Marketing is Like Sudoku

The First Sudoku I Ever Completed

I just completed my first Sudoku the other day.

Let me just say this: super satisfying.

The first time I ever tried Sudoku was on the bus to North Country Fair in the summer of 2010. And it kicked my ass. I couldn’t finish it. I made a few random guesses early on and it screwed me later. When I realized this I almost wept. So. Close.

But then, I arrived in Toronto as part of my tour, and got on the  TTC and saw this one lying there. So, I picked it up and a few hours later I actually completed it.

And it struck me that Sudoku has important marketing lessons for us all.

Sudoku Marketing Lessons:

Lesson #1: You have to figure out one bit before you can figure out another. Sudoku can’t be figured out all at once. You need to find one piece before the next is revealed. This is so true in business. Before you can figure out your hubs – you need to figure out your niche. Before you create an irresistible offer you have to know what people want and don’t want in your product or service. You can’t skip steps. Each bit helps you figure out the next bit. You figure out one number on one side of the Sudoku grid and that helps you find a number in the other corner. Small pieces of clarity can sometimes create the space for clarity in other seemingly unrelated areas.

Lesson #2: If you try to make a wrong guess early on – it screws you. Let’s say that you’re in a rush in business so you pick a random target market to focus on and then you pour everything into it. Only to realize years later that you hate this niche. Ugh. You’re screwed. You’ve built everything on top of it. As the old chinese proverb goes, ‘the wise man doesn’t test the depth of a river with both feet at once‘.

Lesson #3: Each piece builds on the last – the last few moves happen exponentially faster than the majority of the game. I was shocked how fast it all came together in the last part of the game. I’d laid the foundation and I filled in numbers with very little effort. If you take the time to lay the solid and accurate foundation with the right numbers – the rest of the math is easy. But, if you try to cheat early on and fudge the numbers it comes back to bite you.

Lesson #4: If you do it right, you get a full picture at the end. Super satisfying. Everything works together. Nothing is missing. When you get your business to this level – everything flows.


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