Make the Most of Your Political Mailing

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A targeted mailing list is key to making political campaign mail effective

Believe it or not, not everyone in the U.S. who can vote does.

In fact, only 64% of the U.S. voting-age population was registered in 2016, according to the Census Bureau. Then, depending on whether it’s a presidential election, a mid-term or a local vote, the percent of registered voters who do vote rarely goes above 60 percent and is often much lower. Voter turnout varies from city to city, state to state and election to election. It is never though, anywhere near 100 percent, instead, it hovers in the 40-60 percent range.

Here are some surprising voter turnout statistics, collected by Fairvote.org.

  • Stats from the 2012 presidential election show just how widely voter turnout can vary. In Minnesota, 76% of eligible voters went to polls, in Hawaii, 45%.
  • Who votes the most, on the whole? People who are older, white and well-to-do. In presidential elections, a higher percentage of women vote than men.

Direct mail is the most targeted marketing approach for political campaigns

While most political campaigns take an integrated marketing approach, using TV, radio, newspaper and social media, direct mail remains a hugely effective marketing tool.

For one, direct mail is far more targeted than most other types of marketing used by political campaigns. For example, many who drive by a yard sign don’t vote or even live in a candidate’s district; billions are spent on local television and newspaper ads, which reach thousands of voters, but not necessarily the right ones. Used strategically, direct mail reaches voters on a personal and ultimately, more effective level.

Which voters do you want to reach?

Candidates who run a political mailing should always do some research on voters and voting patterns in their districts. Understanding who votes and what they are interested in can help (1) determine the audience for campaign mailings and (2) make campaign efforts more personalized.

Sending mail only to those who have voted regularly in recent elections instead of to every person who could vote, uses campaign funds more efficiently. For example, instead of sending one mailing to the 4,500 citizens of voting age in a district, a candidate could send three mailings to the 1,500 people who have actually voted in the last two elections.

Use voter information to target likely voters

Targeted political mailings are definitely the best way to spend campaign dollars when it comes to political campaigns. In addition to outlining a candidate’s stand on issues and raising awareness of who they are and why they are running, targeted lists of likely voters are also effective for other campaign-related mailings, such as:

  • fundraising letters
  • invitations to fundraisers
  • invitations to the candidate’s public appearances
  • calls for campaign volunteers

Every year, we buy voter rolls (a public record) for the entire state of Kentucky. These files can only be used for marketing political campaigns, making them perfect for political mailing.

That allows us to create customized mailing lists for candidates running for local, regional and statewide offices.

If a budget is small, we might recommend mailing only to citizens who vote in every election, which is, of course, a smaller pool of voters. If the budget is larger or the race is close and hotly contested, we might recommend that a candidate increase the size of their targeted audience by mailing a campaign postcard to those who have voted in three of the last five general elections.

Combining demographic information with voter records

We also help political candidates combine voter data with other demographic data to create lists of voters based on age, income, or interest in particular issues. By pinpointing these groups, candidates can send voters letters or postcards that detail the candidate’s stance on an issue that is important to that particular voter. A candidate could come up with mailings for different groups of voters, like the three below:

  • Ned and Betty Brown are retired. They both vote in every election. They are interested in issues like tax increases and changes in estate laws.
    Mailing: A candidate could send a letter outlining his stance on these and other issues that are pertinent to retirees. A letter allows for more detail; retirees are more likely to read a longer and more traditional campaign mailing.
  • Jim and Hannah Whitaker are 30-somethings with two children and another on the way. They are concerned about health care and education. They live in a district that includes a new mid-range housing development where many young families live.
    Mailing: An oversized postcard with a photo of a family makes sense here. In concise bullet points, a candidate could cover her pledge to improve the education system and ensure better health care for all.
  • Alex Andrews is a recent college grad, in his first job with an engineering firm. He is concerned about affordable housing, interest rates, and downtown redevelopment.
    Mailing: A self-mailed brochure that pictures the various housing and downtown development projects that a candidate has championed would get this voter’s attention and perhaps his vote.

By identifying their various audiences, like the ones above, candidates can (1) create mailing lists for each segmented audience and (2) send customized mailings that resonate with each group’s specific interests.

The bottom line: Send political mail to those who actually vote

Newcomers to political races are often tempted to mail their campaign brochures and letters to every eligible voter in their district. But between the fact that half the people who could register to vote don’t and half of those who do register to vote don’t end up voting every time, the pool of likely voters shrinks pretty dramatically. Our advice to political candidates who come to us to assist with a direct mail political campaign always starts with this statement: Don’t mail to everybody! Market to voters not to those who could vote but don’t.

If you’d like to talk to us about strategies for your political campaign, give us a call.

by:

Julie Thomas

Business Development


April 23, 2019

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