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October 03, 2008

What Lawyers Can Learn About Marketing from the Presidential Election

(Update: 11/8/08 - Entrepreneurs can learn social media strategy from the Obama campaign.  I feel vindicated for those who thought I was just stumping for Obama.)

(UPDATE: 11/3/08 New York Times article on how technology has changed election (marketing) strategy...great lessons for solos.

(UPDATE: I wrote this post in February, 2007 to highlight brilliant marketing, not to endorse one candidate over another - at that time he was vying for the democratic nomination against Hillary Clinton.  However, the Obama campaign has show marketing genius to reach its desired demographic and done it, again, with an Iphone application.  The genius of his marketing gurus cannot be denied.  They are in touch with those who would see him elected.  10/2/08)

In marketing it is known that the "client doesn't care how much you know until they know how much you care...about them and their problems."  This cornerstone of marketing wisdom was made famous by the founder of the National Speaker's Association, the late Cavett Robert, who said it not only first but best. Yet we talk about our inability to effectively reach our potential client base and then we search out the 'marketing gurus', primarily those who are in the legal community as if somehow they alone hold within their professional hands the secret to all that is holy in the legal marketing world. (Am I poking some fun at myself, too?  Of course.)

The reality is there are universal marketing principles, universal human needs that must be addressed when marketing to "human beings" regardless the product or service.  Once you understand them, then they can be redefined, redesigned, manipulated, massaged, reworked, reworded and applied for your intended audience and their specific problems. 

However, in my opinion, never has an example of "the essence of marketing" been produced that lays bare the core of this universal wisdom, shucks the oyster, gets rid of the slime and exposes that perfect 10mm pearl, until this powerful grassroots campaign launched by presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

    • Whether he is your new president of choice is irrelevant. 

      In one fell swoop he has defined his targeted demographic as those who feel disenfranchised and powerless in this country and penetrated the soft underbelly of each one of them with surgical precision.

      His message to that demographic is:

      "This Campaign is About You."

      Message: "You have felt disenfranchised during the term of this last administration, helpless, on the sidelines, your voice not heard. I am your man and I will help you to help yourself.  I will give you the tools to help you empower yourself and by empowering yourself you will put me in office so you are no longer disenfranchised."   

      Logic:  I want something. So I am going to help you get what you want so you give me what I want.  And in turn I will continue to give you what you want....and the cycle repeats itself over and over, again. It's not a 50/50 win, either.  It is a 100/100 win...the perfect win.

      Call to Action: "It's your job to put me in office if you want to retake your country and be heard and here are the marketing tools to help you put me in office."

      "The Obama Principle." He is hoping to achieve his goal of becoming President by helping identified potential voters to achieve their goal of no longer feeling helpless and disenfranchised.  This is the heart of his campaign.

      To date:(2/2007)

      • 70,000 members signed up;
      • 4,000 blogs started
      • 3,000 fundraising pages started
      • 2,400 groups started

      He identified the "problem" of the disenfranchised in the current administration.  He is turning each and every one of them into his personal ambassador or evangelist.  If every one of them knows 250 people and he already has 70,000 people signed up on this site, over 4000 new blogs created spreading the word of Obama, that's 17,500,000 possible voters right there.  And with the power of effective blogging, the spidery web woven reaches even more potential voters. He is giving each potential voter both the tools and the manual on how to empower themselves and effect change, to solve their problem of feeling helpless within the current Administration.

      He is involving each and everyone of them in a grass roots campaign through the use of technology, using technology to address their overwhelming need to be empowered, again, to not feel so helpless. And in his blog posts are newsy anecdotes about John and Mary Doe taking charge of their own campaigning efforts, reinforcing the newsworthiness and value of self-empowerment. He publicizes their efforts, encourages them to submit photos to his blog of their campaigning efforts.  From a marketing perspective, it's a beautiful thing to watch.

      Now the creators of his marketing campaign are the real gurus and we should be taking lessons from them because they loaded that bow and shot the a bullseye straight into the heart of these voters and it will have profound results.

      How do we utilize this lesson in our own practice?  Start by defining the real need of your client.  And don't make the mistake of thinking slick, cute, "play on words" nonsense.  When you are talking and manipulating you can't be listening. Listen to your potential client's words, their word choice, the tone and emotion conveyed when they discuss their problems that need solving and then serve their words back to them consistently in every form of communication you utilize helping them to repeatedly identify your services as the only solution to their problem.  Applaud their efforts, then give them the tools to help them tell others how you are the only solution to the next person's problem.

      I'm going to dub it "The Obama Principle" because never has this marketing principle been so readily observable to those hungry to learn the essence of brilliant marketing....and a textbook lesson in the power of language as a tool.

      My favorite language lesson is one taught to me by a friend from Australia.  He was gifted gabber in any crowd.  No matter what type of group we were socializing with he always fit in and I noticed the manner in which he spoke subtly shifted, too.  Finally, I said , "how do you do that?  You are almost chameleon-like and no one is the wiser for it.  You can blend in with any crowd."  His answer was "language is like clothing.  Don't wear a ballgown to a picnic and expect to fit in."

      It's the same with word choice.  Whether your website, blog, literature or conversations with your clients. You don't have to dummy down or inflate yourself with bloated verbiage. Just speak the language of your clients.

      And continue to watch the "The Obama Principle" in action regardless of your affiliation.  It is a very expensive Ivy League education offered to you for free courtesy of the internet.


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      Dan Nunley

      Unfortunately, while the "Obama Principle" may be great for normal marketing, it is debilitating for the political heath of our nation. Politically, the Obama Principle is nothing new. It's the same old liberal strategy of promising handouts and goodies to the poor in exchange for their vote. A chicken in every pot via higher taxes and wealth redistribution. This simply keeps the poor poor by training them to depend upon the government and that actually is what big-government liberals desire.

      Susan Cartier Liebel

      Dan, thanks for visiting.

      As I prefaced the post, this was not a commentary on policy or politics. It was a lesson on targeting your audience and recognizing the best medium to attract your audience. In this case, this particular candidate is courting the younger voter and a certain demographic.

      Understanding this, he effectively used technology to reach them. This is the essence of marketing - understanding who you are trying to reach and using the proper vehicles to do so.

      His campaign has done this very effectively AND this post was originally written 18 months ago so we know for certainty it has been effective.

      This is the point of the piece....not to make a political statement or argue the merits of the candidates and their plans but to learn the effectiveness of targeted marketing and the best vehicles to deliver the message.

      And it can not be denied, the Obama campaign does this exceptionally well and we can learn from it...for free.

      Carolyn Elefant

      Great post, Susan - there are so, so SO many marketing lessons to be learned from these elections, just because of the diversity of the candidates - an old timer, a new comer and a woman. The way each of them present themselves and their message can inform virtually every type of lawyer. Unfortunately, many times merely making observations about the candidates (as you did) lead others to believe that you are actually taking a political position. That's what has deterred me from posting on this topic, but I am glad that you've broken the ice and I hope to follow your lead with my own thoughts.

      Susan Cartier Liebel

      @Carolyn, Thanks for the support. I have taken flak for using Obama's marketing strategies to showcase effective marketing.

      But the lessons are too great to be denied. When you know your potential client/voter and how to reach them in a way that is meaningful and which sends a message that resonates with them you see results.

      It is no different than devising an effective strategy to attract your clients to sustain your business. And you must have a delivery method they embrace.

      This is one of the BIGGEST lessons of this election as it relates to marketing because it embraces all the new tools to spread the message including blogging, social media, viral marketing, evangelism and more.

      That is the purpose of this post regardless of affiliation. I can't wait to see what you write on the marketing lessons of the election and I'll support you! Hopefully others will follow suit because it is a brilliant education and the more marketing minds and business minds discuss their observations the more everyone can learn.

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