The following is an edited excerpt from Phillip Stutts's upcoming book, Fire Them Now: the 7 Lies Digital Marketers Sell and the Truth about Political Strategies that Help Businesses Win. The book will be available exclusively to Amazon.com on Feb. 22.
In political marketing, you win or you die. Either your candidate is elected, or they, and you are out of a job. This isn’t news to anyone in campaigns.
But in the corporate marketing space, it’s a different story.
I’ve spent the past two years interviewing more than 100 CEOs and entrepreneurs and found that 95 percent of them constantly feel frustrated and let down by the digital marketing firms they hire. It’s as if their marketing firm just isn’t working towards the same overarching outcomes as the business itself.
In doing these interviews, I realized there are several factors that drive political digital marketers to work quickly, efficiently, and with an unmatched level of innovation transparency to the client. Business owners should demand their marketing firms work like a political marketing firm if they want to see bigger ROI. Here’s why.
Agencies win only when the client wins
Client frustrations with the corporate marketing firms they hire often take root in the fact that the agency experiences payoff prior to — and sometimes regardless of — whether or not the client’s overarching outcome is achieved. The chief culprit of this is the long-term contract.
But for the political marketer, success occurs only if our candidates win on Election Day. We don’t use the unbreakable, long-term contracts of corporate marketing agencies. Our firm starts with a probationary trial period and only if the client is satisfied do we continue on a month-to-month contract.
This holds our firm accountable to the client each day because the client can fire us at any time. If they lose, we lose. Too many losses, and we are out of business. Unlike corporate marketing firms, political digital marketing agencies are always working towards the client’s ultimate goal — winning on Election Day — or they both lose.
Transparency as a standard
CEOs often wonder where the money they pay their digital marketing agency goes. At the completion of a project, they’re sometimes left totally frustrated by a lack of ROI.
But political marketing firms cannot hide anything from the client. Every single federal campaign expenditure is available to the public on the FEC website. Not to mention, political advertising has to respond and adjust to what is going on in the world in real time. We share what’s working and what’s not with clients in daily, sometimes hourly reporting, showing expenditures down to the penny and adjust on a moments notice.
If we fail, our clients and our competition know it. That’s transparency and accountability at the highest level. In my experience, this leads the candidate and agency to work in alignment and both succeed only when the politician wins.
On top of strategic and budget transparency, the inescapable deadline of Election Day creates the ultimate accountability — it completely exposes a firm’s wins and losses record to the public. If we lose, the world knows it.
What incentive for transparency does the corporate marketing agency have or than making money? Do they have to respond to the world in real time, list their expenditures on a public record, or hang their losses in the public view? Of course not. Business owners don’t even know about their marketing firm’s losses or disasters.
The drive for constant innovation
Corporate marketers, often billing by the hour after securing a long-term contract, lack the impetus to innovate because budget and payday are guaranteed, and the longer something takes, the more billable hours incur.
Meanwhile, political marketing agencies work on each client like a startup businesses on steroids — we start with candidates who have no money and have to work fast to deliver results to have a chance of winning on Election Day.
A political firm’s lean-startup mentality, creativity and speed is better fit to delivering winning results to a client. My firm, working for a 2016 presidential Independent Expenditure campaign, had to move quickly to capitalize on a killer one-liner our candidate delivered (that brought the house down with laughter) at a political debate in time for Election Day.
The outcome to move fast, be creative and win – led our creative team and accounts team to come together, break through the clutter of thousands of competing digital ads, and deliver a simple, funny and explosive ad. As a result, the candidate emerged from that state with a win. Our firm ended up winning one of the biggest awards in all of politics for the ad. Our rewards and business grew only after we delivered for our client.
The political fix
It’s a win or die mindset that aligns client and agency goals. In politics, we’re no stranger to this — hell, it’s second-nature. But for companies and entrepreneurs, if your marketing agency isn’t producing results, demand they adopt the political mindset — and if they balk, fire them now.