4. Subject: Victory is in Sight
Julie Germany: This is probably the most traditional of the emails. Everything from the subject line to the text reminds me of 2008. It’s a basic, old-fashioned email.
Matthew Dybwad: This is another email where the engagement link is at the very end. The writing is good and it builds momentum well—thanking the supporter and building to the moment of victory, keeping up a good pace and drawing the reader into and through the piece.
Scott Dworkin: I am not sure why “sight” is capitalized in the subject line, and I don’t like how “is” is followed by “in”. The content of this is choppy at best. There are different, random numbers, but it doesn’t really show why I should care. The ask is way too low in the email, and there is no direct ask for a specific amount. They set the bar too low by saying $250 or less is the norm.
Taryn Rosenkranz: Republicans and Democrats differ the most when it comes to length. Romney used voter messaging rather than fundraising language. There is no transaction to give but party loyalty.
Peter Pasi: This email is well-written but sounds more like a speech than an ask for money. It also doesn’t paint the opponent as a real enemy or a force to be reckoned with. It is aspirational but lacks urgency.
5. Subject: We will recover
Julie Germany: When I read this, my mind lost track after the third paragraph. Putting the call to action—donating—all the way at the bottom of the email can be really tricky if I’m your target audience. My eyes wander if you don’t get to the point, and I delete the email before you can tell me what you want me to do.
Matthew Dybwad: I like the layout here, and I think including the brand as an image is important for consistency, even if plain text emails are also on the schedule. This is something Romney did better than Obama. The script is well written, but the “offer” is pure rhetoric, as opposed to something a supporter could actually latch onto. Written as a post-debate follow up, it’s meant to inspire more support but lacks the personality, humor and genuine quality that the Obama scripts consistently nailed.
As is popular with many R-side email scripts, the action links come at the very bottom. This is a mistake. Readers need to be able to know what the email is about and how to act on it within the first two-to-three sentences. Why make the reader read until the very end before asking them to act? In the information economy, every second counts and this squanders opportunity.
Scott Dworkin: Good subject line—good subject to have it on as well. But the email is choppy and a bit all over the place. I like how they have the header in this; it’s not always good to strip out all images. But again, the ask is at the end of the email and fails to specify an amount.
Taryn Rosenkranz: The most notable thing about this email is it’s so long. The trend is to keep them short and cut to the chase. The subject line was great because it got me to want to open it. Subject lines should never give away the punch line, and this one doesn’t.
Peter Pasi: Again, this email does a good job of hitting the talking points, but effective direct response is conversational and emotional. As a conservative, I understand what they are saying, but I think the campaign needs to more clearly lay out the case for why a donation right now will help them win.
Takeaways for your campaign
Julie Germany: This election cycle saw the rise of big data in digital politics, especially with email. Personalizing the issue and context just enough to not seem creepy, and constantly monitoring what did and did not work, helped political campaigns evolve the medium and master the art of email fundraising solicitations.
Matthew Dybwad: I don’t know that there are any new, startling revelations; optimizing the performance of email continues to be a testing and learning process for every campaign individually, with different strategies paying of depending on audience makeup.
Speaking broadly as to the appeal and direction of the email communication from campaigns in general though, I think we’re seeing trends toward more colloquial language, shorter, more focused email scripts with much clearer calls to action and more creative offers and benefits being used to entice people to engage. These are all positive trends that make these emails easier to read and more attractive to audiences, especially the growing millennial generation, which now equals the size of the boomer generation. Millennials were raised on email, expect real dialogue and aren’t oriented to the direct mail approach of campaigns past.
Scott Dworkin: Email blasts were taken to a new level this cycle. Some campaigns even sent out multiple ones daily. I have seen it to be most successful for re-solicits and pushing in outstanding pledges when it comes to contributions. Still, nothing beats person-to-person interactions. A phone call and a handshake will always win no matter what technological advances are made via email.
Taryn Rosenkranz: Many suspected that email fundraising would have lost its luster this cycle but it hasn’t. Though, that doesn’t mean it has gotten easier. In fact, the competition is getting fiercer and harder. Those who were successful at it got that they had to send more emails and be first on the scene—creating the “I just left the stage” moments you see at the national level post-debates and conventions. But now you are seeing this kind of message after events, even at the congressional level.
People quickly figured out that shorter is better. Emails became less about the “message” than about the transaction. Why do I need to give and why right now—in as few words as possible. The old-fashioned elevator pitch in tweet-size characters has become more of the norm for an email. And those who were able to do these “express” accounts or “quick give” buttons in emails really did better than their counterparts. Those who adapted their program to fit the needs of mobile users saw the best results. Lastly, the gloves are of on volume; it’s totally acceptable to send three emails in the same day—something unheard before Obama ‘08.
Peter Pasi: The EMILY’s List and Democrat emails had compelling subject lines. If you received those in your inbox, you’d want to read them. Unfortunately, the Romney emails had subject lines which are aspirational but didn't encourage action.
I believe all successful fundraising appeals have four things in common: 1) A statement of a challenge, which can be partially solved by the recipient’s donation; 2) An enemy or “devil” that needs to be defeated; 3) A compelling story which succinctly explains the challenge and the donor’s role in addressing it; 4) A deadline by which a prospective donor must respond.