Campaign Boot Camp 9: One Voter at a Time

(Thinking about running for office? RightVoter presents “Campaign Boot Camp,” a series of essential “how to run for office” rules for your campaign.  For the full series, click here.)

So we’ve gone through a “Ten House Election” and expanded it to a “Ten Thousand House Election.” (Click the links for a refresher.)  What do both have in common? They both treat voters as individuals who need to be contacted, persuaded, and motivated to vote.

As you set up your campaign – from the back office to the voter contact systems – build it based on a “one voter at a time” model.

How? Let’s look at the back office first and start with a business card. You’re at an event, you have a conversation with someone, and he hands you a business card. What happens next? Who gets that business card? Does it come with additional information? (i.e. “This guy told me he wants to volunteer for the campaign.”) How is the information recorded? By whom? Where? When? Who follows up with the contact? What do they ask him? How do they get him into the office to volunteer? What is the step-by-step system for closing the sale?

That’s right, sale. Campaigning is sales. You move someone from target to prospect to client. And then you upsell.

Is the person a potential donor? You need to move him from potential donor to donor to repeat donor to fundraiser. You’ve closed the sale.

Is the person an activist? You need to move him from activist to supporter to volunteer to repeat volunteer or endorser. You’ve closed the sale.

Makes sense, right? The back office of your campaign has to be set up to manage that sales process.

Now apply it to every single registered voter. Identify your targets and create a sales process. Move each target from undecided voter to supporter to a vote on Election Day.

How do you do it? Look back at the “Ten House Election.”

Talk to the person and determine what will persuade him. Call him. Go to his house. Identify his motivations by asking questions.

Persuade him. Make the sales pitch. Call him. Go to his house. Deliver a message that you know he will respond to. Send him a direct mail piece. Utilize micro-targeted digital advertising.

Reinforce the persuasion. If he started out as undecided, don’t assume that one contact is enough. It needs to be repeated and reinforced throughout the campaign. Even your supporters need to hear a reinforcement message.

Ask him to vote. Ask for the sale. This is the beginning of the get-out-the-vote process. Call him. Go to his house. Send him a direct mail piece or digital ad with a motivating “get out the vote” message.

Make sure he votes. Close the sale. Get him to sign on the line which is dotted. Call him. Go to his house. Send him a direct mail piece or digital ad. Encourage him to vote early or absentee. Follow up. Repeat this over and over again over the course of the final days of the campaign, all the way through the day on Election Day.

You’ve closed the sale. Did you close enough “one voter at a time” sales to win? Well, no. Chances are you weren’t able to knock on every single door. You weren’t able to talk to every single targeted voter. In the end, you’re going to be left with a whole lot of people you didn’t contact. Two things to remember:

First, the people you contact “one voter at a time” will be the most valuable voters for your campaign. The more supporters you can identify and get out to vote, the better you will do on Election Day, period. It may be only 5-10% of your vote goal, but those are votes you can take to the bank.

Second, you can draw conclusions about the uncontacted voters from the data you’ve collected along the way. If 80% of the undecided voters you’ve talked to can be persuaded with a message, use that message in the rest of your campaign. (Think of it as very, very high-quality polling data. After all, most polls draw conclusions based on 450 completed surveys. You will be completing tens of thousands.)

We’ll get to “the rest of your campaign” – communicating with a broad-based audience using things like television, radio, earned media, etc. – in later posts. But for now, remember that every time you add someone to your list of people who you’ve persuaded to vote for you on Election Day, you’re one vote closer to winning.

A-B-C. A – always, B – be, C – closing. Always be closing. Always be closing!