Jose Palomino

The Ground Game, and Other Lessons Gleaned from the Election

November 13, 2012

After a long and hard battle for the presidency, the election is finally (and thankfully) over.

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Regardless of where you stand politically — of where your heart is or how you felt about the results — there are some major observations to be made about this election that directly relates to strategic marketing.  I’d venture that it might relate to your own marketing programs — whether you’re a part of a very large company or a solo-preneur.

The following (truly!) non-partisan observations are based on some things that came out loud and clear in the successful campaign the President and his team waged to win the election.  Again, I’m not here to opine on whether or not the results were good or not good for the country, but rather, I am interested in the takeaway lessons that this  presidential campaign can teach us.

1. Understand Your Strategic Targets

For President Obama’s campaign, his strategic targets were centered both on demographics as well as geographics.  Knowing their target audience and where they lived, the campaign doubled and tripled down — and ultimately, took it to the streets (but more on that in a bit) to reach them.  Whether or not that is a way to win a platform for governance is a topic for a different writer and a different blog.  If the goal, however, is to WIN, then the goal of hyper-targeting was well illustrated by the successful Obama campaign.

Lesson One: Know who your target market is

— and focus tightly not only on some demographic (“type of owner,” “type of business,” “type of decision maker”) but also by some geographic dimension as well.

  • Do you know your strategic targets — both by demographics as well as geographics?

2. It’s All About the Ground Game

You really need the ground game, folks.

Even in a day and age of massive internet-related activity, nothing can compare to putting your feet on the pavement to get the word out.  That’s not to say the internet isn’t important — as we know, social media was credited to a large degree as the driving push that helped the president win in 2008.  Don’t ignore social media, but don’t solely rely on it.

The Obama campaign focused a lot of effort on having precinct captains on the ground – literally going door to door – and you better believe that made the difference.  One Obama supporter in Austin, Mario Champion, told Wired Magazine that going door to door “allow[ed] us to see the names and contact info of people who have said, ‘I will help Obama in our precinct,’…So it’s trivial to e-mail or call them.”

Lesson Two: Make sure you’ve got people ready to “knock on the doors and get out the vote,” so to speak.

 Take advantage of the tools available to you — such as the internet/social media — but then make the phone call, send that letter, knock on that door.  Connect on a human level.

  • How are you getting word out about your business?

3. There’s Power in the Message

Critics of the President, and frankly, of his opponent, often commented that there was very little substance in both campaigns.  However, in this particular case, the President’s campaign had a very substantive negative campaign against his opponent, which was very successful from a competitive positioning point of view.

They were able to highlight and connect his opponent to a prior administration — one widely perceived as a failure — and then convince some people that this candidate would be a continuation of such failure.  Now listen — whether or not you feel that was/is a fair assumption, it nevertheless played out in the court of public opinion.  I’m simply making observations on the steps taken.

Lesson Three:  Make sure you understand how to frame the competitive context in a way that is most favorable to you.

 This could very well be part and parcel of your value proposition statement.   If you have a competitor, you should know how to respond to a prospect who asks, “Well, what about competitor X?”

  • Do you know how to position your Value Proposition against your main competitors’?

In sum, knowing your strategic targets, playing the ground game, and sharpening your value proposition to include a message against competitors are just a few of the lessons to be learned from this election.

  • What other “non-partisan” lessons can we learn from this past election?

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