Superior Audience Engagement: Lessons from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War

General Sun Tzu’s Art of War is an inspiration for marketers and leaders alike. His treatise on war, written around 514 BC, presents basic principles of warfare and gives military leaders advice on when and how to fight. Lessons from this 13 chapter book teaches how to devise battle strategies that can be applied to audience engagement in the 21st century.

Here are 5 lessons that can be applied from the iconic strategist and The Art of War for brands and aspiring entrepreneurs on how to thrive in a challenging marketplace and create better audience engagement.

“Ponder and deliberate before you make a move”

There is no guesswork in audience engagement. Each UI element, typography, layout is carefully designed and tested. It is imperative to understand your audience, where they are coming from and their interests before crafting communication that would lure them to buy your product/service. If you already have some traffic flowing to your website, Google Analytics is a great tool and when you dig deeper it provides information on your audience demographics, interests and source of their visits. If you are starting out fresh and do not have enough data to study, survey your potential audience. Surveys provide great insights and when used properly can help you plan your next move. By asking questions, you can now segment your audience and show content that are relevant to them. Segmentation is one of the best audience engagement tactics. It is important to understand what the end goal is before working on steps to achieve them. If a visitor came to your website from a reference link on shoes, your landing page should display shoes and not clothes in your website. That way you are serving the purpose to engage with your audience better.

“When one treats people with benevolence, justice and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders”

I would like to draw a parallel between audience engagement and marriage. If you are interested in a girl, you don’t walk up to her and ask her to marry you. The answer would be a plain NO. We all know that. What do you do instead? You ask her out, go out for movies, dinners and more. You build trust and when you know that she has enough confidence in you, you ask her hand for marriage. Your chances of hearing a YES is greater. The idea here is to provide value first before thinking about yourself. When your audience visit your website, they may not buy from you. You need to engage with him/her, provide relevant content and build trust over a period of time. The word here is to ‘HOOK’. This can be done by writing content that might interest them, creating videos, sharing posts on social media, sending emails of latest blogs and more.

Did you know?

52% of shoppers confess that watching product videos makes them more confident in making a purchase (Invodo).

When you share what they want to see, when you provide something new or an offbeat experience and when you engage with them regularly, confidence is established and they would be happy to buy from you.

“If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak.”

It is important to know which channels to tap into based on your audience profiling and create content to engage with them. As much as it is enticing to be seen on different platforms, it may not be viable for brands and marketers to stay active, engage and sustain their presence. There is a certain set of skill in knowing how to spread the concentration of troop’s AKA marketing channels and focus on audience engagement.

Did you know?

Research by Media Blog, analyzed content of over 2 million tweets sent by thousands of users over the course of a month. Analysis shows that by adding a photo URL to your tweet you can boost retweets/aka engagement by an impressive 35%.

When your audience are on website looking at a specific content, provide links to take them to other parts of the site which has similar content. You can also provide a search box to help your audience look up for information that you have on your website. If you plan to be on social media, choose two or three platforms and stay active. The idea is to limit your presence in few platforms but increase engagement. There’s no point utilizing a trend following strategy as what works for one brand may not work for the other.

“He will win who knows how to handle both superior and Inferior forces.”

In a competitive market, it is necessary to do things differently to stand out and to gain your audience’s attention. Unlike big brands, you will not always have the greatest force. But it is possible to win. Knowing the right fighting strategy is important. Provide a seamless user experience on your website. Offer relevant content and link inside pages of your website. Integrate a chat box and make yourself available to answer questions if your audience have any. Set up auto-responder emails. Send reminder emails to your audience who have not visited your site for a while. You may not have a big team or a huge marketing budget but when you know where to spend money and what to avoid, it will help you in create better campaigns and in turn better audience engagement.

“There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare”

Be decisive and quick. Rapidity is the essence of war. Similarly, it is necessary to take quick action when you engage with your audience. Let us look at it with examples. When a visitor is on your website, you can launch a pop up which offers some value in exchange for their email address. Once they share their email, you can send regular e-mailers to engage with them. If your customer has an issue and resorts to social media such as twitter, be quick to respond. Apologize or clarify if necessary. Encourage engagement in every post. Include social shares, ask for feedback or add comment box with interesting widgets.

How are your engaging with your audience? Let me know in comments below.

Originally published at on April 13, 2017.

Co-Founder of ONNE, a PAAS that helps SME’s get an app in 3 mins. I am also a Marketer, Artist, Writer, Pluviophile & a Pet Mother. @curls_and_sunshine on insta

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