Focus on Customers, Not the Competition

The Eastleigh by-election has caused controversy, misery and jubilation in the political world this week.  As all the political parties and their supporters recover from the excitement and pick over the bones of what went so unbelievably right, or so crushingly wrong, there’s a few lessons that the business world can learn from the whole debacle……  

Lesson one: Integrity Counts

The by-election was called in the first place because of Chris Huhne’s driving points scandal; something he so nearly got away with.  The far-reaching implications of his simple act of dishonesty are a stark reminder that integrity means doing the right thing even when no-one is looking.

Lesson two: Focus on your strengths, not on the competition’s weaknesses

While bad-mouthing the opposition is all part of the game in politics, the result in Eastleigh demonstrates that knocking the competition often does more damage to your reputation that to theirs. Always focus your marketing on what you can offer, not on what others lack.

Lesson three: Dig In

In a challenging economic climate it’s all too easy to become defeatist: few expected the Lib Dems to hold on to Eastleigh, including, I suspect, the candidates and the party leaders. However, they fought tooth and nail to hold on to their market share of the vote and that tenacity paid dividends.

Lesson four: Never Underestimate the Underdog

UKIP may not have won in Eastleigh but, in many ways, they were the real victor in the by-election because they took so much of the vote, giving them the PR victory. While all the Tory focus was on defeating the Lib Dems, UKIP sneaked in leftfield which demonstrates the dangers of putting too much emphasis on going head to head with your main competitor.

Lesson Five: Understand your Customers

All the political parties made the same basic marketing mistake during the run up to the by-election by focusing too strongly on the competition and not clearly enough on the electorate; their customers.  Certainly it’s important to understand the competitive landscape and keep up to date with what others in your marketplace are up to, but if you don’t engage effectively with your customers to really understand what they want from you, your marketing spend is unlikely to achieve the results you’re looking for.