Part of Barack Obama’s campaign strategy is to expand the universe beyond traditional voters. However you feel about his politics, it’s an interesting approach. In fact, it’s got a bit in common with how we target nonconsumers with our products:
We’re mainly targeting people who have never used products like ours before. These people especially crave simple solutions. They were nonconsumers before because the alternatives had too many features, were too confusing, and were too expensive. We’re addressing a hungry market that’s been ignored for way too long.
Instead of trying to win over people who love Gantt charts, we built Basecamp to win over people who had never used project management software before.
Likewise, Obama isn’t trying to steal a share of “the existing market,” he’s trying to create a new one.
Rather than relying exclusively on special interests and big money donors, he’s gotten a large number of smaller donations from first-time donors via the web. (Long tail anyone?)
And instead of merely competing for the votes of currently registered voters, he’s focused strongly on getting blacks and people younger than 35 registered in prime states. (Encouraging first-time voters “is going to be a very big part of how we win” according to Obama’s deputy campaign manager.)
Whether you’re competing for an election or customers, there’s a lesson to learn here. If winning over the existing market is a longshot, woo those who aren’t even in the game yet.