9 Lessons for Startup Marketers from the Political Campaigns

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If you want to be the best marketer you can be, follow the political campaigns.  Better yet, participate in them.  The best campaigns are nearly 100% marketing, and the candidates face immense challenges such as a short period of time to dominate their market and other candidates that are substantially similar but with more money.  Understand the marketing underlying the campaigns and you will become a better marketer!

Here are 9 of the lessons that you could learn by following the campaigns:

1. You need to really understand your target customer segments.  The politicians know their target customer segments really well.  They know the characteristics of their targets, their numbers, what their targets like and don’t like, and the positioning that appeals to each of their target customer segments.

2. Constantly determine how your messages and the messages of your competitors stand in the minds of your targets.  The politicians always know where they stand and their trends with their target customers vs. their competitors.  They do this through market research such as focus groups and surveys (a.k.a., polling).  According to Dick Morris, former Clinton White House Advisor, “Clinton had me poll every week and, during times of intense political controversy, he had me poll every night.”  The bottom line is that all good politicians are regularly getting snapshots of their target customer responses to their messages and the messages of their competitors.

3. You need to be different and better than your competitors in the eyes of your target customers.  Politicians are constantly trying to position themselves differently from their competitors and tuning their messaging to demonstrate those differences.  Some are even changing their positioning over time to either keep up with their changing perspective or to better differentiate against competitors in the eyes of their target customers (note that changing your positioning is considered good for start-ups and not as good for politicians).

4. Get the people who influence your targets to endorse you.  If your target customers have people that appeal to them, they try to get those people to endorse them.  For example, Mitt Romney recently got John McCain to endorse him and attend some of his events in New Hampshire.  Politicians know that the more they find the right influencers and the more they can get the influencers to endorse them, the better!

5. You need to use a mix of available marketing channels if you want to dominate.  Politicians know that their messages don’t matter if they don’t reach their target customers.  They also know that nothing beats face-to-face contact, but calls, e-mails, door hangings, yard signs, TV, radio, social media and several other marketing channels are great vehicles for reaching target customers.  Politicians use the best marketing channels for reaching their target audiences and they use a complete mix of marketing channels!

6. Your message needs to reach your target audience several times before your audience really gets it.  Politicians know that they need to repeat themselves over and over and constantly drill home their messages in order for their audience to really get the messaging.  They say the same basic messages using lots of different communication styles (packaged as facts, tag lines, stories, ect.) across lots of different media (articles, interviews, speeches, videos, images, etc.), and across all of their marketing channels.

7. If you start getting successful, more media will pay attention and more money will flow.  Politicians know that they need to project success in order to create success!

8.  You need to be agile and prepared to adjust everything as the market changes so that you maximize your results.  Politicians respond to the current situation.  They get their updated market information from their market research, they get insights into what they can do differently, and then they make the changes that they think will generate results based on today’s situation.  For example, Mitt Romney has been getting too much play as being the “jobs” candidate recently, so his competitors have been creating messages that try to attenuate the strength of Mitt’s position (note: companies should position a lot more positively than being negative about their competitors in my view).

9. You need to have a great organization with experienced people who know how to optimize the marketing channels you want to use.  Politicians know that they have one, relatively short campaign to become successful, so they try to get the best most experienced people to be involved with their campaigns.

 

What do you think?  Do you agree or disagree?  What else can startup marketers learn from the political campaigns?