INSIGHTS

At FourTier Strategies, we are Patriots first. We are dedicated to empowering conservative candidates and causes. We freely share our ideas and insights in order to assist those who share our values.

Two Candidates Walk Into A Bar

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Is this a joke?

No. In fact, if you are running for office, it is very serious. Our hope is to briefly explain how digital strategy and field strategy no longer operate in separate “silos”...and how the campaigns that best merge the two will be more efficient, effective and ultimately, more successful.

So back to our two candidates. They both walk into a bar and inside are 100 people who live in the district. Obviously, they both want to do the three jobs of a candidate; meet voters, secure votes and raise money. The challenge is that they only have 30 minutes. 

One candidate starts working the room introducing himself and, hopefully, listening to people’s concerns. That is traditional “field.” Candidate 2 [C2] knows that of the 100 people in the bar, only 80 are registered to vote. Given that they are running in a primary, C2 also know which of those 80 voters are members of their party and so can vote for them. C2 also knows which of those voters have voted in at least three of the last four primaries. C2 knows who of those 20 or 30 voters own their home, have a net worth over $500,000 and have donated to past political campaigns. C2 looks for those specific voters and starts implementing her strategy. That is effectively merging field and digital.

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No Campaign Plans To Lose

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...What they do is fail to plan.

In the private sector, startup companies often spend months developing business plans. That intensive but necessary process includes a significant amount of research...and that research is critical to the development of effective strategies and tactics.

Most political campaigns are like business startups and the candidates are essentially new “products.” We published a blog post a couple of years ago “Ten Questions To Ask Before Running For Office.” Assuming you can ask and adequately answer those questions, the next question is “Now what?”

The answer? Plan, Plan, Plan.

The first number you need to know is “Votes To Win.”

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Don't Just Broadcast. Enlist and Engage


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When we design candidate websites, we never make the About the Candidate page the homepage. Obviously you will want to tell everyone about your educational and work background, how amazing your spouse is and about your wonderful children, but it shouldn't be the first thing people see. We believe it sends the message that the campaign is about the candidate. It's not. The campaign is about the visitor, the volunteer, and ultimately, the voter. Sure, you want to give visitors a sense of who the candidate is but you can and should do that visually with compelling images and good design. What you really want to do is engage and enlist visitors to become supporters and volunteers.

The image above is from the homepage from our new Insurgent Theme Template. On the left is a standard email signup (although we did add the increasingly popular social signup). Obviously, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to give you their contact information. The center panel is the Profile Checklist which will show visitors what actions they have taken on the site. All listed items are hyperlinked to the appropriate pages. On the right is a volunteer signup form, which also allows visitors to take actions without ever clicking away from the home page.

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The Forthright-Local Theme - Powerful, Responsive and Affordable

FourTier Strategies New Forthright Local Theme

Since 2010, FourTier Strategies has designed more than eighty websites for Republican political campaigns and conservative issue-advocacy organizations. We have worked with dozens of Congressional and US Senate candidates, some conservative PACs, and even Herman Cain's campaign for President of the United States.

We designed all of our clients’ sites using NationBuilder...and we couldn’t be happier with the platform. We’ve written about why campaigns should look at NationBuilder for their campaign infrastructure. In short, it is simply the best, most affordable, and most robust data/donor/volunteer/voter management system available on the market.

We also custom-designed all or parts of those 80+ sites, however; and this was both time consuming and labor-intensive. Quite frankly, that kind of customization is outside the budget of most smaller campaigns.

We wanted to change that, so we created Forthright-Local.  In order to help down-ticket candidates, we packaged the technical knowledge and hands-on experience we gained over the years into a far more affordable, yet 100% NationBuilder-compliant, website at a price almost any campaign can afford.

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Make Any Page A Landing Page

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And make is SMART too.

We were working on a splash/landing page for a client, J.D. Winteregg. We wanted to create a splash page that encourages visitors to use Facebook to sign up on the site. Statistics show that over 70% of site traffic is from first-time users for political websites. We want to do everything we can to begin developing relationships with potential supporters, volunteers, donors and most importantly, voters.  A campaign gets so much more information about that sign up if visitors use Facebook to join the site rather than just name and email address. 

Yes, with NationBuilder's Match function which pulls in a supporter's Facebook, Twitter and/or LinkedIn profile information there is a good chance that the campaign will get that information if that visitor uses the same email address when they sign up for the site as they use for those profiles. But that is potentially a big if. Why take the risk?

So we came up with a typical splash/landing page that makes it easy for visitors to become supporters, give us access to their Facebook profile information, donate or just skip to the site homepage. We pulled in the signup page using a partial template.

I looked at what we came up with and thought it looked pretty awesome. Then I thought, why stop there? Why not create a page type that allows our clients to make any page a landing page increasing the chance we can begin developing that relationship?

So we did.

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Using Filtering and Liquid to Increase Your Donation Email Click-Throughs

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There are countless articles and blog posts about effective email marketing. I know. I have read most of them. This post is specifically about getting better results (Raising more money) from your campaign's existing email list by using NationBuilder filters for Strategic Targeting.

The essence of Strategic Targeting is delivering the right message to the right people at the right time. I recently posted an article Don't Just Collect an Email. Start a Relationship which talks about how to collect email addresses so that they can be used strategically to develop and deepen relationships. This article is a continuation of that theme.

Most of us have seen political email fundraising done wrong. If you've ever donated to a political campaign you've probably gotten an email asking:

  • "Please donate by midnight tomorrow" when you donated yesterday at 8:30 AM;
  • "Can you Chip In $5?" when your last donation was for $500;
  • "Join my GOLD Leadership Team with a donation of $1000 or more" when the most you have ever donated to the campaign was $20 or my "favorite";
  • "Friend, Can you please support my campaign?" when I have already signed up to donate monthly.

What is wrong with all those asks? They tell the recipient that either you don't know or don't care about them and how they have supported your campaign. Don't ask someone to do something they have already done. Don't insult someone who has made a major investment in your campaign. Don't ask someone to do something they probably can't do.

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Don't Just Collect An Email. Start A Relationship

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Any consultant or campaign manager will tell you that email acquisition is the lifeblood of a campaign. You'll use them for Voter ID, Volunteer Recruitment and yes, Fundraising. But what if beyond just acquiring a name and an email address you use the process to start a relationship with that potential voter, volunteer and/or donor. If structured correctly, every interaction with a campaign website is a data point. In fact, it can be multiple data points.

As a NationBuilder Certified Expert, I am often asked: "Can't we just blast email or blast direct message people." My answer is usually either "no" or "Yes. But no, you shouldn't." What you should automate is collecting data. What you should personalize is how you use it.

We recently launched a new site for a client MattLynch.com. Matt is running for Congress in Ohio. There are 3 signup opportunities on the home page. One is in the modal signup form that floats over the header video banner. The other two are underneath quotes by the candidate regarding Right to Life and the 2nd Amendment.

If the user didn't already have an email associated with their account the homepage template had {% include "home-email capture %} which was just a partial template of the signup form. Yeah, it's great if they sign up but it doesn't give you much information.

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4 Reasons You Need To Look At NationBuilder

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The 2016 election cycle is already upon us. Candidates are making decisions on digital matters that include websites, voter and volunteer data management systems and donation platforms. The savviest among them will be taking the time to determine how to best utilize and leverage the avalanche of data that is going to come cascading into their campaigns in the weeks and months ahead. For these initiatives, FourTier Strategies recommends NationBuilder.

The key reason we recommend it to our clients is because NationBuilder best supports four premises that we believe are vital to the success of a campaign.

1.    There is no field strategy, digital strategy and communications strategy. There is only strategy.

2.    Information in a silo is almost always underutilized.

3.    Most campaigns should avoid “big data” and focus on perfecting their use of “small data.”

4.    Websites should be user-centric.

THERE IS ONLY STRATEGY.

There is really nothing a campaign wants to do offline that it doesn’t also want to do online (e.g. increase name recognition, identify voters, find volunteers and raise money). Tweets, Facebook posts, emails or text blasts, literature drops, direct mail pieces and press releases are all communications. A pledge to vote page, a phone call and a door-to-door canvass all fall into the voter identification bucket. Imagine how much more efficient and powerful all of these efforts will be if they are all coordinated and tracked from one place! That can all happen within NationBuilder.

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10 Questions To Ask BEFORE Running For Office

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If you’re thinking about running for office, now is the time to start moving. But before you “move” in any direction, it would serve you well to “think” about where you are, where you want to go and why it’s in anyone’s interest to help you get there. 

Before FourTier Strategies takes on any new clients, we ask candidates to answer many key questions. Each of our questionnaires is candidate-specific, but whether you’re running for local school board or President of the United States, there are ten basic points that must be addressed. Clearly, the answers to these questions make a difference, but the thought process they trigger is even more critical. In business and politics, strategy must always precede tactics. Our questions and subsequent feedback will help you and your team develop a winning strategy.

While our customized “Q & A” often includes up to fifty questions, here are ten that apply to virtually any campaign:

1. Why are you running for office?

This sounds basic, but you need to answer honestly. If you’re running because you need a job, don’t bother...McDonalds is hiring. If you’re running because you like to “help people”, avoid the hassle and volunteer for a charity. Your public “answer” needs to be compelling, but your private motivation needs to be both noble and sincere. We already have enough career politicians who like to spend other people’s money. Think about it long and hard before answering. This question will come up dozens of times during your campaign.

2. Is your spouse or significant other “on board” with the idea?

Politics is an often nasty and always time-intensive business that places huge demands on relationships and marriages. Your family should always be more important than your political campaign. If you don’t put your family first, we don’t want you as a client; and if your spouse or significant other is not  fully “on board”, you will probably lose anyway. Communicate. Address any of your partner’s concerns before you even think of announcing. If he or she “buys in” fully, you’ve not only secured your most compelling campaign “salesperson” but you’ve also reduced the chances that you’ll end up being banished to the couch for the next year or so!

3. Will your next door neighbor support you?

Now, it’s quite possible that your next door neighbors are completely insane (it happens), so let’s extend this scenario to your street and neighborhood. Bottom line: If you can’t persuade the people who know you best, you’re not likely to persuade total strangers. Reach out. Make friends close to home. Ask for their input and make them feel like a part of your team even before you have a team.  If you play your cards right, these folks will ultimately join your family members as some of your most loyal and active supporters. 

4. Can you afford to run? 

With very few exceptions, successful candidates view their political campaigns as full time endeavors. Can you and your family survive for a year or more without income? Can you take a leave of absence from your job? Can you loan your campaign “seed money” to get off on the right foot or are you totally dependent on donations? Volunteers are terrific, but at some point early in the process, you’re going to need paid staff. Where’s that money coming from?

5. Have you recruited a Fundraising Chairperson?

The four “M”s of FourTier Strategies are MONEY, MUSCLE, MESSAGE and MOMENTUM. Without money, most campaigns flounder, regardless of the candidate’s resume, policy positions or personal charisma. Securing an early commitment from a fundraising chairperson is absolutely essential. This person should agree to raise a predetermined amount and recruit at least ten others (e.g. “Finance Committee”) to do the same. After your spouse, this is the most important “sell” you’ll make during your campaign. If you can’t “close that deal”, you simply should not run.

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Sales 101 For Political Campaigns

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At FourTier Strategies, we always advise our clients to integrate business “best practices” into their political campaigns. After all, most campaigns are similar to “start-ups” and many candidates, especially first-timers, are essentially “new product launches.” While we apply an interdisciplinary approach, one of several professional fields that must not be ignored by political campaigns is “Sales.”

Now, before you push back with “the last thing we need is another snake oil salesman like Barack Obama”, hear me out. That’s not what I want either. I’m talking about understanding some basic principles of effective and ethical “selling”, and I’ve dedicated 25 years of my business career to this very subject.

Principle 1: Identifying “Need”

One of the many “deal killers” in any potential transaction is “No Need.”  Sales is not about tricking people into buying something they don’t want...it’s about providing value by meeting needs in a way that others do not. You can’t provide value, and differentiate yourself in the process until you identify your target audiences and determine what they are thinking, feeling and discussing. In politics, the “need” could be something as general as “defending the Constitution”, something as specific as “stopping Obamacare” or some combination of several tangible and intangible concepts. Bottom line: You need to know what will motivate people to listen to, work for, donate to, and vote for you; and to figure that out, you need to listen to them. Talk is cheap. Listening is the single most important arrow in a salesperson’s quiver. Polling is often helpful, as is social media engagement and data analysis, but nothing is quite as valuable as meeting voters, listening to their personal stories and asking for their feedback.

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