I, like most of America, watched the presidential candidate debate last Monday night.  And while I walked away, like most of America, with no significant shifts in my voting preference, I was fascinated by both the craft and stumbles in communication.  On the surface, Clinton and Trump prepared for and reacted to a debate/jousting match. 

But the real goal of this event was a sales/marketing pitch to the American voter, keeping in mind the following:

People buy with emotion, and justify with logic. 

Trump is definitely a pro (after all, his business success is based on it) in grabbing attention and appealing to emotion.  Regardless of your opinion, you can’t help but be drawn into listening to him.  Clinton is clearly a master of facts, yet is criticized for not being more “likeable.” There are numerous studies in psychology and marketing showing the link between emotion and decision making. Appealing to emotion is a critical first step in getting someone to make a decision (like vote).

Trust matters.   

Even deeper than emotional appeal is the foundation of trust.  Both candidates struggle here.  Without a basic trust in the communicator, everything that a person (or organization) says is dismissed.  Notice how both candidates used “credibility indicators” throughout the debate: citing endorsements, quoting studies and calling out fact-checking. 

Remember your audience. 

In your marketing and sales efforts, you should remember your audience and consider what you want them to think, feel and do. 

Using the debate as our example, each candidate needed to speak to two groups: his or her staunch supporters and that elusive, undecided voter. Here's an example of what each candidate may have wanted these groups to think, feel, and do:


  • Staunch Supporter: This election is important and requires my time/attention.
  • Undecided Voter: This candidate seems qualified.


  • Staunch Supporter: It would be very scary if the other candidate won.
  • Undecided Voter: This candidate understands my problems


  • Staunch Supporter: Cajole friends, family and community to vote.
  • Undecided Voter: Vote (even if I usually do not bother).

WIIFM (what’s in it for me): 

Who is the undecided voter? What do they really care about?  Both Clinton and Trump tried to address citizens in communities that have lost jobs and opportunities.  They called out emotional stories and tried to distinguish themselves with the better plan for fixing the problem.  But it is unlikely that the undecided voter is one homogenous group.  The key - in the debate and in business - is to have clear “personas” that include not just demographics (part of country, gender, age, race, etc.) but also audience needs and psychographics.

As business owners, we should all listen to not only these marketing/sales lessons but also the impact on our businesses and communities--and then vote!

About the Author(s)

Jeanne Rossomme headshot

Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.

President, RoadMap Marketing
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