A few days ago, the United States re-elected our president. Most media predictions were for a tight race. Republicans were crowing that they would win.
On election night, Republican advisor Karl Rove was stunned when the statisticians on Fox News called the state of Ohio for Obama.
The next morning, radio host Rush Limbaugh seemed dazed. Instead of talking crow, they were eating it.
What went wrong?
They were in a bubble. All they heard were their own opinions and the views of other people who shared the same ideas. They called other outlets the “lamestream media” or “liberals” (their synonym for dirty rotten scoundrels).
The Republicans kept trying to appeal to a shrinking demographic of older white men. They kept beating the drums, throwing “red meat” to their party base; and never stopped to ask anyone else for an opinion.
The growing minority majority of Latinos, women, and African-Americans were appalled by calls to deport themselves, attempts to restrict voting, and medieval views on women’s rights.
They all voted for Obama in huge numbers.
The Republicans lost.
Staying in your own bubble can be dangerous for political parties. It’s hazardous for businesses as well.
Research your market
Think for a moment about your own business. We can get caught up in our own bubbles too. We know our products and services cold. Our staff and partners know it. We believe we should be hired over our competition.
Know Your Reason Why
Is it clear to them how your product works? Do they know about your special expertise in say, business-to-government selling? Or are they aware of the successful email campaign you ran? The one you had to stop promoting because it was a fire hazard.
Have you reached out to them? Listened to their concerns? Or just passed your new app back and forth between your engineers and your friends? Have you created a bra dryer? or an Iphone?
Send a survey occasionally Or call for no particular reason.
Stand for something your customers care about and stick to it
Instead of stooping to the lowest level, or switching views every other day, stand for something. Be different, and follow through. If you say you’re great at customer service, then show it. Percolate that mindset through every level of your company.
True story: Google sent a popular blogger a new Nexus tablet to review. When he asked them when he should return it, they told him to keep it (and wished him an early happy birthday!).
Fix their problems
Republicans spent a lot of time talking about voter fraud. There isn’t much. They wanted to make the tragedy in Benghazi a talking point. Then they kept supporting men who said almost unbelievably stupid things about women, veterans, and non-heterosexuals.
The country didn’t care about those things. We cared about jobs. And the economy. And getting help from our national government when a natural disaster hit.
Delight Your Customers
Look at your own marketing efforts. What compelling story do you tell? What big (or even small, but annoying) problem do you solve?
How do you delight your customers? I know a graphic designer who sends coasters (with her own original artwork) to her clients each holiday season. Her clients love them, and eagerly await the new ones every year.
Another example of both delight and great service. I bought something recently from Bare Necessities, washed it, and it turned horrid colors (like a bruise). I emailed the company, they apologized, told me to send it back, and sent me a new one (with free shipping). And, they delivered in the middle of a storm.
Guts or Data?
Republicans relied on “gut feelings”, big donors, and lots of money.
Democrats went for data. Time magazine reported that the Obama campaign had a huge data-crunching operation. They tested email marketing subject lines. They micro-targeted specific populations and counties. They checked to see which appeals worked best for different demographics, and used them accordingly.
The campaign bought ads the same way, ignoring conventional news programming and opting for commercials on programs such as The Walking Dead. Instead of gut feelings, they used hard data to find the right message, get that message to the right people, and get out the vote.
When you market your business, test your assumptions. Create the perfect landing page. Use different channels. Test new offers. Change prices. Don’t assume you know what works (unless it’s worked before). Obama’s data team had pools on what would work. Their guesses were often wrong.
Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, a chemical company, a store owner, or a graphic designer, you can’t succeed or stay in business without listening, researching, and testing. Now go try something.
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