Is your membership full of identical people with the same interests, preferences and behavior? No, I didn’t think so. But I bet many membership organizations send the same election marketing messages to all their members, no matter the member’s past behavior.
I was reminded about the importance of targeting marketing messages by voter segment during a recent Associations 101 webinar presented by Lauren Hefner, CAE — Ten Tips in Twenty Minutes: Segmenting Stakeholder Communications.
The most important thing to remember is this: don’t treat all voters the same.
Segment election messaging by voters’ past behavior.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Obama’s team tested everything in emails that could possibly be tested. The only factor that made a big difference was tailoring messages to a person’s previous actions, i.e., their past behavior. Hefner reinforced this message — make sure the segments you’re using reflect behavioral differences. Start by identifying two groups of eligible voters — past voters and unreliable or non-voters — and target each with specific messaging.
What if you don’t have data on voting history? Hefner suggests looking at the member data you do have and may take for granted, for example, board, committee and task force members, or members who volunteer or attend events regularly. Or, for your next election, you could start from scratch and treat all members as non-voters and begin collecting data on their actual voting behavior.
Election marketing message ideas for non-voters
Help unreliable/non-voters think of themselves as voters. The word “voter” (an identity) is much more powerful than the word “vote” or “voting” (an activity). Even if they haven’t voted in the past, if you address them as the type of person who votes, they will want to live up to the expectations that come along with that identity. The Obama campaign used this tactic successfully in their scripts.
Another effective message for unreliable/non-voters is “join the crowd.” Studies have shown that messages referring to low turnout have no effect, but messages that encourage voters to join the crowd (“everyone is doing it”) are more apt to compel people to vote. To reinforce this messaging, provide updates on how many people have voted so far and share the names of people who have voted.
Election marketing messages for regular voters
Hefner also advises an annual review of segmentation since people move in and out of segments. Many of your non-voters will become part of the voting crowd. In future elections you want to help them maintain their social identity or self-image as part of a superior or virtuous group – voters. In election marketing messages, speak of their influence, participation, leadership, contributions or professionalism in such a way that affirms they’re part of an elite group that makes a difference.
Other segmentation ideas
Segment your voters by communication preference too. Who prefers emails? Printed materials? Social updates? Texts? Hefner says to pay attention to the devices people are using. If voters are reading your emails on their mobile phones, it’s important to design mobile-friendly subject lines and email copy.
If your member data is comprehensive enough and your technology is sophisticated enough, you could identify how the election impacts different segments of your membership, for example, early-career members vs. veteran members, or nearby members vs. far-away members. In preparation for the development of election marketing messages, take time to think about the election from each segment’s perspective. Instead of making assumptions, talk to a sample of members from each segment. Why would they vote? How does the outcome affect them? How will voting make them feel?
At Votenet, we always encourage our clients to become electioneers. Experiment and test. See what works – what type of messaging, subject lines or templates will cause someone to open an email or click a link. Design a marketing campaign that targets unreliable or non-voters so you can move them into the regular voter segment.