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Show Your Hand – Creating True Value And The Tired Poker Metaphor


What are you doing that is actually different from everyone else? I say it’s time to show our hands.

My last article I stand by the belief that we have to offer the experiences that we have created, rather than just telling everyone the theory (here is the ‘Stop Banging On About Storytelling‘ article). Action and being present today, holds more weight than a thesis. It’s all about the value we create, rather than repeating what someone else has said (there is enough of them on your Twitter feed at this very second).

This article I want us to recognise that showing an approach and mindset, is how we become different from the crowd.

The One-Way Traffic You Can’t Overtake

It’s time for businesses to stop an approach that tells everyone that they know best. For instance, the company providing social media training, only to find that every Tweet they write is just a long list of links and barely any engagement with anyone, does not give someone the right to tell others what to do. A one-way barrage of what is effectively advertising is by no means an approach that creates a sense of community and sharing a belief system.

Our roles as businesses are effectively being part of the table on one big game of poker. To those who aren’t familiar with how poker works, the winner of each game is decided by the ranks of players card, where some are hidden from show until the end of the game. Betting starts on every round based on the rank that a person believes their hand is worth, compared to the other players.

A player can ‘raise’ based on the strength of their hand or they can fold. At the end of each game the winner is determined if everyone else has ‘folded’ or the hands are revealed when there is more than one player looking to win ‘the pot.’ The player with the winning hand, based on the order of rank, wins.

Why Companies Throw Their Cards In And Fold

This analogy is where we are today. Many businesses choose to keep their cards close to their chest and eventually ‘fold.’ All they can muster is weak product based messages on how good they are, stating the increase in turnover over the past 12 months and the ‘excellent bespoke service’ they provide the world. This isn’t a strong hand it’s just B2B service waffle that we have all become accustomed to.

Those who are ready to show their hand are the ones who are prepared to present how they have done it. The company that is providing social media training where their proof is merely links and one way traffic, is going to loose to a higher hand of a business that shows engagement, conversation and longevity of relationships (N.B. as an aside have a look at Trevor Young’s ‘Cultivating a Village of Support for Your Personal Brand’ Slideshare presentation). This is what businesses need to be prepared to do.

Taking A Different Approach

This is more than looking to differentiate; it’s about showing a more considered approach and having the evidence on show that will stand-alone. This is the ‘royal flush’ that will beat any other hand when there is evidence and proof that an approach works. The companies who provide pure methodology from earlier rounds are going to be trounced by the bigger hands that show proof, value and creativity.

To stay within the game of poker, businesses need to be committed and if what they currently have, doesn’t feel right, it’s time to fold. A low scoring hand of a couple of press releases, sporadic blog posts and thinking that the local business magazine ½ page ad is the answer to your new customer prayers, is sooner or later going to have to fold, with a minimum return.

Focusing On The Owned Media Approach As The Poker Metaphor

So now you get the poker metaphor. I know this is probably a pretty well used comparison with business, but I’m going to take it down the route of creating an owned media approach and more importantly, making it work.

Lets make it even more meaningful:

1) Show A Love And Genuine Enthusiasm For The Game

Those who are genuinely enthusiastic with how media channels work and looking to develop an owned media approach manage to show a love of the game. This is contrasted to those businesses that dabble, don’t have a good understanding but are prepared to waste money and time within spaces that guarantee no return whatsoever. It is important to remember that when it comes to playing the game, it’s much more than the cards you are dealt, it’s the persona you present to others.

2) You Can’t Win Every Game

The seasoned player acknowledges that they can’t win every game, but are prepared to study and know when it’s the right time to make that move or make the sensible decision to fold.

In a business context, there are moments when you just have to fold. A couple of years ago I worked on the If You Could Go Back project. This was a series of interviews with local businesses on three things they would advise their younger selves at the beginning of their professional career. The intention was a learning tool for new businesses or those looking to make that leap into self-employment. This was such a time intensive project that when it came to taking things to the next stage ie. print and finding a sponsor, it just didn’t materialise. It was time to fold.

3) Some Always Think They Are Dealt Poor Hands

Many businesses think that they are forever dealt poor hands and can’t seem to work out why they don’t get better cards.

This comes down to showing a genuine understanding of the game you are playing (see point 1). You can’t have the expectation that you can just show up to see a return. This is similar to the businesses that think that a smattering of a few blog posts, will result in either a burst of subscribers or the promise of converting prospects to customers. To then become frustrated that there is no return and then put their endeavours to an eventual close. This reflects more on a business who is not prepared to develop new channels rather than thinking that the audience aren’t ‘out there.’

4) Become Better Informed To Fold Or Push Harder

All players will at some point loose hands. However, if a long term, more patient view is taken, then it becomes easier to make a better judgement to stop or to progress. It is ok to take a steady approach, loose hands as long as there is a goal in sight.

The If You Could Go Back project could be considered as a loss, but the long-term goal was to look at ways to build an audience as well as the role for my business to provide useful information. Similarly, Ian (Rhodes) and myself have discovered that the cards we are currently being dealt with on the Marketing Homebrew podcast project are pushing us harder so we are in for the next round.

5) Some who play often can make a career out of it

Those players who move from enthusiasm, to study, to delivery, to wider recognition can become revered and respected players within the poker circuit.

This is similar to those who can build an audience, take ownership of channels that are theirs and become recognised as influential within their marketplace. This is a totally different space from a sporadic approach and thinking that the whole focus for your content efforts is within text on a screen. It is an all encompassing, committed mindset that can innovate, adapt and continually learn that will rise above the competition.

6) The buzz of the unexpected becomes a spark and an explosion

The player who enjoys being part of the game and does it with real enthusiasm, knows that learning and application can become a real buzz. To the business adapting to a content mindset the unexpected also means a hands-up acknowledgement that we are not experts, just people and businesses who are relentlessly curious with a goal to find the truth and give meaning to what we are doing.

The quicker businesses stop telling everyone that they are the experts, the better. It’s a reality check to acknowledge that it’s the journey we are on and the value we provide that is more rewarding than the finishing line of saying that we are ‘the one’. For instance, my graduation day at University was one of the most underwhelming occasions days of my life. I know this wasn’t the case for my parents, but sitting through a three-hour ceremony just to hear my name, after three years of having the most fun a person in their late teens/early 20s could have, puts it into perspective. My own living proof that the journey to get to that degree was more worthwhile than the degree itself.

7) If you are forever bluffing, you will get found out (MY FAVOURITE)

Those who make it through to the next round, but constantly bluffing as their sole strategy are sooner or later going to be exposed. In the role of business, this comes back to my previous article where I am seeing more and more people telling others how to do something and layout the steps when they haven’t dedicated time and effort in understanding how a discipline works. Just because social media is free to use, doesn’t give someone the right to tell others what to do, just because they spend more time on Twitter than someone else. Success comes with creating a strategy, exploring, evaluating and re-evaluating and being more creative than the competition.

To become accomplished at poker you have to be committed to study to then choose the right moments to attack. This is similar for the roles that we play within our marketplaces where we can now take complete control of spaces that we own and have the ability to create and share. This provides the opportunity to dominate the competition and take a larger share of the pot. It’s time to become an influential player that provides value and meaning to your audience.

Image at the top of the article courtesy of Pheezy

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