Marketing Lessons From the Presidential Primaries

While following the seemingly endless 2008 presidential primaries, one is reminded there’s a lot online marketers can learn from political campaigns. Like an online purchaser, voters have gone through the various phases of the purchase funnel, narrowing the field from numerous candidates with diverse ideologies in Iowa to a few candidates in Pennsylvania.

Twelve Campaign Tips

Here’s a checklist of 12 top campaign factors to use to assess your online marketing:

  • Create a campaign plan. Lay out an integrated strategy for reaching a diverse group of voters. Think long term. It’s not about one specific primary but rather the aggregate vote from all primaries. Similarly, online marketers must have an ongoing plan to continue to raise their visibility and engage prospects.
  • Raise sufficient funds. In politics, this must be done to effectively carry a candidate’s election campaign across a broad base of constituents. Both Barack Obama and Ron Paul are notable for their campaigns’ online fundraising success relative to their peers. Further, it’s important to note that funds raised online consist of a large number of smaller donations from a broad base of contributors.

    For online marketers, this translates into getting and justifying a budget. From an analytics perspective, this means determining how much you spent in recent campaigns and how effective they were at driving results. Among the factors to assess are the number of potential prospects reached and the number of prospects converted to donors, as well as total costs, total revenue, and relevant ratios.

  • Develop a message and related brand image. And keep them simple. In today’s short news cycle, complex ideas are difficult to translate. Online marketers must have a clear message that talks to consumers’ needs and possesses consistency in branding.
  • Talk to constituents and press the flesh to gather input. In politics, the aim is to see what voters think and how they react to the candidate’s message. What’s important during this phase is determining voters’ needs and how your candidate can meet them. Online marketers must constantly test their offering and message.
  • Adjust your message (if necessary). For example, Hillary Clinton had to appear more sensitive in New Hampshire. By contrast, Rudy Giuliani continued to reiterate his September 11 message. Just as candidates must modify their platform to meet the public’s needs, online marketers must consider whether to adjust messaging to reach the appropriate audience.
  • Differentiate the message based on the target market. For example, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama modified their messaging on NAFTA when they campaigned in Ohio. It’s important to think about the specific needs that customers are looking to satisfy.
  • Build a base of advocates. In politics, this consists of other elected officials and highly visible people who support the candidate. Online marketers must attract advocates as well. They can use well-known celebrities or enthusiastic customers to promote their brands.
  • Debate other candidates. From an online marketing perspective, this is akin to comparison shopping. How does your product stand up to the competition’s?
  • Listen to what’s being said about your campaign, especially in the press. This year’s election has consumed the press and garnered lots of media attention. It’s critical to ensure that this additional exposure reflects well on your candidate or to perform damage control if needed. Online marketers should assess whether their message is getting through. Has it lost something in translation? Remember, it’s not just about what you say about your product but also what others say and how they influence public opinion. To this end, monitor what’s being said about your candidate or product in a wide variety of forums, both online and off-.
  • Act quickly to turn a crisis into an opportunity. Just as Obama used the flap about his pastor to gain media attention by making a policy speech, it’s critical to react promptly and decisively to issues that may sway consumers. Where possible, online marketers should consider alternatives that enable you to create purchase opportunities.
  • Watch polling results. As with any good online marketing campaign, candidates must track results and determine where they are is relative to other candidates so they can modify their marketing accordingly.
  • Get out the vote on the big day. On election day, campaign work translates to votes cast for your candidate. In online marketing, it’s getting prospects to actually purchase product from your firm.

Remember just as a campaign isn’t made by only one primary, an online marketing program requires long-term vision and ongoing support. Keep tweaking your campaign’s various components to ensure it meets your consumers’ needs.

Heidi is off this week. Today’s column ran earlier on ClickZ.

Want more campaign information? Check out our ClickZ News Campaign ’08 section for the latest news and analysis.

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