Did Obama Win the Election Because Of Email?

I'll be the first to admit I'm a major email nerd -- and so it was with more than a political interest that I observed emails from the candidates and political parties as they poured into my inbox this past year. Already, much has been written about President-elect Barack Obama's campaign and its highly effective use of new media and direct marketing tactics to tap into and engage with a wide base of supporters. Many say this strategy gave Democrats the crucial edge needed to win this year's election.

It wasn't just Obama's presidential campaign that used email effectively this year; it was the Democratic National Committee program as a whole. They followed email marketing best practices to engage and inform their subscribers, as well as solicit donations. I'm not going to go so far as to say the DNC's email program was the reason Democrats won the White House, but I do think email played a more important role than ever before in this election.

Lessons we can all take away from the DNC's email program from the past year:

Be relevant.  I know regular readers of the Email Insider are probably tired of reading the words "be" and "relevant" next to each other. However, it's no coincidence fellow Email Insider writers and industry colleagues so frequently tout the importance of sending relevant emails. In a nutshell, being relevant means sending messages that appeal to the interests of your recipients. A message that isn't relevant isn't likely to get much attention.

This year's election was certainly a relevant topic for just about anyone living in the United States, so it wasn't exactly a stretch for the DNC emails to be relevant (indeed many online retailers also included plenty of election-themed messaging throughout the final months of the election). But they took their program many steps further by segmenting and sending targeted messages based on geography and past behavior.

Be engaging. The DNC kept a constant barrage of emails coming during the campaign, keeping them engaging by using such tactics as creative -- often dramatic -- subject lines and timely alerts. Most interestingly, they used different friendly "from" lines, coming from various Democratic celebrities like "Hillary Clinton" or "Michelle Obama."

Be clear.  A good call-to-action should always let recipients know what steps they should take and where a link will take them if they click on it. The majority of emails from the DNC included prominent buttons with bold text reading "Please Donate," in addition to well-articulated text links that included strong emotional appeals combined with clear steps to take action. Here's a great example of a primary call-to-action link from one of the emails I received in October: "Take a minute to consider what's at stake, then please make a donation of $5 or more today."

Be strategic.  At the end of the day, successful execution of any email program starts with long-term strategy and planning. It's obvious a lot of thought went into the DNC's email program. Without laying the groundwork of segmentation, messaging, list-building, frequency and contingency planning, they wouldn't have been able to effectively execute and adapt to the rapidly shifting political landscape throughout the long campaign.

Whether you're a bleeding-heart liberal or dyed-in-the-wool conservative, you can still agree, I think, that the DNC developed and ran a great email program this past election cycle. Regardless of our personal political leanings, we can all study and learn from their campaign and put some of their ideas to work in our own email programs.

I'll end my column this week with a request to share some of your own inspiring emails or strategies from the recent election. Tell us what you learned from or found effective in candidates' or organizations' emails!



Next story loading loading..