In the world of politics things are really cookin’ right now. If you’re inclined one way or another (politically speaking) it can be tough to stick to your convictions while not offending customers and prospects. I talk about ego a lot and how it can get in the way achieving all that’s possible with small businesses. Politics can exacerbate issues with ego. The more people look to you for answers the more it feels like your opinion matters and when you’re in charge your ego can trick you into thinking people value your opinion on everything, not just work related matters.
When it comes to politics and social issues making your opinion known can have unintended consequences. If you think you’re smart enough to navigate the slippery slope, I will bet against you. In fact, the only time making your political stance known, as a small business operator, works for you, is if your target market is specifically related to your political position. If it feels like everyone you talk to seems to be on the same page, not only are you wrong, by publicly committing to a political stance you are unnecessarily putting yourself between a rock a and a hard place. You might even think that consumers are equally divided between left and right and you will be half right – and that is good enough – but you’d be wrong again.
Let’s take a realistic and unbiased look at the political landscape. First, between 40% and 51% of voting age Americans do not vote. To be clear, that’s 10% to 20% more people than either party can claim. That means that nearly half of the people you talk to or discuss your opinion with, do not care enough to vote or they make their political statement by not voting. Either way, they are not aligned with you and your opinion has a higher chance of offending them than it does converting them to a buying customer.
Secondly, of the remaining people who do vote, the division of which party people vote for is not split between Democrats and Republicans. It is much more of a three-way split, not a two-way split. People identifying as independent (specifically meaning that they do not align either Democrats or Republicans) can eat up from 27% – 47% of voters, according to Gallup dating back to 2004 and still gathering data. Let’s be clear, whether your Democrat or Republican, if you consider nonvoters and independents, there is only around a 25% chance (at any given time) that the people you are sharing your opinion with are aligned with your position.
One of the most common reasons business owners get stuck thinking everyone (or at least the majority) agrees with their position, is an uber-common tendency called Homophily. You’ve heard the saying “Birds of a feather flock together.” Homophily is the same idea. People tend to flock to others who have similar beliefs, likes, dislikes etc. With the advent of 24-hour news channels and their brands of slant, the ability to see outside the bubble gets even more difficult. It feels like everyone believes just like you do. The real issue is whether you are a republican glued to Fox News or a Democrat glued to CNN, everything you watch or experience from that resource represents only about 1/3 of the opinion on a given political topic. That means 2/3 of the people you may want to do business with do not agree with your take on things. The reality is, the more you cannot see that your opinion is not shared by as much of the population as you think, the harder time you will have gaining customers if you make your political opinions public.
If you commonly discuss politics with friends, family or customers another dose of reality you should consider is seventy-seven percent of Republicans report voting independent occasionally while 70 percent of Democrats report the same. More than half of Republicans (56 percent) report they vote for Democrats occasionally or regularly and 58 percent of Democrats report they vote for Republicans occasionally or regularly – according to a study from the National Small Business Administration. In other words, almost all the people you discuss politics with that seem to be in alignment with you, are not really in alignment with you.
Unless your business is strictly related to politics, its best to steer clear of public conversations that are much more likely to lose customers than to gain them.
In Part II of this topic we will look at the amazing marketing tactics politicians and political parties use and how you can apply the same type of guerilla marketing tactics to outshine the competition and win more business.