As next year’s federal election begins to gear up, Justin Trudeau has a new marketing technique: he’s making telephone calls to random people. And he’s willing to have a half-hour conversation about a variety of issues.

In a Toronto Star column, Susan Delacourt wrote that: “While a lot of attention is being paid this month to the series of town-hall meetings that Trudeau is holding across Canada, these phone calls are a lesser-known method of trying to keep the prime minister in touch with people outside the political bubble. It’s really the opposite of mass communication — a form of niche marketing, you might say, by this prime minister.”

justin trudeauObviously, Trudeau’s personal outreach campaign won’t scale but he gets serious props for connecting with “customers”. Most politicians operate in bubbles. In the process, they lose touch with the person on the street and make decisions that are misaligned.

Personally, I’d welcome a random phone call from Justin (when he calls do you call him “Justin” or “Prime Minister” or “Mr. Trudeau”?) But even it doesn’t happen, I like the possibility that it could happen!

So, what are the lessons for marketers from Justin Trudeau’s phone calls?

First, connecting with customers is super-important.

Today’s consumers are inundated with information – digitally from videos and blogs to videos and social media and non-digitally from billboards and TV to radio, print and direct mail. Getting someone’s attention is the biggest challenging facing marketers and brands.

Brands must be creative, innovative, and risk-takers to capture the spotlight. It’s not enough to do what other brands are doing because your message is lost in the mix.

At an extreme, look at what Payless did with the Palessi prank in which it fooled influencers into thinking they were looking at expensive, luxury shoes. It was a risk, it was creative…and it worked.

While it’s great to have a marketing budget as large as Payless, smaller brands can be just as creative to attract consumers.

The second “Trudeau” lesson is marketers should be willing to go against the flow.

They can’t be afraid to embrace marketing that others aren’t doing. Too much marketing is “me-too” marketing. The competition is doing it so we will do it too. That’s like following the herd as it runs off a cliff.

Yes, marketers don’t want to make mistakes or do things that seem strange or unorthodox. But the battle for attention means doing different things and different channels.

Look, for example, at podcasting. These days, many brands have podcasts. But three or four years ago, podcasting was dead after enjoying a short period of popularity.

Then, a few brands looked at the marketing landscape and decided they could stand out from the pack because there was little competition. It was a risk but it worked. Today, podcasts are the new black and marketers are tasked to look for new opportunities.

The third “Trudeau” lesson for marketers is the importance of nurturing your relationships with customers.

Too many brands, whether they admit it or not, take their customers for granted. Once a prospect turns into a customer, brands assume they’re happy and willing to stick around.

But these days, customers are fickle and they quickly turn into non-customers (aka churn). Something new and different comes along and, bam, a long-time customer decides to hit the road for the competition.

In spending 30 minutes talking to someone on the phone, Justin Trudeau is solidifying a relationship. He can’t do it thousands or even hundreds of times but the goodwill generated by these calls is invaluable.

In my humble opinion, entrepreneurs and CEOs should talk to customers on a regular basis. It makes a customer feel valued and provides real-world insight into a customer’s buying habits, ideas, and complaints. And it’s a great way to stay connected and learn.

The bottom line for marketers is relationships matter and it is important to truly connect with customers.

The reliance on digital tools and automation is making marketers lazy. It creates a false belief that they’re connecting with consumers but most of this activity is ignored, deleted or quickly scanned. It bounces off rather than resonating.

Whether or not your politics align with Trudeau’s, he’s doing something interesting, different, and effective.

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