This time last year, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that the controversial Donald Trump would never have made it to the White House. But his campaign showed the power of getting your communication strategy right. So, what lessons can we learn from Trump to position UK firms on the front foot when doing business in the US?
Know your audience
“Drain the swamp” and “build a wall”. While Trump was provocative and sensational, his slogans were built on issues the public were concerned about. “People looked for meaning in what both parties said and Trump’s pledges resonated with everyday Americans,” says Kevin Drew, director of business consultancy Ascentant.
Warwick Partington of the MTM Centre for Leadership adds: “The key tactic he used is holding a mirror up to the audience and reflecting back their concerns and passions; that creates instant empathy. As a business, it’s important to reflect back a client’s needs. Addressing their fears creates empathy and ensures you focus on their requirements.”
Take on your opponents
Every time Clinton spoke, Trump stole her thunder. Ira Kalb, assistant professor at USC Marshall School of Business, says: “Trump finds the weaknesses of his opponents and exploits them. This works with those that are frustrated with the status quo and disaffected since they are looking for the hero that will save them from all the evils of the world.”
This again emphasises the importance of competitor research. Find their flaws and highlight what you can do better.
All about the money
Trump knows that time is money, so he doesn’t waste it. Business psychologist Jan de Jonge says: “Trump has a mainly commercial, hard-nosed background and approach. He thinks in terms of assets, gains, wins and timelines, enemies and friends.” Partington adds: “If you want to get business in the States, you need to get out there, press the flesh and, as the pound is low against the dollar, make the opposition sweat on prices. That’s a deal US businesses understand and approve of.”
Trump was nothing if not self-assured. And, no matter what anyone thought of his opinions, he demonstrated that conviction and consistency pays off. De Jonge believes that to make real traction in the US, businesses need to answer one of Trump’s biggest questions; so what? He says: “Trump would want to know what was in it for him? Where are the results? How much? How many? When? And these questions also ring true to many Americans as being competitive, results driven and direct fits the American way.”
Keep it real
When Trump spoke, he was straight talking. And Drew believes he won the election by “keeping it real as a guy that people can relate to and understand.” Kalb agrees: “He figured out how to use words that everyone will understand. It makes his message clear to everyone listening.” So don’t over complicate your message. Be simple, direct and don’t scare anyone off with jargon. You want your customers to know exactly how you do things and what to expect from you.
What’s your brand?
“Trump undeniably set himself apart from the competition,” says Richard Lecount of USBMakers which operates on both sides of the Atlantic. “Trump’s campaign demonstrates it can be effective to be daring, edgy and make your ambition known – it promotes the idea that your brand is an extension of your values and personality. Go back to basics and familiarise yourself with your audience and revisit your brand. Strive to stand united with your audience and, perhaps less like Trump, create a brand that embraces openness and honesty – as well as lives and breathes it.”