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5 things businesses can learn from politicians

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With less than a week to go until polling day, my thoughts have turned political. Don’t worry, I’m not about to get all partisan on you, but watch a politician at work and you get a taste of just how powerful user experience research can be. Get past the baby-related photo opportunities and Eton’s finest sporting the cleanest high-vis jackets known to man and there are some great examples of how to build brand loyalty. Here are my top five lessons from the 2015 campaign trail.

1. Understand your market

Remember Worcester Woman? How about Mondeo Man? It’s classic segmentation. In 1997, Labour knew that to gain power they’d have to appeal to a new type of voter and in Worcester Woman they found her – with promises about her quality of life swinging key seats for the party.

The more you understand the people you want as your customers, the more chance you have of winning their business. Understand their lives – their hopes, fears, priorities and values – and you’ll make an authentic, long-lasting connection with them.

I know this from the work we’ve done with businesses of all sizes and it’s exactly why I launched The Monachie Project. Technology can get you so far when it comes to creating personas for your market, but if you want to understand the issues which really hit home with your prospects, there’s no better way than tapping into real experiences. With a team of consultants who reflect your consumer community, we can see what your business looks like from your customer’s perspective – and it’s discovering those stand-out values that gives you the edge.

2. Fight hard, not dirty

When a certain tabloid took to publishing personal attacks on Labour leader Ed Miliband, what happened? His popularity soared. I dread to think what’ll happen now Katie Hopkins has waded in…

Just like voters, consumers like to see themselves reflected in the businesses they use – and they don’t want to see a bully staring back. It’s a lesson for us all, but particularly in service industries. Differentials with competitors need to be highlighted subtly. Why? Because your biggest selling point is trust. By rubbishing the competition, consumers may think twice about putting their accounts, health, family celebrations or legal needs in your care.

3. Play the numbers game

Now you understand the key players in your market, target the biggest and most lucrative group first. You’ll never win everyone over at once so it makes sense to start by getting as many people on board as possible. It’s why the Conservative government did their best to appeal older voters in this year’s Budget. If that’s not feasible for you right now, flip the rule on its head and appeal to a smaller market share who are currently not catered for – there’s a reason our elections are no longer a two horse race. Winning the loyalty of a smaller market share can be incredibly rewarding and a great way of getting the word out about your service and values.

I know of a convenience store close to a residential unit for people with a visual impairment. The staff have worked with the unit to make sure the layout of the store is user-friendly and they provide one-to-one assistance when a visually impaired customer comes in to do their shop. Now the manager didn’t do any of this for the publicity but what’s happened is that his staff are known throughout the community as good guys – with values that customers want to see reflected in themselves. So when given a choice of three convenience stores in walking distance, guess where more customers are taking their business? Exactly.

4. Emotions alone aren’t enough

You’ve made an authentic, long-lasting connection with your consumers. Now you need to back it up with something tangible. When politicians say they understand the concerns of a particular voter, they show them they understand by offering something that will ease their worries. Think about Glorious George in the Budget. He wanted to make sure that families get to keep more of the money they earn – and so he gave them an increase in the tax-free personal allowance.

Aldi reached a wider market by reassuring prospects that quality was their priority – and value just came as standard. Now nobody worries about the neighbours seeing their Aldi carrier bags. In fact they might just be an essential part of the savvy shopper uniform.

5. Everywhere’s a stage…

Like the Duracell bunny – and the noisy kids toys those batteries power – politicians keep going even when you wish the keyboard with 6 different backing tracks would shut right up! Politicians never switch off. I’m not suggesting the key to business success is a ready supply of caffeine and a camp bed in the corner of your office – we even have downtime here at TMP HQ – but there is a lesson for us all.

Opportunities – or catastrophes – can crop up anywhere. If you’re selling yourself on outstanding customer service I’m afraid you can’t afford to moan about your customers, however difficult they might have been. It’s a bit of a mixed message about how much you understand and value them – remember Gordon Brown calling Gillian Duffy a ‘bigoted woman’ when he thought he was off-mike? Ouch. You might need to let off some steam with colleagues at the end of a tough day but just think about Brad Pitt’s advice in Fight Club. Remember the first and second rules?

So let’s hope for a clean, fair fight between Dave, Ed, and the other guys in the band. I’ll see you on the other side of polling day – and if you want to understand the issues that are really hitting home with consumers, get in touch – it would be great to talk.

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