How B2B Marketers Can Apply the Winning Strategies of Political Campaign Marketing

16 Nov How B2B Marketers Can Apply the Winning Strategies of Political Campaign Marketing

Our final TMA event for the year was held barely 48 hours after the midterm elections and it was truly a high note to end the year on.

Our speaker was Phillip Stutts, author of the book, Fire Them Now: The 7 Lies Digital Marketers Sell, and founder and CEO of start-up marketing agencies Go BIG Media (a political marketing firm) and Win BIG Media (a corporate marketing firm). Phillip has more than 20 years of political and business marketing experience. He’s contributed to more than 1,000 election victories of senators, governors, representatives, and two U.S. presidents.

Phillip entertained and educated the audience, sharing strategies and tactics used in political marketing campaigns and showing how they can be applied effectively in the B2B world. With limited budgets, tight deadlines, and extreme adaptability, it appears there is a lot that political marketers know that could be useful to business.

Here are some key takeaways from Phillip’s presentation that you can use to foster better connections with your audience and grow your business.    

We are more connected than ever

Phillip kicked things off by sharing some pretty startling numbers on just how connected we are. In fact, the average person scrolls through 300 feet of mobile content every day – roughly the same height as the Statue of Liberty or Big Ben.  

Clearly, we are aching for real, true connections. Consumers want marketing that is authentic and makes them feel something. They want a reason to click on ads or videos. If they don’t feel a connection, they’ll probably just keep on scrolling.

Disrupt or be disrupted

In this world, you can be disrupted or you can be the disruptor. Every day there are more examples of industries being disrupted, and the ripple effects can be more impactful than you’d ever have thought.

Take the example of autonomous cars. While the positive impact of self-driving vehicles is amazing on its own, think about what happens when vehicles automatically obey speed limits and the number of car accidents drastically shrinks? These are obviously good things–but they also impact organ donor lists, municipality income from speeding tickets, loss of jobs for emergency personnel who no longer need to respond to as many accidents, and so on.

There are two lessons to be learned from this example. The first is that the tidal wave of change that is coming is unstoppable and cannot be ignored. The second is that the businesses and marketers that choose to ignore it, or hope it won’t hit them, won’t actually be in business or marketing for long; they’ll disappear.

However, there are some steps companies can take to set themselves up for success in this environment.  

The three R’s

According to Phillip, the most important thing you can focus on is what he called “the three R’s” — reputation, relationships, and referrals.

Reputation is everything in politics and business. For politicians, reputation translates to status, but in business, it represents a company’s entire brand. A good or bad reputation can actually make or break an organization.

Relationships are the cornerstone of every business. It’s not enough to simply pay lip service to customers and clients. Everyone in the organization has to take time to build direct and personal relationships with these people.

Referrals are the result of the previous two R’s. Once a solid reputation has been achieved and strong relationships have been built, customers will refer you and your company to others. This helps drive business growth.  

Second place gets nothing

Seems simple enough, right? Not so fast, so to speak. One place where politics and business differ is speed. Even the most advanced and well-connected business marketing does not move at the same speed as a political campaign.  

To illustrate just how fast things move in the political world, Phillip shared the story of the Conor Lamb special election. In March 2018, Lamb, a Democrat in the heart of Pennsylvania Trump country, won a special election by a margin of 755 votes. Just 0.2% separated him from his opponent. Lamb had less than five months from the time he was selected as the nominee until election night to convince this solidly red district that he was the right choice.

You might be wondering what this has to do with B2B marketing, but hear me–and Phillip–out. As Phillip put it, what if I told you that you were going to go head to head against your biggest competitor. You both have five months to get the most transactions and whichever company comes in second is out of business and can’t restart for two years. How fast would you go? How quickly would you innovate?

In the world of business, any big decision can take six-12 months. In the world of politics, decisions are made and implemented in a matter of four-12 days. The bottom line? Businesses are really slow to innovate.

Tips for growing your business

Finally, Phillip laid out several areas every company should focus on to help to grow their business, including:

  1. Research/analytics/data
  2. Personal relationships/marketing plan
  3. Launch
  4. Test
  5. Convert

According to Phillip, the reality is that most companies hit the ground running with a marketing plan before performing research that is necessary to understand what drives customers. Data and analytics are important because they can provide insights that help businesses tailor their offerings to their customer’s needs and allow them to appear relevant and unique to their customers. Only then can businesses and their sales teams start to build truly impactful customer relationships.

Politicians have polls to help in this area. Before a candidate even launches a campaign Phillip advises that they first launch a poll to find out what voters care about. It’s necessary for the candidate to find alignment between what they have to say and what voters want to hear. They understand that just because they may be passionate about something it doesn’t mean their audience cares. If they spend all of their time focused on a single point they run the risk of missing the other things that matter most to their audience.

From Bodega to Stockwell

Among the many great stories and examples Phillip shared, one that stood out was the story of a company originally named Bodega. Bodega built small pantry boxes/vending machines of non-perishable foods and similar items and placed them large urban apartment complexes.

The team behind the company was aware that the name Bodega could be offensive to some people, particularly Hispanics. After taking a poll, they found that Hispanics were not offended by the name at all. In fact, “woke” millennials were offended on their behalf and almost forced the company out of business. The company was forced to rebrand and ultimately relaunched as Stockwell, all because they never took the time to get to know their audience and what matters to them.

Adapt and take action

We are in a disruptive point in history and companies that don’t adapt and take action will find themselves slowly dying off. As Phillip pointed out, how many big marketing launches will your company actually have? How long will you wait before realizing you need to reorganize and do things differently? He cautions that if you aren’t constantly innovating and thinking about the needs of the customer–and finding ways to make real connections with that customer–you will go the way of Sears or failed politicians of the past.   

Thank you so much to Phillip for coming to speak to TMA. It was a great event and has been a great year. We look forward to seeing everyone at TMA in 2019!

Jennifer Edgerly
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