[Estimated reading time: 11.4 minutes]
Loosely based on George R.R. Martin’s series of best-selling fantasy novels, Game of Thrones depicts a tale of love, lust, loss, revenge and struggle for power in a world where no deed goes unpunished, regardless of its nature or intent.
This medieval epic takes us on multiple journeys with various different kings and queens, knights and renegades, bastards and pure bloods, killers and victims, as they try to outmaneuver each other every step of the way in this high-stakes, living and breathing game of chess for the control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, and its Iron Throne.
Game of Thrones is a monster success. Everyone knows that. There are a lot of things that make this tv drama such an amazing and addictive show. GoT is shocking, brutal, unapologetic, unpredictable, and yet beautiful, poetic and visually stunning at the same time.
Although everything takes place in a made-up world, anyone who knows a little bit of history, will automatically recognize that the kingdoms loosely mirror Great Britain from the middle ages. This sort of thing makes the series extremely rich with context. It gives it depth and stringency. The details of various cultures, customs and traditions that live in R.R. Martin’s world all feel very authentic and real, so it’s no surprise why most viewers tend to completely lose themselves in this medieval fantasy.
Unlike other great tv shows that we have the luxury to easily follow today, Game of Thrones’ narrative moves forward relatively slowly. The producers of this project don’t want to rush anything. They are smart enough to take their time in order to build up tension and create a big and extraordinary world for us filled with various well-developed characters.
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to Game of Thrones, I am one of those viewers who came for the carnage, but stayed for the characters. Martin’s character arcs are so damn good. Even though the celebrated writer gave us such a great, intelligent, detailed and rich palette of different heroes and villains, to me one name that really stands out from the crowd, is none other than Daenerys Targaryen.
Why? – Because, her journey is mostly concentrated on growth, overcoming challenges, and building an army of warriors that could help her retake the Iron Throne and rule all of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.
Yes, so is everyone else’s, but not in the same way. Daenerys is the last of her kind. She is literally building her empire from scratch by directly helping the oppressed and weak.
As an online businessman who’s constantly trying to improve his brand, grow his customer base and dominate within my niche, I truly came to admire her ambition.
Carefully following Daenerys Targaryen on her journey from Essos to King’s Landing, I’ve noticed a lot of patterns in the way she builds her army. I came to understand how she tackles all the obstacles that stand in her way, how she manages to get various different people to blindly believe in her cause and follow her to glory.
So, without any further delay, here are a few growth hacking lessons I picked up along the way from Dany Stormborn while geeking out to Game of Thrones:
1. Lead, Never Follow
The Unburnt Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and of the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons – these are just some of the titles that describe the greatness that is Daenerys Targaryen.
Unlike most of the heroes in this series, Daenerys Targaryen truly owns her achievements. And she wants to make sure that you instantly know who she is, where she’s been, and where she’s going. As we seen so far in the show, the youngest child of Aerys II Targaryen is a natural born leader. She is determined to always position herself as an alpha of the pack and there’s not much you can do about it.
But how does she do it? – Easily, by backing up her convictions and extending her hand to those whom the other’s left behind to rot.
I think there’s a great lesson to be learned here. When it comes to growing your brand online, it’s is of crucial importance that you start thinking of yourself as a true leader. If you want to really rule your niche one day, you need to prove yourself to your targeted crowd as a brand that has a different vision for the future. You need to acknowledge what your direct competitors are missing, and use it to get as much people to back you up on your journey to reinventing a particular niche or market.
I’m not talking about reinventing the wheel here. Unlike Daenerys Targaryen, you’re not obliged to conquer different cities and free all the slaves in Slaver’s Bay from their masters in order to generate some attention to yourself. No. All you have to do here is to find that teeny tiny thing that others are missing, that has the potential to improve the general quality of service within your niche, and use it to present yourself to your targeted audiences as someone who has a flexible mind and a vision for the future.
As Margaret Thatcher once said: “Don’t follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you.”
2. Stick to Your Vision – Don’t Give Up When The Going Gets Tough
Exiled to the lands of narrow sea that separates the Seven Kingdoms from the savage East, as long as she could remember, the Targaryen princess has only one thing on her mind – to find her way back home and reclaim what is, as she puts it, rightfully hers.
Even though Westeros, the land her father ruled before Jamie Lannister killed him was never truly a home to her, nor does she have any real memories of that place, The Unburnt Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and of the First Men is set to see her plan come to life.
Daenerys Targaryen is no stranger to loss of grief. In fact, that is her defining characteristic. She falls, only to rise up again, even stronger than before.
As all of you who actively follow the series and R.R. Martin’s books know, the princess first lost her father, then her home, then all her blood relatives, then her freedom, and finally – her husband and a child. And yet, she still stands proud and fights for her place in the world.
Every move she has made so far in the series, every council she has taken, every person she has liberated from chains or put back to the ground, every insult, punishment and beating she has received – has been in service of reaching her goal.
As a person who has often in the past been a part of teams where managers have pivoted their projects more times than Hakeem Olajuwon did the San Antonio Spurs defence in the ‘95 Western Conference Finals, to me Daenerys’ spirit and determination are like a breath of fresh air.
It doesn’t really matter if you run a web hosting company, a big ecommerce site, a retail store, or a digital marketing agency – just like Daenerys you’ll come face to face with various types of scenarios where you’ll be forced to make some unpopular choices. But, that doesn’t mean that you should always abandon ship every time you come across some trouble.
These days, growing your brand on the Web is no easy task. You need to get your hands dirty and overcome some pretty hard times. In reference to that, even though it’s easy to completely change your course every time things go a bit chaotic, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on the wrong track.
It’s quite important to stay true to your cause and focus on what you set to achieve.
In the earlier days of growing our brand, we at AltusHost experienced some oscillations. There were times when we wanted to throw in the towel, burn our mission to the ground, and start again fresh. But we didn’t. Something kept us going. Looking back at those moments now, I’m really glad we decided to remain true to our cause and muscle through all the hardship. It certainly made us stronger than we ever imagined being.
Our advice here is to carefully develop your growth strategy and stick to your guns, even though it might bring you some genuine results at first. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s important to believe in yourself and keep pushing as hard as you can. If you’re really applying yourself, the results will eventually come.
3. Find Your Own Dragons, Feed Them, Care For Them, And They Will Return The Favor
Just like Khaleesi cared for and nurtured her dragons until they were big enough to fight for themselves and their mother, you should do the same for your brand and investment. If you, like me, work for a web hosting company, then your network is your dragons. You cannot expect from it to help you rule your niche, while it’s still small and weak.
If you want really to grow and position yourself as a leader in your industry, you have to be patient and work hard with your dragons. You have to feed them, pet them, and care for them until they become a real source of power.
You need to wait until your products or services are good and ready before you unleash them on the world. Launching an incomplete and weak product or service will get you nowhere in business. It doesn’t matter how much money you’re willing to invest in marketing, or how hard you’re willing to work your prospects – without big and powerful dragons by your side, you won’t reach your goals.
People will figure out that you’re service (in my case, network), isn’t really fully grown and stable, and they’ll leave you for a better provider. Their website will frequently go out of order and you won’t be able to promise them better service because you don’t have the resources to back it up.
So, take a note from Khaleesi’s playbook. Focus on development, before you go out and try to fully conquer your niche. Make sure that your product is good and ready before you use it to win over new customers. If people see your flaws, they won’t help you spread the word about your brand, and your dragons.
4. Embrace The Diversity
As all you who regularly follow the show already know, Daenerys Targaryen knows how to use your uniqueness to her advantage. Being the last of the Targaryens and a woman battling for power in a world ruled by strong and ruthless men, Daenerys definitely stands out from the crowd. With her long silver hair, milky skin and unorthodox view on slavery – she really knows how to draw attention to herself. She has embraced her diversity and turned it into one of her most powerful weapons, which says a lot when you take a moment to realize that we’re talking about a woman who has three freakin’ dragons.
In a world where every business is basically copying each other, diversity comes like a ray of sunshine after the rain to almost every type of consumer. Today, every spark of originality, regardless how big or small it may be, can completely turn the game around in your favour.
Even though we’re constantly bombarded with all sorts of tips and tricks on how to climb the ladder to success, as an experienced marketer I came to understand that there’s no better quality in business than being unique.
Just yesterday, I have read an article on business.com about Sami Rusani, a six-foot-nine inch Sweedish-entreprenuer who has actually managed to create a career for himself just by being rediculously tall. As he says: “It’s insanely easy for me to talk to people. Everyone I meet, everyone I stand next to, is always interested in learning exactly how tall I am. This is a great ice breaker for me, my size helps me capture a lot of lead and ease into casual conversations which ends up with me converting on that lead.”
Learn from Dany’s and Sami’s examples and leverage on your uniqueness.
5. Building a Bigger and Better Brain Trust Is Equally Important As Building Bigger Muscles for Your Brand
If you, like me, come into contact with a lot of ambitious people who are interested in making it big online, you’d have noticed that these days a lot of digital entrepreneurs think they can actually make it on their own. They get so blinded by their vision and love for the project or brand in which they’re investing, and that basically makes them impervious to all sorts of reasonable councils and friendly comments.
They think that all you need to succeed in business is money and strong will.
Without even taking a second to rethink their actions, ask their colleagues for advice, employ some experts to help them develop their idea in a proper way, or investigate the market – these guys literally burn their last dollar on an idea that was doomed from the very start.
Why? – Well, because it wasn’t really tailored to fit the needs of an actual consumer.
These entrepreneurs spend an insane number of hours per week working on all the wrong tasks that will never make them any money. Eventually, these guys end up scared and annoyed by the lack of profit or progress, so they abandon ship.
Even though Daenerys Targaryen is strong-minded, determined and set on achieving her goal, she still knows that she isn’t the smartest person in all the Seven kingdoms. She knows that even though she has lived through hardships and experienced all sorts of traumas that really made a bond between her and her people, the young Queen of Mereen is rational enough to understand that she still lacks experience in all sorts of different fields, like running an actual army.
The Mother of Dragons also knows that she isn’t really a skilled politician. Daenerys knows what she needs to do in order to get people to follow her to the end of the world, but to actually rule over them and solve all their everyday issues, rebellions and struggles along the way – well, that’s a whole different ball game.
Unlike most online businessmen I know, the young Targaryen acknowledges her limitations. That’s why Khaleesi has all sorts of different advisors by her side. Missandei, Grey Worm, Tyrion Lannister – these are just some of the names that Daenerys has employed to her help her rule over Mereen.
Even though she is always the one who calls the shots, she listens to her brain trust, let’s them speak their mind on the matter, processes their council, and only then comes up with an actual decision.
Despite the fact that her primary goal is to multiply her army and recruit new people to actually swing the sword in battle for her, Daenerys still cares a great deal about who and how commands her troops on the battlefield. Like a smart leader she is, Daenerys knows that muscles without brains don’t mean anything. That’s why she’s focusing on creating a team of strategists that will know how to use and manage her resources in the best possible way.
I think a lot of us should start taking notes here.
6. Knowing Your Customers and Truly Caring for Them Are Two Completely Different Things – Always Aim for the Second One
As a marketer, I have read a ton of articles in which the authors claim that if you want to win big in business, you have to truly know your brand and your potential customers. You have to know who your future shoppers are, as well as if your product or service is in any way gender or age exclusive.
Like they say, it is your job to understand to whom you’re selling and what. Figuring out what your shoppers like, what they dislike, and what makes them interested in your brand should be on top of your to-do list.
Once you have all that, once you get your hands on all that information, you’ll have to take that newly-acquired knowledge and apply it to your marketing. If you succeed in doing that, your conversion rates will sky-rocket in no time.
Having all this in mind while watching some of my favorite GoT episodes, I have noticed that, in a way, Daenerys Targaryen uses the above-mentioned tactics in her growth strategy. She targets the weak, the forgotten, and the oppressed, and recruits them to her army by promising them the very same thing they are so longing for – freedom.
Talk about knowing your targeted audience, right?
But, unlike most businesses out there who use these so-called customer personas to reach out to their prospects and get them to buy their products and services by speaking their language and targeting their deepest troubles and desires, Daenerys Targaryen truly cares about her people. Being a person who has been forgotten, stripped of everything, sold like a piece of meat and tortured just for the fun of it, Daenerys Targaryen really understands what it means to be a slave. Khaleesi has lived through it all herself, and that’s why it’s so easy for her to get the abandoned and unfortunate to pick up her banners.
After seeing the status on slavery and the conditions in which common people live in Slaver’s Bay, Daenerys immediately took action by ending the rule of slave masters in that region. That’s how she earned her nickname “Mhysa”, which in old Ghiscari means “mother”.
Focusing on the events from this season, we can see that the Targaryen princess is no longer just a visionary. She now has an army of 8000 Unsullied, 500 Stormcrows, and God knows how many Dothrakis, Brazen Beasts, Saltwater Shields, Mother’s Men, Free Brothers and other freemen. Daenerys is now a legit leader of a legit army.
But how does she do it? How does she keep all those people on her side? What makes them love her so much? – Simple, her attitude toward her crowd. By showing a real interest in her people, and their heritage as well, Daenerys has positioned herself as a just and lovable leader.
I think there’s a lesson to be learned here. If you truly want to turn your prospects into your loyal customers, you need to lead by example, promote value of everyone’s interest, make your brand awareness a priority, and connect the personal with your overall cause. Only then will you truly understand your buyers, get them to passionately follow your brand and recommend it to everyone they know.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it. That’s it for now, see you soon again!
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