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Timeless Marketing Lessons from the 2016 Presidential Election

The political process is a marketing game.

The marketing game is about getting enough people to take action to support your goals.

The marketing game is not about being right, having a better product or better facts. These can surely help, but that’s not the actual game being played.

Last week, the Trump campaign got more people to vote in enough states to win 290 electoral college votes to Clinton’s 228. Hillary Clinton actually had many advantages, and won the popular vote, but did not prevail.

Trump executed a classic niche marketing strategy with grassroots tactics and a simple, targeted message to win the presidency.

It was non-traditional, but it was classic marketing strategy and execution.

There are many marketing lessons in this Presidential election result. Here are seven that you can apply in your business.

1. Action is created by simple messages that connect

Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” mantra was a simple, memorable message that addressed the key concerns and hopes of a large audience. To the “throw the bums out” crowd, Trump clearly represented big change and Clinton was more of the same. This also worked for Obama eight years ago and almost worked for upstart Bernie Sanders.

2. Focus on what matters to your your target

In the end, most conservative voters backed Trump and most liberal voters backed Clinton. Two core political philosophies still exist and they “trumped” the negative personality issues that dominated the conversation.

3. Your target customer is your biggest lever

Trump won more college-educated, female, Latino, evangelical and traditional Republican voters than anyone expected. His biggest “lever” was the”rural white working-class” versus “urban, educated liberals.” Trump started with a small target market and expanded from there. There were many voters (and electoral votes) that Clinton left to Trump by not connecting with the middle class audience outside big cities.

4. You have to close the sale

Trump activated more voters than Clinton by creating a more highly charged movement with an underdog story line. It was a mistake for the Clinton campaign to rely on the polls, most of which were wrong. If she had activated more of her followers in the 45% of eligible voters who didn’t vote (as Obama did in 2008), she might have had the edge.

5. Traditional media are less relevant every year

The traditional news media did not support Trump, yet he overcame their opposition. Trump claimed to be frustrated with the media, but he clearly played them like a fiddle to get unlimited free news coverage to deliver his anti-establishment message. He also had a direct line to his 14 million social Twitter followers. Crazy like a fox.

7. Authenticity matters

Clinton had 30 years of experience in politics, a huge campaign machine, superior data, detailed polls and a large staff. Donald Trump had no political experience and went with his gut instinct and 30 years of business and television exposure. He refused to be anything but himself, for better or worse. Clinton was seen by some as scripted, professional, impersonal and secretive, which reduced the effectiveness of her messages beyond her core audience.

The political process is a marketing game.

So is your business, your personal reputation, and the battle of ideas. Apply these lessons to your game to succeed.