I heard an account executive once use the phrase “Don’t fight the alligator in the water” to describe how he would change a sales conversation with customers to play to his strengths. The idea is to get the alligator out of the water and onto your turf where you at least stand a fighting chance. This is a very simple concept yet very difficult to execute because the temptation is to want to fight anywhere, to want to argue head to head.
Take for example the Democrats wanting to be “strong” on terrorism. Over and over again we see them trying to compete with Republicans on the single issue that Republicans have defined themselves on. Republicans have branded themselves as “strong” and Democrats as “weak” and again and again the Democrats keep trying to make themselves seem stronger. Hint to the Democrats: Republicans are going to call you weak no matter what you do.
So how would you, if you were a Democrat, go about changing the conversation? First, don’t play to the strong and weak story. And yes, this means not trying to make yourself seem stronger on terrorism than the Republicans. Change the conversation to a different story. I would suggest running a smarter war on terrorism.
Why would a smarter war work? Because it fits with what people believe and are looking for. Republican have botched this war pretty good so far. Here’s just a few examples:
- Leaked spy secrets
- Invading Iraq though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11
- Not getting Osama bin Laden
Why is it that anyone would vote for a Republican after these disasters? Because people believe that the Democrats don’t offer a better alternative. And they believe this because the Democrats keep trying to be “stronger” than the Republicans.
Once again I’ll say it. Don’t fight the alligator in the water.
If you differentiate yourself based on being able to fight a smarter war, you stand a much better chance. People are tired of “strong, but wrong.” There’s been too many mistakes, to much money wasted, and too few results. In football, if the team is not succeeding, do you fire the team? Of course not. You bring in someone smarter who can do a better job.
This is the case that Democrats need to make: that they can fight a smarter war to eventually bring a successful conclusion to this Republican mess. Results and better management are what the country is looking for.