Posts Tagged ‘differentiation’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Karl Rove and the RNC could learn a lot from Emerson. Actually, we all could…but I digress.

Ever since John McCain ran arguably the worst Presidential campaign in U.S. history, “establishment” pundits, talking heads and GOP officials have been tripping over themselves trying to figure out what went wrong. Almost invariably, their conclusion has been that the Party is not liberal enough. They see polls and voter data, which are essentially snapshots in time, then recommend tactical measures from there.

On the surface, this approach seems to make some sense. In politics, as in business, it’s important to know the competitive landscape and identify target audiences. That’s why the Left spends billions on data mining, market research and even psychological profiling. It’s also why George Soros and Barack Obama, through their “non-political” 501c4 organizations, a co-opted media and a completely corrupted Leftist educational system, spend time, resources and political capital to define “reality” for us. Their goal is quite simple: frame the debate and control the narrative.

It’s well past time to change that debate and flip that narrative.

Simply put, we need to expose and reject false liberal premises at every turn. It doesn’t matter if these premises are being promoted by socialists like Soros or “RINOs” like McCain. It’s got to stop…before it’s too late. Sadly, I’m not so sure that GOP consultants and power brokers want to step outside their comfort level and advocate leadership and education over pandering and acquiescence. Many Beltway insiders have made very good livings off of the status quo and, much to the detriment of their Party and the nation, they are not likely to give up their collective treasure chest without a fight.

I contend that, contrary to common “consultant wisdom”, even “Blue State” voters are not looking for a Democratic alternative to Democrats. “We the People”, regardless of Party affiliation, are looking for integrity, competence, respect and character. We are looking for candidates in whom we can believe, who stand for something other than election winning. That’s, in part, why “Hope and Change” gained so much traction…it seemed bigger than the candidate. (Of course, any informed non-socialist with an ounce of gray matter now knows that this was nothing more than an empty slogan that was all about election winning.)

For me, part of the appeal of folks like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Trey Gowdy, Rand Paul (and many others) is that they appear to stand for something. That “something” transcends their own job security, and it touches both hearts and minds; which is why they are being brutally demonized by fearful Leftists in both Parties. Those who benefit from a flawed system will always work to preserve it. They will never “take point” in the battlefield of ideas because they value their personal interests over those of the nation.

If the GOP chooses to keep serving up pandering, unprincipled, “big government” politicians, it will continue to lose. After all, the Democrats have cornered that market already. If it wants to provide sensible, conservative, constitutional, pro-growth “solutions” that benefit “the 100%”, I’m here to help. So is Thomas Sowell, Milton Friedman and Walter Williams. So too are Bill Whittle, Mark Steyn and Alfonzo Rachel.

This is not rocket science. Figure out what you’re selling, then believe in your product and be prepared to explain why it’s in everyone’s best interest to buy it. We’ve tried walking down the political path of least resistance more than once–and it has led us nowhere. Let’s take a cue from Emerson and blaze a new trail.


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For decades, companies have mailed “thank you cards” to their clients and colleagues. Expressing gratitude is both a nice thing to do and a sound business practice. In fact, I still recommend this traditional tactic in certain circumstances. However, many  “greener”, cheaper, less time consuming and more modern versions of the Hallmark approach are now available online.

Let’s look at Twitter as an example. Assuming you’ve joined the “great cocktail party” called social media and opened a free Twitter account, there are four basic “thank you” tools immediately at your disposal. (These tools also serve other purposes which I will address at another time.)

The “Retweet” (RT)

(e.g. RT @jslconsulting)

Nothing says “I hear you” quite like the retweet. When someone posts a comment or link that you like, sharing it with your followers is a compliment. The RT is a great way to say “I agree with you…and thanks for providing good content” to a fellow tweeter. I assure you that RTs are appreciated, remembered and often returned.

#FollowFriday (#FF)

(e.g. #FF @ConsultJohn)

Without question, my favorite day to tweet is Friday. The # symbol is called a “hashtag” and it is a method of categorizing Twitter content. When people mention your Twitter handle after typing #FF, they are proclaiming to the world that you are a good “tweet” to follow. They are thanking you for your content and engagement as well as recommending you to their “friends”. Many “real world” business relationships and friendships have developed because of #FF “shout outs”!

Direct Messages (DMs)

RTs and #FFs are viewable in the public “tweet stream”. For a private and more personal approach, you can send a quick note to individual tweeters. DMs are essentially Twitter’s email. Recognizing someone’s efforts is always a good thing, but I would caution you not to promote yourself in the process. (e.g. Don’t “pimp your blog” in the guise of gratitude.) I would also remind you that if someone has 30,000 followers, they may have a backlog of DMs to review. Still, when used properly, kind DMs are generally well received.


A relatively new tool provides users with the capacity to organize, and share with the public, categories of tweeters. The Twitter “list” feature allows your current and prospective followers to quickly scan areas of mutual interest and see who you recommend in any given niche. Listing individuals by category is most often considered a compliment and reason for continued engagement.

RTs, #FFs, DMs and Lists can be deployed together to bolster your brand and build a following. Use them, (at least in part), to show your gratitude, nurture relationships and spread “good karma” on Twitter.

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For those who are seeking elective office these days, social media is all the rage.

Candidates are rushing to build Facebook and Twitter followings to facilitate fundraising and volunteer recruitment. Combined with personal calls, “Robocalls”, street signs, traditional media, networking events, e-newsletters, direct mail and old fashioned “shoe leather”, they see social media as another important communication tool at their disposal. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that very few politicians understand what makes social media effective, and I have yet to see a single campaign utilize Web 2.0 “best practices” to maximize results. I contend that those candidates who finally “get it”, and make the commitment to execute properly, will gain a huge competitive advantage over their opponents.

So, why would politicians not use a potentially winning resource to its fullest potential? Here are five reasons.

1. This is still relatively new.

I’ll start by cutting everyone some slack. There is clearly a learning curve that needs to sort itself out. I don’t expect politicians to “get” the nuance of social media right away. Social media can be counter-intuitive at times, and if you haven’t studied it, your traditional mind set will set up barriers to exploration and discovery.

2. Experienced Consultants

Most candidates consult with “experts” who have run successful campaigns before. This makes sense–go with what has worked in the past. Unfortunately, the internet was not around during the Eisenhower Administration, so that “seasoned” consultant may not even know how to check email, let alone plan and implement a social media strategy. This is not a knock on veteran campaigners–they are still critical–it’s just that non-traditional communications need to be approached in a way that is foreign to them. It’s a different strategic process.

3. Time Sensitivity

Many campaigns get off to a late start. A non-candidate often pull papers when he or she sees an opportunity. This adds to the urgency of building a volunteer “army” and raising money. Consequently, the goals of all communication efforts are focused on these necessities. When the goals are limited, the action plan is limited. Building, nurturing and engaging a following over time through commonly accepted Web 2.0 “best practices”– target audience research, personal interactions, great content, humor, etc.–becomes difficult at best. There is simply not enough time to do it right, so candidates invariably become broadcasters and salespeople rather than participants and value providers.

4. It’s all about “ME”!

Social media has been referred to as a giant cocktail party. People will follow you if they think you add value to the conversation and are “real”. Do you want to make friends with the guy at the cocktail party who introduces himself, hands out a business card and immediately asks you to buy his stuff? Of course not. But that’s exactly what politicians are doing on Twitter and Facebook right now. “Look at my photos…Donate to my campaign…Hold my signs…Make some calls for me…Tell all your friends…Join my followers…It’s all about  ME!” This is just as obnoxious as the guy at the party–and exclusively self-centered social media approaches will only alienate prospective voters in the long run.

5. Resources

Even though it’s free to start, effective social media takes time, commitment, strategy, creativity and expertise. Most politicians are understandably event focused and time constrained. They delegate or subcontract specific duties to volunteers and paid consultants. Budgets and staffs are often limited, but candidates want to get on board with this new marketing phenomenon somehow. Unfortunately, tasking interns to broadcast their every move on Facebook is a poor substitute for a fully integrated social media campaign.

Free advice to political candidates

Given “the nature of the beast”, some broadcasting will always be necessary. With that said, it’s clearly time for a mind set change. While traditional campaigning still works, social media efforts, planned and implemented properly, will yield tangible results–money, volunteers, “trust” and votes. So bite the bullet, even if it’s out of your own pocket and the election is right around the corner. Hire Web 2.0 experts. Work with them and try to understand the key strategic differences between old and new marketing.  If your message is compelling and you are perceived as a decent human being, the return on investment will be astronomical.

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Research indicates that our attention spans are getting more and more limited. It’s absolutely pervasive. Are you still there? Probably not, but for the three people who are still reading, please bear with me.

Without getting into all the causes, let’s deal with the reality. Nobody has the time or inclination to read a mountain of papers explaining the intricacies of your business. Not prospects, investors, bankers, employees or clients. According to a recent study, if you are pitching a new business concept to venture capitalists, you better have them hooked in the first 42 seconds (source: Growthink) or you will probably never see a dime, even if you have the greatest idea in the history of the planet!

If you do nothing else today, create a great elevator speech–a concise, interesting “sell” that will convince a contact that there is good reason to spend valuable time investigating the merits of your company or cause. What do you stand for? What makes you special? Why are you better than or different from the competition? Why should I spend another second with you?

Want an example from current events?

Like him or hate him, Barack Obama had a highly effective, well delivered elevator speech. He repeated it constantly for two years. I’m NOT George Bush. CHANGE. YES, WE CAN! John McCain had no elevator speech and even tried to borrow the word “change” from Obama. He did little to differentiate himself from Bush OR Obama.

The country bought Barack’s elevator speech and, for better or worse, he is now called President Barack Obama.

Remember, customers buy your marketing first. Good products and service will help you retain them, but you have to get their attention. Ask yourself why anyone should do business with you. Research the competition. Set yourself apart. Be ready to tell a short but compelling story next time you bump into someone in an elevator. If you do this properly, you will have laid the foundation for all future advertising, marketing, sales, HR and community initiatives.

This process may not be easy at first…but it’s truly worth the effort. If you think you can’t do it, don’t give up…I say: “YES, YOU CAN!!!”

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If you’re looking for angel investors or an infusion of venture capital, here are a few tips:

1. Regardless of your product, service or invention, experience is critical. You need to prove that your MANAGEMENT TEAM has a track record of success. If you’ve never run a business, your chances of securing funding from any source (including banks, friends and family) are extremely limited. Assemble a team that has taken companies from start-up through exit stages.

2. Understand the marketplace. You need to convince investors that your idea will work in all market conditions and you must demonstrate the SIZE, BREADTH AND GROWTH POTENTIAL of your target audience. This takes research and resources. Do you have enough seed money to start the process?

3. You must DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF AND YOUR IDEA. For example, if you have a technological innovation, is it patented? Investors need to know how and why they will make money, and they are searching for niche offerings that are not easily duplicated.

4. You must have well researched, professionally prepared and detailed BUSINESS AND MARKETING PLANS geared toward the financial/venture capital audience.

5. You must have an ELEVATOR SPEECH and a CONCISE (no more than ten slide PPT) PRESENTATION to capture the attention of investors. Why should they give you money? How will they make money in the short and long term? What makes you special? No investors will look at your detailed plans if you don’t first peak their interest and imagination.

6. Show PASSION for your idea. In some instances, potential investors or strategic partners will be bored with your specific proposal but excited by YOU and your enthusiasm!

These are just a few basics, but they will start you on the right track.

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