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Statistics Lesson: Barack Obama, Most Popular President

Of course, this all depends on how you define "popular." Here's how to steal my unique way of looking at metrics and hyperbole to help you promote your business.
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Here's an ironclad, take-it-to-the-bank prediction: As of Tuesday, Barack Obama will be the most popular president in U.S. history.

And contained within this fact is an important lesson for entrepreneurs. No, I'm not crazy. I know that the election is very close, and that we're in the midst of one of the most partisan eras in American history. Regardless, by the close of the polls Tuesday night, Obama will be the most popular president in history, according to one interesting statistic: total votes cast.

In other words, over his two campaigns for president, more Americans will have actually physically voted for President Obama than for any other candidate in history.

Part of this is just a matter of demographics and the fact that the U.S. population increases at a rate of about four people per minute.

But, it's also due to two other facts.  First, Obama was hugely popular four years ago, and even though he's lost some supporters this time around, the election is very, very close.

Second, very few U.S. presidents in recent history have won two elections with a majority of the popular vote.

The current record for most votes is held by George W. Bush. A total of 112,500,720 Americans voted for Bush over two elections, in 2000 and 2004. Franklin D. Roosevelt comes in second, with 103,500,786 votes--albeit over four elections. Ronald Reagan is third, with 98,358,702 total votes.

Now, Obama is poised to leapfrog over every other president. In 2008, 69,456,897 voters cast their ballots for Obama. Thus, he needs only 43,043,890 votes to break Bush's record.

When this odd way of looking at the relative popularity of various presidents hit me over the weekend, I quickly thought of you and your business.

Most of us are the best at something we do. So, it's up to you as an entrepreneur to find the statistic that promotes you (truthfully) in the best light, even if it's a bit unconventional.

Even better, find objective, quantitative ways to back up your claims. Then, make that statistic part of your message. And if the statistic seems a bit surprising or unconventional, all the better still. Customers are more likely to notice it.

Ranked at the top of a magazine or website's survey of the best businesses in your area for customer service? Make it part of your mantra, then: Happiest Customers in Our Area! Or: Ranked No. 1 in Customer Service!

And, it's OK to offer your ironclad statistic with a bit of self-aware irony. A friend who worked in TV once found her intern had a website declaring him "King of All Interns." He did have an impressive resume, for an intern...and, frankly, no one else had taken the title. A little odd, and silly, but it was fair game--and it got him featured in several news articles about internships and entry-level jobs. 

Don't push it too far, of course. The key is to find something surprising, superlative, and true

At the end of the day, though, remember: It's not too hard to become No. 1 in your field--especially if you get to define the field.

Just ask Barack Obama, the most popular president America has ever had.

Last updated: Nov 6, 2012

BILL MURPHY JR. | Columnist

Bill Murphy Jr. is a journalist, ghostwriter, and entrepreneur. He is the author of Breakthrough Entrepreneurship (with Jon Burgstone) and is a former reporter for The Washington Post.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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