When I was a younger strapping lad, I spent the vast majority of my time playing video-games. The kind of video-games that I enjoyed playing the most in particular, though, were real-time strategic war games (such as Starcraft: Brood War, which ironically foreshadowed how I would eventually grow up to choose a career in strategic work).
I dedicated so much of my life and got so good at them that I eventually ended up playing in three different world championships with real money and the possibility of professional contracts at stake. I never made it to the status of full pro, but I was indeed considered amateur, which meant that I was able to rank as better than pretty much 98% of all other gamers in the world at that game.
After playing online for a while, I eventually discovered that the more hardcore communities that I eventually became initiated in had developed either their own lingo, or borrowed real military terms, in order to convey deep saturated meaning very quickly and universally to teammates as we’d review replays of games that we’d play, in order to analyze why we had lost certain matches, and why we’d won others. This would help us to draw conclusions about our weaknesses and how we would innovate better practicing methods to improve our skill and win/loss ratio for achieving higher competitive brackets.
Two terms that come to mind that are actually equally applicable to Internet marketing strategy even today are “Micro” and “Macro”.
As it would be relevant to the game, “micro” tactics were about how you wielded troops in the heat of the moment to square-off against your enemy’s troops. The average player would think that if you had 10 soldiers to your enemy’s 20, that you were guaranteed to lose. In most cases, this was true, but the more skillful players that I became associated with had a very different take on it.
We’d say that if you had good enough micro, you could absolutely win every battle you ever got into if you took care to position your troops correctly on the right terrain, upgrade their armor and attack damage properly, memorize and utilize the correct formations that would capitalize on your soldiers’ differences in attack rates, and more as it would pertain to the short-term approach to gaining advantages over your opponent that would lead to winning the game.
Micro, as it would translate to real life ancient warfare, would be the ability of a military general to fight, organize troops, and basically duel.
On the other hand, a player’s skill in “Macro” was the art and science of managing your base while your soldiers were off-screen. How you managed resources, unit production, infrastructural defense, and the expansion of new bases throughout the map as these all would pertain to the bird’s eye view of the long-term approach to winning the game.
Macro, as it would translate to real life ancient warfare, would be the ability of a military general’s big picture vision for success.
Balancing Micro and Macro
While the closer you came to becoming a professional at the game, the more well-rounded you became at both facets of skill in it. But no matter who you were, it was just natural for any given gamer to be at least just a little bit better at one than the other.
If a gamer was exponentially better at one than the other, then their win/lose ratio tended not to be very good. Much in the same way that UFC fighters can’t be good at just stand up without being also good at ground fighting; they have to be skilled at both.
This is because, if you were so good at micro, but crappy at macro, then, sure, you might be able to win a few confrontations within the match with a few soldiers you produced at the beginning of the game, but if you had been neglecting your infrastructure and technology, your opponent would eventually overcome you mid- to late-game just by the sheer numbers and power of their units that they could mass produce in a way that you couldn’t.
On the other hand, the concept is the same for someone who is exponentially better at macro but not micro: if you focus solely on building your base but you’re crappy at organizing your soldiers, you’ll lose battle after battle in the match. Even if you can mass produce more units than your opponent can, they’ll eventually overcome you like the fewer Spartans did the larger group of Persians.
One is yin; the other is yang. And you need both in order to be complete.
Micro and Macro For Strategic Business Marketing
So how does any of this relate to business marketing?
…it does in every way.
If your business were to be thought of as a kingdom, then you are the king as the CEO, and your employees (even if you are your only employee) would be the equivalent to your army, and your potential customers would represent the market share that you’d like to conquer.
Your “macro”, in this case, would convert into your big-picture vision and plan for the company, as well as your ability to produce quality content for its marketing.
Your “micro” would convert into your ability to execute your plan in real-time, with tactics such as paid advertising and guest blogging as your tactics.
If you’re great at macro in this regard, but not micro, you might create a potentially iconic brand with a wonderful product to sell, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll win the battles you need to conquer market share with effective use of micro tactics. Your brand will mean nothing if you have little to no outreach leading to no one knowing about it, and you’ll eventually go out of business as you’re beaten by competitors who are better at micro than you are.
If you’re great at micro, but not macro, you might be able to be a whiz at paid advertising with extremely high engagement rates on social media (for one example out of many), but your advertising would lead your target audience to a company that doesn’t engage them on a personal level and/or provide quality service and products that would ultimately render your expert advertising meaningless in the long-term, and could actually have the opposite effect as people give your company bad reviews that spread like wildfire because your excellent micro tactics help to spread word about your company.
Just like in real-time strategy war games, you (or at least the marketing team that you build for your company) have to be skilled at both, with absolutely no exceptions or excuses for having a major deficit of ability in either one.
You and/or your marketing team may, collaboratively, always be just a little bit better at one than the other…and that’s fine; that’s natural. However, you should always strive to build the most elite team you can afford, or at least increase your own personal knowledge and skill (if you’re a one-man show) in either facet to be as well rounded as you can humanly be.
My Personal Flaws
I’m personally better at macro than I am micro at virtually everything that I do, not just business. I can concoct award-winning ideas, and maintain a bird’s eye perspective on everything, but turning those ideas into reality with the skillful grit-work needed to win the tiny battles I need for market share are what hold me back.
For instance, I can nail down to the minutest detail how to market a blog and build a loyal following for a brand; however, I have a hard time staying consistent with the publications of content. You can check the dates of each article on this blog; they’re very sporadic. Some weeks, I might post four to five different articles, and then there might be a lapse of time after them where I don’t post anything at all for months.
This is typically because my time is spent working with other clients instead of working on my own business, but that’s not an excuse; that’s a problem of self-discipline that I need to work on as a part of improving my micro, even if the macro strategy of my business marketing is totally on point.
In games like Starcraft, that would be the equivalent of saying: “Well, I would keep building more units in my base, but my attention is always taken up by the off-base battles that I fight which prevents me from multi-tasking properly to build my bases while attacking at the same time.”
It’s not a valid excuse, and at the professional levels of the game, where a company like Gillette might sponsor you to fly to South Korea to play in front of an international audience, that would cause me to lose big time against other players with better self-discipline who could.
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