The Battle of Red Cliff & the Importance of Your Online Marketing Team



One of the most celebrated battles in history occurred in central China in 208 AD: the Battle of Red Cliff. It was later recounted in the classic Chinese novel The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and retold in the 2008 movie Red Cliff. The warlord Cao Cao built an army to crush his two southern rivals, Liu Bei and Sun Quan. Liu Bei and Sun Quan allied together to fend off Cao Cao’s invasion. Desperately outnumbered, the Allies couldn’t rely on sheer manpower to repel the warlord’s forces — they instead had to rely on the skills and talents of the people on their team.

So who were some of the people on their team? There was their commander Zhou Yu, who trained their armies and led them through the battles. There was the brilliant military strategist Zhuge Liang, who devised ingenious military tactics to use against the enemy. There was the princess Sun Shangxiang, who infiltrated the enemy camp disguised as an enemy soldier and sent spy reports back to the Allies. There were the generals Zhang Fei and Guan Yu, able to face off by themselves against a battalion of enemy soldiers and emerge victorious — they provided much of the brute muscle. Zhou Yu and the Zhuge Liang made a plan to attack the enemy’s navy with fire in order to counterbalance the enemy’s numerical advantage. But in order for their fire attack to be successful, they needed to wait for a change in the wind — otherwise they would end up burning their own navy instead of the enemy. Zhuge Liang, through his understanding of nature, was able to predict the exact hour when the wind would change.  But they were running out of time — the enemy was planning to attack before the wind changes.  So Zhou Yu’s wife Xiao Qiao traveled to the enemy camp to distract their commander through feigning surrender and preparing an elaborate tea ceremony for him, delaying the enemy’s invasion until the winds changed and the Allies were able to successfully mount their attack.

Through the successful combination of the different roles of the people on their team — theCommander (Zhou Yu), the Mastermind (Zhuge Liang), the Spy (Sun Shangxiang), the Muscle(Zhang Fei and Guan Yu), and the Femme Fatale (Xiao Qiao) — the southern Allies emerged victorious and defeated the warlord Cao Cao.

So, what does all this have to do with us today? What can a modern, cutting-edge online marketing agency learn from the dusty old tomes of ancient Chinese history?  Quite simply, we can learn that teamwork is key. One person alone cannot hope to have all the skills and specialties needed to bring marketing success to their clients.  Instead you need a team of people with distinct yet complimentary skills and abilities. Here are some of the people you need:

Sun Quan TangThe Commander

This is the person who works with the client, determines the current state of their marketing, and makes a plan for them to achieve their marketing goals. Then, like Zhou Yu in the battle of Red Cliff, the Commander leads the team in executing that plan to achieve those goals and bring success to the client.

The Engineer

This person is the nuts-and-bolts, ones-and-zeros programmer who gets excited about obscure terminology like MySQL and Document Object Model. The Internet runs on technologies like these, so if you don’t have someone on your team who understands it, then your online strategies will never get beyond the digital equivalent of the kiddie pool.

The Artist

If your website looks like it was built in 1997 by your 15-year old nephew, your target audience will go running in the opposite direction. When your website looks like the work of an amateur, your company will too. You need a graphic design mastermind to design and deliver a sharp, eye-catching, high-end website that displays professional credibility and that people can’t help but be drawn to.

The Scribe

If your website doesn’t have anything interesting to say, then nobody is going to read it, and consequently, nobody is going to buy from you. The Scribe produces the web pages, blog articles, e-books and other content that captures the attention of your site visitors and leads them to wonder how they ever managed to live without your company and your products or services before.

The Optimizer

Let's face it — if your website isn't being found, then it might as well not exist. The Optimizer is a mastermind in the workings of the gatekeepers of the internet: the search engines. Optimizers spend their days poring over keyword lists, search traffic reports, and back-link spreadsheets. They follow all the latest updates in the behaviors and algorithms of the search engines. They use only ethical, "white-hat" SEO methodologies and avoid spammy, unethical, "black-hat" methodologies. A good Optimizer on your team is invaluable.

The Communicator

Whether it’s Facebook comment threads, Twitter streams, YouTube channels or other online mediums, this person lives and breathes social media. They want to find the conversations people are having online and jump into them. For many companies, this person will be the public face of the company in most of their interactions with their clients and prospects, so it’s crucial that they get the right person for the job.

The Entertainer

Sometimes you just need showmanship. If your marketing content is about as interesting as a presentation on the Dewey Decimal System, don’t expect people to stick around to learn why they need you. The Entertainer draws a crowd, makes your company exciting, and keeps people talking about you for days.

The Analyst

Time to bust out the spreadsheets, folks. The Analyst sifts through the mountains of traffic analytics, conversion statistics and other data to find out what’s working in your marketing and what’s not. These are the people who find out how you’re getting a return on your marketing dollar, and work with the Commander to plan out how to increase that return in future marketing efforts.

Over the course of our work, these are the skillsets we have found to be indispensable for any online marketing effort. Of course, every team looks different, and it’s quite common for some people to have several of these skills, or for several different people to overlap in these skillsets. That is totally fine — what matters is that your team has “all the bases covered,” so to speak. If your online marketing team is missing some of these talents and skills, be forewarned — there’s some chinks in your armor that will likely end up hurting you. But if your team has all of these skillsets covered, then fear not — like the alliance of Sun Quan and Liu Bei at the Battle of Red Cliff, you’re ready to hit the ground running and achieve success.