This is war.
You’re waging war on your opponent’s message so you can get their customers for yourself.
You don’t want to wage war on your target audience, though doing so to their sensibilities from time to time can work.
It works especially well at getting noticed, disrupting your opponent’s campaign, and bringing those prisoners of war (followers) back to your home turf.
If your website and its message is set up properly you can conquer the content marketing battlefield in your niche or industry.
To make that easier to understand, consider three key concepts:
- Find Your Opening.
Let’s discuss those things, and in a fun and sometimes bloody way.
The Battle of Leignitz
It happened in 1241. The Teutonic Knights that took the field that day laughed at the Mongol opposition.
The Mongols were on horses that were barely the size of a pony. Why did they think they could face the humungous war steeds of the knights?
The Knights were likely thinking that as they took the field and began their charge. Halfway across the field they would have started to lower their lances. By this point the Mongols were rushing at them as well.
Then it happened.
The Mongols, instead of pulling out long lances to try and impale the Knights, pulled out compound bows instead.
These were unknown in Europe, as was an arrow that could travel 150 yards or more. Additionally, these arrows could puncture a Knight’s armor at 50 yards with the same force as our modern handguns.
Around 30,000 Mongols died that day but tens of thousands of the best Knights in Europe died as well. The Knights had put a lot of money into their horses, their armor, and their weapons. They required squires to help get it all together.
The Mongols didn’t require much. Anyone could learn how to fire a bow…it didn’t take any money.
The Knights were under the impression that they were superior. They quickly learned otherwise, as did all the people depending on them.
Europe was overrun.
Lesson #1: Technology
I think the main lesson here is to not make stupid choices based on assumptions about your opponent’s weaknesses.
In this case the high and mighty thought they were just that, but quickly found out that they hadn’t been for some time.
They’d been inferior for probably a good year or more by that point, perhaps several, and they didn’t even know it.
That’s especially bad – being so backwards and not even knowing it.
In this case those backwards leaders thought they were still #1.
Find situations where you can make those assumptions work for you instead of against you.
The Battle of Huai-Hai
Yep, 2 months.
No one said it could be done, but he did it. The former librarian turned revolutionary proved them all wrong.
So how’d he do it?
Simple – he killed, captured or converted 500,000 of the Nationalist troops being led by Chiang Kai-shek.
Mao and Chiang had entered into an alliance in 1923, one that lasted for five years. From 1927 to 1937 the two men and their armies were locked in a civil war for the country.
Mao focused on the rural areas, Chiang on the urban. By 1934 it looked like the Communists were finished, but Mao and 100,000 of his people (many of whom were women) trekked across 6,000 miles of China in a Long March that left just 20,000 of them left.
By 1937 the two men had to put their differences aside to fight a common enemy, the Japanese. World War II had started in China in 1931 when the Japanese invaded the country. For the next ten years, Mao and Chiang fought the Japanese.
By October 1947, Mao was ready to end the weakened Chiang’s rule. Mao ordered his men to “surround, separate, and destroy” the 500,000 Nationalists located between the Huai River and the Lung Hai Railway.
To do that, Mao entered into a three-stage battle plan. He’d studied Washington, Napoleon, and Sun Tzu before and the battle came off well. The Nationalists were divided into three groups and then Mao began hammering away at them until they gave up.
The writing was on the wall, and on December 20, 1948, the Americans stopped supplying Chiang’s men.
Chiang had six generals at that point and two got killed, two captured, and the other two fled. Chiang did the same on January 10, 1949, fleeing to the island of Formosa, which he then started calling Taiwan.
Mao would go on to take China, ruling over its 560 to 930 million people (1949 to 1976) until his death.
Lesson #2: Mobility
If you know what’s worked before and you apply it with pressure and diligence and don’t give up, you will win.
You need a good plan first of all, and after that you have to have the will and the resources to carry through.
You also need the mobility to identify a message or campaign quickly, react to it, then conquer it.
Picking off your opponents’ audience for your own is easy if you apply that principle.
Also, apply the same principles of surrounding their message, separating their followers into your camps, and then destroying your opponent’s base of support because of it.
- If you have good social outreach and disruptive marketing campaigns, you can surround.
- If you have quality landing pages that attract and keep followers, you will separate.
- If you do both those things that small base of your opponent’s message support structure will be broken.
Give it a try on your next campaign.
The Battle of Gaugamela
Alexander had decided to invade Persia and he’d just had a great victory in Issus, resulting in the capture of Asia Minor for his empire.
He also took the wife, mother and two daughters of Darius for himself. It was quite the coup.
He kept up the push and the two great generals met at Gaugamela. There were anywhere between 52,000 and 87,000 Persians to the Macedonians’ 47,000 troops.
The two armies met on the field and charged. Darius was in the center of his line but Alexander did something unexpected – he didn’t attack the center, he attacked the flanks.
He rode out to the right flank, drawing off men from the center of Darius’s line. When the moment was right, Alexander rushed back and filed that hole in the center with his own men.
Darius lost his royal guard and his more experienced mercenaries. He was forced to flee. Alexander could have chased and ended him, but his own left flank was now suffering badly. He went to aid it, letting Darius get away.
It was no consequence – the Persian Empire now divided into East and West, Darius lost the trust of his men. One named Bessus killed Darius while on the way to Babylon.
The Achaemenid Persian Empire was through.
Lesson #3: Find Your Opening and Rush In
There’s a time for being conservative and battle isn’t one of them.
A keen eye is required at all times, however, and you’ll need it in order to spot the switch in your opponent’s campaign.
- Perhaps this is when they do a new rollout.
- It could be when they alter their social media message.
- Maybe it’s when they finally react to whatever it is you’re doing in regards to their message, either by altering their efforts or directly targeting you or your message.
When that happens you need to identify the gap in their line and rush in.
Social media makes this easy.
- You can go to any company page and read comments and reactions.
- You can see reviews on Amazon.
- You can look at the media and even measure analytics and sales data.
Find that opening in the market and fill it. Find the hole in the campaign and fill it.
Most of all, however, fulfill that need of the customer, website visitor, or social media viewer.
Get them to your site, get them on your brand, and make them part of your world.
You can do that and in doing so you’ll have won not only the campaign, but the war as well.