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Issue Date: Vol. 48, No. 12, December 2008, Posted On: 12/16/2008


UPFRONT: Great Marketing Wins Elections, Drives Business


Alicia Lavay
Alicia@vendingtimes.net

What a remarkable year it has been! Now that the election is over, everyone must agree that Sen. Barack Obama ran a brilliant campaign, whether they like him or not. His winning strategy proved the value of smart marketing and demonstrated that boldness is one of the most important qualities for anyone trying to build brand awareness during uncertain times. The Illinois Senator was relentless in staying “on message,” and this consistency served him well against a formidable opponent with stronger initial name recognition, a loyal following and great public respect for his services to the country. Sen. Obama’s refusal to become distracted probably won him the Oval Office.

We’ve heard it before: Hard times call for creative action, not static defense; innovation, not paralysis. One thing I learned from keeping a close eye on this presidential race is the importance of being proactive, not reactive. “My friends,” great marketing wins elections. It also drives business. Advertising, public relations, social networking – nothing replaces getting to know your constituents, understanding who they are and communicating effectively with them. Once you know what they want, come up with a plan and shout it from the rooftops. If your competitors are cutting back, seriously consider increasing your marketing effort and hitting harder.

Early on, strong public relations won Sen. Obama the financial backing to sustain a flexible, broad-based marketing campaign. He used that campaign to capture votes and continued to deliver his trademark message down to the last days before the election. Just look at how his 30-minute infomercial influenced undecided Americans during the final critical hours. Clearly this is a successful formula from which we all can learn.

You don’t have to market differently during economic downturns; you just have to market smarter and understand your customers better. If you’re going to be a great marketer, you must observe your clientele closely. You need to understand the voter, the consumer, the player or the reader at first hand.

In a weak economy, prospective patrons are looking for as much return on their investment as they can get. What will it take to induce patrons to spend their money to make a purchase from you? What does your service package offer the customer that others don’t? What is the value proposition: Do the benefits include higher quality as well as excellent value?

And, while it is important to stay current and relevant, and to stress the benefits you offer, don’t forget that one of those benefits should be the core values of your business, values that build confidence and trust in your brand. Gimmicks will only get you so far.

Another point worth mentioning is that you are known by the company you keep. Choose your employees wisely; to do otherwise is to short-change your clientele. Everyone who represents your business is a salesperson for your brand and should understand your company’s mission. You all must be on the same team and share the same philosophy. Your customers are looking to you to advise them on addressing their workplace service needs and making the most appropriate purchasing decisions; don’t let them down. It often has been pointed out that anyone who says “I don’t know, I only work here,” shouldn’t work here. You want people who buy into your vision, who recognize that any change enabling better customer service and profitability is desirable, and who are familiar enough with the business to make sensible suggestions about such changes.

A sales force is a sales force, whether it’s a candidate’s campaign team or an operating company’s staff. While a campaign team can designate spokespeople, the operator must be aware that every employee is a spokesperson, or at least is in a position to help or hurt the company. For this reason, it’s very important to train anyone who may, under any circumstances, meet a customer or answer the telephone in the correct way to respond to inquiries, complaints and suggestions. A famous speaker on this subject, Nancy Friedman (“The Telephone Doctor”), has recommended that business owners call their own companies from time to time, just to see how their phones are being answered.

A sales force is a sales force, whether it’s a candidate’s campaign team or an operating company’s staff. While a campaign team can designate spokespeople, the operator must be aware that every employee is a spokesperson, or at least is in a position to help or hurt the company. For this reason, it’s very important to train anyone who may, under any circumstances, meet a customer or answer the telephone in the correct way to respond to inquiries, complaints and suggestions. A famous speaker on this subject, Nancy Friedman (“The Telephone Doctor”), has recommended that business owners call their own companies from time to time, just to see how their phones are being answered.

Winning an election is like winning sales; the same principles apply. While you will never be all things to all people, once you’ve determined your mission, stick with it and keep emphasizing the mission statement over and over again. Be sure to convey this message in everything you do. This is not to say that it’s impossible to adopt a new direction when there is good reason to do so. But if you do change course, it’s essential to be prepared to explain why you’ve chosen the new path and how it will benefit your customers. Above all, never lose sight of why you’re in business in the first place.

Just like President-elect Obama, once you’ve made your case (which is to say, you’ve won the account), you need to deliver, following through on your promises, or your success will be short-lived. And, like a new President, you have to build an organization of capable individuals who understand and endorse what you’re trying to do.


Topic: Upfront with the Publisher

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