Chris Brogan, CEO of Owner Media Group, is the first to admit that he’s an outsider at Inbound.
He was up front about his background as a blogger and passionate gamer at the beginning of his talk, “How Video Games Can Help You Win in Business and Life,” explaining to the audience that he’s not a trained or traditional marketer.
“I have a weird take on things,” he said.
As an example, he told the story of his childhood video games — Odyssey 2, anyone? — that he spent a lot of time defending as every bit as great as his friends’ Ataris.
“My early marketing training was convincing my friends these games were just as good,” he laughed.
Video games have always informed Chris’s thinking about business, and he spent his talk breaking down strategic questions gleaned from gaming to help you figure out how to win your own game.
Win Your Own Game
Marketing and growing a business are a lot like working your way up the levels of a video game.
To apply the lessons to your work, ask yourself these three questions.
1. What Is the Story?
Every great video game has a story that casts the player in the role of the hero on a quest.
The idea of telling your story is an old marketing saw, but Chris recommended taking a closer look at it, since “the act of telling a story is how we learn.”
People will always absorb a narrative more quickly than data and statistics, so it’s crucial that your branding extends across all departments in your organization.
Keep the passion in your message, but be honest about your capabilities and pricing along the way.
Otherwise, Chris said, you’ll end up with a serious rift between your marketing and tech departments: “They sell the dream; we implement the nightmare.”
2. How Do I Play?
The rules and mechanics of a video game are like the metrics and systems your business has in place to operate in your field.
In a video game, Chris said, “You can run around aimlessly or go after a specific thing you want.”
The trick is to decide what’s worth going after. In some games, the quest is the thing; in others, side projects and rewards are more satisfying.
Consider what it really takes to get the results you want. For example, Chris pointed out that in many B2B situations, lead generation is considered the point of the game but that retention was barely measured.
“You can argue that retention should be measured and incentivized,” Chris said, adding that customer service is the least-appreciated aspect of any business.
At the end of the day, gaming and business are all about incentives. “This idea changed how I work with clients,” Chris said. “I now go straight at the question ‘What does this business really need?’ to play the game.”
3. How Do I Win?
“You hereby have permission to stop keeping up,” Chris said. “Go home and unsubscribe, because almost zero percent of industry innovation comes from the same industry.”
As an example, Chris said he’s interested in what people in Africa are doing to work around infrastructure limitations, stating that all the best innovations will come from this area of the world and echo out into other businesses.
“Real leadership is helping others see the path through the game or the story.”
Being able to see that path means cutting through all the data to focus on the one number that matters. “Usually it’s the number that comes before the one you think,” Chris said.
For example, knowing the number of sales you need to make your monetary goal isn’t enough — it’s far more powerful to know the number of lead it takes to make those sales.
Make Your Own Game
Gaming also offers insights for entrepreneurs looking to start something totally different.
Chris also provided three key questions for startups that help apply the lessons of gaming to their businesses.
1. What Do I Want to Do?
Write down your goals, Chris advised, so you can see what you need to chip away at.
Your business needs to hit the sweet spot of being focused on something you can do well, but it needs to be something that people actually need — and that they will pay for.
2. How Do I Want to Do It?
“You have to be the owner of your own game,” Chris said.
You don’t have to do things the way they’ve always been done, but you do have to do the work.
Chris cited Dollar Shave Club and Perez Hilton as examples of businesses built around changing the “how” around the way things had always been done.
3. Who Do I Want to Do It With?
As you’re working to build your business, stay focused on your mission so that you can pick your clients and coworkers by fit, not by the money.
Chris’s definition of success? “Being able to say no to things I don’t want to do.”
The biggest lesson of video games, Chris concluded, is to “fall in love with failure.”
Video games are played in three steps: attempt, fail, adapt.
“Use that mantra every day to change your actions,” Chris said.
“There’s nothing worse than not sharing your idea.”
Find out how you can share your ideas with powerful content by working with freelance writers here at WriterAccess.
Elizabeth T is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess; a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect to create memorable brand stories.