5 Marketing Lessons Learned From Donald Trump

5 Marketing Lessons Learned From Donald Trump
Image credit: a katz / Shutterstock
Reader Resource

Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360 Conference in Long Beach, Calif. on Nov. 16. Secure Your Seat »

Sipping Martinis from Baccarat crystal is a little high-falutin’ (even for a foodie like me), but I was in beautiful New York City meeting up with some old college friends and it was a wonderful way to spend the evening.

Conversation inevitably turned to politics, business and all the things that make the world go round. And of course, in all of that we had to discuss -- Donald Trump. Because, here in the U.S., it’s basically been pretty much non-stop “The Donald Trump Show” since this election cycle started. This makes some of my friends cheer and others... not so much. But whether you love “The Donald” or hate him, you can’t deny that he’s done something completely extraordinary.

Related: 4 Lessons Every Entrepreneur Can Learn From Donald Trump

At the beginning of the primary season his candidacy was viewed as a joke. Very few people took Mr. Trump seriously as a candidate and said he’d never win. And now… he’s the presumptive presidential candidate for the Republican party.

When people come out of nowhere and take the world by storm, I always sit up and take notice. Because there is always something to learn. And Donald Trump is no exception.

Here are five things that every business owner and entrepreneur can learn from Donald Trump -- whether you like him or not.

1. Let people underestimate you.

Not many people underestimate the power of the Trump empire in business, but in politics nearly everyone underestimated Trump and how shrewd he is.

The New York Times reports that Donald Trump is “Repeatedly underestimated as a court jester or silly showman, (but) Mr. Trump muscled his way into the Republican Elite by force of will.”

And that “at every stage, members of the Republican establishment wagered that they could go along with Mr. Trump just enough to keep him quiet or make him go away.”

But Trump used this underestimation to set himself up in a position of authority and power, and he did it incredibly successfully. When people underestimate you it gives you a huge opportunity to work without a lot of fanfare to build a strong base in whatever you are doing. This is just as true in business as it is in politics.

Related: 5 Marketing Lessons Learned Watching Donald Trump Run for President

Let them underestimate you and then, like Trump, set about proving your detractors very, very wrong.

2. Use your past as a springboard.

One of the biggest keys to success in business or in politics is perseverance and knowing how to use your successes and failures to produce your next success.

Donald Trump is a master at this. He started his career in his parent's company, and built success after success. And like every successful person he has also had his share of failures -- business bankruptcies, divorces and not being taken seriously in the political process to name a few. But through it all Donald has used each experience to inform and help the next be better and more successful.

As entrepreneurs and business owners this is exactly what we should be doing. Each experience is an opportunity to learn, to become better and to increase our leverage. By using our past as a springboard we can become more and more successful over time.

3. Understand what kind of leader you are.

Trump is a forced to be reckoned with. His style is authoritarian and he plays on that with great success. I think Trump understood this on an intuitive level far before people in the political process recognized in. According to Politico, “Trump’s electoral strength -- and his staying power -- have been buoyed, above all, by Americans with authoritarian inclinations.”

Interestingly, this is backed up by research:

(This) finding is the result of a national poll.. conducted in the last five days of December … Only two of the variables I looked at were statistically significant: authoritarianism, followed by fear of terrorism, though the former was far more significant than the latter.”

Here is an excellent article in Fast Company that defines 6 types of leaders and their strengths and weaknesses.

Related: Donald Trump Has Mastered These 5 Psychological Tactics to Get Ahead

It’s worth looking at, because when you understand the type of leader you are, and tap into the people who naturally follow that type of leader, you can create tremendous success for yourself and those around you.

4. Tap into emotions.

"Americans angry. with Washington. Seriously angry. Rage from the left and right, the despair of independents and the lack of accountability from Washington have fueled the rise of the Donald Trump movement."

This is what CNN says about the Trump campaign. And they are right, but what is more important here than the fact that many Americans are angry is how these emotions have fueled the Trump campaign.

People buy into ideas and products based on emotion and then back up their decisions with logic. Trump plays into this human dynamic beautifully.

And as business owners we need to as well.

Define what makes your ideal customer want to buy and then play into that emotional state. It works.

5. Surprise everyone.

I am convinced that one of the things Donald Trump likes to do the most is take people off guard. This shows up most often in his rhetoric.

But every time he says something controversial he gets news coverage.

And this works. You don’t have to be as polarizing to use this technique effectively. But having a strong point of view and taking people off guard with innovation is nearly always a good thing.

One of the leaders in modern business who did this the best (without being as controversial as Donald Trump) was Steve Jobs. Every announcement he made was followed by massive news coverage. Because he always surprised us with new and innovative ideas.

By constantly innovating and having a strong point of view you can stay ahead of the game and keep your company on top.

Whether you love Donald Trump or hate him, you can’t deny his current power in politics and that he has something to teach us all.