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The one lesson from Obama’s marketing campaign


I’ve spent a good amount of time trying to understand why the Obama campaign’s strategies worked and how they can be adapted to our client’s situations. What’s surprising to me is that a lot of the commentary on the subject tends to focus on the branding aspects of the campaign. It’s always a surprise to me that companies and organizations spend money on branding. Branding is the outcome, not the input. You cannot brand yourself into someone’s buying behavior.

In this economy most of the companies we are talking to or working with, no matter how big, don’t have a lot of cash to spend on branding. Their goals are more focused on ROI and all the marketing must be directly tied to revenue. “What happens to each dollar and what does it result in?” is the question on their minds.

Looking closely at the Obama marketing campaign it appears that the key focus was in building an online community of supporters. Several bloggers have suggested that this is the new model for how to connect with a group or consumers online and then transfer that online community to the real world. “That’s a lesson that can be transferred to any small business or to anyone trying to sell a product or service,” said David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing & PR.”

Hmmm… “any small business” might be a stretch, but there are certainly several that can use this logic. The critical element seems to be in the transfer of the community marketing into actual sales. The secret sauce for Obama and all successful campaigns is combining the sales (conversion) and marketing (lead gen) objectives. The Obama marketing experts realized that you can do all the lead gen (email subscriptions, volunteer, text message sign-ups, etc.) in the world but if you don’t convert it into real action (poster distribution, event organizing, grass-roots canvasing, etc.) it doesn’t mean a thing.

For as long as I can remember, marketing and sales have been separate functions. How often do we hear about non-aligned efforts where marketing generates leads but sales fails to get access to them or act on the leads?

Generating leads is a complex and necessary part of all marketing campaigns. Marketing is not about branding. Branding happens when lead generation transitions smoothly into a healthy, positive conversion experience. The brand is the identity you associate with that experience, not the other way around.

Author Richard Banfield

As CEO, Richard leads Fresh Tilled Soil’s strategic vision. He’s a mentor at TechStars and BluePrintHealth, an advisor and lecturer at the Boston Startup School, and serves on the executive committees of TEDxBoston, the AdClub’s Edge Conference, and Boston Regional Entrepreneurship Week.

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