Twenty-four. That’s the average number of political mail pieces received by registered voters during the 2018 midterms — totaling more than 2.5 billion pieces.
It’s become a uniquely American tradition.
In the weeks leading up to elections, Americans will receive postcards and flyers each day. Some are clean-cut pieces designed to improve awareness and solidify a candidate’s image. Most, however, are opposition smear campaigns with bold, fear-based messaging designed to negatively impact the opposition. It’s truly an art.
And, it works.
And now you can do it yourself in less than ten minutes, more on that later…
From local to federal campaigns, candidates rely heavily on direct mail to boost awareness, bolster GOTV efforts, and disparage rivals on topics ranging from key election issues to personal missteps.
The result is a booming industry.
“Political Mail Revenue was $563 million, tracking above goal by 31%,” David E. Williams, the USPS’s chief operating officer told the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee after last year’s elections.
Even with the explosion of smartphones, social media, and messaging, most experts agree that direct mail plays a vital role in winning campaigns.
“I always send a partisan postcard with a simple message highlighting my party affiliation,” says Gary Davis, a political consultant who has served in three local elected positions including Mayor, City Council, and School Board.
“We mailed 14,000 postcards to target voters, and our analytics suggest that we won 80% of their vote. Direct mail is still the most cost-efficient way to influence voters,” said Davis.
What’s Your Budget?
In competitive races, candidates and staffers work grueling hours, surviving on a diet of pizza, coffee, and sheer will. As the working masses clock out at 5pm, campaign staffers hustle from event to event, with little time to spare.
As responsibilities compound, it becomes increasingly difficult to allocate time and resources into marketing, especially campaigns which require substantial investment.
Ironically, the thing that matters most — marketing to influence voters — gets backburnered.
Marketing campaigns require voter data, research, iterative creative sessions, media buying, execution, and follow-through. They require a mix of talent and experience that can simultaneously deliver results while avoiding costly mistakes. As a result, the barrier to entry, especially for bootstrapped campaigns, is high.
In stark contrast, well-funded campaigns outsource their marketing efforts to the pros. With the stroke of a pen, they buy highly influential ad campaigns that run across multiple channels in perfect coordination, making countless impressions on key voter segments.
But it costs thousands to hire consultants, and thousands more to run campaigns through them.
And importantly, access to either national party voter database requires a direct spend, or spend with an agency who has the access credentials.
It’s not a level playing field.
“Voter segmentation and clear messaging to that segment are critical,” says Rodger Roeser, CEO of Ohio-based public relations firm, The Eisen Agency. “So, having someone who is expert in creating that synergy is important. Our most successful campaigns have up to seven touchpoints that further the prospect towards a desired action.”
How can smaller campaigns compete?
A New Political Ad Platform Anybody Can Afford
In September 2019, a Virginia-based martech company distributed a press release promoting a new “all-in-one political ad platform” enabling candidates to reach voters with direct mail and digital ads, in minutes.
The platform was developed by Taradel, a 12-time Inc. 5000 company that has successfully launched similar solutions for small businesses looking to compete with national brands.
“Political ad spend is at an all-time high,” said Taradel founder and CEO, Jim Fitzgerald. “But the political ad industry is focused on the well-funded state and federal campaigns. Our platform gives every candidate, regardless of budget, access to the same marketing tools used by high-dollar consultants.”
Key features of Taradel’s political platform include a targeting tool for VTDs ranging from school precincts to congressional districts, built-in access to L2’s database of 190 million regularly-updated voter records, and nearly one hundred free, professionally-designed ad templates.
The platform also enables campaigns to reach the same target voters with Facebook ads, Google display network banner ads, and opt-in email communications.
Additionally, users can upload in-house data to reach specific voters for grassroots fundraising or other outreach efforts.
“This is the future. You don’t need a big budget and you don’t need any experience. All you need is a compelling message and a few minutes. Our technology does everything for you.”
Taradel’s political mail platform is now open and available to all candidates and campaigns.
Chris Barr is the director of marketing at Taradel, a perennial Inc. 5000 Martech company. Since 2006, Chris has helped serial entrepreneur, Jim Fitzgerald, build Taradel from a spare-room startup into a multi-million dollar entity — with more than 15,000 clients and partnerships that include some of the biggest brands in the world.