What 5.4% Can Teach You About Your Marketing

5 Actionable Marketing Lessons From the Iowa Caucus

Only 5.4% of Iowa’s eligible voters turned out and voted in Tuesday’s Republican caucus, the first votes cast in the 2012 presidential race.

If in this highly publicized race that dominated the news across media platforms for weeks, only a tiny fraction of the eligible voters turned out, what does this mean for your marketing?

Regardless of your political views, this caucus has important actionable marketing lessons. At its core, political races are a lot like marketing. Instead of getting people to buy stuff, the goal is to get them to support your candidate and the ideas he or she stands for.

Strip away the political sentiment and consider these candidates like products and here’s what you see.

  • Mitt Romney eked out a first place win by a mere 8 votes. He showed that adjusting your message to meet your audience’s expectations and massive advertising investment, even if it’s negative, can persuade people to buy from you even if their heart, as shown by pre-election surveys, isn’t in it.  Actionable Marketing Tip. Positioning and advertising matter. To this end, you must have representative marketing personas to help you understand your buyers and create effective positioning in your target market’s mind. Additionally, advertising helps build name recognition and persuade buyers.
  • Rick Santorum came from obscurity to show second. While the 8 votes that separated him from first place wasn’t statistically valid, he showed that meeting prospects on their turf with a personal touch builds relationships. It’s the low budget small business approach. Actionable Marketing Tip. Regardless of size, marketers can set themselves apart by providing a personal touch. Despite the growth of e-commerce, social commerce and mobile commerce, many shoppers still like seeing the product and having a relationship with the merchant. What can you do to set your offering apart?
  • Ron Paul came in third. From a marketing perspective, he combined a strong organization and a message that resonated with one segment of voters, namely the young. While this approach isn’t sufficient for most political races, it can be profitable for targeted businesses. Actionable Marketing Tip. Targeting your product to a specific niche with energetic fans can be effective. Know your audience and meet their needs. How do you define your products or services that meet specialized needs?
  • Newt Gingrich came in a distant fourth. Despite his strong name recognition, he showed marketers that, regardless of how strong your brand is, the bottom line is that it’s all about your product. Actionable Marketing Tip. In today’s social media savvy world, where word of mouth and product reviews sway purchase decisions, your product must deliver on its promise. Strong packaging and good marketing aren’t sufficient to persuade shoppers if your product doesn’t deliver.
  • Michelle Bachmann who placed first in the Ames Straw Poll finished last of the major candidates. Bachmann showed that what shoppers say they’ll buy isn’t necessarily how they vote with their pocketbooks. Actionable Marketing Tip. Entering the consideration set isn’t sufficient to get your product purchased. You must continue to have persuasive content and answer prospects’ questions at every step of the purchase process. In today’s market, this includes having a mobile website since buyers can check information just before they buy.

While most marketers would be thrilled with 5.4% of their potential audience, what matters most for marketers is understanding how to position your offering to meet your target market’s needs, to have the best product you can, and to consistently supply marketing that supports your product.

What other marketing lessons did you take away from the Iowa caucus?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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  • Chris Baldwin

     Just reading this now.   Creative and insightful post, particularly in
    hindsight.  Interesting to see how the candidates’ marketing approaches
    in Iowa carried throughout the rest of the primaries… both to their
    benefit and detriment.  Nice post.