What Tyrion Lannister Teaches Us About Business.
If his stint as Hand of the King is any indication, Tyrion Lannister would make a pretty stellar businessman. Sure, defending the ramparts of King’s Landing against a brutal siege might not seem the same as building a stable customer base, but both demand a certain level of cunning. Now that Game of Thrones season 6 has kicked off, I thought it’d be a fun experiment to examine Tyrion’s journey through Westeros and see what we can learn, in a business sense, from the half man who casts a long shadow.
Warning: There are minor spoilers from Seasons 1 and 2 in this post!
Lesson 1: Find out what people want
Tyrion is the archetype of persuasion. Compared to all other characters, he’s the one player in the game of thrones that always survives by use of his wit and his words over raw physical strength. How does he do it? In many cases, by listening and trying to find out what everyone else wants. Consider his partnership with the sellsword Bronn. Tyrion first lures Bronn to his side by appealing directly to Bronn’s wants.
“What do you want, Bronn? Gold? Women? Gold and women? Stick with me and you’ll have them all, for as long as I’m around and not a moment longer.” – Tyrion Lannister
Of course, the trick is finding out what people want. A lot of this is just putting yourself into your customer’s shoes and thinking about what they want to accomplish at any given moment. This applies to the overarching goal of selling a good or service, as well as micro-interactions such as opening an email, *ahem* reading a blog post, or navigating your website. It’s no coincidence that I decided to write about the Lion of Lannister right as the season 6 premiere came out. At some point in the day, on this day specifically, you were probably thinking about Game of Thrones.
Lesson 2: Speak the audience’s language
Midway through season one, Tyrion is captured and imprisoned at the Eyrie. In order to escape, he must convince the jailor, Mord, to deliver a message to Lady Arryn, his captor. However, Tyrion finds that he must quickly adjust his language in order to appeal to Mord’s humble intellect.
“You’re a smart man. You know who the Lannisters are. I am a Lannister. Tyrion, son of Tywin. Of course, you have also heard the phrase ‘a Lannister always pays his debts’. If you deliver a message from me… I will be in your debt. I will owe you gold…” – Tyrion Lannister
The lesson here is simply to avoid the use of jargon when you’re speaking or writing to customers. Jargon, or the use of big fancy words that are oftentimes confusing or overly technical, only shuts people out and makes it more difficult for an audience to access your meaning. Virtually every profession uses jargon, and if you want your marketing to have an impact then always be sure to default to plain language that’s easy to understand.
Lesson 3: Learn from stories, teach using stories
You’ll recall from season one the moment when Jon Snow is at the Wall and getting beat up by other new recruits of the Night’s Watch. When Jon complains that everyone hates him because he’s better, Tyrion comes to the rescue by teaching Jon to empathize with his comrades-in-arms. He does this through the simple yet powerful art of storytelling:
“Grenn’s father left him too… Outside a farmhouse when he was three. Pyp was caught stealing a wheel of cheese. His little sister hadn’t eaten in three days. He was given a choice: his right hand or the Wall. I’ve been asking the Lord Commander about them. Fascinating stories.” – Tyrion Lannister
We tend to remember stories much more readily than other forms of information because stories hit us on an emotional level. Stories, when told descriptively, have the magical ability to transport you and let you experience what’s happening yourself. Not surprisingly, 92% of consumers want to see advertisements that feel like a story. If you want your message to stick – whether it’s a promotion or a sales pitch – you’re going to have a lot more success if you can think of a way to encase the pitch inside an emotionally relevant story.
Lesson 4: Hypothesize, test, analyze, and act
My favorite Tyrion moment comes shortly after he becomes Hand of the King in season two. Tyrion suspects that a member of the king’s council, either Pycelle, Petyr, or Varys is spying on him for his sister, Queen Cersei. In order to root out the spy, Tyrion feeds each of them a false story about Princess Myrcella’s betrothal.
“See, I told Varys that I was giving the princess to the Greyjoys. I told Littlefinger I planned to wed her to Robyn Arryn. I told no one that I was offering her to the Dornish. No one but you.” – Tyrion Lannister
Tyrion’s plan demonstrates how and why you should use good data to inform your decisions. Measure how many clicks your emails get, keep count of how many mailed coupons make it back to your storefront, see how long users are spending on your website. If something isn’t effective, change your plan. Marketing your business is a trial-and-error process, so give yourself leave to make a few errors as you learn what works and what doesn’t.
Winter is coming
Game of Thrones is an incredibly complex story built upon a lot of simple truths. We can learn a lot from Tyrion if we pay attention and try, but of course it’s also okay to sit back, relax, and just enjoy the ride. Enjoy Season 6, and here’s to hoping that our favorite Imp makes it to Season 7!
– The Setmore Team
What are some of your favorite Game of Thrones moments? Let us know in the comments below!
by Cassandra @ Setmore
Writer, editor and scheduling product expert at Setmore Appointments.