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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Marketing Lessons From Politics

By Terry L. Brock

It is political season here in the USA as I type this. Personally, I find much of the political process annoying, even disgusting at best. Yet, in the midst of the nauseating, repulsive and abysmal morass (and I mean that in the nicest sort of way!) you and I can learn a lot to grow our businesses.

Politicians have to win votes to survive. You and I have to win the hearts and minds of our customers to win their votes (dollars) every day. This is where Relationship Marketing is so important.

Here are some areas where I see similarities between the current political campaign and what you and I do in our businesses. The principles of Relationship Marketing apply to both.

It Is Not About Just Using The Web--- It Is About Embracing Web 2.0. You have to engage the customer. Merely shoving a bunch of information at them (think 1960’s television, radio, newspaper, etc.) doesn’t cut it anymore. Politicians actively embrace the Net and raise funds. They allow supporters (and detractors) to comment on Blogs, websites, etc. YouTube is an active part of the political process. Embrace these tools for your own business and reap the benefits.

Learn What Is Important To The Customer And Play To Their Needs. Politicians will stress the economy in economically-challenged Ohio. They address issues, like NAFTA, outsourcing and unemployment, which are of concern to unions in Michigan, Ohio and other states. They address immigration in states like Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California. Are they only pandering to those in that particular area? Well, a case could be made for that. It is important to address the issues that are relevant to people in each geographic area.

Build Relationships On 2 Levels: Retail and Wholesale. Politicians build relationships at the retail level. They know specific people and call them directly. They make it a point to meet in person with specific people. They also embrace the masses at the wholesale level through rallies, fund-raising dinners, the media and more. We have to do it as well. Have some relationships that are built to be very close. Other relationships are made through the media. This is what any TV or movie star does. They have a TV-persona, a public persona. They also have a more intimate personal side.

On the retail level it means pressing the flesh. This means you have to be there. Yes, email is great. Yes, telephone calls are great. And yes, Skype video over the Net is fabulous. However, none of that takes the place of sitting down with someone and sharing one-on-one over some drinks. Breaking bread with someone has been a time-honored tradition through the centuries to bond with people. Think of how you could use this same principle to get to know your audience. This is Relationship Marketing at its best.

Have A Compelling Message. You have to stand out from the crowd. Without offending, you must have a unique message your customers can’t get elsewhere. A politician who sounds too radical or too much like everyone else is doomed. Yes, it is a difficult tightrope to walk. Find a niche and serve that niche well in business. Any successful politician (i.e. the one who wins races) has a clear, compelling message. Those rascally politicians can teach you and me a lot in this!

Public Speaking Is Critical. Barack Obama is a good example today of a great public speaker. He is not alone on the political stage. Think of Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, John Kennedy, Winston Churchill and yes, even Adolph Hitler. Good public speaking skills are amoral. It is up to the person to use them ethically. If you’re in a professional service, see public speaking as a vital tool for extending your brand and building trust. When people see you speak in public they either want to embrace you and your message or will discard you. In most cases, audiences want to support the speaker. People like saying they heard a particular person live and direct. However, if you come across as unsure and violate some of their core beliefs, you alienate them.

Build Your Base. Build your base of solid supporters who carry on your message for you. All of the candidates stress the message that it is not about them alone. It is about a bigger mission. “I can’t do it alone” you’ll hear them say. You and I are in the same position. Find a way that others can be involved in a bigger mission than just your sale today. Realistically, every candidate wants to be President for the thrill of the power. If they say otherwise, they would lie about other things too. However, they have to communicate the impression that they are doing it to serve others (at least convey that message to the voters).

Pollsters (And Tracking) Are Vital. Watch what the pollsters say are the issues which matter. You can do this in your business by using tools like Google Analytics, WebTrends and other excellent tools. Know who is coming to your website. Know what they are looking for. It is vital to be aware of what is happening with the vital numbers in your business. Identify those key metrics and ratios and monitor them closely for your business. Blogging and YouTube are two excellent tools for this.

Make Sure They Vote. It is one thing for people to say they support a candidate. It is quite another for them to take the effort to actually vote and let their voice be heard. You want to make it easy for people to buy from you. Make your website easy to navigate. Make your retail store a joy to visit. Make it easy for clients to purchase your services. Words alone and good wishes won’t do it. You want to get their support and stay with them. This is where your Relationship Marketing pays off.

These principles apply from the world of politics to what you and I do in our own businesses. However, there is one very big difference. You and I have “Election Day” every day. Then the campaign cycle starts all over again the next day for the next race. By making a strong commitment to get continually better and improve your campaign, you will win the race(s). It might not be a political race but a much more important one ---- the life of your own business. With these principles in mind you and I can survive any political season!

Terry Brock is an international marketing coach and columnist who helps businesses market more effectively, leveraging technology. He shows busy professionals how to squeeze more out of their days using time-honored rules and practical technology tools. He can be reached at 407-363-0505, by e-mail at or through his website at