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Direct voter contact through grassroots campaigning is one of the most effective ways to connect and build relationships with voters. The challenge is finding the exact voters the campaign needs to persuade.
That’s where voter modeling and targeting come in. These techniques help define a universe of voters that the campaign will focus its grassroots campaigning and marketing effort on.
This may seem elementary, but I often work with House candidates running for open seats or challenging incumbent Republican congressmen and they don’t know where to start. In these campaigns, I tell them, it’s key to determine which voters supported the incumbent GOPer and could be potentially persuaded to switch their votes to your side.
Based on that experience, here are the major steps to running an effective voter targeting and micro-marketing program.
Determine the win number
The first analysis a campaign must conduct is to figure out the win number based on past elections. In this case a Democratic challenger is running for congress in an off year presidential election. The campaign would look at the total number of voters that voted in the last off year election then divide that number by two.
If the incumbent Republican congressman received 150,000 votes and the Democratic challenger received 100,000 votes, the total is 250,000 votes. The predicted win number in this case is 125,001 votes.
Other variables that should be taken into account that may effect the predicted win number are the amount the Democrat or Republican may spend, a higher turnout because of highly competitive campaign and newly registered voters who may vote for change.
The persuade and switch number
The predicted win number is 125,001 votes and the incumbent Republican received 150,000 votes so the Democratic challenger campaign must persuade and switch 25,001 voters to win.
Choose a credible voter data firm
Gathering accurate demographic information on targeted voters is critical. The voter data firm the campaign chooses must be professional and credible, which isn’t always the case.
Since significant campaign resources will be put into the direct voter grassroots contact program, the voter data for modeling and targeting must be accurate, credible and verified.
The campaign should have a voter data verification process. A campaign team member should go through the voter data and verify the voter data. The campaign can also have a third-party voter data vendor verify the data to avoid inaccurate or fraudulent voter data.
Creation of the voter modeling and targeting a universe of persuadable voters
It’s important for a campaign to have an experienced voter modeling and targeting strategist. The candidate, campaign team, voter modeling and targeting strategist, direct mail consultant and a voter data firm should decide, as a team, which voter demographics to use for the program.
Back to our example: Out of the 150,000 votes the Republican incumbent received, the campaign will need to determine the number of voters it must target to reach the 25,001 switch number.
I usually double the switch number so the amount of targeted voters would be 50,000. Please keep in mind these voters voted for the incumbent Republican. Now the voter modeling & targeting analysis can start. Which 50,000 voters out of the 150,000 voters should the campaign target? This is where professional voter modeling analysis comes in play based on voter demographics, shared values and issues.
The voter demographics that must be looked at when modeling and targeting are age, gender, ethnicity, occupation, income level, education level, voting history, geographical location, if the voter could be independent based on a voter model analysis score and if the voter is newly registered. The campaign would use these demographics to analyze which voters the campaign believes could be potentially switched. Senior citizens are always a major voting block in elections and must be specifically looked at when doing the analysis.
Micro market to the universe of voters you’ve selected
Once the targeted universe of voters has been chosen the campaign can start to market and brand the candidate using various micro marketing mediums. The campaign should engage the targeted voters through an early direct voter contact grassroots volunteer door-to-door and phone banking outreach effort, social media, targeted digital advertising and direct mail.
Initially volunteers should be used to reach out to and build relationships with strategic messaging to the targeted voters giving and gathering information on issues important to the voter and additional contact information. The volunteer would ask the voter to follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter, to sign up for text messages and ask for an email address.
The campaign would continue to build a voter profile for each individual voter. As the campaign gathers information it can craft strategic messaging based on issues, shared values and demographics for each voter as well as have additional communication vehicles to connect with the targeted voters.
Kenneth S. Christensen is the CEO of Christensen & Associates Inc., a D.C.–based Democratic national fundraising and political consulting firm.