Last week I sat down to play an intense game of Terra Mystica.
For those of you who don’t know it, Terra Mystica is a highly strategic, territory control game, whereby players play as one of fourteen different factions, using the resources at their disposal to build empires. The game is played over 6 rounds and the player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins.
You may be asking this: What the heck does a board game of all things have to do with driving successful marketing strategy?
A ton. And – spoiler – I highly recommend this game to anyone with 2-3 hours of time and a group of ~4 strategy minded individuals. Not only can it teach you a ton, but it’s a whole lot of fun in one small box.
Sadly, since most of you probably aren’t here to read about me raving about board games, I’ll get straight to the point. Here are the top 5 things that a game of Terra Mystica can teach us about marketing strategy:
1) Strategize in advance
At the beginning of a game of Terra Mystica, six of the eight scoring tiles are randomly drawn and placed face-up on the game board in random order. Each tile corresponds to a round, denoting bonus points for certain achievements/actions taken in that round. Your strategy for the overall game AND each round- indeed, even your selection of the faction you play – will incorporate which bonus tiles are in play that game, and, in which order. Players who play from action to action rather than thinking strategically about how actions impact their overall plans will be at a significant disadvantage.
Taking this to the ‘real world‘, you need to remain focused on your overall marketing strategy. Every law firm should make a point of revisiting their marketing strategy in detail at the beginning of every year and making sure that each marketing activity planned fits into their overall plans. For more information on setting a marketing plan and budget, check out our previous post here.
2) Think longer term
Looking at actions individually can be underwhelming. Looking at how each action interacts with another, and how early on actions layer to reap rewards later on, is a whole different story.
An often heard complaint about marketing strategy is not seeing results right away. This is particularly true for social marketing and content building strategies which take a lot of time to pay off. Look at a blog for example. Writing one blog post ever is not going to do much for you. Writing a blog post or several a week, consistently over time, can give you a lot of extra exposure and expertise in the eye of the public. To execute successfully you need commitment and you need to to be aware -right from the start- that your ultimate payoff will take time. Throwing resources into a marketing strategy and giving up too early due to lack of results is not the way to go.
3) Know your niche
Like life, in Terra Mystica your winning strategy should depend on player-specific goals. In the game, each player plays one of 14 different factions. Each has unique special abilities, with the cost to perform actions varying by faction. Knowing your character’s strengths and weakness should be a key part of strategy.
This holds true for your legal practice too (or indeed any business)! Know your customer and design a marketing strategy that appeals directly to them. If you have a niche strategy make sure your marketing strategy is in line and that you aren’t just trying to attract as many people as possible. Quality over quantity.
4) Be true to your core message
Despite all the moving pieces and multitude of things to consider, all of your actions in the game should work with the faction you’ve chosen in mind.
In ‘real life‘: Don’t dilute your marketing message. Every marketing activity you take, online and offline should be true to your overall branding strategy. Your website (look, feel and message), your marketing (online and off), the volunteer work you do, your social media pages and posts, the stuff you blog about, etc. All of it should support your brand and your core goals.
5) Use competitors’ moves to help yourself
In Terra Mystica, building near a competitor can hinder your expansion plans, but will cost you less. Since you have limited resources, you often want to capitalize on other players moves to bring your own costs down and hopefully do more with what you have.
This couldn’t be more relevant for driving marketing strategy. As a start-up, I’m intimately familiar with tracking competitor progress feverishly.
Oh no – why didn’t I think of that marketing strategy? Wow someone new has come up that does something adjacent to us. What to do? What to do?!?!
Relax. Competition is actually a good thing. In my opinion, it says that you are doing things right. Afterall, if no one wanted what you were doing why would there be any competition to begin with.
The bottom line here: Yes, you absolutely need to know who your competitors are and what they are doing. However, competition is not the end of the world. Your goal should be to get a bigger piece of the biggest pie possible. Competitor marketing can educate the market and seed the way for better response to your own marketing campaign or product.
Know your competitors and know them well, learn from their successes and weaknesses, and
Steal borrow ideas from them unabashedly.
I wanted to have a top 5, but there were just so many things I wanted to say. So, here we have it, a bonus comparison for you.
Manage your resources wisely: I wont go into this one in as much depth as our top five, but I will say this. In Terra Mystica you need to do the most that you can with limited resources. Depending on what actions you take now, you will gain more of certain resources for future use. I will leave it to you to make the real-life extrapolation for this one!
As for the game itself? I love it and wish I owned it, but am practicing some of that aforementioned resource management!
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