Friday, June 03, 2011

Campaigns 101: Email Contact Operations

While I'm no longer personally invested in electoral politics, I continue to do (and enjoy!) work for political candidates and organizations. The main difference is that I'm more of a "cash and carry" guy and less of an "I really believe that your campaign can change things!" guy.

With the 2012 election cycle now obviously under way, I'm going to start putting out some articles, most of which will have an at least nominal "hire me" hook. Even if you don't hire me, hopefully you'll get something out of these articles. This is the first.

What email contact operations are

Quite simply, email contact operations consist of building a list of supporter/donor email addresses and using it to inform your supporters, solicit contributions from them, activate them for events, and get them to the polls.

Why email contact operations are important

Every campaign needs to establish contact with, and keep in touch with, its supporters and (actual or prospective) donors. They're the people who write checks, knock on doors, attend rallies, and vote for you. Or not. If you're not talking with them, probably not. So you need to talk with them. Often. And email is how it's done these days (direct snail mail, too, and phones, but email is absolutely necessary).

Additionally, a campaign email list is a valuable commodity over time. If you're a candidate, you can roll one campaign's list over into the next campaign, or use it to help your party reach your supporters. If you're a consultant, you can bring your lists from previous campaigns into play for the current ones.

If you doubt the value of building contact lists over time, let me throw three phrases at you:

1) Ron Paul
2) 1980-something thru 2008
3) $35 million

Ron Paul didn't just fall off the back of the truck one day and raise $35 million. He spent 20 years building contact lists. Remember the "newsletter" scandal? The subscriber lists to those newsletters are probably what allowed him to raise respectable money for his 1988 Libertarian presidential campaign, as well as the money that got him back into Congress in 1996. And they were the pad from which he launched his 2008 presidential bid.

You don't have 20 years. November 2012 is 17 months away. Time to get started.

Why you should invest in email contact operations

In the past, I've often gone the "free" route (Google Groups, etc.) for email operations with campaigns I've worked on, and I've learned the hard way that that route generally costs more in labor than it saves in money, and ultimately doesn't produce the kind of results you need.

The best solution I've found -- I've been using it for a year now to publish a daily newsletter -- is a company called TrafficWave.

If you've already clicked the link, don't run away -- yes, TrafficWave is an "autoresponder" service normally used in "Internet marketing," and it has a "multi-level marketing" style compensation plan for people who refer clients to it.

That's not a bad thing. It's a good thing. Let me tell you why:

- Because of its association with "Internet marketing," TrafficWave has had to be as close to perfection as possible on legal matters. Your rear end is covered on things like compliance with the "CAN SPAM" Act, and they make it easy.

- Also because of its association with "Internet marketing," TrafficWave has goodies: A 30-day free trial (the size of your list is limited during the trial, but you can move into the paid plan if it reaches that limit), and something called the "Matrix Buster" program (that's what I linked to, and here's why): From your end, it means that your first PAID month is ALSO free. I'm paying for it, and they're giving me a 100% commission. So, you've got up to two free months with TrafficWave to decide whether or not it's worth the money before you have to actually start paying (you can export your list and take it elsewhere if you decide it's not what you're looking for).

- TrafficWave's price for value is simply the best in the email contact operations industry. It's a flat rate of $17.95 per month for as many lists as you need to run, with a total subscribership of up to 10,000. Unless your campaign is a fairly successful "major party" presidential effort, that's probably going to be more than you need. If not, you can upgrade your capacity.

Finally, once again because this is "Internet marketing" stuff, I get a $6 monthly commission on your TrafficWave subscription after the "free trial" days are over.

For that $6 a month as your "upline referrer," I'm happy to provide limited "second-line tech support" and consulting (from political experience) on how to use the service if you need it.

No, I'm not going to put in 40 hours a week on your campaign for that $6 a month ... but I'll help you design a "lead capture form" or "lead capture page" for your campaign web site if you need me to, or lead you through the process of sending your first broadcast. That kind of thing.

Even if you don't use TrafficWave (or me) I strongly suggest looking for a professional email contact solution -- one which will serve you well now and into the future -- if you're serious about politics and campaigns.

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