Are you using the Internet as effectively as Hillary?

After going through my candiate emails (and trust me, there are a lot of them), I began to evaluate the rationale of the content (similar to what I did for the English eCampaigning in 2005). In going through the emails, I began to notice a trend that should be noted such that the other candidates are better equipped for the upcoming online battle ahead. To this end, take a look at this quick and dirty assessment of emails I have been keeping track of:
One of the interesting things about the frequency of the emails coming out, is that their specficity of action has become more targeted. In the last three months, Hillary (and her staff have) discussed:

All in the past three months. And note, almost no request for money for her – only for Mike Arcuri. In comparison, in the past three months, Kerry has sent:

  • Requests to contribute to races he supports – which goes back to his contribution server
  • Sign a petition for the Kerry-Feingold amendment
  • Cheerleading emails ending with “Make a Contribution”
  • Call your Senator on Iraq – with a “report back feature” on the page
  • Support Enviromental Candidates fundraiser – back to his contribution server

And what about the other candidates? Well, Joe Biden’s “Unite Our States” has:

Why do you act?
Why the analysis? Consider the trends above – note that for every issue discussed, if you were to “sign the petition” or do the action requests, do you think your action results in an action within the campaign? Or are you saving the staff time and energy by keying in your details and signalling the campaign your interest “hot buttons”?

One of the greatest challenges we faced during the primaries of Kerry Campaign was how to inspire people to donate via online donations. In a crowded field of ten candidates and a front-runner found in the wintery hills of Vermont, we were frustrated with equal parts of growing our list and successfully burning it out with continued fundraising emails that were not very effective. With our limited budget and dwindling timeframe, we discovered that we had to optimize our email performance with the limited services and tools we had. So what is happening now?

Identifying your interests increases donations
One of the lessons I learned from Kerry Finance Director Pete Maroney and National Treasurer Bob Farmer (as well as others on the Kerry Fundraising Team) were skills about how to entice donations and convincing others to contribute. It was amazing to watch Maroney on the phone making calls to various donors. He was equal slaesman, taskmaster, psychologist and badgering family member – depending on whom he spoke with. He could be sweet, harsh, smooth, short, halting, etcera – whatever he felt would connect with the person on the other end of the phone. What made all the difference was his understanding of the hot buttons for each donor and how to conjole them to donate.

So why do I bring this up? Well, a lesson from Cialdini’s book “Influence” talks about the start of the alignment and loyalty being borne upon the small, low-cost actions that bring about longer-term engagement and investment in whatever they are aligning themselves with. It is kind of funny to think that something as inexpensive as submitting your name and email address to a website should have any psychological impact on you, but consider the next step:

  • The candidate that you signed their petition now asks you to help them with the same issue by emailing your friends about the issue – complete with a tool to handle composing and delivering the email. It does not cost you anything but five minutes of time, and you can even connect to your Outlook Contact list if you’d like. So, you decide to help and send the message to your friends or to the local paper.
  • Now, Congress is now addressing this issue on the floor of the House or Senate. Now, they need you to reach out and tell more of your friends. Or perhaps to support another candidate on the issue since they are in a battle for their seat against the opposition. Give a small donation (with a trailing amount in cents to show your support) around $5, $10, $25.
  • And now, the candidate is looking for contributions for some other issue. What do you think you will do?

The greatest value in the web has always been about information that can be pulled from large amounts of data. google started from an effective algorithm, but what makes the ads it serves effective is about knowing your interests and intents. Sales and revenue is the short-term metric of performance, but information and rationale for action is all about long-term “customer” value. Politics seems to focus on short-term returns – because campaigns are about 18 month engagements. Savvy candidates spend most of their time building Rolodexes with high dollar contributors and understand their rationale for donating – which makes raising money for re-election that much easier. But with McCain-Feingold and the ability of small-dollars to be aggregated into large funds, it is more important to understand the trends of the masses and slice and dice with greater precision.

Catching up with the (business) Jones
This is not rocket science. Companies have these tools within their grasp (look at E-piphany) and product driven companies know this in their DNA. Pollsters for years have been using this knowledge for the benefit of the candidate to understand the best message to address – since it has been focus-group tested and evaluated. Ahhh – but there’s the rub. It is not about the lowest common denominator any more – it is about “mass customization” and building relationships with supporters while using technology and information to connect more effectively.

So what’s a voter to do?
Good question. Interestingly, you have to decide for yourself. Senator Clinton, who seems to have invested the most in her Internet infrastructure and planning (as evidenced by her focus on soft actions, instead of continuous appeals for donations) has been working this for longer then most. While John Kerry might have a larger list (from the 2004 election), it is obvious from the body of emails that his focus is on his issues – not on the members of the list. My bet – with the Mayfield Strategies solution behind her, she will begin to target more specifically over time as described earlier. Down to understanding and mixing in demographic, psychographic and geographic information to better target you durring the primaries and even during the general. And what does this cost her?

Return on Investment
Well, since Senator Clinton (and Cantwell and Nelson) is running for re-election and she is a Senator, it turns out that Senators are exempt from submitting their financials electronically. But political action committees are not exempt – which affords us but a glimpse. John Kerry’s Keeping America’s Promise is paying Mayfield Strategies a maintenance fee of $5K per month for site and service management and when other features need to be added (like the Call Your Senator page) increases the spend to numbers like $10K. And, my evaluation suggests that they do not use MSG for their email content.

From my own assessment, it could be assumed her Senate committee (focusing on the longer-term goal of the Presidential run) is paying on the order of 10K per month – which includes service, content (especially for their emails and video) and statistics. And, add on the needs for additional services like Flash or other services not included beyond the base offering, and she could easily be paying on the order of $20K per month.

Sounds like a lot? Consider the total cost is on the order of $200K for a year. How much will be made in the long run with such improved information? Thinking long-term has given Hillary the chance to surpass the successes of Dean and Kerry. Dean brought in close to $40M with donations under $100. Kerry, simply by being the presumed Democratic fundraiser and the alternative to Bush, was able to draw in $82M during the primary on the web. Imagine what 2008 will bring.

For the price of two senior fundraisers, Hillary’s Internet fundraising operation is position to break Kerry’s totals – and provide Hillary with the most effective political marketing engine through emails, text messages, videos, etcera. What will the rest of the field do from this day forward?

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1 Response to Are you using the Internet as effectively as Hillary?

  1. Making the Grade:

    At first blush, Hillary’s site kind of looks like a simple re-templating of her Senate site – maintaining the some of the lighter blues of her past campaign site – and adding the requisite navy blues and red necessary for a “presidential” site. Upon t…

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