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.

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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Before and Better

Recently we were approached by a potential client that had an existing NationBuilder website that they weren't satisfied with. Not NationBuilder's fault. It is an amazing data management platform but you do need to know front-end design to make it look the way you want.

Fortunately, we do. Our challenge was to redesign the front end so that the site would look great in time for the candidate's announcement which was 30 hours away.

I called our design team, bought a case of Red Bull and we went to work. 

26 hours later this is what we delivered.

We think it's better.

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10 Questions To Ask About Your Digital Strategy

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Building a website and creating social media accounts is not a “Digital Campaign”. In fact, these efforts can be counterproductive if you don’t recognize that they are part of a much bigger initiative. Simply put, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms should be viewed as a means to an end. They are online tools designed to help you implement your overall campaign strategy. The questions you really have to ask include: “How do I turn a site visitor into a supporter, a tweet into a door knocker or a Facebook update into a phone caller? Most importantly for a political campaign “How do I leverage all of my online calls to action to win votes on election day?”

It’s actually a bit misleading, and outdated, to refer to Digital Strategy as anyway separate from overall campaign strategy. Campaigns need to learn about and utilize available tools and digital teams need to work closely and cooperatively with the rest of the campaign team.

Here are some key questions to ask about your digital campaign strategy.

  1. Is it fun and easy for your existing supporters to recruit their friends to become volunteers, donors and campaign ambassadors? 
  2. Are they recognized and rewarded for doing so?
  3. Is your campaign able to measure the level of engagement of your online supporters?
  4. Is your campaign able to match its email list to your online supporters?
  5. Is your campaign able to monitor what supporters are talking about online?
  6. Does your campaign have an online “rapid response” team?
  7. Does your campaign A/B test its online presence and message?
  8. Can information collected from voter interactions be added to your voter database in real time?
  9. Has your campaign purchased consumer data and added it to your voter database for the purpose of improving your modeling and micro-targeting?
  10. Regardless of what digital campaign tools your campaign possesses, is there a culture of commitment to use them daily to advance the campaign’s goals through Election Day?

An effective Digital Strategy will enhance communication, coordination and conversion. When we say “communication” we mean both internal and external. Time is perhaps the most precious commodity to a campaign, so wasting it by wading through endless email streams or working on documents that are two versions out of date can be fatal. Press releases, email, social media, blogs, online advertising and all other forms of campaign communication need to be focused, branded and monitored for effectiveness.

A political campaign is a collection of hundreds of moving parts traveling over ever-changing terrain in an often hostile environment. Coordination is key to successfully navigating your way to victory. You need to ensure that your campaign staff and volunteers are on the same page...even if they’re not in the same state.

Ultimately a campaign is about conversion; converting undecideds to supporters,. converting supporters to donors, volunteers and “brand ambassadors” and converting potential voters into actual votes on Election Day. Doing this successfully requires research, planning, execution, meticulous monitoring and the ability to adjust strategies as conditions change.

Brad Marston is Partner and Co-Founder of FourTier Strategies, LLC and a NationBuilder Certified Expert and Architect.

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