Why Direct Mail Works for Primaries

by Joe Fuld (He/Him)

Primary direct mail Two young females sitting at a table together hugging one another.

Primary Direct Mail for the Win!

Direct mail can be your campaign saving grace. Running for office can be overwhelming. There is a steep learning curve with very little room for error and a lot to consider. Always remember that once you formulate a strong, clear message for your campaign, the most important part of a primary campaign is getting that message out to voters. What better way to do this than via direct mail?  

Why mail?

  1. It's efficient: In fact, sending direct mail is the most cost-efficient way to send voters a paid communications message in a primary. Your voters get the information they need to make a choice at their homes and in their hands. Targeted direct mail has the greatest return-on-investment for primary elections.
  2. It's flexible: Timing is everything in a primary. Direct mail allows you to split universes to focus on those who may vote absentee or early. It is this flexibility that allows you to collect votes and engage voters as they are coming to final decisions about who they want to vote for. In many voter files, you can see when voters have cast their ballots in the past and use that information to hone your targeting. This is not possible to do on a medium like broadcast television.
  3. It's targeted: Although digital has grown in its capacity to reach a targeted audience, no cable or broadcast buy can promise direct mail or digital’s level of targeting. Digital integration is the best practice and one that we suggest to all of our clients. But if you only have the money to dominate one particular tactic, direct mail may be the way to go. Still, I would not stop with one medium.

Your message is ultimately what sets you apart in what can be an often crowded field. It's important to always remember that you need to connect with the right voters as many times as you can. Whether you're speaking at public events or knocking on doors, it's critical you have a medium through which you can communicate with voters that compliments in-person interactions. One really effective medium, especially in a Democratic primary election, is Democratic direct mail! Below are tips to learn more about direct mail as well as maximize your impact: 

Think carefully about your targeting strategy:

Democratic direct mail works in primaries when combined with good targeting. It delivers your message only to the voters who need to receive it, people who have historically voted in Democratic primary elections, and omits voters you don’t need or that you want to avoid. While you will likely have all sorts of other characteristics that carve up a universe of voters to target, the most predictive characteristic of turnout is past voting behavior. So be sure to include vote history in your targeting strategy. You should also include targeting toward demographics that will be responsive to your message as shown from your polling. Create a relationship with the voter so that you can remind the voters of your special connection with them and drive it home. Also, keep your vote goal in mind so that you don’t under- or over-mail.

Focus on who you need to turn out for your primary:

If there has not been a competitive primary in your area in recent times, looking at frequent general election voters who match the characteristics of the voters you want is something you with want to look at. As presidential primaries heat up, you also want to look at voters who will be drawn into the primary based on presidential turnout. These voters may likely be different than traditional primary voters in your area. For municipal primary elections, thinking about a type of non-primary voter that you can target for turnout can be a helpful addition.

Think about the right mail approach for your primary:

Bold, colorful mail, governmental style letters, handwritten postcards, and testimonials are just some of the creative and messaging options available to you. The right images targeted to the right voter can help make a real connection. Using testimonials can drive that message home even further. For direct mail campaigns, the options are nearly endless.

You also can’t talk about everything. In a Democratic primary, there is a tendency and perceived pressure to take a stand on a huge list of issues. Talking about a large group of issues is likely going to leave voters remembering your thoughts on very few of them. Pick a theme and focus on it. If people take you off message, pivot back and stick with your core issues.

Don’t automatically count out younger voters:  

You may think that young voters don’t read their mail, but even voters under thirty still get a lot of bills in the mail, and you may not be able to solely deliver your message through digital advertisements to them. Depending on your broadcast, your television ads buys may never reach that audience either.


You must knock on doors

Mail cannot and should not take the place of door-to-door canvassing. Knocking on doors is the best way to reach voters. However, not all of your target audience will be home to receive your message, which is why it's necessary to deploy strategies like direct mail to increase your reach. Mail will help you reinforce your message with voters you reach, or it will help connect you with voters you don’t.

Mail and Broadcast or Digital Television

In some primaries, you may have the money to be on TV and do mail. Of course, mail can supplement broadcast television and cable television can supplement your direct mail campaigns. Voters, in general, don’t track where they get a video message so whether that is broadcast, cable, OTT, or through programmatic ads, voters see all of it as television.

If you have more questions about primary direct mail drop us a note.  For more advice on direct mail, check out our ultimate guide to direct mail!