How to Grow Your Email List for a Political Campaign

Sep 14, 2020 by Shelley Rees

ipad with email logo on screen on chalkboard with envelopes drawn around it

Grow Your Email List if You Want to Win

If you’re running for office, you need to grow your email list, no matter how small the race. Building your list will take a long time, so it’s important to start as early as possible. If you’ve run for office before, you can start by reengaging your old list. If you’re new to campaigns, you can start with your friends and family, but where do you go from there? 

How do I add people to my list?
Begin with the lowest hanging fruit by ensuring that your website includes an easy way for people to sign up for your email list. Your email call to action should stand out on the homepage (along with a donate button!) as well as on subsequent pages. You should also encourage people to sign up for your email list on your social media accounts. Another, similar option would be to have a sign-up sheet at any events you host. This offline action can help convert people to online supporters and donors. Making it easy for people who are already interested to sign up for your email program is the backbone of any strategy to grow your email list. 

Once you have the basics down, petition campaigns are a great way grow your email list. There are a few ways you can get a petition in front of people. The cheapest option is to send out a petition to your existing email list and ask them to sign and pass it along to their family and friends. Or, you could ask other like-minded organizations or candidates to share your petition with their list. To make a bigger impact, you’ll need to spend some money on a paid petition by working with a platform like Care2 or investing in conversion ads on Facebook. Care2 and other petition platforms have a set cost per acquisition (CPA) for new names added to the petition and they will typically guarantee how many signers they can get during your program, which means they have the most predictable results and are also often the most affordable option for a paid petition. That said, they can be limited by geography since they need to have enough members on their platform in the area you’re running your petition in order to get a decent volume of people to sign it. If you’re looking to get people on your list in a narrower geographic area (think smaller than a state or major DMA), Facebook is a good option since everyone and their mom has an account. Facebook also allows you to run different ad creatives simultaneously so you can test out what works best for your program and it’s easy to turn off and on. 

You can also try using incentives to grow your email list. For example, offering free bumper stickers and magnets in exchange for someone’s email address is a good way to grow email lists in an organic way. You’re probably making those magnets and bumper stickers anyway, right? Use them to your advantage! Another option you could consider is a contest. This has worked for a lot of bigger campaigns and committees, who were able to draw big names and big prizes. If you have that kind of reach and resources, try it out!

Remember, building your list is only one piece of the puzzle. Once you start to grow your email list, it’s important to cultivate those relationships and ensure they remain your supporters for the long haul.

How many emails are too many?
The answer, of course, will depend on your organization’s size and capacity. For the Obama campaign, with tens of millions of people on their email lists, they were able to afford the drop off that comes with sending a ton of emails. For a local city council candidate, that might not be a luxury they can afford. Another factor is your campaign or organization’s capacity. Do you have the staff to be able to send multiple emails a week? Not only will that involve sending the emails, but tracking results, monitoring feedback from recipients, and making sure the list is up to date by removing any new unsubscribes. If there are only four of you in the office, you may need to scale down your email frequency in order to keep up with the quality of your list and emails.

When should I send out emails?
A content calendar is an important tool to help you schedule your emails so you’re sending them out at regularly. Look at the next three months and figure out when you have events coming up or important deadlines and then plan your emails and social media updates around these dates. Even if you don’t yet know each date, having something on the calendar will help keep you organized. Your message on email should be echoed on social media, with adjustments made to fit each platform’s style, so you have a coherent message that’s easy to follow. You also shouldn’t make a habit of only sending out emails that express urgency, since that can wear people out. Make sure to send out messages that help people connect with your campaign and feel like a member of a team in addition to the always important donation and voting asks.
Whether you’re sending a lot of political email or a little, make sure you’re always paying attention to your statistics. Pay close attention to the number of people clicking on links, as well as the percentage of people opening your emails. And make sure you track the attrition rate. You want to grow your email list, not shrink it, so if you are losing more people than you are gaining, you need to make some changes.

Who should be the author of my emails?
While it would be great to have big name celebrities and well-known and respected politicians sending emails on your behalf, not every campaign can afford that luxury. Often, it’s the candidates themselves sending out emails, which is a great tactic. Supporters and potential supporters should know your name and voice as a candidate. However, be wary of sending emails only from the candidate as this will cause fatigue.

While it may take time to develop a voice and rapport with other surrogates, it’s important to introduce other members of a campaign. Partners or family members are a great choice since they can speak to the more personal side of the candidate. On the staff side, many times emails from the campaign manager or finance director do well in terms of speaking to strategy and goals of the campaign. Beyond these suggestions, try thinking outside the box. Are there respected community members who have endorsed your campaign and can tell an emotional story? If they have their own email list, for example if they run a volunteer program, you can ask them to send out an email on your behalf to their members with the goal of having those people sign up for your list as well. 

Building a political email list can be a daunting task, but with a few key tactics, you can increase your supporter base that will build towards your path to victory. If you’re new to running for office, your email list will consist of your friends, family, and contacts you’ve kept through the years. With the right tactics, you can grow your email list over the course of your campaign to increase the reach of your message, get the resources you need, and most importantly, get people out to the polls to vote for you. Check out our political campaign strategy tips to make sure the rest of your campaign is in tip top shape.

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