Business Tips from the Campaign Trail

It’s an election year.  Can you tell?
While there are no awards being won this year for high-minded debate, there are some interesting lessons to be learned for business communications. So here we share some of the good, the bad, and the ugly from the campaign trail. 

It’s a Crowded Market.

At one point this summer, there were twenty people running for president on the Democratic and Republican side. It was a crowded field, and competition eventually took a toll on the candidates. Communicating for your business is no different.
Research today indicates that the average consumer is exposed to 5,000 marketing messages per day, and that number continues to rise. It’s important to remember in this crowded environment that, regardless how great your product or service is, you’re not alone. Marketers must continue to find ways to differentiate and stand out from the crowd.
Be different. Be fearless. It’s the only way to be heard.

Stay on Message.

The corollary – and part of the answer – to the crowded market dynamic is to stay on message. When I speak, anytime I make this point and ask who says “Make America Great Again,” everybody knows the answer.  It’s true that while The Donald has received unparalleled free media, it’s also true that he has stayed focused on this message through the entire campaign.  
Trump’s singular focus on this message answered the challenge of a crowded field of candidates, many of whom were more experienced campaigners and policymakers.  But Trump was able, through a disciplined approach, to cut through the clutter with a combination of message discipline and clear differentiation from the pack.
If you aren’t tired yet of your business marketing messages, you’re not using them enough.

Target. Relentlessly.

While it’s easy to just blast a message out to the masses, you’ll end up wasting a lot of money on people who will never be customers. Some of the most effective campaigns – for businesses and for candidates – aren’t glitzy ad buys and billboards but rather targeted, repeated communications to a select group of prospects or voters.
The Sanders campaign recognized that young voters responded to his message of systemic political change, and they took not to the airwaves or radio, but to the social media platforms where those voters lived. That strategy propelled an unknown Senator from Vermont to an aggressive challenger and contender.
Research your customers. Learn what they read, where they spend their time, how they like to communicate to each other. Go to those places. Ignore the rest.

Build Your Own Audience.

To varying degrees, all of the current presidential campaigns have worked to build their own audiences outside of paid and earned media. Bernie Sanders planned an entire rally, including a late change-of-venue – through email and social media.  Donald Trump’s twitter feed has created as much earned media coverage as his speeches have – by virtue of that audience he built. And the Clinton campaign, particularly through the early “Ready for HiIlary” built an army of four million volunteers and supporters before she even announced her candidacy for President.
The lesson? You don’t need huge ad budgets to achieve your business results. Money helps, no doubt, and there’s a threshold of spending every business must invest in marketing. But building and maintaining an audience of happy customers and interested prospects through email, social media, and word-of-mouth referral programs can dramatically cut your marketing expenses and increase your profits.

Use Data. Then Measure, Rinse, and Repeat.

Today’s campaigns – in fact, campaigns for decades – have measured their efforts throughout the election process. The most obvious measure is how many votes you earn. But campaigns also measure data points along the way, such as how much money raised, how many doors knocked, phone calls made, and volunteers recruited.
For businesses today, there’s no excuse not to use data to find, communicate, test, refine and communicate again. Financial metrics like cash flow, profit & loss are important, but what are the leading indicators blazing the trail to those goals? Number of leads, customer acquisition cost, new email signups…the data points are endless.
Pick the important metrics. Measure, test, and refine against those numbers. You will see results.

Tell a Story.

The best campaigns tell stories, and so can your business. Marco Rubio, of my home state of Florida had, until this presidential race, mastered the art of telling the uplifting story of his parents leaving Cuba. This story endeared him to voters, provided a framework for him to develop a campaign message, and win elections. Contrast this to Hillary Clinton, arguably the most experienced person in the race, but struggles with “likability” in national polls. It’s not a coincidence that she lacks a compelling story or narrative for her life and why she’s running.
Businesses can – and should – communicate through stories. Whether it’s a satisfied customer, explaining how your service made his life easier, the history behind your handmade jewelry or soaps, or how you went from selling ice cream to selling multi-million dollar real estate, find those stories and tell them.
Humans have been telling stories since the dawn of time. From cave art to major religions to technology, we have an innate need to connect. Build that connection by telling your story.

How Long Till November?

I can give you the exact number of months, days, hours and minutes until Election Day but I won’t bore you.  It will come soon enough, and your TV, mailbox, and radio will get back to normal. But just like candidates win and lose, so can your business – with the right strategy, the right message, and the right story.