business must strategize but then follow through on its plan.

Digitalization introduced many new digital tools for businesses to put their strategy into place. Moz Domain Authority is a useful tool in understanding your competitors and their ranking on popular search engines.

Even popular communication apps, such as WeChat in China implemented new marketing services so that global businesses can use SEO strategies to enter the market and engage with consumers directly.

Also remember Chapter Two, in which your business wants to win fast. An effective digital marketing campaign should make a quick victory, while at the same time keeping your branding consistent. The entire brand must keep up the same spirit throughout the entire length of the warfare. At the same time, utilize digital tools for SEO and marketing. This will help your business to achieve fast successes and build momentum.

13. Use of Intelligence: Keep Up-to-Date with Your Industry and Competitors

We come to our final lesson in The Art of War marketing. Use intelligence to keep up-to-date with your industry and competitors. By now this may seem like a running theme throughout all the lessons, and in some ways it is.

In fact, you might be wondering how to acquire this intelligence. For General Sun Tzu, spies were an option, but this is digital marketing. The best place to find out about digitalization trends and strategies is right there in the digital world.

Pay attention to what is being discussed and notice the ways in which your competitors put themselves out there. Also, focus on ways you put your brand out there. Consider, which SEO keywords have done the best at getting you the consumers you want.

Google Analytics and Baidu Tongji can help you understand these high ranking and high volume keywords in your specific context. Moz and Majestic can give you more insight into your domain authority and chances of ranking on the first page of search engine results. Improving scores on both of these platforms requires more attention to SEO quality. But it can provide goals as you move through the process of becoming a better digital marketer.

Finally, remember that sometimes it requires that you stop searching and simply start creating your own path. Win before your competitors even know they have lost.

The Takeaway

Digitalization has both improved and complicated digital marketing strategies. The landscape is ever-changing and new SEO tools or platforms are emerging all the time. Not to mention that every day, new businesses enter the digital marketplace.

art of war for marketing

The Art of War marketing is about turning a 2,500-year-old military strategy into a successful marketing strategy. And it is about improving the overall vision and power of your brand.

Consult with Tenba Group today and start winning the digital war on marketing, emerge into new markets, and build a better business.

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