What Trump taught us

Posted by on Nov 12, 2016

The 2016 US election is over. To many the result came as a surprise. In the 2012 United States presidential election, a famous statistical analyst called Nate Silver correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states. In 2016 Silver had Clinton at 71,4% for victory compared to Trump’s 28.6% and yet Trump won.


Trump was called sexist yet 53% of women voted for him.

For the most part, our view of Trump was largely shaped by the media. Of course Trump didn’t help himself, with his own share of gaffes and slipups from time to time. But for the most part it seems the general view didn’t match the reality. Somehow Trump managed to transcend the perception that he was a so-called “racist, sexist bigot” and win the presidency., I’m sure there are many factors which go into winning an election, particularly a US presidential one but I observed two very obvious factors which, above all else, appeared to have the most impact on Trump’s success.

As a successful small business owner, I am going to share how these two things, when translated into actionable items for your business, can lead to greater success too.
The first observation focusses on the message. Trump was open and forthright – sometimes a little too much. He showed up with a degree of openness long lost on politicians. Most politicians appear to be self-aggrandizing, serving themselves before the populace. Here in South Africa it’s colloquially known as the “blue light brigade” (elected politicians enlist the services of bodyguards and drive around in luxury cars, strangely needing protection from the very people who elected them). Trump was brash, shot from the hip but he was very clear about what he was selling. People connected with his message of MAGA: “Make America Great Again.” He rallied people around this cause and, mantra-like, stuck with it.

What’s the lesson here for small business owners? Be clear about how it is you want people to engage with you. When people ask what you do, are you clear and concise or are you full of puffery and ambiguity? Trump illustrated the importance of having a simple, clear and focussed message detailing what you are selling. Remember as a prospective customer I’m only buying one thing at a time – I don’t need to be sold breakfast, lunch and dinner when all I am looking for is a sandwich.

This leads me on to the second observation. It’s always about the relationship. Are you patriotic? Are you pro-your country? I like to think I am proudly South African. But if I said to you here’s a glass of Coca-Cola on my right and on my left is an amazing new South African cold drink that looks and tastes just the same as the one on the right. Which one will you go for? Admit it, even though the pull towards the new one may be strong, you’d probably end up going for the Coke. People buy when trust is high. How do you get trust? The best way is to build relationships.
Trump is a businessman. He understood people’s need to work. He got that people have families to feed, mortgages to pay and education to afford. All of these things coming ahead of cool tech stuff and concern for the environment. He spent time outside the cities and engaged with people to understand what was bothering them about the current state of America and built a campaign around it. He visited areas, particularly the area known as the “Rust Belt” which was once the manufacturing heartland of America. It is here where deindustrialization and job outsourcing has happened and is continuing to happen that Trump scored big.

Trump built trust and then people bought into his clear message. Not everyone bought in, for sure. The take away for us as a business owner on the second observation is this: connect with your customers. Gain trust through your relationship building. You, like me and Trump, are in business. We don’t need everyone to buy from us, we need just enough to make us successful and as we now know, enough people trusted Trump to buy.

I said earlier there are many factors which go into winning an election but above-all, these two facets of his campaign contributed more than any other to his success. I can almost guarantee if Trump hadn’t taken the time to firstly work out a clear message and secondly, build relationships and connect with the people he was giving this message to, America would have a very different President elect today. What’s the clear message in your business and how are you connecting with your customers?


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