A Song of ROIs and Fire

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“I think I need to reevaluate my life.” ~Daenerys Targaryan

To honor HBO’s landmark decision to launch an online-only streaming service featuring all of its current programming (including True Detective, Boardwalk Empire, and The Newsroom) in 2015, The Newsletter Pro is talking turkey about Game of Thrones. When we really thought about it, the record-breaking TV series based on the epic novels by George RR Martin about warring kingdoms and violent, colorful weddings actually ties into the world of business–ROIs in particular. Therefore, we’re focusing on the timeline of Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryan, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons.

Granted, Daenerys has one mouthful of a title. Yes, she fought hard for those many names, but Daenerys is far from using them to reclaim the Iron Throne of Westeros. If we were to apply her journey to that of a small business owner, we might say Daenerys is a budding entrepreneur. As such, she has certainly seen her fair share of financial ups and downs on the road to prosperity (as all young entrepreneurs do). Turns out, for all the Mother of Dragons has at her disposal (see dragons), she’s not so great managing her growing business. She’s seriously lacking in some good ROI, so let’s evaluate. For added epicness, read along with the Game of Thrones theme song.

It might help to be caught up in the series, but just in case, we’ll give you a rundown of Daenerys’ timeline. When we first meet her, she’s recently married to Khal Drogo, leader of a powerful Dothraki khalasar. It’s a rough union at the start, but she adapts and earns the respect of his people. Sadly, it all ends with Drogo’s untimely death. On his funeral pyre, Daenerys hatches three dragons. One step forward, two steps back. She leads the remaining khalasar across the Red Waste (an unyielding desert landscape) safely to the city of Qarth. There she faces conspiracy in the hostile city. With the help of the loyal Ser Jorah Mormont, she escapes Quarth on a ship and heads for Slaver’s Bay, and things start to look up once more. She outwits the slave masters of Astapor and gains the fealty of 8,000 elite warriors. Then she frees the slaves of Yunkai and buys the allegiance of an additional 2,000 mercenary soldiers. At this point, she’s on a roll, but her conquest of Meereen is where the wheels start to fall off the wagon. She takes Meereen, but she loses her hold in both Astapor and Yunkai. At this point, the ambitious entrepreneur really needs a solid ROI, so listen up.

Step 1: Be Aware of Your Surroundings (Brand Positioning)

Daenerys knows she wants Westeros. She knows she wants ships to get there. She also wants to free every last slave she encounters. She has a lot of goals and titles, but her execution is all over the place. To solve this, she needs to refocus her efforts on who she is, who her target audience is (the slaves? the people of Westeros? all of them?), and how she can fit the needs of her audience into her brand. If she can appeal to her audience and hold their attention and loyalty, she’ll be that much closer to getting back on track.

Step 2: Know Your People (Reach Out Using Social Media)

Okay, so Daenerys doesn’t have Facebook, but that doesn’t mean she can’t really listen to what her faithful followers need from her. She’s surprised to find that some slaves preferred their situation to the change Daenerys forced on them. A once well-liked slave and tutor to a wealthy family is forced into homelessness under Khaleesi’s leadership. Instead of making assumptions about the people, she needs to let the people contribute to the conversation. In the end, their input can add value to her relationships and fuel her entrepreneurial mission.

Step 3: Learn How to Rule (Business Management)

Since arriving in Meereen, Daenerys loses hold on two cities (masters retake their slaves in Astapor and a butcher stages a coup in Yunkai), the leader of the Second Sons (he takes a fleet of ships without the consent of his queen), and her dragons (they steal sheep from simple farmers and accidentally kill a little girl). She even releases Ser Jorah from her service when she is told of his past indiscretions, despite his steadfast devotion. As a result, she opts to stay in Meereen to learn how to rule and govern the people instead of sailing on to the Iron Throne. It’s probably the wisest decision she’s made all season. Too bad it took this long for her to figure out. Aspiring entrepreneurs like Daenerys need to create solutions based on the needs of their clients, not throw around products and services they assume will resolve issues.

Hopefully, season 5 has a little bit more problem solving in store for our Khaleesi. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to learn from Daenerys’ many mistakes. You probably won’t have to lead an army, break chains, or reclaim the Iron Throne at any point in time, but when it comes to ROIs, you can exercise some control. Because in the game of ROIs, you win or you cry — because saying “you win or you die” seems a bit harsh.

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