What Can Marketers Learn From the Presidential Campaign?

There’s no doubt that political campaigning in the 2016 U.S. presidential race is radically different from previous races. Today's average citizen uses more than two digital devices and platforms, making the voter journey far more complex than ever before.

So how are candidates reaching potential voters? Despite newer emerging channels like Snapchat and Instagram, email marketing remains at the heart of political campaigns. In fact, email continues to yield the highest ROI for marketers, returning $39 for every dollar spent. Politicians emailing potential voters are no different from brands emailing customers —the same rules apply. Here are four tips for email-marketing success, whether your ultimate goal is votes or leads.

1. Move away from batch-and-blast. Email-marketing success is no longer defined by how many opens a message earns, but rather, how effective it is at driving individual behavior. Personalized, customer-centric messaging outperforms batch-and-blast techniques every time. At best, blasts are ineffective — but worse, they can land you in trouble. Last month, the Republican nominee learned this lesson the hard way as Donald Trump’s first email campaign landed in the spam folders of lawmakers abroad.

Practice good email-list management and send with context in mind. Target your message to appropriate segments of your mailing list to avoid poor ROI and negative impact on your brand equity. Email that is flagged as spam or receives a high rate of complaints isn’t engaging users, and consumers today are protective of their mailboxes. Most people don’t want to receive email blasts from politicians—or from marketers. Curate your list carefully before sending and ensure content is relevant, timely, and targeted at the right recipients.

2. There’s no campaigning without cross-channel. Gone are the days of isolated TV, direct mail, and email marketing; today it’s essential to take a cross-channel approach. Analyzing both online and offline behaviors of your target audience allows politicians to discern the unique characteristics of each demographic, or even down to individuals. The value of data lies in its ability to help politicians serve up content based on individuals’ preferred channel of communication.

The job of a campaign manager or political marketing executive is to know their pool of voters.

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are targeting influential Millennial voters through their cross-channel campaigns. According to one survey, one in seven voters reported seeing Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat ads in favor of both candidates, within the same time period. Campaign management needs to be as much about web analytics and content management as it does about email and social media execution. 

3. Test subject lines for success. In 2012, the Obama campaign tailored its email campaign with one simple subject line: “Hey.” The casual, straightforward nature of this one word grabbed the attention of millions of Americans because it felt like opening an email from any old friend. The lessons from this email campaign are noteworthy, leading to increased open rates and click-through rates and improved engagement. Simplicity was on point for the Obama campaign, but how do you learn what works and what doesn’t? Testing. Politicians are unlikely to be skilled in email marketing optimization techniques, but running simple A/B tests of email subject lines is an easy, practical way to identify what your recipients are more likely to respond to.

4. Up your design game. As attention spans shrink (the average today is less than that of a goldfish), great design and optimization are paramount. In a recent Adobe survey, consumers ranked display (65 percent) as the most important aspect when it comes to content experiences in their personal lives, and 54 percent listed overall good design — such as appealing layout and photography — as important. Consumers are multiscreening more than ever before, and improving content and design to address these preferences is critical. Up your design game and you’ll keep your audience and constituents interested.

Whether you’re a campaign strategist looking to capture votes or a brand marketer shooting for conversions, email marketing is the key to success. Design customer-centric messaging that’s relevant and timely, maximize cross-channel techniques, and make certain your design is great. Email-marketing campaigns — political or otherwise — that satisfy these criteria will be nothing short of huge.

Bridgette Darling is a product marketing manager for Adobe Campaign. In this role, she focuses on marketing and strategy for Campaign’s email marketing capabilities. Darling is passionate about helping email marketers achieve their goals by educating on best practices, advancements in technology, and overall strategy.

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