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Lessons from the campaign trail

- Kelly Sharp is owner at Heart of Iowa Market Place.

It's the season for politics -- at least in Iowa -- and while some people would rather not discuss it, politicians and retailers do have a lot in common.

Being a candidate you have to know who you are and what you stand for. You have to be clear and concise with your message and where you stand on issues. Just like a candidate, a retailer must know what their business is and communicate -- loud and clear -- why it is relevant and valuable to customers. Your messaging and branding must be sharp to cut through the noise and clutter of the competition.

Just as a candidate must listen to their voters, a retailer must listen to his or her customers. Great feedback isn’t always positive feedback. Be sure to take in all feedback to learn what you can do to make your campaign better.

Candidates, even when they're unopposed, never win 100 percent of the vote. Specialty retailers need to remember that they shouldn't try to win 100 percent of shoppers, either. That's because your business loses what makes it special when you try to be all things to all people -- and that's a sure prescription for failure. Just as smart candidates know they just have to win 50 percent plus one vote, smart specialty retailers recognize that they just have to win the customers in their target audience. And, then they have to remember to work hard every day to keep those customers happy.

Once you identify your brand, message, and target audience, you will have to come up with a plan and strategies on how to execute your plan. Any specialty retailer's plan should include being the best in their niche. But you must be specific about the strategies and activities that will allow you to complete your plan. Your plan must also be adaptable to changing landscape. A good and adaptable plan will allow your business to come through down times strong and steady.

Finally, successful political campaigns know how to manage their resources well. Make sure your business has the necessary financial foundation and realistic budgeting to support it. Because you’re in it for the long haul and you have to make the right decisions day in and day out to be there when it counts. 

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