As a solopreneur, you’re out there in the trenches by yourself, playing to your loyal base but always looking for ways to broaden your appeal. You’re talking yourself up, differentiating your products and services, constantly refining your message, listening to your base, jockeying for position. And you do it all with the end goal that your supporters will choose you over your competitors.
Sound familiar? Like it or not, a solopreneur has much in common with a politician. This year, we the people will be treated to some blustery and vigorous campaigning. That thought alone may make you want to run away, but wait. Political campaigns offer compelling branding and marketing lessons, particularly for entrepreneurs on their own.
So why not send yourself to campaign school? For the next ten months, put yourself in the shoes of your favorite (or least-favorite candidate) and view their branding and marketing tactics with your business lens.
Here are five learning opportunities to study this campaign year.
You are the brand
Picture yourself—from a branding perspective—as a politician. During a political campaign, the brand is the candidate, and the candidate is the brand. Ditto for you as a one-person business entity. Whether you provide a service, product or information, your personal brand and your company brand are inseparable.
In politics, as in business, logos and graphics and social media are incredibly important, but branding is all about how people feel. And when your face is your brand, just a name can evoke strong feelings. Whatever your politics, the names Trump, Hillary and Bernie call up separate emotions. Even the fact that Trump’s campaign focuses on his last name, while Hillary’s and Bernie’s focus on their first, says a lot about their message, and thus their brand. Seemingly, Trump wants to appear emotionally forceful, while ‘Hill’ and ‘Bern’ are going for friendly and approachable.
Ask yourself: what kind of emotions do you want your core base to feel when faced with your brand?
Focus on your platform
What battle cries make a candidate stand out from the crowd? Remember “No new taxes?” “Hope and change?” “It’s the economy, stupid?” Those platforms were memorable, and they carried their respective elections.
Like the political candidates that spun them, you should be able to tell your brand ‘platform’ with just a few words. Those words should communicate the essence of what you do and differentiate you from the competition. Keep it short and tweetable.
Ask yourself: does my brand ‘platform’ tell my story?
Play to your base, but broaden your appeal
You likely built your brand and business on a fairly narrow core consumer. You know their likes and dislikes, their demographics, their buying preferences. A narrow focus shapes a brand, but a wider base wins customers and builds your audience.
Social media is the latest hammer in the political toolbox, and the 2008 presidential victory was the first campaign that won the Web. Today’s campaigns are all over social media, and they’re finding and reaching supporters and connecting primarily through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.
Those and other social sharing platforms are gaining U.S. users at an astonishing rate. Since 2008, the number of users of social networking sites jumped from 25 percent to 65 percent, so you, too, should be continually mining the Web to broaden your base.
Ask yourself: which social channels do your core customers prefer?
Message consistently and repeatedly
Your core customers — like voters — don’t have time to seek out your message. You must put it in front of them. Over. And over. And over. That’s why we’re all so tired of campaigning by the time the election rolls around.
And also like voters, your target market will quickly sniff out lies, propaganda and inauthentic messaging. When you’re telling them who you are and what your stand for, stay true to the values your brand represents.
Ask yourself: how does my brand illustrate my values?
Tell your story like a pro
Get comfortable telling your well-crafted stories—in person, in print, online and via video. Today’s technology, more than ever, gives you the opportunity to stand out, position yourself as a leader and spread your message through storytelling.
For politicians, storytelling is an art with a formula, and it works. For every talking point, they bring out a relevant tale of woe or triumph, and the good ones tailor the story to each audience.
Storytelling is a skill set every business owner can sharpen and use to gain new prospects, create trust and broaden your base.
Ask yourself: how can I better tell my story?