Quality vs. Quantity
Which Is Best for Your Campaign?
Published by Campaign Secrets
One of our recent Campaign Quick Tips encourages you to focus on quality, not quantity, when it comes to your campaign communication. Specifically, it warns “Talking to everyone results in communicating to no one.”
This week’s Hot Tip will address this subject in-depth and provide specific examples of how you can make sure your campaign doesn’t make this common mistake.
When you get right down to it, your campaign communication efforts are nothing more than good old fashioned direct marketing. You’re sending a marketing piece to voters asking them to “buy” your candidate.
Just like in the retail world, the success of that marketing piece isn’t measured by how many people receive it or how well it’s designed. Its success is measured by how many people actually purchased the product it was selling relative to the cost of sending the marketing piece.
Ask any successful direct marketer and they’ll tell you that the #1 key to success is the list they market to. In most cases, there is an inverse relationship between the size of the list and results it gets. The larger the list, the worse the results. The smaller the list, the better the results.
The reason is targeting. The more you can break your lists down, the more you can target your message. The more you can target your message, the better your results will be.
The same is true with your campaign.
Here’s a basic example.
In our online seminar “How Elections Are Really Won & Why Most Campaigns Waste 75% of Their Resources,” we illustrate the common mistake of knocking on every door in your district. While it might be great exercise and give you a sense of accomplishment, it’s 75% inefficient because only about 25% of the people in your district will actually vote.
To use marketing lingo, it means that 75% of the people you were marketing to weren’t even qualified buyers.
It’s a perfect illustration of quality versus quantity when it comes to campaign communication.
Going door-to-door is just one example though.
Many campaigns make the same mistake with their mail, phones, radio and more. In this Hot Tip, we’re going to review common mistakes in each of those areas and how you can void them. The most important thing, however, is for you to review each mistake thinking about how you can use the same “Quality versus Quantity” analysis in other parts of your campaign.
Unfortunately, these three mistakes are illustrative of many others made by campaigns every day.
QvQ Direct Mail Mistake
It’s not uncommon to hear a campaign bragging that they saved money on their mail using the “Postal Patron” postage rate. You’re probably familiar with this special rate from a lot of the junk mail you receive. Rather that addressing every mail piece individually, you simply address everything to “Postal Patron” and the carriers just put the mail piece in every box rather than putting specific mail pieces in specific mailboxes.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to send an 8.5”x5.5” postcard using the “Postal Patron” postage rates. Your postage cost will “only” be 12¢ per postcard. If you sent that same postcard using the “Standard” (i.e. bulk) postage rates you’d pay 24¢ per postcard. At first glance it looks like you are saving 50% on postage by using the “Postal Patron” rate. A more thorough analysis, however, reveals that looks can be deceiving.
Let’s start with the most simple analysis.
Depending on where you live, anywhere between 20-35% of the households in your district won’t have a registered voter in them. So, right off the top, you can add 20-35% to the cost of your “Postal Patron” mailing to account for people that can't vote but to whom you still paid to send the postcard.
Now, let’s go a little deeper.
Let’s say you do some simple targeting and eliminate everyone from your recipient (i.e. registered voter) list who either 1) Hasn’t voted in any of the last four elections, or 2) Has voted in the last three Democratic primaries (assuming you’re a Republican).
This simple “targeting” would eliminate another 10-20% from your recipient list.
So, just like that, your “discounted” postage ends up costing about the same as regular bulk rate postage. So, what’s the big deal, right? After all, if it’s basically the same price, why not send it to an extra 5,000 people? Well, we’re not done yet.
With the “Postal Patron” postage, you have to send the same thing to everyone. In other words, you’re using the same mail piece to persuade a 40 year old mother of three who’s worried about education and an 80 year old grandmother who’s worried about Social Security. And that’s not to mention the fathers, grandfathers, college students, singles, marrieds, whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and countless other demographic groups that will get the exact same mailing.
Using the regular bulk mail rates, you could send each of those groups a mail piece focused on their issues for exactly the same price.
Let’s break it down. Assume your district has 10,000 households.
It will cost you $1,200 in postage to send a generic, one-size-fits-all mail piece to every household. Approximately 50% of the people who get it will be either not registered to vote, not going to vote, or have decided already they aren’t voting for you. The 50% who are going to vote, will have to sift through your mailer to find the one little section – assuming there is one – with information about the issue of most concern to them. And you can bet the farm that the majority of these people will not take the time to that and will simply choose to throw away the mailer.
Now let’s look at the same mailing sent using bulk mail.
Your targeting can quickly eliminate the 50% of the people who are not registered, not going to vote, or have already decided they aren’t voting for you. So rather than mailing 10,000 households, you only have to mail 5,000. Your postage cost for this mailing then is the exact same $1,200. However, with a little more targeting you can send each household a mail piece that features the issue of most concern to them.
For example, your mailer to young families could have the headline “Steve Smith’s Six Step Plan to Improve our Schools.” The mailer to seniors could have the headline “Steve Smith’s Plan to Guarantee Social Security for Seniors.”
Now ask yourself, if you cared about education or Social Security and you got one of those mailings, would you take the time to read it? Probably.
So, with the “expensive” bulk mail you paid exactly the same amount to reach the same number of voters, but you had a much greater impact.
There’s not a better example of the difference between quantity and quality when it comes to campaign communication.
QvQ Phone Mistake
Most campaigns use a 3-step process to make automated phone calls:
Prepare a list of voters with phone numbers. Record the message. Deliver the message to the entire list. Again, with this approach you’re delivering the exact same one-size-fits-all message to the 40 year old mother and the 80 year old grandmother. Sure, you probably got a 1-2¢ per call quantity discount because you used a large list, but you severely diluted your effectiveness.
The more you can break up your automated call list into segments the better. How you do that is up to you. You could use demographics, economics, or geographics.
Then, with just a little extra work you can deliver a more targeted message -- focused on the issue of most concern to them -- to each of your smaller lists.
You might even consider having different people record the message for each list. For example, you could have a teacher record a message for parents with school-aged children or a senior record the message for seniors.
Again, the more targeted approach may require a little extra work and maybe even a little more money, but at the end of the day your return on investment will be significantly higher.
QvQ Radio Ad Mistake
Radio ads are another example of where the “Quality versus Quantity” mistake rears its ugly head on campaigns. It’s illustrated by ridiculous statements like, “No one listens to that radio station.”
That’s simply not true. If no one listened to that station, it wouldn’t be in business (with the exception of NPR). The truth is that while the station may have a smaller audience than others, it’s likely to be a very targeted audience. You’ll know exactly who’s listening.
When you’re buying radio ads, you’ll have to choose between running a few ads on the HUGE stations or a lot of ads on the small stations. For some reason, most campaigns tend to opt for running a few ads on the HUGE stations. In other words, they go for quantity over quality again.
The principle here, too, is simple and straightforward.
Paying extra to reach an extra large audience isn’t usually the best choice for local campaigns. Remember, a large number of the “extra” people you reach through the larger stations aren’t going to vote. In many cases, they won’t even live in your district.
On the other hand, if you buy an ad during the local radio station’s farm report you are going to know exactly who’s listening and can develop your ad appropriately.
The ad on the HUGE station will likely be less expensive when you consider the cost per listener. However, as it was with mail and phones, it will end up being more expensive in the long run.
The bottom line is simple. Campaigns are all about direct marketing. You’re constantly selling your campaign in person, through the mail, on the phone, and with advertising. And, just like it is the retail world, direct marketing success is measured by results -- not reach.
It might make you feel good to knock on every door, send everyone a piece of mail, make a call to everyone, or have your ads on the big radio station, but it’s not the best investment for your campaign.
Remember, results are what matter. And, as we said in the Campaign Quick Tip that spawned this Hot Tip, “Talking to everyone results in communicating to no one.”