5 Marketing Lessons Small Businesses Can Learn From The 2013 Political Campaigns

November 5 is fast approaching, and every citizen of the U.S. is eagerly waiting to choose the next leader of their city.

Fall in an election year is a time for radio ads, TV ads, banners, stickers, signage, debates, mailings, unsolicited house visits and get-out-the-vote calls. Political campaigning is one of the oldest forms of marketing and advertising and small businesses have a lot to learn from them.

Here are the 5 Marketing Lessons Small Businesses Can Learn From The 2013 Political Campaigns:

Lesson #1. Work closely with local communities and know their world-view

Communities matter and their world view matters even more. This is as true in political campaigns as it is in business. To go big, you must go small. Sure, you can focus on targeting individuals, but tapping into existing community groups and organizations (who by-the-way already have a world view) can spread your message more effectively. During any campaign, traditional advertising target individual consumers, but organizers—people who already believed in their community, who already cared very much—try to create and cultivate long-lasting relationships with neighborhood and community organizations. These groups are full of potential voters, and they turn strangers into friends, friends into voters and then… they do the most important job: turn your voters into campaigners which by the way also can be activated to provide additional support.

Take Away: In your business, this can mean providing sponsorship to local organizations like fundraisers, little league teams, and so on. A customer is great for business, but a customer who actively wants to support your business is even better.

Lesson #2. The message is more effective coming from the people who like you, who respect you, who have a vested interest in your success

Empowering community groups not only makes your job easier, it’s also more effective. That’s because messages, whether about a candidate or a product, are more likely to be considered when coming from a friend or trusted voice. In politics, this means a voter will be more receptive to a phone call or house visit from someone who shares a community affiliation than from an unrelated stranger.

Take Away: In marketing your business, this is why a positive review of a product or service from a friend is so effective. It’s also why a remark from a trusted radio personality is particularly compelling. New media channels are creating ways to be intimate and authentic in communicating with your local community.

Lesson #3.  Leave no local medium unturned

I like to think of marketing as a one-two punch. And I tell business owners all the time, “instead of believing that single marketing weapons such as advertising or a website work, know that only marketing combinations work.” It’s why we at Indispensable Marketing are crazy about cross-platform marketing. In politics, potential voters are sent mailings, called, visited in-person and presented with digital, TV and radio ads. One ad, in a vacuum, is usually not enough to convert a target audiences.

Take Away: Similarly, your small business  or organization should realize that no one medium bests all the others. Platforms don’t compete with each other, they compliment each other.

Lesson #4.  Target your supporters, not your opponents

In most localities, grass-roots campaigns grow by mobilizing supporters. Most political advertising resources are targeted at voters who are already leaning toward a candidate. In other words, a savvy Republican candidate won’t waste time trying to get Democrats to change affiliations. Rather they’ll double down on mobilizing their base to get out the vote. The logic is simple. Not everyone votes, but everyone should. Campaigns are all about making sure that people who support you actually get out and vote on election day. That’s not to say converting undecided voters and chipping off supporters from the opposing party isn’t done. But the “grass-roots” part is all about your own supporters.

Take Away: Similarly, marketers need to effectively target those who are most likely to be receptive to their product. Convincing a consumer who hates your product to buy it is not nearly as cost-effective as encouraging your existing fan base to buy your latest product or attend your latest sale.

Lesson #5. Strategy before tactics

If you’re not the front-runner, empowering your people sometimes isn’t enough. In a political race, it’s often assumed that the front-runner needs to play it safe. Don’t go too heavily on the offensive, focus on empowering your people and avoid a public embarrassment at any cost. But for those trailing in the polls, being daring isn’t an option, it’s a essential. For a candidate trailing in the polls, playing it safe can only mean safely maintaining your current numbers. The point is to increase those numbers.

Take Away: No business should be comfortable with just maintaining the status quo. It’s all about doing something that might not work, learning and growing. Brands that aspire to be the best-in-class in the market need to think big and make audacious decisions in their marketing strategy.