How I Learned about Marketing from a Dragon

This is an interesting article from Lesley Rice of Easy Content Blueprints.  Not only is a good article, I also liked it on a personal level because…cough, cough…I might have played D&D at “some” point in my life.  So take it away Leslie…

I have been a sorcerer for some time, working my way up from the lower levels and learning to use the magic in my blood, but that’s only on Saturdays when we play Dungeons and Dragons. 

Most of the rest of the time I’m just me, a short, Scottish, red-haired, writer with a particular penchant for shortbread and ginger biscuits.

A couple of days ago I got a call from a friend. She was finally taking her company online (about time) and wondered if I could give her some advice. Her offer was simple; a reasonable fee plus a supply of Earl Grey tea, shortbread and ginger biscuits. She knows how to put together an irresistible offer! I said yes, she came round  and we got to work.

I was about half way through my ‘you need to integrate all your marketing’ speech when she stopped me.  There was a problem. Somewhere, back at the beginning I had mentioned the word ‘article’ and the word ‘blog’.  She knew both in the abstract sense. Where, she asked, would she get ideas for things to write about?  I’ll get to the answer in a minute.

If you’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons then in my view you’ve missed out on one of life’s great pleasures. It’s a role playing game in which anything can happen, and that’s important. If you are walking down the street (in the game) and the dungeon master says ‘a huge dragon appears in your path’ then in most cases you have a problem. And that’s what happened to me last Saturday. I had barely popped in to the make-believe  inn to meet my fellow dungeoneers and pick up a new adventure, when boom. There it was, large as life and twice as fictional. A huge, black, winged dragon apparently of the fierce variety.

The rest of my adventuring party scattered, but not me. It’s not that I was brave, it’s just that I was too close. I considered various actions, but the sort of puny spell I could manage at the time was not really going to get me far. Magical orbs of energy tend to bounce off dragons.

So I tried something else, because in Dungeons and Dragons, you can.

I said ‘Hello Dragon, what do you want?’

Not very imaginative I know. But guess what happened next?

How do you decide what to write about? If you’re writing to promote a business, you have to look at things from your customer point of view. You need to ask that all important question – what does my reader/customer want to know?

You can brainstorm with friends, but the most reliable method is easier than that.

That’s where the dragon comes in. When I asked the dragon what he wanted, what do you suppose he did?

He replied.

And that’s the great thing about the Internet. Never before has it been so easy to ask readers what they want to know or customers what they want to buy. Surveys, polls, newsletters, even blog posts which ask for comments are all types of digital dialogue, and dialogue takes the mystery out of marketing.

I belong to a very good private forum where business owners often ask questions like ‘what sort of marketing works best’ and ‘which is the best niche to choose’ and even ‘what sort of thing should I write about on my blog’. The only truthful answer is that we don’t know. Every market is different, you have to test something to see whether it works, and if doesn’t, try something else.  We don’t know the answer, but we know how to find out. That’s where the dialogue comes in.

You can build a dialogue through

  • Blog posts – ask for comments
  • Tweets – ask for replies
  • Surveys – send them with your emailed newsletter
  • Polls – add them to the sidebars of your blog
  • Quizzes – build them in Hub-pages and send a link to your readers
  • Questions – ask your existing customers in your regular newsletter
  • Articles – take a controversial view in your newsletter  and ask for a response.
  • Email – send a question to your list and ask what them they need to know.

And if you’re just starting out you can check the questions being asked in the forums which deal with your topic or in something more central like yahoo answers.
As long as you keep asking the question, you’ll get your answer.

The essence of business is very simple. Find out what people want. Sell it to them. Bloggers or e-business owners, we all do the same thing. What works for one person, doesn’t work for the next. No one knows what will work for your particular business, so face up to the dragon; you need to know what it wants.  So ask.

Steve’s Note: It’s pretty cool how Lesley relates a widely popular game to sound, fundamental Internet marketing principles.  If you want to read more from her, you should check out Lesley’s site where she talks about article marketing, social media, SEO, and viral content.

Take Action. Get Results.

24 thoughts on “How I Learned about Marketing from a Dragon”

  1. Great posts Steve, or should I say Lesley 🙂

    I used to play DnD, so I can relate to a dragon falling out of the sky and catching you off guard, and it is a perfect example for internet marketing and online business sometimes.

    She wrote it perfectly, I mean if you don’t know what to offer or what to write about you can simply ask you audience, and if you don’t have audience you can search online, like suggested, forums are a great way to look around. I personally use Warrior forums, but there are plenty of other you can try.

    I’m off to check out her blog 🙂

    • Zarko – thanks for leaving a comment and for checking out my blog. I am always surprised at the subjects people respond to – for example in other comments you’ll see that the one that really got me started on Twitter was a comment about the biscuit I had with my morning coffee. Nothing deep or particularly interesting, but it made a connection.

      Have you ever been surprised at the response to a question or comment?

  2. Hi Steve,

    I enjoyed the analogy too. Dragons pop up as you encounter resistance, in many cases when you least expect it. Lesley breaks down methods of engagement in great detail. I’m partial to asking questions at the end of my blog post and engaging on twitter and FB. Ask questions. Wait for responses. Listen. Respond. The recipe is foolproof in building a business.

    Thanks for sharing and have a great day.


    • Ryan, thanks for leaving a comment. I loved your post on Stillborn Idea Syndrome, it’s something I try avoid, but I don’t think anyone is immune!

  3. Hi Steve and Lesly:

    Awesome story here that is reminding me that marketing lesson can come in any form and everywhere. When I connect with people I am not hesitant to ask, but our cultural values have changed and it is not easy to ask anymore. Besides if you are on the Internet you do not have direct relationship, and that makes a difference. However, people are people and still asking is the only as Lesly said.

    Warrior forum is very popular and everyone goes there, but I have not used it yet. I am going to give it a try today. Thank you.

    Have a good one
    Fran Aslam

    • Like you I have heard that the Warrior forum is very good, but just to be clear, that is not the forum I was talking about in my post.

      I would be very interested to know why you feel it is not easy to ask anymore?

  4. Clever article and I like the analogy, as a Dungeon Master for 20 years myself the “Dragon” inspired much in my ventures, heck it is even my name and site name and I have a dragon tattoo on my right arm.

    • Dragon blogger – fabulous name! I’d no idea I’d contact so many D&D fans! I enjoyed your post about Google chrome, I have a 25 inch monitor and I think that extension is going to be very useful!


  5. Hey Lesly and Steve,

    Awesome write up. It’s been a while since I played Dungeons and Dragons but it is pretty cool how Lesley used DnD to relate relate to the internet marketing basics.

    I can really relate to the feeling of the Dragon popping out of nowhere Lesly…:)

    • Thanks, Adam for your comment. I enjoyed your blog also, I am often surprised at the number of webstore owners who have a website but no blog. In my view developing a human face and personality for your business is very important. People buy form people they like and trust.

      And yes, Dragon’s keep popping out of nowhere. Yesterday, I was excited that this post was about to be published, but someone cut the cable which brings the internet to my home, so sorry I’m late replying to your comments – a dragon ate my cable,

      (Actually it was the man who had come to fix the irrigation system, but it could have been a dragon)

  6. Steve and Lesley,

    What a wonderful writer you are, sharing a story of your friend, game in to a great lesson for marketing.

    I write what pleases me, what I think about, which is all about improving personal and family life for me and others who read it. Ideas are all there, when we start writing to sell things the fun goes out of it, write something we believe in, we passionate about will last the gig bit longer.

    • Well Preeti I do agree that I enjoy writing about things I care about, but since I care about writing that covers most things 🙂

      Thanks for leaving a comment. There is no doubt that if you can write from the heart, your writing will have more passion, but as someone who has taught writing, I can tell you that there are many people who find that what they gain in passion, they lose in clarity.

      if you really want to get a point across, I’d suggest that you need both.

  7. Starting a dialogue with my readers is probably my biggest challenge. After reading this post, I realized that maybe I should start asking people to leave comments. The worst that can happen is people leave a response.

    I am a bit curious to find out how the dragon responded to Leslie though…

    • But what’s the best that can happen?

      For what happened with the dragon, please read my response to one of the other comments.

      To get dialogue going – yes, you’re right – asking is the start. When I started out I didn’t ask the right questions – avoid anything with a yes or no answer. If you have difficulty finding something people care enough about to respond, I recommend experimenting on twitter. The first big response I got was to a throw-away comment I made about biscuits, and how I found it difficult to write without a supply. It struck a chord with other writers and bloggers to my twitter account – and made lots of connections. I’d written poems and articles that read the same backwards and forwards and made all sorts of attempts to be clever, but a regular tweet about the virtues of shortbread did more for my dialogue than any of those.

      There’s a reason it’s called ‘social’ media.

  8. I never thought that a game such as DnD can be cleverly used for a marketing analogy. This is brilliant, I think. Dialog with your target audience is hard to establish. The audience will only participate in the dialog if they perceive some tangible benefits out of the dialog.

    • Well I suppose I should have mentioned it in the article, the dragon turned out to be friendly and even helped us find our next objective and beat the bad guy!

      To tell the truth, the dungeon master was a bit surprised by the dialogue approach, I think he may have changed the scenario as a result, but although Ive asked he says he’s not allowed to tell me!

      Thank you for your comment – but I can’t agree that the audience will only respond if they see some tangible benefit from doing so. I enjoy a dialogue with loads of people from my twitter account (which was, I’ll admit a surprise) and I find people are often willing to give you their point of view, if you ask nicely. I agree that it is hard to get the dialogue started. You have to find something people feel sufficiently strongly enough to make them spend the time, of course on Twitter you’re only looking for a 140 character response, so if you’re having problems with dialogue, Twitter is where I’d start.

  9. What a wonderful article Lesley (thanks Steve too!)

    Honestly, I am missing out on one of God’s creations as I have never played D&D. I’ve heard stories and even had friends who gather to really put on their costumes to come out but that’s as far as I went to know about the game. However, if there was a dragon in my path, what would I do?

    I guess I would hide at first until I am brave enough to conjure some magical power which I don’t believe I have any yet. I think that is also relevant to marketing in the beginning. You’re uncertain so the act is delayed. Through repetitious tests here and there, I’ll then see what’s probable. And that like you said is where it counts.

    The read was wonderful and article marketing is right up my alley too. So I will be checking you out more often Lesley. Thanks for the share!


    • Thu

      We all hide at first in the marketing world, wondering just what we can do to bring in the elusive traffic, but as long, as you say, we are willing to test and to try, we’ll get there. thanks for your comment on the post. I’m sorry you haven’t tried D&D, perhaps it is in your future?

  10. Thanks Lesley, good insight and something those of us who give up to easily should bear in mind. At the first sight of the Dragon I’d always run, but not any more…Now they’re my friends

  11. Hi Lesley, I love the dragon analogy. There are a lot of dragons in business, from employees getting sick, to suppliers flaking out, to customers sending forged checks (yup, happened to me). Sometimes you can make friends with your dragon as you found out. Opening up an honest dialogue with one of your critics can turn them into one of your biggest defenders!

  12. Jennifer, that’s a very good point. There’s so much fluff, hyperbole and other nonsense on the web and elsewhere that when you do meet someone who is genuine, even if they are critical, it’s good to make a connection. No-one, in business or out, does everything right, all the time. It can be how we take criticism and grow that sets us apart. And when critics see that, as you say, they can often become our best defenders.

    Thanks for making a useful point.

  13. Some really great tips here Lesley.

    In fact I think you’ve hit a fundamental nail right on the head. Most people fail to get the results that they want because they fail to understand what the customer actually wants.

    The obvious answer is asking them and the tools exist as you say, but people are too affraid to hear something that they don’t want to hear.

    • Matthew I think you’re exactly right. People don’t ask the question, even though it’s easy to do, in case they don’t like the answer. What’s the worst answer? Even if you got a response which seemed to say people really don’t want your product, would it not be better to know?

      Thanks for making a useful point.

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