Election lessons for small business owners

Plenty has been written about the Obama campaign’s use of technology and social media (much less a zillion other things).

I suggest you read all of it, as there are important examples to use in your small business.

For example, this Mashable.com summary of notable social media and technology events during the 2008 Presidential election campaign.

Think back to the coverage in this blog of the candidates’ email and mobile marketing processes. That’s just a small piece of the picture.

The fundamental piece of all of these social marketing tools, technologies, video sources and collaborative sites is message to market match.

Message to market match means speaking to the prospect or customer using the language THEY use when discussing the topic THEY are interested in. Or the need they have. Or the want they have.

Look at the message on MySpace for the Obama campaign and you don’t find just one profile. You find one for *each state*. You don’t find a MySpace-like message in MySpace lingo on LinkedIn (where the audience is all business people) any more than you would talk to a 45 year old customer in the same way you’d talk to your teenage kid.

Are you using the right language and the right lingo for the person you are trying to engage? Or are you trying to use the same message for everyone. It’s easier, but it sure doesn’t sell like a message that’s fine tuned to the audience.

MTV Total Request Live and the Lawrence Welk Show are music shows…with wildly different audiences. If you tried to talk with the MTV crowd about the Lennon Sisters, they’ll look at you like you’re from Mars. Likewise, if you talk about Korn to a Welk viewer, they’re likely to think you mean a crop from Iowa, not a metal band from Bakersfield.

The error in your conversation’s lingo doesn’t have to be that extreme.

Last week I was chatting with the owner of a shop that restores, customizes, sells and locates custom cars after a speaking engagement. She noted that their shop has experts in brakes, electrical and other common car problems, yet no one comes to her shop for these common repairs.

“Why would they?”, I asked. I suggested that no one knows they do that kind of work on normal cars.

Their marketing speaks to the car enthusiast, The name of the shop effectively says “We build and restore custom classic cars”. It doesn’t even begin to send the message “regular shop work is done here on regular cars”.

All the cars parked out front and in the showroom are customs, restore jobs and most are 30 or 40 years old. All the communications you see speak to the motorhead, not the guy with the ’99 Suburban that needs brakes.

If you want to attract the guy who needs brakes for a regular vehicle, you have to speak their language – not say “we do high end custom work”.

The owner I was speaking with grasped the idea quickly once I explained why the message wasn’t even being heard by the average Joe. We discussed several things she needed to do in order to get this other message out to the right group of people.

That’s the key. Quoting Robert Collier (again), “Enter the conversation already going on in the prospect’s mind.”

In the right language.