Last week, with the disclosure of Google’s US election advertising, we learned that President Trump’s re-election campaign has spent $629,500 advertising on Google platforms since May 31st, making it the top spender in the political category.
This follows news last month that the Trump campaign was also the top spender on Facebook.
The next presidential election is years away and conventional wisdom tells candidates to marshal their resources and work towards having the highest cash on hand number they can muster. But the Trump campaign is doing it differently, and they’re smart to do so.
All of their ads are focused on growing email and SMS lists for fundraising. The bigger your list, the more you’ll raise. It’s simple math, but it still hasn’t taken hold enough in modern campaigns.
I’ve seen far too many candidates squander the time they have between elections – one of the biggest benefits of incumbency – not focused on growing their supporter lists and letting their campaign organization lay fallow.
The Trump re-elect shows the new way forward: always-on campaigns focused on growth.
If President Trump does decide to run for reelection, he will likely have the largest supporter file in the field by a significant factor and the strongest capacity for low-dollar fundraising.
So how do other campaign’s follow this always-on model?
First, don’t stop emailing your list after election day. The volume should absolutely taper off and the mix should trend more towards content and interaction than donations, but don’t be that campaign who only emails their list during end of quarter deadlines.
Second, never stop building your list. Even healthy lists have a certain level of outflow – supporters unsubscribe, change email addresses, or disengage. At a minimum, your campaign needs to replace the people leaving your list.
Third, have someone on your team focused on long-term growth even when you’re not campaigning. They can work with in-cycle campaigns, including local races, to arrange list-exchange agreements. They’ll also be in a position to identify good list building opportunities.
Part of the challenge is that party leaders and major donors have often focused disproportionately on campaigns’ “burn rates” and cash on hand numbers. These are micro – not macro – metrics. I’d personally bet on the campaign with the bigger email list 9 times out of 10 over the campaign with a lower burn rate.
It always gets a laugh but it’s a serious statement: there will never be a time when you wished you had a smaller email list.