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Posts Tagged ‘Accurate Append’

The main takeaway from a discussion of segmenting is to stop sending the same emails to everyone. But there’s another important takeaway for those doing digital political campaigns: people are not all the same, everybody brings unique and important perspectives into your campaign, and acknowledging that goes a long way towards getting supporters to help out in the best ways they can.

Segmentation originally emerged as a marketing strategy for email advertising of products and services. So it feels a little awkward talking about marketing strategies in relation to digital political campaigning, especially since many of the campaigns we work on are quite a distance away from the values of corporate advertisers. Two things get me through the incongruency. First, I don’t see an alternative in this system to raising money, doing so quickly and efficiently, and utilizing some level of mass marketing to do it. At the present time in the present world, it costs money to elect candidates who will defend reproductive rights, resist deregulation, and—if we demand it and support the right candidates—ultimately move us away from a pay-to-play political system.

Second, I’ve seen, and been a part of, thoughtful campaigns that use emails as part of larger conversations, of which raising money is an honest part, but not the whole. Strategies like segmentation sound cheesy, and in many contexts they can be cheesy. But strategies to find the kind of campaign supporters you want to engage are also essential, and if done right, can be the opposite of depersonalizing.

Scholars of persuasion going all the way back to Aristotle have emphasized the importance of understanding the different needs and situations of audiences. While political constituents have many common values and beliefs, they may have many different ways of getting there. Good communicators understand not only those common values and beliefs, but particular people’s unique starting points and priorities.

Even really market-oriented consultants say that good segmentation is about thinking beyond where people are right now. In politics, that means that people will reveal their policy hopes, and their aspirations about the political culture they want to live, if your email engagement can ask the right questions. Surveys are obviously an effective way to do this.

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The process actually begins a couple of steps earlier. Email verification and appending for your voter lists is really important before you start sending pre-segmented emails that are designed to reach everyone on the voter list, because that’s the point where you’re most likely to have a lot of those emails land somewhere they don’t belong, whether that means bouncing or end up in the inboxes of those who don’t want them. So you’ll want to use an email verification, and email append with Accurate Append (including their lead validation) to get the best quality and coverage. Verification isn’t very expensive; it’s about a penny per email, and is worth it to avoid inbox penalties from email service providers.

From there, once you have an accurate list, you can email out a survey about issues in the district, with a simple landing page with little campaign branding so that people won’t feel like you’re baiting-and-switching them. The data from that survey will be like gold to your campaign team, allowing prioritization of subject matter for subsequent emails, social media engagement, and even traditional media engagement. Questions about voters’ income levels and ages can also inform both subject matter prioritization and fundraising, and you can also get that data from your vendor.  

Segmentation was one of the tactics in the Obama campaign team’s impressive use of email. Bloggers back in 2012 wrote enthusiastically about the campaign’s “detailed segmentation” that included sending different messages and asks to different levels of donors, or enthusiastic versus mild supporters. Committed supporters would receive a video, while undecided voters (yes, the campaign segmented them out too) received a chart showing job growth in Obama’s first term. Whatever might be said of Obama’s policies, he had a superior campaign team that made supporters feel like they were part of a larger vision. Every election, I work with candidates who have what I believe are critical and timely visions of policy. I want to know and respond to any information I can get about voters in those races.

While money is important, we know spending the most money doesn’t win elections (although the candidates who spend the most money usually win – it’s complicated, read the article). I think one thing that does win, when races are close, is candidates going the extra mile to understand and appropriately respond to their supporters, because doing so will inspire those supporters to put more energy and value into the campaign. Smart and thoughtful campaigns will append the gaps in their voter lists, gather specific information about the voters through surveys or other techniques, and then use segmentation to ask the appropriate voters for the appropriate things. None of that needs to be cynical or cheesy if you don’t want it to be.

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The new CTO of the DNC has already notched up a big win in Virgina, where the Democrats and aligned “WinVA” poured staff and new distributed field tools into the House of Delegates race, winning net +15 seats (three seats are still too close to call – in the balance are control of the Legislature and deeper influence on the state’s redistricting process).

I’m very pleased that VoterCircle played a role in this victory. Back in 2015, after being laid off by NationBuilder, I joined VoterCircle as an advisor – its growth has been extremely strong, but what’s most promising is VoterCircle’s potential to dramatically reduce the cost of elections. The software works by matching a campaign supporter’s personal network (email, generally, but LinkedIn and phone contacts also work) with eligible voters. At enterprise rates, it costs just $0.10 per contact – much cheaper than mail, and each contact is a confirmed email open. Whenever I prepare campaign plans these days, I lean in on VoterCircle – can we cut the cost of voter contact and then focus volunteer time on doors and phones with voters we cannot reach through a personal network?

Putting a digital touch on field contacts not only gives us a better look at who’s getting our campaign messages and how they are reacting, VoterCircle also learns from the campaigns networks, identifying the most influential voters with a campaign’s target universe. Campaigns can then focus special attention on supporters who can reach more than 10, 50, or more voters with just one email.

I also like to use cell phone and email data appends with VoterCircle to improve the quality matches (you can also use that data in survey-based email campaigns and in texting programs).

The most challenging barrier to adoption of a tool like VoterCircle is user trust – the DNC went a long way there by enlisting well-known surrogates:

With trusted, well-known surrogates, you’ve reduced the barrier to use – if you don’t have a Rosie or a VP candidate, try using the candidate themselves!

Wired magazine covered VA as an opportunity for the Democratic Party to take more risks in districts it may not win.

Tech donors bundlers also said they will be using data from VA to assist other Democrats use their money efficiently.

Read DNC CTO Raffi Krikorian’s thoughts here.

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Back when I was working at NationBuilder, we all got a laugh out of a video that comedian Jon Lajoie (“Taco” from the hit series, “The League”) made to poke fun at successful producers and actors who use Kickstarter and crowdfunding for their projects.

In the video, Lajoie asks for $500,000,000 just for the hell of it, and offers rewards like, “absolutely nothing” for $20, because “$20 doesn’t mean shit to rich people like me,” and, “If you pledge $50 or more, I will send you a photo of me burning a $50 bill while riding a jetski.”

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Lajoie used NationBuilder to take pledges for his “Kickstarter,” raising billions in satirical cash. The campaign page was Facebook liked 64,000 times and won media coverage in tech pubs like Mashable. Lajoie’s video pitch itself has been viewed more than 2 million times.

And a campaign like this isn’t just funny – it’s a great way to grow an email list. Unless, like the campaign, the emails are fake. There’s nothing that will get you on the bad side of your bulk email provider faster than trying to send to tens of thousands of made up emails. So what do you do?

The easiest way to verify your emails is with a real-time lookup that screens out profanity, obviously malformed emails, and may even check them against databases of known emails. One such API-based lookup comes from email and data append provider Accurate Append, through its real-time lead validation service.

Real-time validation of email leads isn’t just important for funny men gone viral – anyone doing paid lead acquisition needs to know that the names coming in are accurate.

Some examples:

  • Political fundraising
  • Credit card and financing offers
  • Home repair and remodeling services
  • Legal assistance

The list continues. Whether you’re going viral, or just paying a few cents per lead, make sure you’re getting the results you think you’re getting and consider real-time lead verification.

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Guest post from Roger Buehler

The two things that I absolutely HATE to do more than anything else is landscaping and sales, and it’s all due to what was the worst job I ever had:  selling lawn aeration.

For those of you not up on their horticulture, lawn aeration involves taking a machine with a big steel drum on the front of it and rolling it over your lawn.  The drum is covered in short hollow tubes, which stick out like spines.  As the drum rolls over your lawn, the tubes press into the soil and pull out hundreds of little “plugs”, or as I call them, “goose poop” (since that’s what they look like), and leave your lawn filled with hundreds of little holes. By punching the holes in the lawn, oxygen is supposed to make it to the plant’s root system, and your lawn is supposed to get greener.

At one time or another, you’ve probably had someone like me knock on your door.  If you answered, I’d give you a spiel about how I and my co-workers would be in your neighborhood in a few day’s time, aerating your neighbor’s lawn, and since we were already here, we’d be willing to swing by and aerate your lawn at the fantastically low price of…(Insert made-up price here).

In truth, I and 5 other guys would squeeze into a Toyota extended-cab pickup belonging to the owner of the company, and he would drop us off at a random Bay Area neighborhood.  We would disperse, and spend the rest of the day going door to door haranguing all those unlucky enough to answer their doors with our sales pitch.  We would get any number of responses (I was threatened with an “ass-whoopin'” on more than one occasion), but a surprisingly large number of times (surprising to me anyway) we would get a “yes.”

At the end of the week, the owner paid us a percentage on the sales we made, and then he went to the customers’ houses with the aerator and punched holes in their lawns.  What he never shared with the customers was his “trade secret”; he secretly applied an industrial strength lawn fertilizer that would, as he called it, “make asphalt grow,” to pretty much guarantee a greener lawn in about a week.  Of course, without continually being “juiced,” the lush green lawns turned brown a few weeks later, and then he’d be back with a new crew, trying to sell the same customers on getting their lawns aerated yet again!

I kicked ass at that job (yes, it surprised even me), but I hated the job so much that it turned me off sales and yard work to this day.

The biggest problem was that we had no information regarding our potential customers.  We just knocked on door after door.  I would have to knock on anywhere between 2 and 25 doors before I even got to talk to someone.  

The job would have been so much easier with some key customer information: What hours is the homeowner at home? Do we have their work number and home number? How much money do they make? Do they take care of the lawn themselves or do they hire a gardener? How much money do they spend on lawn care annually?

Any of this information would have allowed us to just focus on the customers who were potentially interested in our product, and skip the houses with no one home, and who had their own gardener doing this work for them already.

So clearly, our marketing and sales process was inefficient, but I wonder, how many companies’ sales processes and marketing campaigns are just as inefficient, and consist of just emailing as many potential customers as possible, making sales where they can, while pissing off a whole lot more?

If you want to be successful in sales without alienating potential customers, you need accurate, timely, customer data. Luckily, lawn aerators of today across the country can rejoice in the fact that they have access to infinitely better data than I ever did.

Accurate Append provides companies with complete data append, phone append, mobile phone append, email append data and cell phone append.  They can also integrate data processing capabilities into your business processes, so you know that your data is always current.  Their team has more than 45 years’ data processing experience, so they’re uniquely qualified to provide their clients with the timely, accurate and complete contact data they need to profitably grow their customer base.

So, don’t just electronically knock on every door out there, call a data append company like Accurate Append, and see how they can help your business grow (even without special fertilizers).

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For much of my four years at NationBuilder, I worked on email deliverability – either directly monitoring the results of our customer email blasts, or working with the delivery director on thorny deliverability issues and strategies and documentation to help our customers get more out of our email product.

I always look at bulk email delivery as an art as well as a technical challenge. While nonprofits and political campaigns want to get their message to as many people as swiftly as possible, internet service providers (ISPs) are devoted to keeping their customers’ inboxes as clean and relevant as possible. This means they have teams of engineers working to keep unwanted bulk mail out. In order to successfully navigate the inboxes of supporters and voters, you need to send relevant, wanted messages that will be regularly opened. And you’ve also got to avoid technical problems that signal to ISPs that your emails might be spam. When emailing, it’s not what’s legal (such as sending emails to a voter file list), it’s what the ISPs think of your e-blasts that ultimately matters.

One of the biggest things you can do to improve e-blast results is regularly eliminate bad and bouncing addresses from your sends. Thankfully, NationBuilder does much of this for you in an automated fashion. And while I was with the company, I developed a relationship with Accurate Append, a firm that specializes in verifying emails before you send to them. You can do this in two ways – in real time as emails are submitted on web forms – or in bulk with any list you haven’t been sending to regularly. It’s estimated that you can lose as much as 2% of your list each month due to changes in folks’ email addresses. That means if you’re running for office and using a list of personal contacts whom you don’t routinely email, 20-50% of your list may be bad. You can “clean” your list simply by running it through an inexpensive process with Accurate Append, and make sure you stay on the ISPs good side by sending to highly valid addresses where your messages will be opened, read and responded to.

If you’d like to read more email deliverability tips, NationBuilder has a good guide to email best practices. For campaigns and other outreach efforts, Accurate Append also provides email append and phone append products. I recently wrote up a guide to using appends to generate laser-targeted Facebook advertising audiences.

If you’d like to learn more about how Accurate Append can help with your data challenges, just give them a call or fill out a web form.

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