I'm Canadian, working for an American company. So while I personally don't observe Presidents' Day, I can definitely appreciate the wisdom American leaders have given the world. In their honor, it's important to recognize how their leadership can translate into effective business practices--if they were able to run an entire country they're bound to have valuable tips for business management as well, right? Here are some of the key presidential lessons I've identified that can certainly turn into advice for business leaders to successfully run a company.
Read my Lips: Clear, Consistent Messaging
Effective presidential candidates choose simple yet powerful messages that resonate with audiences. While the phrase "gridlock" (coined by vice presidential candidate James Stockdale) made headlines for a few days, it lost traction because it ultimately wasn't meaningful to voters. Conversely, in eras of economic turmoil, Presidents Bush and Clinton turned heads and secured votes with the messages of "read my lips: no new taxes" and "It's the economy, stupid," respectively.
President Obama is the most recent example of a president hitting it out of the park when it comes to messaging. His message of "change" was always clear and consistent, but more importantly, it was (and is) relevant to the times.
Businesses like Apple and Zappos have also adopted this style and have become looked to as trailblazers in innovative advertising, marketing and quality. By communicating consistent and concise messaging, they've successfully created a strong brand personality and unique position in consumers' minds. But it's not only important for the customers; execs need to instill the corporate message on every level (sales, customer service, marketing, etc.) Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh successfully accomplished this with pushing the message of "best customer service" throughout every level of the company. Doing this will provide a solid base of consistency from top to bottom, further establishing the brand's voice and paving the path to success.
Think Globally, Act Locally: Audience Segmentation
Part of the presidential gig is having charisma and a dynamic presence. The most memorable presidents were able to do more than just dazzle. They grasped the importance of understanding their audiences, how to communicate with them and delivered relatable messages with confidence and poise.
As an actor, President Reagan knew how to actually "play to" the camera, using his charisma to drive votes. But recent presidents realized that younger voters were not glued to CNN or forsaking their favorite TV shows to watch presidential debates, so they changed up their audience-specific outreach strategy. President Clinton shocked--and wowed--the world when he went on MTV to chat with young voters and played the saxophone. President Obama showed how social media could make-or-break an election with wildly successful email marketing, Facebooking and Tweeting. And you better believe he understood "LOL" and "L8R" before he decided to communicate with those audiences.
It's crucial for business leaders to understand the voice and language of their various audiences. This will allow them to reach and connect with both employees and consumers through conversation they will actually listen to--sometimes it may seem unconventional, but presidents of our past and present proved it works.
The New Deal: New Message Delivery Vehicles
Once you have established the optimal message, you then need to determine how best to distribute it. President Eisenhower understood the impact of the relatively new medium of television; as a result, he created witty campaigns and messages ("I like Ike") and was elected the first Republican president in 20 years.
Today, presidential, state and local candidates alike are campaigning in a new era where mediums are changing by the second. It has now become critical to reach voters beyond television; many candidates now choose to reach their target audiences via an integrated, multi-channel campaign with email, Facebook and Twitter and are incredibly successful in doing so.
Business can, and do, take note. Even under disastrous circumstances, Target addressed its recent security breach in a variety of channels (email, Facebook, Twitter, press releases, etc.) to ensure its message was reaching as many customers as possible.
Some businesses shy away from multi-channel campaigns because it opens the door to "haters." But in actuality, it provides a great opportunity: If someone posts a negative comment on Facebook, this is your chance to explain your company, make amends (if necessary), and reiterate your company's positioning. Better to face obstacles out in the open where you have a chance to defend yourself rather than worrying about cyberspace whispers that are out of your control.
Hail to the Chief (of Marketing)
While there is talk that consumers are experiencing email marketing fatigue, today's politicians prove otherwise. President Obama is largely known as the president who was elected through email marketing; he revolutionized the use of social media, which turned fundraising on its head and won the election as a result. In fact, most of the $690 million in online funding stemmed from emails, with his team breaking the traditional rules by often changing up subject lines and adding mild curse words.
Wisely, Republicans saw the power that email marketing had for Obama's campaign, and are currently using email marketing to reach Hispanic voters. In fact, just a few months ago the GOP launched a $10 million campaign to reach this target audience, with email consisting of a strong component of the campaign.
Most businesses recognize the high value of email marketing, but it can never be overstated. Marketing to your audience is crucial for any business at any size, and with the new technologies available through email marketing platforms, such as segmentation, A/B split testing and automation, it's easier than ever to tailor every email to a specific audience, successfully communicating with your target instead of their spam folder.
Solve a Problem, Don't Sell a Product
Going back to our messaging examples of "gridlock," "it's the economy, stupid" and "change," you can see why the latter two were successful compared to the first. Gridlock was simply a comment on a situation, not a solution.
Likewise, successful companies don't just sell something; they solve a problem. Check out ZenPayroll, a company that makes creating a payroll system a breeze--seriously solving a problem. And if you can solve a problem/ ongoing issue --like how Purina "connects pets with people" and Google "organizes the world's information"--then all the better.
If you have Presidents Day off work, enjoy. If not, take a moment to think about the lessons these successful presidents have left throughout the years and make sure you are embracing their best practices to achieve the same kind of success.
Seamas Egan is the Manager of Revenue Operations at Campaigner.
Follow Seamas Egan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SeamasEgan