Lessons from Trump’s Presidential Campaign to Make Your Startup a Success

Donald J. Trump, the business man, the reality TV star, and whether you accept it or not, the 45th President of the United States. In his short career as a political figure, he has managed to make us laugh, cringe, curse, and literally sh*t our pants. Okay, maybe the last one is just me. From his wall rhetoric to ‘covfefe’ to fires and furies, all of us are being taken for a ride while we dig basements, preparing for the impending doomsday. But, you have to give credit where it is due. Despite all odds, despite not being a popular choice, despite being the clown of the elections, he won the ‘democratic’ process. While there might be not much to learn from his political career, every entrepreneur can learn a thing or two from his campaign.

Know Your Audience

This is one of the most basic marketing mantras. You have to know your audience to sell them something – a product, a service or even yourself. Why? Because only then can you understand their pain points and offer solutions that truly address them. You instantly become relatable to your audience. You become someone they want to listen to, someone they are not primed to believe.

He understood his target audience.

Now, ‘understood’ is a very broad word. It does not just mean knowing the pulse of the people by being empathetic, but also basing campaign strategies on number-backed data. He used analytics to splice the voter base and appeal to their specific pain points. He used clickbait headlines to get his point across. ‘Visual real estate’ is precious in a time where people have the shortest attention span. Clickbaits are able to get you that attention span and if you offer value in those few seconds you start influencing the readers.

He and his campaign recognized the citizens that were looking for a change, who were feeling left out in the new America, and turned them into their voters. This brings us to our next lesson.

The Nostalgia Factor

Many people argue that Hillary was a better candidate because Trump had no experience. And that’s true. Trump was a businessman as opposed to Hillary, who was a much more experienced and polished politician. This should be a very strong reason for people to vote for Hillary.

But, in politics as in business, it is not about what cards you are dealt with, but how you play them.

Instead of asking people to believe in his vision, he asked them to believe in their own glorious past. He called out to them to work with him to recreate a similar future together. And it is easier for people to believe what they can imagine.

Companies spend millions of dollars to acquire or reacquire customers. The word ‘again’ in Trump’s slogan clicked with people big time. They could see what he was offering and they gave him a chance.

Make Them Work

While we can all discuss the ‘correctness’ of Make America Great Again well into the night, the fact is that correctness has no place in politics. What matters is whether you can catch the public imagination. And, Trump chose a fantastically catchy slogan.

Then again, something like ‘Stronger Together’ sounds nice too, right? So, if both of them were presented to you at your team meeting, which one would you pick?

Why does Make America Great Again sound so good?

The answer is that the slogan, like all good slogans, is making the audience member a participant in the process. It is aspirational and tells them where they should vote to see a dramatic change. Hillary’s slogan did not particularly promise a result. It offers people a tomorrow that is somewhat better than today, while Make America Great Again asks people to become a part of a cause that is going to transform their lives.

Businesses should take cue from such an example. It is important that businesses market their products and services in a way that invite people to do something or be part of something. Think of Nike’s Just Do It, Kit Kat’s Have A Break Have a Kit Kat, Apple’s Think Different, and so many more. If the consumer can be a part of your brand story, they will want to be a part your brand.

Fake News!

Fake news and reviews have always been around. You have always heard about those weight loss pills that can make you lose half your weight within this week. But, fake news can now do much more than help you lose a few imaginary pounds. It can actually make you the President.

Fake news gained its power from the social media and its ability to tweak people’s opinion. Tweak it enough and opinions can be turned on their head. Fake news is powerful and as a business, you should know how to tackle it.

No matter how good or bad your product or service is, a few fake reviews can take your sales figures way down or way up. What do you do? Two things – make it easier for your good customers to review your business and secondly, reply publicly to negative reviews and resolve them there.

Fake news already controls the country…. just don’t let it control your business.

The Battle of the Classes

Trump did not invent class warfare, but he did take advantage of it. Donald Trump has always been vocal about his opinions and that does two things. Get you staunch supporters and sworn enemies. Trump divided the United States and then came to rule it.

Businesses do not prime the country for a civil war, but they divide people into economy and business classes.

Have you heard of Kopi Luwak? If you are fancy, then you have. If not, then it is a premium Vietnamese coffee for which people shell out as much as $600 per pound. By the way, the coffee is also called Civet cat coffee – a more apt name, since it is made from coffee beans collected from the poop of this cat. But, since it makes people feel exclusive to sip down a cup of $80 coffee, it sells and how! So, as long as you can make people feel different from others, better than others, superior to others, you can even make them eat sh*t. That’s what Trump did and that is a lesson you have to learn.

Parting Thoughts

Whether Donald J. Trump is President-material or not is a debate for another day. But, with his run up to the White House, he has left behind many marketing mantras that new entrepreneurs can use to make some sense of the market chaos around them. But, restrict the learning to the campaign only. Everything that came thereafter has been, well to put it mildly, an absolute train wreck.