Lessons In Business & War – Why Good People Often Fail

suntzu2Why do so many good people go into battle unarmed?

When I was a child I would dream up stories of a world where we fought wars with only swords.

No cannons. No planes. No bombs. Nothing that a coward could use to kill you from a safe distance. 

If you were the best swordsman, you would win.

A perfect meritocracy. 

What a shame it was that the great Achilles fell to an arrow from the coward Paris.

This world of fair and honourable battles is a lovely vision. A nice story.

But it’s not reality.

For the first part of the 100 years war between England and France, England dominated.

The French armies were large. And made up wholly of noblemen and aristocrats: French knights. The English forces were small and consisted of peasants.

The English one three decisive battles at Crécy, Poitiers and Agincourt.  

How were such small peasant forces able to destroy the aristocracy that outnumbered them?

The longbow. 

The English were able to fire arrow after arrow in quick succession at their enemy. The peasants destroyed the French knights before they could get close.

The honourable French knights hated the archers. They believed it broke the code of chivalry and fair combat. 

The English didn’t care. They laughed at the helpless French knights as they walked through their country. 

The English peasant archers held their two fingers in the air and waved at the French, taunting them.  

If you’re familiar with the two finger ‘f*ck you’ that’s so popular in England, you’ll know what I mean. It’s the same as the peace sign but your palm faces towards you, not away from you.

This is the origin of it.. these were the two fingers that held the arrow and drew the string. The two fingers that almost wiped out the French nobility.

As a result, the English took and held Calais for more than two centuries. Thanks to the longbow. 

And this is common throughout history. Damascus steel, cannons, guns, planes, ships, submarines, drones. They all shaped the outcome of wars. Shaping history in the process. 

The trebuchet that changed siege warfare.

The cannon that helped the moors conquer Spain.

The gun that conquered the new world. 

The Luftwaffe that proved so deadly in aerial bombings.

The English ships that out-ranged the Argentine weaponry in the battle for the Falklands. 

The French knights fought with a strict code of chivalry and they lost. 

Victory isn’t won with honour. Life isn’t a fair duel where the fastest hand wins. Life isn’t a western or a Russian romance novel.

No, Life is real. And so often in warfare the victors are those with the best weapons. 

Those that win battles aren’t the most noble but the most well-equipped.

How this all relates to business..

Too many good, honourable business owners enter the battlefield of business unarmed and outgunned. 

You think it’s enough to build a great product or have a brilliant idea?

It’s not. 

The best products don’t usually win. McDonalds don’t make the best burgers. Proctor & Gamble don’t make the best shampoos. 

But they know what you want and they execute on it.

Your business is competing for every pound, dollar or euro your customer has to spend.

You might be better at what you do, make a better burger or create a healthier shampoo. You might have a world-changing idea and a noble desire to serve the world. 

But if you’re unarmed or unwilling to bear arms, you’ll struggle and lose. Meanwhile the world fills with useless, consumerist crap with no purpose other than profit. 

In business, as in battle, victory so often goes to the team with the best weapon. 

But what is the best weapon a business can wield? 

Sales. Sounds obvious I know. But stay with me..I’m getting to something.

No business survives without sales. No sales, no money. No money you can’t pay your bills. You’re stressed, worried, anxious and preoccupied. Instead of enjoying life you’re worried about making rent, feeding family or paying bills.  

And what’s the best way to sell?

To use human emotion. 

Im serious. 

Human emotion is the secret weapon of sales & marketing.

Purchasing your product or service is a decision the customer has to make. 

Anyone who studies human behavioural economics will tell you the same thing:

Almost all decisions we make are emotional. We try to rationalise them with logic after.

Have you ever seen an Apple advert that talks about their hard drives or what their products do? Never. They sell you on the brand, making you choose Apple on an emotional level. They do this before you ever get to the specifics of the product. 

By the time you’re on the apple website choosing between the 4gb or 8gb ram you’ve already decided you want one.

System 1 Vs System 2 Thinking

Nobel prize winning behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman wrote about this.

He shows that system 1 thinking is fast and automatic. It’s an emotional or unconscious decision making process. This governs 99% of our lives.

System 2 thinking is slow, conscious and requires great effort. 

We don’t have the mental capacity to use this all decisions. We reserve it only for large decisions. 

Often though, we think we’re making a system 2 decision when we’re not. You may already have decided you want to buy that Audi on a payment plan, you’re just trying to justify it. 

So purchasing your product or service is a decision. And nearly all our decisions are emotional. It’d be a powerful weapon if you knew what you’re customer’s felt and used that to sell, don’t you think?

You want to work out who your customers are. To learn what they think, what they fear, what they desire and what they’re ashamed of.

Armed with this powerful information, you’ll know how to solve their problem. You’ll know exactly how to position your product or service to meet their needs. They’ll want to pay your for your product.

You need to understand why your customers buy your product, and you need to use that.

Shame, fear, greed, laziness, lust. 

These emotions drive buying decisions. 

This is reality.

To believe otherwise – or believe you’ll succeed without using them – is ignorance. 

It’s to live with your head in the clouds. That’s dangerous.

While your head is in the clouds your expose your neck And you’re on a battlefield. You’re at the mercy of those who’d watch you bleed.

You need to come back to earth, grab some dirt and get your hands dirty. Or hire someone to do it for you.

You deserve to succeed. You’re one of the good ones. The world needs you to win. 

If you’re heart is in your business and you believe in the value you provide to your clients, we need you to compete. 

We need you to put your chivalry aside and pick up the longbow. 

The French didn’t stay chivalrous for long when the English wiped out their armies. And stole their land. 

They adapted.

They wore Milanese plate armour – the only armour that could prevent certain death. They relied less on heavy cavalry and encouraged the use of the canon.  

Had they not adapted, England may well have conquered France. They would have had English rulers. This would have changed the face of Europe forever. 

In business, as in battle, people will win and people lose. 

We want people to win who help the world. People who offer valuable services that solve their client’s needs. 

We want you to win. 

You can use human emotion for good!

You can use what makes people buy to increase the spread of your valuable, worth services to the world.

The winners are already doing it. 

Stop struggling, start succeeding and let’s make the world better in the process.

If you want to provide what the world needs, you must sell them what they want. 

The goal of these posts is to help you grow your business in a way that’s both entertaining and informative. It should be both a joy to read AND provide insights that help you sell your product or service.

If you’d like to receive more of these posts delivered directly to your inbox, then sign up to our email list. You’ll enjoy reading them and they’ll help you grow your business. Our emails our free and we respect your inbox.


P.S. To some, using human emotion to sell seems manipulative and unethical. It’s reality. It’s using the study of human behavioural economics and psychology to influence buyer behaviour. This is as powerful as it is dangerous. That’s why we choose our clients with great care. If you’re a snake oil salesman looking to maximise profit but lack scruples, we won’t work with you. If you’d like us to help you succeed, you can enquire about our copywriting services.


P.P.S. It’s OK to win. It’s OK to charge money for your product and services so long as you care for the quality who provide. And to whom you provide it. The greater the service you provide, the more you deserve to prosper. Go good, be good and get to work.

Sell them what they want, give them what they need. 

For examples of this in action, click here. 

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