Learning From Strategic Mistakes of Presidential Campaigns


The Presidential campaigns are making mistakes you can learn from - make sure your customers can "connect the dots" by giving them clear calls to action
I came to online marketing from the world of politics, where I spent over a decade working on the “official,” or policy, side of the field as well on candidates’ campaigns. The political world presents some interesting constraints that force you to think creatively about marketing challenges.

Like many businesses operating in a difficult economy, government and political offices are forced to consider time as a commodity, not just a factor in completing a project. When it is difficult or impossible to increase the resources you have available for unanticipated spikes in activity, figuring out how to leverage what you already have generates significant value to your organization.

While I’m not as active in politics now, I still follow it fairly closely. The presidential conventions presented a great opportunity to look at how the campaigns plan to connect with activists in the buildup to the elections in November.

One thing people often miss is that convention speeches and activities are focused on people who are paying attention to the election at that point in time. Generally speaking, activists (on both sides) and highly educated politically independent voters are the people who tune in for the convention speeches. These are the folks you recruit to help you identify voters and get those voters to the polls in November.

The most critical element of the convention speeches is the audience they provide. According to Neilsen, the Republican National Convention drew just over 30 million viewers on the final night and the Democratic National Convention had 35.7 million viewers on the night of President Obama’s speech. Over the course of both conventions, not a single night of coverage had less than 20 million viewers. Even if half of the people watching are from the other political party or otherwise immune from influence, that is over 10 million people watching the speeches at any given point during the convention coverage.

Not at any point during the convention was there an effort to drive viewers moved by what they were hearing to connect with the campaign. This is downright criminal. I went back and listened to the full speeches by the presidential candidates to be sure I wasn’t crazy! Not a single call to action during either speech

… not a request to opt-in to a text message update

… not a website address

… not anything!

As the election increasingly tightens, both campaigns may find themselves looking back to consider what more they could have done to recruit more volunteers through their convention messaging.

There has also been a tremendous amount of missed opportunity in terms of their email outreach strategy. I actually subscribed to a campaign’s email list once, but I’ve been included on it multiple times because my contact information was “acquired” though other means. I use the Gmail trick with the “+” symbol to track how my email address gets passed around. The consequence of this strategy is that they haven’t consolidated my addresses on their list.

I get each email from this campaign sometimes once but more often at three different times. I didn’t think much of it at first; I just figured that at some point they’d either, 1) stop, or 2) segment and hit me with some different messages, especially since I’ve never interacted with a single piece of mail they send.

The kicker is, they’re all the same … exactly the same! No different message, no attempt to a/b test messages to see if I might respond to a different offer or call to action. Now we’re talking about roughly 220 messages over the last six months! That’s over one email each day! One stop to look at their campaign analytics and just try something different for groups of addresses on the list could have a huge impact on their results. The campaign is already creating the data; all it would take is a quick look, a quick click, and they could shake the message up a bit.

Now I don’t live in a swing state, so much of the Presidential campaign activity passes me by. We sit on the sidelines when it comes to most of their outreach efforts. The convention and online marketing campaigns are the largest “windows” into their activity that we get to peek through during the campaign. From that standpoint, the campaigns aren’t leveraging what they are already producing very effectively.

One of my favorite things we do at Cirrus ABS is help people sort through online strategy questions. I talk to people all the time who know they want to do something online but are afraid to direct resources to a project that isn’t going to produce significant value. Click here to learn how we can help you identify which online marketing strategies make the most sense for your business, so when the opportunity presents itself to speak to millions of people you won’t miss a chance to direct people interested in your message to a channel where you can convert them and achieve your goals!