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Early business lessons from Trump’s surprising election victory

It is still the morning after the night before. Thus, it is somewhat early to draw any conclusions about how Donald Trump and The Republican Party achieved such a major victory in the U.S. elections last week. Having said that, there were some powerful business lessons that emerged from this election process. Here are some that immediately come to mind.

Understand the needs of your customers

Everyone is acknowledging today that Donald Trump heard the voices of white working class Americans and other disaffected groups better than anyone in the Democratic Party. He heard their concerns about the challenges of lost jobs, technological change, stagnation in wages and other troubling issues. Moreover, he channeled this dissatisfaction and anger into an unprecedented, historic victory.

Key Takeaway: Business leaders must take the time to tune in to their customers, to peel away the layers of the onion to hear their true concerns and then to meet their needs. It was clear from this bitter election campaign that the Democrats, the party of the working class, were not in tune with many Teamsters, working class people and other groups that have aligned with them for so long.

Don’t lose touch with your customers

In the lead-up to the election and during election night, there was much talk of the historical “blue” or Democrat “firewall” rust belt states. One of the big shocks from election night is that Hillary Clinton faltered in some of the key blue states. It appears that some of these states were taken for granted. In fact, some of these states were not visited during the campaign.

Key Takeaway: Don’t take your customers for granted. Get out and visit them on an ongoing basis, no matter how many years they have been buying your products and services. If you are not visiting your customers on a regular basis, rest assured that your competitors will be knocking on these doors. Don’t let your customers drift away through neglect.

Look below the numbers

Most of the polls and pollsters did not predict this result. It appears that the only group that seemed to forecast a Trump victory was an LA Times poll. This poll apparently maintained a consistent group of respondents throughout the election process. The process of calling a random sample of citizens to solicit their projected voting behavior didn’t work. For whatever reasons (respondents not honest with the interviewers, number of undecided voters etc.), many polls got this election wrong.

Key Takeaway: Market research has value but if you don’t ask the right people, the right questions, in the right way, at the right time, you receive misleading or incorrect answers. The market research done during this campaign didn’t work well. Something went terribly wrong. The researchers didn’t fully capture the frustrations, anxieties and challenges that millions of American voters are experiencing.

Business leaders should continue to conduct market research but they need to look below the numbers and challenge the results to make sure they provide positive direction. They should step out of their offices and meet with their customers and prospects to ensure their feedback corresponds with their market research results.

Learn how to harness the power of marketing and branding

Donald Trump came to the election as a businessman and a reality TV star, not a politician. He applied his grasp of marketing, social media and branding to communicate his message in ways that other candidates have not learned and mastered. He manipulated the media such that, to increase ratings, they all tripped over each other to gain interviews with him. He branded his opponents in negative terms and repeated these comments repeatedly until he vanquished all of them. He made extensive use of social media, particularly Twitter. While traditional politicians used traditional techniques to sell themselves and their brands, Donald Trump made great use of new media and television to sell his brand.

Key Takeaway: While his opponents spent more advertising dollars than he did, Donald Trump got himself and his message across to his target audience more effectively than they did. He used his unique skill sets better than his opponents used their skills. He took advantage of being an “outsider” to beat the insiders at their own game. Business leaders should continue to upgrade and augment their skill sets. They shouldn’t be reluctant to bring in new people with fresh ideas and approaches.

Dan Goodwill

Dan Goodwill

Dan Goodwill, President, Dan Goodwill & Associates Inc. has over 30 years of experience in the logistics and transportation industries in both Canada and the United States. Dan has held executive level positions in the industry including President of Yellow Transportation’s Canada division, President of Clarke Logistics (Canada’s largest Intermodal Marketing Company), General Manager of the Railfast division of TNT and Vice President, Sales & Marketing, TNT Overland Express. Goodwill is currently a consultant to manufacturers and distributors, helping them improve their transportation processes and save millions of dollars in freight spend. Mr. Goodwill also provides consulting services to transportation and logistics organizations to help them improve their profitability.
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