Business, like poker, is all about making optimal decisions to position yourself for success. It's exciting to see someone catch the last card to win the hand—but the right decision is usually to avoid that desperate situation altogether.
I was part of the new wave of poker players in the mid-2000s who used advanced analytics and tracking software to gain an edge. It wasn't only about winning big hands; it was about making high return-on-investment decisions in every scenario to ensure long-term success.
Today, digital marketing is undergoing the same revolution that poker did a decade ago. For young companies to achieve the growth they crave, their marketing teams must leverage data and software to reduce risk, maximize budget and out-think their competitors trying to do the same.
Here are three strategies, gleaned during my time as a poker pro, to double-up through digital marketing.
1. Be aggressive by being test-driven.
The more knowledge you have on your competition, the more profitable decisions you can make.
In poker, we call this “probe betting." At the table, your information is limited to where you sit, your own hand, the cards on the table and how much money you have. To turn uncertainty into predictability, experienced players place small, speculative bets, less interested in winning the hand than in gaining information through the reactions of the other players.
When making probe bets in digital marketing, use small amounts of resources to evaluate a strategy before making heavy investments. The more small investments you make each month to test tactics across multiple areas of your funnel (traffic, conversion, retention), the more knowledge you acquire—and the more winning strategies you will likely identify over time. That's when you double down on what works.
2. Consider investing in smart tech.
Companies that leverage data in marketing may grow faster than those who guess about the best ways to reach their audience. The right technology helps you visualize the ROI of every decision and base your strategy on the data available to you.
Online poker players often play six or more tables at the same time to maximize the number of hands played per hour. Their tracking software tells them how they play each hand. So, if they constantly lose with pocket 10s, they can apply that data to figure out how to course correct.
Analyze campaigns from every angle, right down to individual audiences and creatives, to see which strategies work and which don't produce the ROI you need. Your competitors may not be leveraging data, so the right technology can turn data into your secret weapon.
3. Manage your bankroll.
How much money you have in poker determines the level of stakes you play at and how big your bets are. Likewise, by diversifying and allocating your marketing budget toward high-ROI opportunities, you can limit spending while maximizing results.
Consider how much you spend on established tactics versus speculative bets. Do you go all-in on winners or do you maintain spending? In poker, as in marketing, you don't just lose money with a bad hand—you also lose money by not pushing hard on a good one.
Balance your budget by extremes. Consider spending a lot on proven successes and little on potential new avenues. Focus on the full funnel, where tests don't always require media spend. Treat cash management like a science to help maximize ROI and identify opportunities for growth.
Everyone wants to make more money and spend less. Approaching digital marketing the way a poker pro approaches the next hand can help you do just that. Stop vacillating between options and follow the data—to go all-in on winning strategies.