Trump Won the Presidential Election Using Inbound Marketing Tactics

Justin Lambert

Written by Justin Lambert on Wed, Nov 09, 2016

Regardless of your personal thoughts, opinions, and feelings about the outcome of the US Presidential election, one thing became very clear around 2:30 this morning:

No amount of experience, educated forecasting, or so-called “common sense” can protect the status quo when well-executed inbound marketing is applied to a problem.

 Now, I’m not going to sit here and try to pick apart an actual blow-by-blow analysis of the respective candidates’ digital marketing strategies. I’m not going to try and argue that how Trump’s campaign employed various inbound marketing tactics over the course of his run for the presidency can be tied directly to his eventual victory. The topic is far too complex and layered to make a go of that kind of analysis the day after.

But I will say this: Without a doubt, Donald Trump’s campaign was centered to a large extent on some fundamental principles that are key to successful inbound marketing. And, seeing how those principles worked (whether consciously or not) can inform your marketing decisions going forward.

So let’s break it down:

Trump was a disruptor

One of the key positions of Trump’s entire campaign was that “the establishment” - current politicians and those who intended to maintain the status quo - had failed. This is nothing new for political contests. Just about everyone says that the incumbent has failed and needs to go. But Trump took it further.

He claimed the political system was “rigged”, that his opponent was not just inferior as a political option, but was “crooked”, “nasty”, and “a liar.” He lobbed some of the most vindictive, insulting, and polarizing statements any political hopeful has ever dared utter, and he didn’t shy away from doing so at every opportunity on national TV, on Twitter, and everywhere else he could.

Of course, doing so upset a lot of people. Infuriated them, in fact. And, because he was so far outside the pale as a presidential candidate, almost no one took him seriously for nearly the first year of his campaign.

But someone was paying attention. We’ll get to that next.

Successful inbound thrives on disruption

First though, this position of disruptor is an extremely valuable and effective position to take as the basis of a successful inbound marketing strategy.

See, at its core, inbound works because it offers answers to questions people are asking, solutions to problems people have, and puts it out there for those people to seek out and find on their own. Meaning, when those people raise their hands by consuming that content, they’re automatically prequalified as a lead. They’re handling most of the buyer journey on their own, without help from a salesperson.

But how do they know they have a question or problem in the first place? It’s not always simple. Especially if your product or service isn’t some form of food, water, or shelter, it may be something people aren’t thinking much about at all.

But if you can appear on their radar with a disruptive, surprising, attention-grabbing insight, outlook, or recommendation, you’re suddenly in a position to not only bring a question or problem to their attention, but to offer the perfect answer or solution as well.

And that offers incredible power to the disruptive inbound marketer.

Trump knew his audience cold

There’s no question that Donald Trump hit the campaign trail speaking to the angst and frustration of the average low- to middle-income American citizen. He really never wavered in appealing to that audience. Everything he said - from the sincere to the outlandish - was meticulously designed to get a majority of that particular target audience to buy into what he was selling.

Again, this isn’t new to politics. There’s always a target demographic, and most politicians are skilled at saying what that group wants to hear.

But, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this strategy for President-elect Trump was how far he was willing to go to alienate and even anger everyone who wasn’t in his target audience. And he did that extremely well. To the point that (based on the surprise end result of last night’s voting) many of his supporters were unwilling to voice their support outside the anonymity of a voting booth.

Extreme targeting is vital to inbound success

It’s no secret that a successful inbound marketing strategy needs a solid understanding of the customer. That’s why we use tools like buyer personas, surveys, and analytics to try to get to know our customer better.

As the marketing landscape continues to grow more and more competitive and the tools and technology available to us grows more powerful and less expensive, the kind of hyper-focused targeting and non-stop, dedicated messaging to that target audience will become all the more vital to a successful inbound marketing strategy.

And sometimes, it may be in your company’s best interests to actively work to weed out those folks who really aren’t part of your target market. How divisive you are in doing so depends on your brand’s voice and tone, but however you do it, it’s going to save you valuable time and money that needs to be reinvested in that tiny little fraction of the universe that wants to pay you for what you’re offering.

Trump is highly trusted - despite everything!

I won’t rehash all the stories we’ve all heard: the shocking quotes, the reality TV experience, the tax evasion, the missing records… we all know all of that. In fact, everyone in the United States knows all of that. They couldn’t possibly have missed it with the saturation of media coverage on all fronts following this election.

But - assuming you trust that democracy works - none of that mattered.

While Secretary Clinton won the popular vote, the Electoral College entrusted Donald Trump with the most powerful position available to a human being today.

I can’t explain that. I’m not even interested in trying.

But I do know this: Something Trump has said or done (and probably many somethings) has affected so many people so deeply, that they’re willing to either deny or ignore a lot of arguably negative items - any one of which can and has destroyed the dreams of many past political hopefuls.

And that’s powerful.

Inbound succeeds based on trust

To succeed with inbound marketing, your prospects need to get to know, like, and trust you and your brand. They need to be able to view you as a trusted source of valuable information and insight, and they need to believe that - regardless of the fact they know you’re selling something - you still have their best interests at heart.

That’s not an easy thing to accomplish, and it’s not something that should be taken lightly.

As a marketer, you need to be focusing a tremendous amount of your valuable time and energy on developing and improving that relationship with your prospects and customers. You need to be honing the customer’s experience until their level of trust is so high, they’re even able to overlook arguably negative things like, say, your price. Or the fact that you’re in a different state.

And if you can do that, it’s incredibly powerful.

Again, I’m not trying to pass judgment one way or the other about the results of yesterday’s presidential election. Time will tell how President Trump fares in the Court of Public Opinion, and every other court, for that matter.

But, from a marketing perspective, there’s a ton we can all learn from The Donald about effectively targeting your market, honing your message, and instilling trust in your prospects and customers, even achieving unimaginable success.

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