ClickZ cases the candidates: Email marketing

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In this new series, ClickZ is going to look at different facets of digital marketing and analyze how the presidential candidates are using them. First up: email.

Back in October, we ranked the presidential candidates’ digital marketing efforts. It’s been a while, so we decided to revisit the White House hopefuls.

A lot can change in four months – since our initial rankings, Ben Carson has fallen out of favor (this didn’t help)  and Ted Cruz has become a much more serious contender on the Republican side.

Instead of a broad overview, we decided to look more closely at specific strategies this time.

It’s going to be a series and it’s going to highlight the five candidates who have the best chance of succeeding President Obama: Hillary Clinton, Cruz, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

On the heels of the New Hampshire primary, ClickZ Cases the Candidates kicks off with email. In preparation, I joined all of their mailing lists.

Hillary Clinton

The best job-hunting advice I’ve ever received was, use “you” more than “I.” Your prospective employer doesn’t really care about you and what you want; instead, you should focus on how you’ll help them and make their lives easier.

Clinton’s emails bring that to mind. Every one of them – including the ones sent by Bill and Chelsea – come off like I am an integral part of her campaign. It’s a powerful bit of personalization that’s belied by the emails not actually being personalized.

Most politicians’ emails are designed to get donations; that’s par for the course. But Clinton comes off particularly heavy-handed about it, especially since she calls me “Friend.”

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Ted Cruz

Of these five candidates, Cruz’s emails are by far the weakest.

Immediately after signing up, I received a generic welcome email and haven’t heard from the Texas senator since.

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Marco Rubio

Within seconds of signing up, I received a welcome email from Rubio. Everyone does that, but this message had the link to a survey that asked which issue is most important to me and my preferred way of supporting a campaign, be it going door to door or sharing on social.

Rubio and his team email me constantly: 16 times in the past week. But while his emails come in a bit too much, they are quite good.

He takes Clinton’s strong “you” and “I” ratio to the next level. In one message, a Rubio staffer emailed me to say that he noticed my name wasn’t on a recent donation list and asked me if everything was OK.

That’s just one example, but they’re all like that. But unlike Clinton, my name is sprinkled throughout, so it really does come off like he’s talking to me personally.

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Bernie Sanders

Like Rubio, Sanders has nailed tone of voice. The Vermonter’s emails are written in such a conversational manner that it feels like I’m reading a personal message from a friend. Even when he’s asking for a donation, which is seamlessly woven into the message, it comes off like he’s casually asking me for a favor.

Sanders ends each email with, “Paid for by Bernie 2016 (not the millionaires),” which is a nice touch.

It’s very on-brand, much like the “Sisters and Brothers” opening that supports his whole “We’re in this together” message.

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Donald Trump

Trump’s candidacy is an anomaly in a few ways, one of them being that he’s not looking for any money. Instead, he’s looking for support and his emails tend to focus on the campaign trail and where you can lend it.

The most recent email from Team Trump (which included my name) came just before the New Hampshire primaries, and invited me to various events in the Granite State, complete with the link to register for tickets. Scrolling down, I saw more invites for rallies in South Carolina, Louisiana and Florida.

Not everyone is nearby enough to lend their support in person. Trump’s emails end with links to all his social feeds, something none of the other candidates do.

My main criticism of his email campaign is how infrequently I see it. There should be a happy medium between Trump’s strategy of sending a couple of emails every week and Rubio’s strategy of sending a couple every minute.

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To sum up

Who’s the best email marketer in the presidential race? I’m giving it to Rubio.

The other candidates (besides Cruz) have their strengths: Sanders’ tone of voice, Clinton’s ability to make the recipient feel important, and Trump’s multichannel approach, connecting his emails to social and in-person events.

Rubio may send too many emails, but they have elements of the other three, along with the strongest personalization.

Personalized emails are opened more often and surely they can’t hurt a presidential candidate’s chances of getting donations.

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