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3.0 Marketing Plan: 5 Election Campaign Lessons


Ray Wright Marketing MaestroThe Maastary blog post of November 1, 5 3.0 Marketing Plan Implications for 2013, examined some of the budget changes worth considering based on the latest buyer behavior trends. This post continues to explore 2013 budget challenges but now focuses on the impact that big data and sophisticated analytics had on the electoral campaign results.

Whether you wanted Obama to win or not, there are lessons to be learned from his campaign. Although the campaign essentially represents a G2C campaign there are a lot of insights that can be gained for B2B marketers. Let’s take a look behind the obvious (e.g. social media works!) and examine the impact that President Obama’s success will have on the way leading companies may go to market in 2013. Here are five key lessons:

  1. Get to love segmentation. When you’re running an election campaign you clearly need more than two personas to deal with a population of over 300 million prospects! And while your messaging to each persona may be similar, the value that different sub-segments recognize can be totally different. To paraphrase Einstein, “everything is relative”. One segment may be concerned about the economy and will be comparing candidates’ economic plans while another group may be more concerned with, say, women’s rights and will be comparing the candidates’ past actions in that respect.

    In business the same thing happens. Focusing your message too heavily on the needs of one or two personas may alienate others. Certainly each function will compare your solution to other solutions they already use or would consider.   The marketer will compare you to other marketing solutions, the finance director to tools that cater to finance needs. In this way the competition you face in trying to get the attention of your prospect will differ by segment. Only by segmenting more thoroughly and considering the needs of each affected sub-segment can you be sure your message will resonate broadly to all members of the buying committee.

  2. Customer/prospect market research is no longer optional. Clearly, if you buy my first point you’ll need more data to benefit from your more detailed segmentation.  How are the members of each segment similar? How are they different? What are the specific challenges within each segment? Who influences them and through what media/channels? This kind of information can come from sales, if they know and understand the different personas you  are using, but they may have their biases too. The Obama campaign used Ohio polling data to inform their choices, i.e. the opinions of their prospective supporters. In business the equivalent is segment-specific customer or prospect research, not just the broad brush opinions of industry and technology experts.
  4. Test, test, test.  According to the story the President’s campaign analysts ran 66,000 election simulations every day during October. They modeled the likely impact of different message components and delivery strategies segment by segment to determine the overall result.  For a business 66,000 may be excessive, but don’t underestimate your testing needs. For each sub-segment you target there are a wide range of parameters to test.  Different messages, communications channels, offers, landing pages, buttons, email titles, media choices and so on.  Given the large number of factors that can affect your success, and the fact that they interact and change overtime, testing is a strong imperative.
  6. Mobilize the influencers. In the end it was the President’s ability to get out the vote that mattered. This was achieved using social media and email to encourage supporters to contact their friends and make sure they voted too. The equivalent in business is to motivate existing customers and other influencers to become strong recommenders. To do this requires a range of strategies and tools and the participation of all customer facing departments within your organization. It’s not enough to just focus marketing investment on prospects alone. Marketing must coordinate efforts across the organization, engage with current customers and reach out and create partnerships with other influencers.
  8. Marketing mix 3.0 is dynamic. Another success factor for the campaign was the ability to react quickly based on the results of the analytics. Business marketing dynamics change quickly too. With the major social media sites competing aggressively for advertising dollars, new capabilities, services and options pop up frequently. In addition your competition is able to respond more quickly to your offers, messages and innovations now that everything is out in the open via social media and the Internet.  Being agile can not only save money it can yield better results. Being able to respond rapidly to competitive moves and arming your sales force accordingly is another of today’s critical marketing success factors.


What marketing lessons did you glean from the electoral campaigns?

By Ray Wright


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