6 Marketing Lessons From the Presidential Debates

We can learn a lot about marketing by watching politicians.  For better or worse, this year’s Presidential debates have provided us with an unusually rich body of marketing lessons.

If you are willing to take a more objective look at how Obama and Romney have conducted themselves during the first two debates (to the extent that this is possible), there is a lot that is worth emulating.  There are also more than one or two cautionary notes.  Here are my top 6:

1.  Your level of enthusiasm matters a lot when you are trying to sell yourself.  In the first debate, Obama looked like he’d rather be anywhere else.  He looked down at his notes and he did not project good energy.  In the second debate, he seemed much more engaged and interested in getting reelected.  When you are out speaking with prospective clients and referral sources, project interest in what you do.

2.  Resilience is key in selling.   Being able to recover from your marketing mistakes is the difference between ultimate success and failure.  Prior to the first debate, most pundits were already writing Mitt Romney’s political obituary.  But his performance in the first debate clearly had a big impact on the polls.  It is too early to know how the second debate will effect the polls; but after his first debate drubbing, Obama demonstrated a lot of resilience and came back with a much stronger performance.

3.  Getting lost in the weeds does not help your messaging.  If you want a prospect to understand what you do (and more importantly, if you want to be memorable), distill your message down to shorter phrases and stay away from intricate detail.  Several times during the second debate, Mitt Romney’s message became much weaker when he started getting too deep into the details.

4.  Preparation is critical.  The lawyers who are best at marketing their services spend a lot of time preparing before they meet with prospects, give a presentation, etc.  Both candidates did a lot of preparation for the second debate.  They knew what questions might come up and they had well prepared answers that they could adapt to the actual questions.  It showed.

5.  Listening is just as important as speaking.  If you want to learn how you can be helpful to your clients, let them do more of the talking.  It is only by listening that we learn what really matters to our clients and referral sources.  If your body language says that you are formulating your next thought rather than listening to what the other person has to say, you will lose some credibility.  In the second debate, both Obama and Romney talked over each other and at times, seemed to be bursting at the seams to say something.  While the Democrats were looking for a more engaged and forceful President, I don’t think either Obama or Romney were at their best when they were trying to interrupt.

6.  Don’t be afraid to tout your successes.  Many lawyers consider it bad form to brag about their accomplishments.  But if you have an accomplishment that illustrates why a client should hire you, you should make sure to bring it up.  Obama failed to do that in the first debate.  But clearly, his advisers explained to him the importance of touting his accomplishments and in the second debate, we heard much more about what Obama had done.

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