10 Things Marketers Can Learn From Politicians

By Crystal McKinsey

Do you know what the best political campaigns have mastered? The power of integrated marketing. For the purposes of this blog, I’m simply talking about the positive campaign strategy tactics that serve to introduce potential voters to a particular brand (candidate).

Here are ten campaign marketing tidbits that will help your business succeed:

1.) Be consistent.

If there is one thing politicians have figured out, it is the importance of message consistency. This applies to where they stand on issues, how they interact with the media and how they present themselves on a day-to-day basis with the general public. We can all think of epic political fails where inconsistency or waffling has cost public sentiment. How does that apply to your small business or brand? Simple (in theory at least): make sure you are presenting a consistent brand proposition and message on the ground and in the cloud.

2.) Utilize multiple marketing channels.

A campaign media mix will typically include everything from T.V., radio and print advertising to sophisticated social media outreach, website optimization and regular content marketing. Campaigns are appealing to diverse and multi-generational audiences and they understand that they need to be where their constituents are. If your business serves a diverse audience base, take note of the multi-channel marketing approach campaigns employ–they invest in integration for a reason.

3.) Print (still) works!

Speaking of multi-channel marketing…campaigns are traditionally strong advocates of both direct mail and print advertising. Direct mail offers a brand the opportunity to communicate directly with an end recipient in a way that is both personal and tactile. Done right, direct mail is a proven way to garner brand action and awareness. This is particularly true in smaller markets where there is limited access to T.V., radio and other means of outreach.

4.) Be human.

Campaigns understand that winning candidates must be likeable and engaging. They must speak in their own voices and respond to campaign questions in a manner consistent with their values and beliefs. The same applies to businesses and brands. A likeable brand typically has a unique personality that is human, approachable and, in some cases, even a personification of the actual product or service itself. Consider Apple’s Siri, for example. The iPhone has been brought to life by the lovely and feminine Siri button. While Siri herself is clearly not human, Apple has provided Siri with human answers to common questions. I asked Siri this morning if I should have a second cup of Starbucks. She said, “I’m afraid I don’t know what you should do.” I like her.

5.) Go grassroots.

The social media sphere has opened the online playing field for social networking and interaction. In most cases, however, this is not substitute for the on-the-ground, door-to-door, campaigning we are so familiar with in the political arena. Hosting small business gatherings, putting up posters, setting up informational tables at exhibits and simply getting out and networking with your community is a great way to stay in touch with your audience and bring your brand to life.

6.) Play nice in the sandbox.

Just a gentle reminder. A candidate who runs on pointing out where his or her opponent is lacking has said nothing about why he or she is more qualified for the position. The best campaigns (and businesses) focus on educating their audience about what makes them worth investing in—be it with your votes or your money– instead of focusing on what makes their competition less capable.

7.) Know your target audience.

Campaigns thrive on information, details and data. Candidates map out target geographic areas and know, down to the household, past voting preferences and behaviors. They study demographics, psychographics and geographic information. Getting to know your audience helps you make good decisions and analyze how, when and where to reach them most effectively. Do you have strong data about the audiences you serve?

8.) Take it outside.

Tired of seeing campaign signs in yards throughout your community? Fortunately, campaign seasons pass and so will the yard signs. What remains is a lesson for businesses regarding the power of outdoor advertising. Billboards, banners and storefront signage is very important. It creates awareness. It works. If you are a business owner with limited outdoor exposure, consider sponsoring events and happenings in your area that allow for the placement of a banner promoting your business. Just like a voter is unlikely to say to a candidate, “I voted for you because you had a cool yard sign,” a consumer is unlikely to tell you they are buying from you because of a banner they saw at a Twilight Polo event. But awareness and exposure matter—and help lead to conversions. So put the banner out anyway. Though not as trackable as an online sale that can be sourced back to, say, a Google AdWords campaign, outdoor advertising is an extremely important part of your overall integrated marketing communications strategy.

9.) Open the lines of communication.
Speaking of communications strategy, campaigns are really good at this too. Candidates make themselves available for events and forums and typically offer up multiple ways of reaching them directly via phone, email, social media and direct mail. The best candidates respond to feedback quickly and personally, whenever possible. (Even the President has a verified Twitter account now: @POTUS.) The same strategy should be employed by businesses and brands. Have you provided your audience with multiple ways to reach you and provide feedback? And once they have provided feedback, who is tasked with engaging, responding to and interacting with your business audience?

10.) Track everything.

A final campaign learning point is in the metrics arena. Good campaigns track everything. They regularly poll audiences and course correct when necessary to ensure they are on the right path. They review and study metrics across all platforms and take an active interest in percentages, behavior and results. We know that knowledge is power. In our new media world, data is power. Are you effectively tracking, evaluating and adjusting strategy when needed as result of your businesses metrics?

While politics and marketing your business may superficially appear to be worlds apart, consider the fact that a new business outreach strategy designed to shape sentiment or attract new customers is referred to as a marketing “campaign.” And, campaigning in and of itself, doesn’t have to be a dirty game. See #6 above….