This week I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural meeting of PROPAGANDA. This aptly named bipartisan event is an ongoing attempt to connect the fractured DC design community — a welcomed undertaking.
Bridging the worlds of graphic design, videography, web development, and digital strategy, the event focused on a panel of experienced political designers and a group Q&A with the audience. Topics ranged from data-driven designing to handling internal creative struggles on a campaign.
Overall it was a great event and I was left with much to ponder.
One idea that stuck with me, in particular, came from a Republican consultant named Ian Patrick Hines. During a group discussion about web design and current industry expectations, Ian made reference to the idea that all digital strategy should be looked at as “live” voter contact.
In the same way you tailor your messaging to the doors you knock, your web presence (website, digital ads, etc.) should reflect the unique actions and interests of the voter.
Although we didn’t get to explore the idea further as a group, what Ian alluded to is the very essence of last week’s piece, Political Intent Marketing: Part 1.
If you visit a campaign site via informational search, then the site should present an answer to that query. If you have already signed up to join a campaign’s email list, then future visits should not bombard you with subscribe forms. If you’ve donated once, future donation asks should be tailored to your previous giving history, and so on.
But broadly thinking about customized marketing in this way can feel overwhelming.
You need a starting point, a framework.
A framework provides much-needed structure to your online efforts. From it, we can begin analyzing behaviors in the context of intent and tailoring both message and medium to move voters towards conversion.
The Four Levels of Political Intent
What we all want is votes. What we all try for is money. What we all settle for is support. And to fully measure my online marketing efforts in these regards, I’ve developed a working model that places qualified voters into four broad levels of political intent.
Each level, or bucket, below demands its own content strategy. Rolling averages (i.e. on average how much does it cost to move one voter from Level 3 to Level 2 from week-to-week) can be monitored to better justify and direct any ad spend.
The levels look something like this:
Level 4: Qualified voters ▼ Level 3: Partisan actives ▼ Level 2: Supporters ▼ Level 1: Investors
It’s important to remember that we are only looking at qualified voters. For instance, 4 of 4 Democrats aren’t going to fit this model in a Republican primary.
Understanding the intent of each level generally will help you better identify the intent of voters specifically.
Level 4 – “Listen, I just don’t care yet.”
This is our largest addressable audience. These individuals fit our model for potential votes, but may not be tuned in to politics at the moment. Regardless, it’s never too early to start monitoring and testing.
Broad factors apply here, like party affiliation and past turnout.
It’s important to qualify these individuals early, keeping track of behavior that may signal intent to move down or out.
Level 3 – “Hmm, who do I support?”
These individuals have yet to fully commit to one candidate or another but are in the market.
This group of your addressable market is largely in the “decision making” phase and carry a great potential for influence. Persuasion marketing should be nuanced, but the ultimate goal is to turn them into a supporter.
Level 2 – “I’m gonna vote for you.”
This group is unique in that they can be identified as supporters, despite not having invested time or money.
They do not need persuasion, they need motivation. Your goal will be to motivate these supporters to become investors.
Level 1 – “If you need me, I’m ready to help!”
Finally, these are the members of your audience that are ready to “purchase.” This group is ready to convert and invest in your campaign. Your job is to make that process simple, clear and frictionless.
Harking back to the example from Part 1, presidential announcements are indeed a great opportunity to build small-dollar donations. Level 1’s are eager to invest and have been waiting for the opportunity. Some Level 2’s caught up in the excitement will also convert to an investor.
It makes little sense then that we would need to spend dollars to raise dollars. It seems wiser to capitalize on the public interest by casting the net wider and capturing curious Level 2’s and 3’s.
Why? Let’s break it down.
Pretend that two campaigns are running search ads during their presidential announcements and both have exactly $400 to spend.
Campaign 1 wants to capitalize on the publicity and raise as much money as possible, so their ad asks for support in the form of a donation. Upon clickthrough, the user is directed to a donation-specific landing page.
Campaign 2 wants to capitalize on the publicity by building a large email database, so their ad asks the user if they would like to receive an important email from the candidate. Upon clickthrough, the user is directed to an email signup page.
To make this easy we’ll assume that both ads receive 100 clickthroughs.
Of those 100, the pure donation ad converts 50 people, not too shabby. The total raised is an impressive $1500, or $30/voter.
The second ad, with it’s more subtle value proposition, converts 75 people and redirects conversions to a thank you page where they can then donate. Not everyone clicked the ad ready to invest so it only brings in $750, roughly $10/voter.
At first glance, bringing in 2x the money, it would appear that Campaign 1 made the smarter bet.
Fast forward three months.
Tracking the value of these email lists, both campaigns have come to the conclusion that on average each email is worth about $45 over 90 days. So their ROI looks something like this:
– They captured 50 emails so their total return is $2250. Subtracting the $400 in advertising we get the real ROI: $1850.
– They captured 75 emails so their total return is $3375. Subtracting the $400 in advertising we get the real ROI: $2975.
Even if Campaign 2 only sees a return of $25/email on this effort over that 90 period, they will still bring in more money than Campaign 1!
But, it’s not just the total sum raised. Campaign 1’s CPA is $8 and Campaign 2’s CPA is ~$5. So not only has Campaign 2 actually raised more money in the aggregate, but if these benchmarks hold, each new email acquired has a potentially higher ROI.
Keep in mind that this is an incredibly basic example. There will be be other variables and ways to measure. But it does highlight the value of the long tail and why understanding intent up front can bolster your marketing efforts over the long-term if you track and measure.
Despite this advantage, I still think we can do better.
During the 2012 elections, advanced modeling and social data largely took center stage. I believe the next truly innovative campaign will not simply live in the cloud, but focus marketing on-page and around behavior.
Consider a simple scenario where search ads are actually tailored to search queries and those ads tailored to website experiences.
For instance, if I searched for “Jeb Bush’s stance on Cuba” or “Hillary Clinton and Israel” am I looking to make a donation? Do I support him/her? Or am I just trying to win an argument at work?
A well-designed ad should seize all three opportunities.
What if an ad promised to cut through the mainstream media bias and provide me with Bush’s real position on Cuba, would I click? What if the landing page for that ad offered to personally send me a 3-page PDF timeline so I can see for myself, would I read it?
But marketing to users on-page is more than just creative content and search engine optimization.
Consider a more complex example in which we run an ad that targets Level 3’s and Level 4’s, asking them to view a chart detailing the differences between Obama and my candidate.
My landing page is nothing more than a well designed HTML table and several points of conversion. Understanding intent in this scenario, I am simply offering a little information and hoping they’ll convert for more.z
But what if they don’t?
If the user does not convert through the options provided, we’ll deploy behavioral automation. A script waits until it senses the mouse hover off screen and deploys an exit intent popup.
It would look something like this:
Upon sensing that the user may be leaving the page, we change tactics and present content designed for those not yet supporting us, those in Level 3 or 4, something like:
Obama’s Administration Made 3 BIG Mistakes This free PDF explains how we can fix them
Pretty tantalizing, huh?
The goal here is simple. We want to move just one voter out of the one-to-many digital communication channels of advertising and social media and into the one-to-one channel of email marketing. Over time we can work them into a supporter and hopefully an investor.
It’s About Shared Value
I’ve long thought that audience intelligence, maybe the real “big data” in digital politics. Upon its back exists a whole economy of political intention that we have yet to understand and tap into.
The more we understand the end voter’s purpose, the better we can predict their behavior, and the sooner we can offer real value.
And it’s when we offer voters something substantive that we start to win hearts and minds.