In 2014 the nation saw one of the biggest upsets in recent electoral history as the heavily democratic state of Maryland elected a republican governor. Larry Hogan was outspent by democratic Lt. Governor Anthony Brown whose marketing campaign focused heavily on the negative attributes of Hogan, his staff, and an open condemnation of what Brown claimed was Hogan’s “dangerous agenda”.
Brown event went so far as to use fear mongering with a television ad regarding gun control policy with an assault rifle resting on a swing set. Still, in a state where republicans are outnumbered two to one the coveted job of governor went to a republican. Much of Hogan’s popularity at the poles was attributed to his promises to reduce many of the taxes the Democratic Party had raised in previous years. Most important for purposes of this article however is that analysts noted that many voters openly disapproved of the very harsh, negative and somewhat hollow campaign advertising done by Brown. Hogan spoke of promises and plans. Brown spoke of Hogan.
Unlike many politicians, Hogan is not an attorney but a businessman. By all accounts it seems he used that experience to guide his campaign for the job. When marketing any product or service it is wise to focus on what you can do, not on what the competition can’t.
It is imperative that you fully understand your competition, particularly their weaknesses and use that information to your advantage. That’s not an invitation to stoop to name-calling and finger pointing, yet to focus instead on highlighting your attributes.
If Bob’s Oil Company has a weakness – perhaps poorly maintained equipment – the correct way to advertise this is to use pictures of your freshly polished delivery vehicles, not broadcast a picture of Bob’s broken truck being towed off away from someone’s home. Your customers, particularly the new ones, are a valuable resource. Our experience has always been they will tell you in great detail why they are leaving Bob’s Oil Company and coming to you. Now that you have them, however, you must to live up to your advertising and follow through to develop a reputation and continue to grow your customer base organically. Since in office Hogan has made good on some of his promises, including the reduction of highway toll fees; a hugely expensive part of doing business in a state bisected by the Chesapeake Bay and her tributaries. Use the complaints about the competition to read your market (commuters hate tolls) and advertise your solution in a warm, friendly light.
Misty Sexton is vice president of sales and marketing for Space Petroleum, a wholesale fuel brokerage supplying petroleum products to the Mid-Atlantic states. Sexton began her career in the office of a mid-sized home heating oil company and transitioned to wholesale fuels in 2008. Her customer base is varied and includes distributors and end-users along with government agencies and of course, small home heating oil companies. She can be reached via email at Misty.Sexton@SpacePetroleum.com