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Small Business Marketing

Are You Making the Same Mistakes as Donald Trump?

As we make our way slowly and painfully through the 2016 presidential campaign season, a lot of attention has been paid by the media to how the top candidates are running their campaigns.  Essentially, a presidential campaign is a small business.  It has employees, it needs to generate income, and–above all–it needs to market itself.  In fact, in the political world “campaigning” is basically another word for marketing.

With that in mind, small business owners can learn some valuable lessons from the presidential campaigns–which, in some cases, are more about what not to do than what to do.  This is especially true when it comes to Donald Trump’s campaign, which has been in the news recently due to the fact that he just fired his campaign manager and is lagging far behind rival Hillary Clinton when it comes to fundraising.

There are many reasons that Trump’s campaign is struggling that have nothing to do with marketing, but there is one area where he is dropping the ball and making the same mistake that many small business owners do (ironic, given the fact that he is trying to brand himself as a great businessman)–and that is not using email marketing properly or even at all.

In today’s episode, I give specific examples of how Donald Trump has messed up when it comes to his email marketing strategy, and how you as a small business owner can avoid making the same mistakes.  Use the player below to listen to the episode, or scroll down to read the complete transcript.

Unless you’ve had your head buried in the ground for the past couple months, you know that here in the U.S. we’re in the middle of a very ugly and contentious Presidential campaign season, and believe me, sometimes what I hear when I turn on the news makes me want to go and bury my head in the ground.  I cannot wait until this next Presidential campaign is over, but in the meantime we might as well try and learn what we can as small business owners from some of the things that the Presidential candidates are or aren’t doing, and use some of the lessons there to help us improve our own marketing.

Today I want to specifically talk about some of the things that Donald Trump has not been doing when it comes to his campaigning, which is basically what Presidential campaigns call marketing. Donald Trump’s business practices have been in the news a lot lately and I think there’s any number of things that small business owners can use as examples of what not to do that he’s been accused of, including not paying his vendors on time, defrauding his customers, suing everybody in sight, and the list goes on.

What I want to specifically talk about today is something that hasn’t been in the news quite as much, and that’s Donald Trump’s lack of use of email marketing in his campaign. In fact, this is the beginning of July when I’m recording this episode here and he literally just sent out his first campaign email within the last 2 weeks. This is something that I see small business owners doing all the time, or not doing all the time, I should say–failing to take advantage of email marketing or even having an email list at all, and not using this method of communication to keep in touch with their customers and their supporters.

In Donald Trump’s case, this mistake has, literally–according to analysts from both parties–probably cost him upwards of 10 million dollars. The fact that he hasn’t solicited any donations via email yet has really put him quit far behind Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival, when it comes to fundraising. For most small businesses, it’s not going to be quite a 10 million dollar mistake not to use email marketing, but it certainly is costing them money if they’re not doing this. It is literally by far the cheapest and easiest way to communicate information to a large number of people with the click of a button.

A couple things that Donald Trump is doing wrong when it comes to his email marketing other than just not doing it, is that his website makes it very difficult for people to sign up for his email list, and again, I see this all the time with small business websites. They either don’t have a signup form anywhere on the site at all or if they do it’s buried somewhere on the back page of the site. You really want to have on the sidebar of every page of the website some sort of call to action or form that people can fill out to sign up for your email list, and, for God’s sake, don’t put the call to action of “Sign up for my email newsletter” on that form. The last thing anybody wants to do is signup for another email newsletter.

What you need to have is some sort of value exchange where you’re offering a free download or free piece of content, a chance to enter to win some kind of sweepstakes, or a chance to get some coupon that people might want to get–any sort of value exchange where you’re giving people something that they want in exchange for their name and email address and maybe even their phone number.  You want to have that call to action on every page of the website, where people can see it without even scrolling down (i.e., above the fold, so to speak), that way you can start building an email list.

Another mistake that Donald Trump made, at least with this initial email, according to an article on the NBC News website, was that due to the way the email was formatted and sent out, it actually ended up in the spam folders of over 60 percent of the people who received it. The battle between email marketers and spam filters is a constant struggle and it’s almost impossible to keep 100 percent of your emails out of the spam folders of the intended recipients, but 60 percent is a pretty high number and as long as you’re using a quality email service provider like Constant Contact or Aweber or Mail Chimp or any of the other many quality email service providers out there to send your email campaigns, you should, as long as you follow their best practices, be able to get your email in the inbox of most of your customers. It will tell you this right there in the statistics that you can see how many of those emails were delivered. You can even see how many were opened and what links people clicked on in the emails and a wealth of other data to let you know how your email campaign did.

Another example of something Donald Trump’s doing wrong with his email marketing, at least according to the articles that I’ve seen, is that he wasn’t doing any split testing. Split testing is where you send out 2 different versions of an email to a small percentage of your list, so let’s say you have an email list of 500 people. You might take 100 people and divide those 100 people into 2 groups of 50 and send one version of an email to the first 50 and a second version of the email with a different subject line to the next 50 and see which email gets more opens and clicks, and then whichever email gets the most clicks, you’ll send that email to the remaining 400 people on your list. This is getting pretty advanced.

I admit that most local business owners, especially those with smaller email lists, might not have the time or money to devote to split testing, but if you’ve got an email list of 1,000 or more people, this is something that you might want to try doing, especially with campaigns where you’re sending out some kind of offer or coupon that you really want people to take action on, you might want to consider doing some split testing like that in order to get better results.

Lots of lessons we can learn here from Donald Trump’s mistakes as small business owners, but the bottom line is if you’re not doing email marketing, you are leaving money on the table. There is no question about it. It might not be 10 million dollars like Donald Trump, but you are definitely leaving money on the table and it’s something that you need to start doing.

I personally recommend Constant Contact as an email service provider and I am a Constant Contact partner, so that’s what I use for my own email marketing and also with my clients, but there are a number of good programs out there. Like I said, Mail Chimp is one.  Aweber is another one. Infusionsoft is a higher-end all-in-one solution that includes email marketing, but there’s many, many others, so sign up for a free trial of one of these services, test it out if you’re not currently doing email marketing. Test it out for a month or 2, get an email newsletter started and just start using this incredibly powerful and very, very affordable way of communicating with your customers and with your prospective customers.