There are plenty of marketing lessons to be learned from the 2016 presidential campaign, but the most important lesson is simple: cold calling is dead. Allow me to explain.

In the 2012 presidential, pollster Nate Silver correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In 2016, Silver and all his colleagues, predicted a Trump defeat.

They were, obviously, massively wrong, just as pollsters had been wrong about the "Brexit" vote. So what happened? Why have polling companies sudden begun to fail so consistently?

Here's what happened: people stopped taking calls from strangers. If you can't get people to answer their phones, you can't get them to answer polling questions. Or, as the pollster Jonathan Brown complained in frustration: "Answer your damn phones, people."

Polling companies are struggling, unsuccessfully, to get enough answers to make a statistically valid prediction. In 2016, the entire methodology collapsed because these four long-term trends converged:

  1. Caller-id. The cost of caller-id has become insignificant and almost everyone has it. When they receive a call, they think: "Why should I answer if I don't recognize the number?"
  2. Voice-mail. Voice-mail is now universal. If you don't recognize the person who's calling, it's easier just to let it fall through into voice mail. Needless to say, a voice mail system can't answer polling questions.
  3. Cell phones. It's illegal in the USA to use automating dialing systems to make unsolicited calls to cell phones. This means pollsters must dial by hand, which is impractical. In addition, calls received on a cell phone often cost the phone-owner money, making a hang-up far more likely. And in some areas, pollsters who call cell phones are obligated to provide some form of compensation.
  4. Cord-cutting. Many people are abandoning their land lines because they don't really need two phone numbers.

Which brings me to cold calling. The four trends that have made accurate polling almost impossible have also made it almost impossible to get enough prospective customers to justify the effort of cold-calling.

So, while I've written about cold-calling in the past, I'm done with all that. If you're trying to win new customers, don't bother with cold-calling. And if sales trainers tell you that "cold calling still works if you do it right" tell them to get lost.

They're full of it. Cold calling is dead.