Joe the Plumber's 15 minutes of fame last week transformed the debate and post-debate discussions. And it's a lesson that we, as sellers, would be wise to pay attention to.
The McCain camp had clearly identified their target market: uncommitted blue collar male voters who could still be swayed with the right message - big government taking their hard-earned money.
McCain's PR machine jumped on the "real Joe" after seeing him talk with Obama during a campaign stop. With a stroke of genius, Joe the Plumber became the new working-class poster boy.
And the conversation changed. Suddenly we were evaluating the candidate's proposals based on how they impacted Joe. McCain & Obama started talking to one person, not an amorphous group of nondescript citizens.
We need to do the same as marketers & sellers.
That's right. We need to create customer personas in order for us to fine-tune our messaging and ensure it's effective. Perhaps you sell to multiple decision makers. If so, then you need multiple personas.
Whenever I'm doing training for a sales organization, this is one area I cover almost every time. It makes that much difference. For example, if my client sells to Marketing, we may create personas on these positions:
Chief Marketing Officer
Vice President, Corporate Communications
Product Marketing Manager
If all these people are involved in the decision process, we need to know how they think in order to be effective. Specifically we need to know their:
Roles & responsibilities
Impediments to success
Reasons for considering a change.
Until & unless we really know Marnie the Marketer, we will struggle in our ability to ensure that our message hits home.
What did people really think about the VP debates? Just moments ago, I listened to Dan Hill, CEO of Sensory Logic, being interviewed on CNN. He described a focus group in Minnesota whose facial responses were analyzed as they watched Palin & Biden on TV.
Why facial responses? According to Hill, author of the newly released Face Time (which focuses on the 2008 campaign), facial muscles are fast reactors because they're directly attached to the skin. Thus they quickly show how people really feel about a situation. The CIA & FBI have used facial coding for years.
Hill uses it as a market research tool to discover people's true reactions to the world's major brands - which he's documented in his excellent book on Emotionomics.
(It's a real interesting read. It gets you thinking about what you aren't seeing that's right in front of your face!)
Now he's moved into the political arena as a frequent commentator on the presidential race for CNN, Fox and MSNBC. Here is Hill's analysis:
Palin's folksiness: Every time Palin used her "you betcha" & "Joe 6-pack" talk, 1/3 of the focus group reacted positively to it while the rest of the group winced.
Biden's demeanor: Too senatorial at times which didn't warm people up to him.
Level of cynicism: 1/3 of viewers were cynical of Biden, while 1/2 were cynical of Palin.
What's Hill's final summation? Despite both candidate's strong performance in the debates, they didn't turn viewers to their side. At the end, based on the viewer's facial reactions, 70% remained neutral.
What does all this have to do with sales? Seems to me we could be more effective if we knew what our prospects/customers really think.
What facial reactions (eyes, mouth, eyebrowns, forehead) have you discovered that indicate reactions such as interest level, agreement/disagreement, belief/disbelief or other emotions?
McCain's surprising announcement of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate on Friday effectively diverted the media from continued discussion of Obama's acceptance speech in a Denver stadium filled with cheering Americans. Certainly that was a real coup.
However, as a political independent, it's been fascinating for me to watch the Republican pundits sell me on this woman who could be a heartbeat away from the presidency. All weekend long, I've been hearing about:
Her extensive executive experience.
Her knowledge of foreign affairs.
The fact that she governs the largest state in the nation.
I honestly can't believe the Republican pundits think I'm dumb enough to believe Palin is qualified when the truth is:
She's been governor for 1.5 years, was a housewife from 2004-2006, chaired the Alaska Oil & Gas Commission from 2003-2004, and served as a part-time mayor & city council member of a very small town.
Her foreign affairs expertise is supposedly because her state is right next to Russia.
Alaska has only 683,000 residents - which makes it about the same size as Fort Worth, Texas.
Yet over and over, they repeat these "talking points." Politicians say it. Pastors say it. Strategists say it.
But they're stretching the truth so badly that it really makes me mad! Yet they're hoping that through repetition, we'll eventually come believe it to be true.
I'm all for female candidates. I think it's long overdue. Plus I've been impressed with Palin since I first learned about her a couple years ago. She's bright, talented, charismatic & fights corruption. That's all great - and true.
But there is no way Palin is ready to be president should something happen to McCain - and at his age, it's a real possibility.
Quite frankly, I've had enough of this "sales job." To the Republican pundits I say, "Quit selling me the importance of 'executive experience.'" It's never been essential before. McCain doesn't have any either. The truth is, Palin isn't ready for prime time.
Politics is sales - and not always at its finest. However, there are many lessons to be learned from what's going on. Rather than avoiding politics entirely - which is probably smarter - I've decided to share the sales strategies I see being used by the candidates and their surrogates.
As an independent, I laughed today when I read Karl Rove's comments on Obama's possible VP pick: "I think he's going to make an intensely political choice, not a
Well, duh! That's what politicians have always done. Then Rove singles out Virginia governor Tim Kaine, as "able but undistinguished" and continues:
"So if he [Obama] were to pick Governor Kaine, it would be an
intensely political choice where he said, `You know what? I'm really
not, first and foremost, concerned with, is this person capable of
being president of the United States? What I'm concerned about is, can
he bring me the electoral votes of the state of Virginia..."
So what's going on here? What's Rove trying to do?
His whole goal is to imply that McCain's competitor is a self-serving politician who is only concerned with winning, not with finding a good leader for our country.
Please note: He's doing it BEFORE Obama makes the announcement, placing him in a one-down position regardless of whom he selects. Whatever his decision, the new VP will have been chosen for selfish reasons.
Okay, and here's the FINAL reason I laughed. I'm from the great state of Minnesota. Our governor, Tim Pawlenty, is being seriously considered as McCain's vice presidential choice.
His career has also been "able, but undistinguished." Is he capable of being the president? About as capable as any governor. McCain likes his youthful looks and commitment to the party. Plus, there's a chance he could bring in the electoral votes from the swing state of Minnesota.