What Can Donald Trump Teach Us About Marketing?

The Trump campaign has defied the “laws of political gravity” at every turn. Back in September, when I posted about lessons small businesses can learn from looking at Republican candidates’ campaign websites, most of the pundits predicted that Donald Trump’s candidacy was nearing its end. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Since then, the more outrageous Trump’s comments, the more his support seems to grow and now the Republican establishment is talking about the prospect of a brokered convention if Trump’s success continues.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m as terrified at the idea of a President Trump as anyone, but there is something morbidly fascinating about watching the unfolding spectacle. Whether or not Trump is ultimately successful in winning the nomination, he is already a winner in the battle for public attention. And setting aside the political circus, there are actually some marketing lessons we small business owners can pick up from watching Trump’s bid for the GOP nomination.

  • Anything you own, you can manage. When you buy a domain name for your business, make sure to also buy domains associated with common misspellings, variants, and even Xsucks. If you don’t lockdown your brand, your competition could use your brand against you. Jeb Bush’s campaign learned this lesson the hard way. Trump’s campaign denies any involvement, but for at least a week, users who typed in JebBush.com were redirected to DonaldJTrump.com. This is definitely not helping Jeb get out of the low single digits in the polls. Your lesson: If there is a domain that you don’t want your competitor to own, buy it yourself.
  • Have in mind a specific target audience. Part of what makes Trump so popular with Republican primary voters is that, unlike his predecessors John McCain and Mitt Romney, Jodi GreenburgTrump does not try to appeal to “everyone.” He is giving a voice to a group of Republican primary voters who have felt disenfranchised during the past two election cycles; are frustrated with politics as usual; and are most passionate about taking back the White House. Trump focuses on a select crowd of strong enthusiasts whose support strengthens the more the media and moderate Republicans wag their fingers at him. When I write content for Spring Insight, I focus on a specific ideal customer avatar (her name is Jodi Greenburg, she’s 47, married with three kids, and loves chocolate. Really! I could keep going). It may seem counterintuitive, but the more specific your target audience, the more individual users will feel like you are speaking directly to them. Your lesson: Define your target customer and make it as tight as you can.
  • Trust yourself. Donald Trump may be the most self-assured, megalomaniac ever to walk the face of the earth. He brags about not listening to focus groups; he often speaks off the cuff; and he prides himself on being unrehearsed. This self-confidence makes every day on the campaign trail seem fresh. The same principle holds for your product or service. It’s important to pay attention to market research, but it’s even more important to trust that you have a good idea. If you believe in what you are selling, you can trust that others will feel the same. Your lesson: Own your message.

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Trump is a unique American political figure and businessperson. Fortunately, you don’t have to become like Trump to learn from how he has marketed himself and built his brand.