Politicians have been using databases to keep track of voter information for years, and as technology advances, so does the power of these databases. Politicians can combine data from publicly available voter files with census data, data willfully submitted by supporters, or other types of marketing information. Technology has also made access more convenient and more mobile.
Databases allow you to learn more your supporters and your potential supporters, and use that knowledge to encourage your potential supporters to become supporters and your supporters to become advocates. Richer information allows campaigns to target specific constituencies or groups with unique messaging. You can, for example, send parents of young children a mailer about your stance on education policy, and you can talk to retirees about your views on social security.
Four years ago, the Obama campaign created what was at the time one of the most sophisticated voter databases ever built. They stored all potentially useful information, information from donors, from people who signed up for emails, and richer data from surveys filled out by supporters, and combined it with census data, voter information and other demographic data such as information about your zip code or even about your street.
Zephyr Teachout, who organized Howard Deans online campaign, said it best. [Obama for America is] not an innovative campaign, but its an extraordinarily professional one. Theyve taken all our stupid ideas and made them smart.
This is exactly what sophisticated marketing can do. Take blunt force, untargeted, generalized messaging and make it smart.
Though innovative in 2008, targeting your message to specific groups, both online and offline, has become de rigueur by this election cycle. If everyone is using sophisticated database marketing, how can you make your candidates more powerful?
Even the most sophisticated database is worthless if you dont do anything with it. The goal is to contact all those supporters in a meaningful way that will ultimately spur action (from going out to vote, to volunteering to donating to the campaign). If your primary method of communication is email, there are several things you can do to improve the effectiveness of your campaigns.
Take a cue from OFA and try out dayparting. A relatively simple technique that many private sector marketers arent even taking advantage of today, OFA was using it in 2008. The would track when users opened their emails and adjust their sending to correspond to the time each user was most likely to be reading their email, dramatically improving engagement rates.
Another effective way to improve your email campaign is email retargeting. Like site retargeting, the practice of showing users ads after they visit your site, email retargeting keeps your candidate top of mind. Email retargeting utilizes the same core technology, but allows you to show ads to anyone who opens your emails, regardless of whether they visit your site. You can only send so many emails before you wear down supporters or cause them to feel offended by too many messages. Email retargeting is the perfect supplement to an email campaign, since it allows you to stay on top of mind without oversaturating users via email.
And what if you have an extensive list of mailing addresses and want to bring them online?
Some candidates have experimenting with QR codes in their direct mailings. However, QR codes require disproportionate effort on the part of the recipient in exchange for little reward. Engagement rates in the private sector have been incredibly low, even when retailers offer discounts or special deals.
Generally, the effectiveness of QR campaigns hinges on user involvement that you cant count on, and probably shouldnt expect.
CRM retargeting, another retargeting solution, is even less widely practiced than email retargeting. Used frequently by direct mail marketers in the private sector, CRM retargeting allows you to bring your database online with ease. With only an email or a mailing address, you can serve up ads to your database contacts wherever they browse the web. You can take the many valuable contacts youve collected and create something even more powerful.
Political databases become more sophisticated every day. The way to stay ahead is to find innovative new ways to reach your users in a way thats meaningful to them.