As we celebrate the Fourth of July, it’s a good time to remember one our country’s first entrepreneurs, Ben Franklin. It’s easy to forget how influential he was in helping to create a country that, over time, would change the world. Let’s see how we might apply his strategies of influence that allowed him not only to help found a great country but also become one the most respected leaders world wide.
His first rule of influence was to focus your message on the right people. No matter where Ben Franklin was, he used his influence to advocate his position to the people who could make the biggest difference to his cause. He understood it was critical to get the right people on board if he hoped to change the status quo. From all accounts, he did this through his charm and by understanding what others would expect in supporting his cause. He focused his efforts on the most important influencers first then allowed his message to be disseminated to the grassroots. This allowed him to obtain substantial funding early which could be used to support the troops and fledgling nation.
His second rule of influence was to lead with values. Ben didn’t shy away from the values discussion when trying to get people working with him. He was very capable of moving people both intellectually and, more importantly, emotionally. He found ways to connect his causes to where the people were before trying to move them to his point of view. He looked for similarities and, at the same time, the vanity of these important people. He had a strong understanding of what moved people and he wasn’t shy about sharing what was in their best interests when approaching the important people of his day. He traveled the world extensively so that he could make his appeals in person. I also think he knew that it was better to focus early on the few than the many.
The third rule of influence was he understood how to build community a cause. Franklin understood the importance of connecting with his community on a regular basis. He used early printing presses to share his ideas to many more people than he ever could have in person. He helped create connectivity by sharing a common background to allow for increased connections within many specific communities. He was one of the first entrepreneurs who realized how important good press was to the success of his business ventures. He used his printing press to make sure he got the most positive exposure with his audiences. His Poor Richard’s Almanac allowed him to be in front of his audience on a regular basis. Many would keep these almanacs for many years. He understood the opportunities that new technologies could provide the business person and would help create new markets for his products and services using the printing press and personal selling.
The final rule of influence was that it’s better to build on common symbols than trying to create new symbols. His ability to move people through metaphor and visual language allowed all stakeholders understand what he was trying to achieve. His ability to find shared symbols allowed to him to communicate within all levels of society. A very challenging task when you considered the distance between his many different customers and stakeholders. His storytelling ability was unsurpassed. As marketers, we must look for opportunities to build on shared experiences. It allows our message to be shared by our best customers and clients.
Want o learn more about the people who founded America? You might also enjoy Why Serving Leaders Celebrate Freedom
Building influence isn’t a new approach to marketing. It’s an idea that’s centuries old, but can always be improved upon. Learn to use it as effectively as Ben Franklin, and people will remember you, too, in over two hundred and twenty five years!