After seven thought-provoking seasons Mad Men is finally coming to a close and we have to say goodbye to the business' businessman, Don Draper. His character was unique not only because of his business savvy, but his personal life and the way the time period shaped who he was and who he ultimately became. His personal life oftentimes affected his professional life and Draper knew a lot about people, which helped him remain at the top of the fictional Sterling Cooper & Partners for seven years.

As different as the business world may seem today thanks to the Internet, there are many classic lessons that all businesses owners can still benefit from if they take the time to listen and take action.

Top 10 Lessons We Can Learn from Mad Men's Don Draper

1. Try to appeal to the emotions of your clients.

Draper understood that you have to put the customer first and think of the customers' happiness above all else. This means above trying to sell a product, you should be thinking about a deeper need that your customers are looking for and then show how your product can meet that deeper need. You'll notice almost all of his campaigns appeal to emotions to make the sale.

Draper Example: Probably the best example of this was in Season 1 when Draper pitched an idea to Kodak. He created a presentation where he used his own family slides to help bring in a real-life situation to the pitch, of course appealing to emotions. It went over well and left executives silent and even a few tears from Harry Crane.

2. In-person interactions go a long way.

So this may not have been entirely Draper's doing and has more to do with the time period, but regardless, the in-person presentations always seemed to make the sale. This goes right along with the last point about appealing to emotions and really connecting with the customer. There is no better way to make this connection happen than in-person. It's not quite as easy to do today in 2015 thanks to the Internet, but if you make it a priority people will come and you'll have an even bigger opportunity to form a relationship.

Draper Example: You can find an example of this in every single pitch in the show. Draper and the team are constantly using props to help make their point, which is only something that can be done in person. In season 3 Draper pitched London Fog to help show that selling raincoats is only part of the deal. His enthusiasm showed, and ultimately he closed the deal.

3. Long-time customers as more valuable than you realize.

Draper knows the importance of taking loyal customers seriously and not dismissing them for bigger brands with more money. It's a tough line to walk because it can be so tempting to try and grow your business by focusing on high profile brands, but your loyal customers are what made your company what it is today. They deserve the attention they got when they first signed with your company, and Draper knew that and consistently reminded his partners.

Draper Example: At one point early in the show Sterling Cooper wanted to acquire American Airlines as clients, which would mean that Draper would need to no longer work with Mohawk Airlines (who were a loyal and long-time client). The presentation to American Airlines ended up falling flat, and Draper was able to make his point that loyal customers matter.

4.Thinking on your feet is a unique skill.

Draper is a master at thinking on his feet and having a Plan B ready to go when an advertising pitch goes wrong. The partners at Sterling Cooper seemed to constantly be making mistakes or on the verge of losing a client after a pitch, but Draper was always ready with something else to say. This goes back to understanding your audience and being able to identify that deeper need as opposed to the simple want to make a sale.

Draper Example: There have been quite a few times that Draper has had to safe a pitch gone wrong. The best example is probably the Hilton Hotels pitch. You always have to assume your client will say no and have something ready to go just in case.

5. Company culture is not something to ignore.

Company culture can sometimes be something that new business owners think will just fall into place, but it actually takes quite a bit of work to get to where you want to be. You have to hire the best people for the job, but you also have to make sure that culture is always an important thought in your mind. If your employees don't mesh well or you create a boring or overly stressful work environment, you'll have a high turnover rate and end up spending much more on finding and training new employees than you would need to otherwise.

Draper Example: In season two Putnam, Powell and Lowe acquired two Sterling Cooper, and if you've seen the show then you know that the two company cultures did not mix. This made for bad work performance and quite a few conflicts between executives that ultimately led to a failed partnership and a long bout of tension in the office.

6. Don't forget Peggy!

Peggy of course referring to your young and talented employees. Even if an employee isn't in the department where you may have a job opening, it's important to always keep your eyes open for talent and offer opportunities to those from within if you recognize talent. It can be hard to break into the business world sometimes, so giving a young employee an opportunity to shine could be one of your best moves in the long run.

Draper Example: The character Peggy started off as Draper's secretary, but she was later promoted to copywriter and eventually a founding member of the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency where she was second in command. At a time when women didn't often hold these positions, this was a big deal for Peggy, and it was all because Draper noticed her talent.

7. Be smart about who you choose as your partners.

This was something that we saw work well on the show with Draper as well as not work out well for other "partners." No matter the size or type of company, your partners are going to be the people you lean on to make decisions, so make your decision about a partner wisely.

Draper Example: The accountant Lane didn't feel like he had anyone he could trust and did not have anyone to help him through a tough time, and he paid the ultimate price. Draper, on the other hand, had partners who trusted and respected him, and that's because he put out that attitude. He had done business with many of the partners for years, and that mutual respect and understanding about business helped get the company far in the end.

8. Diversify whenever possible.

You have to make sure that you keep your options open and work with a good variety of clients and a good number of clients. It's important not to put all of your eggs in one basket, which overlaps a little bit with the importance of taking your loyal customers seriously. The more diversity you can have with the clients and accounts you work with, the better chance you have of keeping your business afloat during tough times.

Draper Example: This was made evident in the very beginning of the series when the agency's major client, Lucky Strike, pulled their business. Because Lucky Strike was 70% of the agency's revenue, it was a scramble to keep the business moving let alone growing. In other words, we learned what not to do from Draper on this point.

9. Understand the right PR moves in a crisis.

This has always been considered one of the most valuable things a business owner can master. Even if you have a PR team in place to help you recover, it sometimes comes back to the executives to make a statement. You have to know how the press works and how your audience thinks so that you can diffuse a bad situation as quickly as possible.

Draper Example: When Lucky Strike pulled their business, Draper wrote a letter to the Times explaining why the agency will no longer take on tobacco accounts. This was great press considering some of the voices against tobacco coming out at the time period, and it was all because of Draper's quick thinking.

10. Stay professional.

This wouldn't be a complete list if we didn't state the obvious--Don Draper had a few too many run-ins with alcohol and women during his time at the agency. In most cases, letting his personal life bleed into his professional one didn't end well for him, the company, or many of the women in his office. The entire series seems to be one big example of this, so if you haven't seen the show, get your Netflix ready for a wild ride.

Published on: May 12, 2015
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