Modeling Potential Voters v. SEM

A couple of weeks ago at the American Association of Political Consultants Conference in Sacramento a number of smart consultants were touting the benefits of modeling to identify potential voters. Modeling is the art/science of extrapolating characteristics that may indicate voter behavior. An example of bass fishermen was used. i.e: most bass fishermen oppose tax increases. Thus if Candidate Smith is an anti-tax crusader, you’ll want to mail Smith’s anti-tax message to all the bass fisherman in the district.

Modeling is great if you want to make tiny, marginal gains and have a big budget to try and find the small segment of bass fishermen that may still live in the district, may be registered, may be interested in the election and may vote. Most candidates simply don’t have the budget today for all those mays and maybes.

There is a far better way to identify voters today than through modeling. Would you rather know who may be interested in opposing the 710 Freeway extension or would you rather specific voters tell you they are opposed? Modeling can give you a list of folks that may likely oppose the Freeway 710 extension. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) can give you the names, addresses, phone numbers and email of people that tell you ​they are opposed to the 710 extension.

Search Engine Marketing is becoming a common practice in public affairs and lobbying but political consultants have been slower to adopt the practice. Recently
Advocacy.Marketing undertook a campaign in which SEM motivated almost 4,000 people to contact the FCC to express their opposition to a corporate merger of two telecom titans. Today our client retains the names, addresses, email and phone number of those opposed. Mind you these are not folks likely to be opposed, they have volunteered their opposition.

As public affairs professionals have discovered, SEM is not nearly as expensive as buying data on which to base modeling projections. Advocacy.Marketing ended-up identifying these opponents for about 50 cents a contact, toward the end of the campaign. SEM works because when voters or potential voters are interested in an issue or candidate, they search Google, Yahoo or Bing for information. While searching they view ads that give them a way to express their support or opposition to whatever they are searching for.

Let’s say Candidate Smith is basing part of his campaign on stopping the 710 extension. Candidate Smith clearly wants to appeal to those in the district that also oppose the 710 extension. Through highly targeted ads, those opposed are driven to a landing page that allows them to express their opposition and get more information by submitting their name, address, email and phone number. Want more information? Add a box for party affiliation or “Yes, I endorse Smith” or anything else that might help candidate Smith’s campaign.

That specific information is clearly better than modeling who may be likely voters and it allows Smith’s campaign to touch those that have self-identified with news and updates about Smith’s opposition to 710 throughout the campaign. If candidate Smith uses SEM for the 710 extension, a local education issue and say a tax issue– that is what once was called building a political base. It used to take months-and-months to identify voters and their position on specific issues. It had to be done at town hall meetings, meet the candidate nights, through push polls, mail-back polls, phone banks and door-to-door. It took months. Forget all that, SEM can identify those voters early in the campaign so they can be communicated with throughout the campaign, not just at the end.

OK, does SEM identify actual registered voters? No but neither does modeling. The benefit of SEM is again early identification that allows Smith’s campaign to match respondents to the voter file. Respondents that are not registered can be registered as election day is still months away. SEM does what modeling can’t– SEM provides self-identifiable, specific information, early in the campaign and delivers it all affordably.

Our tagline at Advocacy.Marketing is Lobbying Online and we have operated successful SEM campaigns for clients in the lobbying and public affairs space as well as for political campaigns. Let us help your clients build their political base today, not next year.