5 things start-ups can learn from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign

DonnieBusiness, Entrepreneur, StartupsLeave a Comment

I’m not a fan of Donald Trump. I have never met him personally but his public persona over the many years I’ve seen him in the press has led me to believe he is not the type of person I would want to lead my country. That being said, his presidential campaign and eventual success in winning the American Presidency has been nothing short of miraculous (is that the correct word for it?). How is it possible that a man who has no political history, no military history – a total outsider to US politics, can win more electoral college votes than a woman who has 30 years of political service and has powerful political allies? The answer is simpler than most people may want to admit, he applied tried and tested political manoeuvres that have been in use in third world countries for years. Political strategy aside there are a few things that entrepreneurs and start-ups can learn from the campaign.

1. Just because your competitor is bigger or more connected doesn’t mean you can’t compete.

Donald Trump was an outsider in this election. No one took his running for president seriously. That allowed him to do what none of the other candidates could – experiment. Deliberate or not, he employed a different strategy to everyone else. He didn’t try the same old political power plays that is part and parcel of the current system. The same goes for start-ups and new ideas. Challenging the status quo seems cliché but it allows outsiders to do what incumbents can’t. Do not think you can’t succeed just because a market already has a dominant player.

2. Paid advertising is overrated.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign spent nearly double what Donald Trump did on advertising. Yet, Trump had more airtime and reached more people because of “free” publicity. Please note: I do not condone nor support in any way the sentiments and statements Mr. Trump used to get that publicity but the point here is that if you have the right message, people will listen, debate, share, support or disagree and that is worth more than paid advertising. Paid search advertising is crowded, highly competitive and expensive. Spend your marketing budget wisely by ensuring your message is the right one and that you’re sharing it in the right places. Google Adwords, Bing Ads and Facebook Ads aren’t the only channels for advertising your message.

3. Know what you need to succeed

The US electoral system is a complicated one. It’s not simple majority rules and was designed to prevent some of the basic pitfalls of a simplistic democratic process. All of the candidates for president should have understood this but the difference between the candidates was in the planning of how to get to the winning number. The Republican party did more events in many states that ended up turning the tide in the election. What is your target sales for the year? How many clients do you need to hit those sales targets? What is the process for getting those clients?

4. Find and know your audience

The Trump campaign knew exactly who they were trying to reach and, well, it wasn’t the people most politicians attempt to reach. While the Clinton campaign used technology to determine who to speak to, Trump measured responses to his campaign by using social media and understanding what was working from real people. As a technologist, it is hard to say that technology isn’t always the answer but good old human sentiment can’t be substituted. When you have an idea or a product, you will know who you built it for so find those people and ensure you listen and understand them.

5. Divide and conquer

The social division that the 2016 US Presidential campaign has produced is sickening. It has truly demonstrated the division in a nation that on it’s surface professes equality and openness. However, the use of division as a political tool has been long used in many countries all over the world. It is powerful and effective. The same strategy can be employed in business, albeit, one hopes with some morality. Segmentation and division of a market can help ensure that your business gains the necessary foothold. For example, TicketText – a ticketing company, are in a very crowded market, yet they specialise in the comedy vertical and are slowly gaining traction and brand recognition with an ever increasing market share.