Marketing Lessons from the 2012 Election: #2

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Your candidates may not have won, but you can learn from the marketing successes and failures of the recent election.

Here's Marketing Lesson #2: Micro Targeting Works in Today’s Custom World In all previous elections, finding the most common “hurt” and selling into it worked like a charm.

Richard Nixon had a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War. Bill Clinton knew “It’s the economy, stupid.” Mr. Obama concentrated on “Hope and Change.” All were winners.

Amazingly, there was a time when each automaker sold only one car. General Motors split into 5 separate divisions just to sell 5 different cars. Into the late 50’s, Chevrolet was selling one car (in two flavors, basic or Biscayne, and schmaltzed up – the Bel-Air).

Today, there are so many varieties of cars, I a car buff, can’t keep up. Maybe that’s because they aren’t marketing them ALL to ME. Each of these varieties of cars is being micro-marketed into micro-niches.

The Internet, just-in-time manufacturing and retailing, and one-off ordering had made a generic message obsolete.

Mr. Romney and his supporters spent hundreds of millions learning this the hard way. They were running a 2008 campaign against 2012 marketing wizards.

The Obama campaign identified their “buyers.” They separated them into specific niches (Hispanics, young unmarried women, African Americans, etc). They then crafted specific and different messages for each. They broadcast these hyper-specialized messages in a variety of ways, consistently, over a significant amount of time. It was a Winner.

Conversely, the Romney campaign broadcast a consistent message (“I can fix the economy”) to a broad swath of potential voters. It was a Loser.

Lesson to be learned for your firm?

Over 30 years I have consulted with over 500 professional firms on how to build a quality practice. Many firms I came in contact with were struggling as they did little or no marketing at all, and what they did was ineffective (for a variety of reasons).

One such reason was lack of precision. They couldn’t, or wouldn’t, decide on a specialty (industry or service line) to market into.

We often would start off our 2-year engagements with a partner retreat where we would try to gain consensus (herd cats) about where the firm should invest its marketing money and energy. Logically, we would look for an already existing forte the firm already possessed. Perhaps they had more doctors than any other identifiable group across the firm. Perhaps they were doing a lot of municipal auditing; you get the idea.

Then we would try to find out what the firm really wanted. Was there a specific market they wanted to pursue?

Some partners would be excited to go after online merchants, for example. Great – do you have any now? No? That’s like putting your head through the wall without a hole.

Or the firm couldn’t agree on a niche because it would benefit one partner’s book of business over the others. Some of these firms never could decide what they wanted to be when they grew up, and wound up merging or selling out as their partners aged and their market share shrunk.

Those firms that decided on a path were almost certain to succeed. Because we could then target our limited marketing resources on one area and blow it up.

Today, that’s not good enough. We have to go for the specialty within the market niche.

Here’s an example: 7 years ago I decided to go back to being a full-time practicing CPA in the Orlando area and relegated my consulting work to a handful of engagements a year. Starting with no book of business, what could be the niche? I quickly decided that the entire Central Florida corridor was underserved by the existing firms and the biggest potential was in the medical field. So, that became our sole concentration of marketing.

We spoke, we wrote, we mailed, we direct marketed, got referrals and introductions into the medical profession. Our practice grew rapidly. Then the recession hit us really hard, and business stagnated. We took a look at our book and decided to pursue one profession within the medical field and drill down into that. The practice flourished again.

What are your firm’s specialties? Is it auto dealers? Should it be foreign car dealers? How about Asian foreign car dealers? How about Korean dealerships? How about Kia dealerships?

Learn from the Obama marketing geniuses: identify your micro niches and exploit those areas of concentration before your competition wakes up.

Allan S. Boress, CPA, FCPA is the author of 12 published books on marketing, selling and managing the business development process for CPAs. He has consulted with over 500 professional firm and trained over 200,000 professionals since 1980. His "I-Hate-Selling" methodology is available at

About Allan Boress


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