Would you vote for Donald Trump if the election was today?
(Don’t answer that just yet.)
If you need a competitive advantage with your marketing, that yields a whole lot more leads and sales…
…It might surprise you that there are “growth hacks” you can learn from Trump.
You don’t have to agree with anything he says. You don’t have to like him.
But you’d be crazy not learning from him.
You can pick up a few growth marketing strategies and tactics to use. If you’re willing to look beyond the “noise” of it all.
This is applicable for any entrepreneur, executive or marketer.
Let’s look at Trump’s “growth hacks” and what you can learn.
Here Are A Few
“Trump Tactics” So Far
Let’s start with a few things Donald Trump has been doing, thus far.
Of course, him and his “growth team” are working with the campaign every day. But most of it are the same tactics in execution with variations in content.
Instead of outlining every single move, we’re looking at a handful of tactics. These are representative of his “style”.
Trump Tactic #1:
Breaking Every “Branding” Rule
Trump’s campaign looks more like the roll-out of a consumer brand. And not your typical presidential bid.
He’s getting away with doing and saying things that, probably, very few could.
Trump is establishing an identity rather than trying to attract voters with policy.
In a competitive market, with comparable products, your advantage comes from your identity. And using it for connecting with buyers.
With a knack for self-promotion and stirring up emotions, he’s launching a product (himself) with maximizing traction.
Yes, he’s upsetting people. Yes, he’s obnoxious.
But he’s getting a ridiculous amount of attention.
That is, voter attention.
And, from the right kind of voter.
By breaking conventional “brand” rules, he’s getting “voter attention” from the market segment he’s going after.
Here’s your growth marketing lesson:
- If you’re in a market with several competitors and similar products, you need to formulate a strong identity. You can’t do this half-heartedly. There needs to be a clear, defined set of vision and values (but keep it simple.) This often means you need to break conventional rules. I would recommend that you do so, regardless.
You can read more here: Donald Trump is breaking all the branding rules—and getting away with it
Trump Tactic #2:
Shocking The “Establishment”
You can break branding rules without being shocking, but an added layer to what Trump’s doing makes a big difference:
Confusing and shocking “the establishment”.
That means you’re going against the rule-makers, pundits, authority figures and incumbent players.
And throwing them for a loop. Get them Confused. Confounded.
Make them wonder and scratch their heads.
Trump is siding with “the common man” by attacking figures of the political and media institutions.
He knows his audience and “buyers”.
He’s aligning with the populist sentiment on various topics, and many love him simply because the establishment (in media and politics) hate him.
Here’s your growth marketing lesson:
- If you’re a startup entering a highly competitive space, you absolutely need to do something like this. Draw the line. Set yourself apart.
- If you’re a business with an established product/service, what can you introduce (innovation) that will re-define your marketplace and, in effect, make you the market leader?
- Trump says a lot of crazy things, but that’s because he knows what most “ordinary” voters feel about all this. He becomes their mouthpiece. What ideas, opinions and sentiments can you tap into?
For more fun reading, see: Trump Stumps Media Kingmakers
Trump Tactic #3:
On Key Positions
To capture the core segment of voters that would even consider voting for him…
…He launched a full asymmetric warfare campaign on a media stronghold that caters to those voters:
Fox News, and in particular, Megyn Kelly.
It’s actually quite brilliant, and he can thank legendary media manipulator Roger Stone for most of it.
Roger has a set of unofficial “rules” that act as guiding principles for what to do in a political campaign.
One of “Stone’s Rules” is to “Hit from every angle. Open multiple fronts of your enemy. He must be confused, and feel besieged on every side”.
By launching a series of statements and interviews, and especially striking back after Kelly screwed up with her reporting on Trump’s divorce proceedings back in 1989, he left Kelly stumped.
Here’s an excellent segment, quoted at length that shows you some of it. I’ve bolded relevant parts but it’s worth reading. Every. Single. Word:
“Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter,” Kelly asked him on the Quicken Loans Arena stage in Cleveland with 24 million people watching back home. “However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women. You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.’”
As the audience laughed, Kelly attempted to continue: “Your Twitter account…”
“Only Rosie O’Donnell,” Trump joked, disarming Kelly.
The audience roared in laughter.
“No, it wasn’t,” Kelly tried to correct Trump. “Your Twitter account…”
The audience erupted in applause for Trump.
“Thank you,” Trump thanked them.
“For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell,” Kelly interjected.
“Yes, I’m sure it was,” Trump replied.
“Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks,” Kelly continued her question. “You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?”
“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct,” Trump answered, earning resounding applause from the audience.
“I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness,” Trump continued. “And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either. This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore. We lose to China. We lose to Mexico both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody. And frankly, what I say, and oftentimes it’s fun, it’s kidding. We have a good time. What I say is what I say. And honestly Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that.”
The crowd roared again.
“But you know what, we — we need strength, we need energy, we need quickness and we need brain in this country to turn it around,” Trump finished his answer. “That, I can tell you right now.”
After the debate, Trump told CNN’s Don Lemon that he was very displeased with Kelly.
“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” Trump said in the Lemon interview.
Trump isn’t indulging in discussing a particular tweet, makes a joke of it and then reframes the issue.
The battling continues with more twists and turns, but here’s a quick summary:
After Kelly took an unexpected 11 day “vacation”, Trump continued his warefare with,
One other of “Stone’s Rules”: “Never do anything till you’re ready to do it.” Trump took advantage of Fox’s desire for a cease fire to recuperate, rebuild his energy and sit back waiting until the time was right.
When Kelly came back on the air, Trump launched into biting criticism against her with a series of tweets, attacking her credibility.
More yelling, kicking and screaming from all parties involved ensued.
And then another “Stone’s Rule”:
“Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack.” Trump refused to apologize, denied all wrongdoing, and lit into Fox—particularly Kelly—again.
What did this lead to?
Kelly—still clearly visibly upset with everything happening in the feud with Trump, and as the earlier-mentioned one of “Stone’s Rules” would say, “confused,” as she’s been besieged from every direction.
Here’s the outcome of this asymmetric warfare:
It forced Kelly to show her hand, abandoning impartiality (on a network that boasts of it, however much you might doubt it.)
She’s now just another “journalist” who’s made up her mind about the 2016 election, with a bias – and not a “straight-down-the-middle” news anchor.
For the voter base that she caters to, that’s equal to swearing in church.
And this is now the voters Trump has the attention and support of.
In one guerrilla, asymmetric campaign, Trump discredits and blows up a key position within a voter base and rallies them all around himself.
Here’s your growth marketing lesson:
- Launching a marketing campaign in a crowded space, with competitors and several “me too” players, you’ll need to adopt some of “Stone’s Rules”.
- Hit from every angle and open multiple fronts. No, you don’t have to exhaust yourself by using every single channel there is. This is more about messaging that anything else. Use various core messaging about your competitors, any flaws, inadequacies. Compare and contrast. Raise doubts about effectiveness or quality.
- Strike at key positions of influence. Is your marketplace favoring a particular source or channel? Then go after it with the goal of making an impact in perception and status of the gatekeepers.
You will find this piece a fascinating read: Megyn Kelly: The First Casualty in Donald Trump’s ‘Asymmetric’ War on Fox News
Trump Tactic #4:
Know What They Want
– And Give It To Them
Trump is an expert performer and entertainer.
He knows what will trigger our emotional brains.
And the media also knows what kind of emotionally oriented stories we are likely to pay attention to.
This is a huge reason why coverage of Trump has been extensive and on-going.
We pay a disproportionate amount of attention to emotionally charged information (it’s called attentional bias) and it “sells” much better than dry policy statements.
This is neuroscience and marketing together.
The emotional part of our brain leads us to bad decisions.
Here’s some more insights for you:
Intuitively we feel our mind to be a cohesive whole, and perceive ourselves as intentional and rational thinkers.
Yet cognitive science shows that in reality, the intentional part of our mind is like a little rider on top of a huge elephant of emotions and intuitions. This is why researchers frequently divide our mental processes into two different systems of dealing with information, the autopilot system and the intentional system, also called System 1 and System 2.
The autopilot system corresponds to our emotions and intuitions. This system guides our daily habits, helps us make snap decisions, and reacts instantly to dangerous life-and-death situations with a fight-or-flight response.
However, while the snap judgments resulting from intuitions and emotions usually feel “true” because they are fast and powerful, they sometimes lead us wrong, in systematic and predictable ways.
Trump’s statements are well tuned to trigger our autopilot system.
He’s playing to our “flight or fight” response.
The core emotional drivers that influence and even control how we make decisions.
Here’s your growth marketing lesson:
- Psychology is more likely to influence buying than anything else.
- Understand what core emotional drivers exist for your customers. Use this in your marketing assets, copywriting, images and elsewhere.
- Everyone has cognitive biases. Your customers and prospects most likely share a few of them. Are you tapping into this yet?
You can get more details here: Get Donald Trump out of my brain
There you go, a few key growth tactics that are indicative of how Trump is pulling off a wildly successful campaign and have him, mostly, leading in the polls.
But will it be enough?
And is it sustainable?
We’ll talk about that in a minute, but first…
The Growth Models And Tactics Trump Is Using
Aside from the tactics we’ve looked at, there are some deeper, fundamental strategies and models at work from Trump.
For the most part, you can exchange “strategy” with “models”, and focus more on “process” but…
…A growth model comes first, and the growth process follows.
Never lose sight of a model being a multiplier.
It helps you act and decide in complex environments.
And because it’s a multiplier, your results can often be exponential.
Trump’s Growth Model #1:
Thought-Leadership With A
Simple Plan, To The Right Audience
I know, I know – you’ve probably listened to a lot of people saying Trump doesn’t have a plan, and no policies.
But, he actually has something – a book. And while it’s absolutely nothing new, the fact that almost every person who’s looking to be a leader also acts like a leader.
What do those people do?
Cast a vision.
A simple, clear and concise vision.
They take on thought-leadership.
In Time to Get Tough, Trump lays out several more detailed conservative policy reforms, including cracking down on entitlement fraud, ending Obamacare, and reforming America’s ever-growing welfare state.
He also has another book coming out, Crippled America, which adds to this.
Now, you might say: “publishing books, so what? Nothing new”
Yes, but you’re missing the obvious:
Trump has an easy-to-understand, 5-part strategy. With built-in viral talking points (“ending Obamacare”, anyone?)
It’s a clear message, aimed at a particular type of (conservative) audience.
For more notes on embedding “virality” into your message, take a look at Contagious: Why Things Catch On, by Jonah Berger.
Here are the 6 “STEPPS” you need:
- Social currency
- Practical Value
Your growth model lesson:
- You need to establish thought-leadership with a message that’s targeted for your audience. Better yet, use talking points that have “virality” built in.
Trump’s Growth Model #2:
This is far more critical than most people realize.
It’s overlooked and underestimated.
The right positioning can make or break your company.
Image credit: FiveThirtyEight
For Trump, he’s playing this out masterfully.
His personal brand is being provocative and attracting scorn.
He “loves” to be hated.
He makes comments about Mexican immigrants and others for the purpose of getting attention so that he can then position himself.
But what’s his positioning?
Very clear and simple:
“I am committed to addressing the issues our country is facing and am confident my business mindset and common sense solutions are resonating with the American people,” Trump said. “Politicians are all talk and no action and the American public is ready for a leader with a proven track record of success.”
He can get away with saying ridiculous things because politicians’ talk is often just empty words and promises, anyway.
But his positioning remains clear – the signal in all that noise.
Your growth model lesson:
- Have you developed a clear, concise and compelling positioning statement? Is it coming through in all your campaigns, one way or another?
- A strong positioning makes marketing easy and copy writes itself. It’s a powerful model that can unlock far better leads and more sales. Don’t overlook this.
Trump’s Growth Model #3:
One Focus Per Marketing Phase
Do you know what exploded Trump’s poll numbers and attention?
He focused on a single issue: immigration.
No other message was prioritized and he kept talking about it – and taking a strong, controversial stand on it.
But it was a general opinion that many voters shared, even if they wouldn’t use his language.
Trump got traction with a singular focus and message.
Now, he’s shifted gears and expanded his talking points to other key issues. But on each, he still only hammers on one point at a time.
Your growth model lesson:
- Whether you’re in search of Traction, Growth or Scale with your marketing, your core focus has to be on one thing. One thing. Not several.
- You could have additional messaging, features or whatever – but if you can’t do 1 thing exceptionally well (and better than competitors), you won’t get far. No traction, growth or scale for you.
Trump’s Growth Model #4:
Direct Response Marketing Framework
Okay, okay – it might not, technically, be a “model” but it is a framework.
Direct response marketing is a way of doing marketing that’s different from, say, “brand marketing”.
To be more precise, here are some definitions:
Direct response marketing is a type of marketing that elicits a specific, measured response resulting from a consumer’s direct response to a marketer. Direct response marketing facilitates the delivery of a call to action and outcome via direct or online interaction for immediate feedback and response.
Direct response marketing allows marketers to understand the performance of their products or services without undergoing a waiting period, as marketer-consumer interaction is nearly instantaneous.
Some other key elements are I’ve seen used are:
- The money is in the (right) list
- Your headline is most important
- The only purpose of advertising is to sell
- The more you tell, the more you sell
- The only kind of copy that sells is conversational copy
- What you offer makes all the difference
- Test everything
Everything about Trump’s campaign involves these practices. Everything.
Sure, Obama did his email marketing and used landing pages that were pretty good.
But Trump is more of the sales angle. He’s a smart business man, and while he may have inherited a lot of money, you can’t deny that he’s proven to manage and grow it quite well.
Your growth model lesson:
- Achieving sustainable and exponential growth – whether that is for Traction, Growth or Scale – will only be possible when you’re using the right marketing framework.
- Direct response marketing is a powerful framework. Applying it to your process, with tweaks, will yield far more results than a “Top 10 Twitter Tactics” will ever do.
- Using the right model and framework for developing and deploying campaigns will determine whether they work – or not.
These are just a few models he’s using.
But, again, are they enough?
Will they propel him to become President of the United States of America?
Let’s talk about why.
What Gets You Traction
And Some Growth,
Won’t Take You To Scale
It’s more likely than not, that Trump will end up coming in at a 2nd or 3rd place when it’s time to vote in the primaries.
While he’s doing a fantastic job gathering a voter base, the momentum he’s had for months will shrink.
Because the other candidates will start to fight back.
Right now, everyone is a big dazed and confused. They’re not sure what to do, so they do nothing.
And, while you can cozy up to a vocal, core voter segment, that doesn’t translate into nationwide support.
Trump is, frankly, a bit too “niche”.
That works really, really well to hit traction fast and escalate growth.
But if you want to scale?
There are other components needed. Like preparing your team for growth, adopting the right models, shifting your marketing and aligning your selling and customer buying cycles.
I don’t make predictions or assumptions. I’m a growth marketer, so I test hypotheses.
My hypothesis is:
Unless Donald Trump changes his approach, prepares for scale and execute on what you need to achieve scale, he won’t win a nomination.
In addition, he’s actually ripe for someone to kick him off the pedestal. He’s become the “big business” that a startup could upset.
Now, how would someone go about “taking down” Trump?
Alex Castellanos has an interesting angle:
The best way to do it is how Brutus killed Caesar. Get real close, snuggle up, and shiv him in the ribs. In other words, hug the message but not the messenger. ‘We understand the frustration in America, we know why you hate Washington. Your country is on the verge of decline, it’s going over a cliff, and nobody’s doing anything about it. We get it. Donald Trump and I agree on that, but let me tell you now what we’re going to do.’ Take his energy, take his heat, and use it to fuel your engine. Turn his heat into your action and be there, you hope, when voters actually get serious about this and say ‘you know what, I agree with him but he’s not a president.’
If you’re a company with established products or services, you need to pay attention to that last part.
If you’re a startup who wants to go up against large companies, you too, need to pay attention to that last part.
This is how business fail and win.
Your marketing can help you lose or win.
Breaking rules, waging “asymmetric warfare”, positioning, selling to emotions, direct response, focusing on one thing – all of it – is how you structure your marketing.
What can you apply from Trump?
**March 2nd, 2016 Update: Well, it looks like Trump was, and is, able to continue his momentum. He’s been making the right shifts and has capitalized on enough people’s anger (even Democrats are switching party to vote for him) to sustain him so far. Anger and frustration are two powerful emotions.