CRM: The Political Activist’s “Secret Weapon”

If you’re involved in a political campaign or organization, you already know that “lists,” e.g. donor lists, mailing lists, and so on, play a key role in mobilizing your support base. This is nothing new. Since direct mail was invented about a century ago by Mr. Sears of Sears & Roebuck fame, both for-profit and non-profit organizations have relied on lists to drum up sales and support. The tradition lives on today not only in mailing lists, but in phone solicitation and e-mail lists as well.

Beyond “List Management”

Think of list management as an old but effective way to move your message—comparable to, say, an old, sturdy wheelbarrow. If we stay in this analogy, CRM is more like a 3-ton payloader!

The big limitation of list management is that it is essentially ignores the individual. You try to get as many people as you can on your lists, and then send out appropriate “blasts.” You may get results, sometimes even very good ones. But because you’re depending on economies of scale (e.g. bulk postage), the communications you create are inevitably going to look impersonal and mass-produced—in other words, like “junk mail” (even though direct marketers hate the term).

It’s All About Relationships

If you’re lucky, some of the people you contact through mass marketing will respond very favorably, and become either major donors or volunteers. When someone does this, your organization (if it’s at all well run) will respond with more than just another mass mailing. Perhaps you’ll write an individual letter to the person, make a phone call, or arrange a meeting. Whatever you do, you’ll be cultivating a genuine relationship.

You know that such relationships absolutely essential to your organization’s success. But until recently, it was only possible to relate on a genuine individual level to very few people. Why? Because organizations simply don’t have the manpower to reach out to thousands of people on a personal basis. So true relationships, while prized, tend to remain few.

CRM: The Best of Both Worlds

What if you could combine the economy of mass marketing with the effectiveness of individual relationships? That would be the best of both worlds—and it is, in a nutshell, the essence of CRM, or customer relationship management.

As the term “customer” implies, CRM was first employed in the for-profit sector. It is, however, just as effective in the world of political activism. You can replace the term “customer” with “supporter” or “donor” if you wish. The basic principle remains the same.

The Power of Information Technology

How is this possible? The secret lies in the power of modern information technology to  collect and process information about a large volume of individuals quickly and inexpensively. Let’s see how this works in practice.

In the old days, you might have a person named Bill Brown on several of your mailing lists. He might also visit your Web site. But until he donates or volunteers, he’s going to fly “under your radar,” so you won’t be able to reach out to him individually.

A CRM system will begin by having one central record for everyone you’ve every contacted, and will collect every possible bit of information it can about each person. In Bill’s case, you’ll have a record of his name and address, and the exact date of every mailing he’s been sent. So far, not too impressive.

But let’s say that Bill visits your Web site, and requests a free e-book you’re offering on the flaws in President Obama’s stimulus package. At this stage, you might not even know the requester’s name. But you’ve collected his e-mail address and know that the person has been sent an e-book.

Now you’ll use an autoresponder (essentially an automatic e-mailing system) to send a follow up e-mail asking the person how he liked the e-book, and if you can offer any other literature. He now requests a printed brochure on your candidate’s views on Second Amendment rights. His request contains his name and (snail mail) address.

The system cross-references the e-mail with the name and address already in the system. Bingo! You now know they’re the same person. All the data is pulled together. As it turns out, you first got Bill’s address from a list of known right-to-life supporters. Add to this the fact that he’s requested information on the stimulus package and on gun rights, and you’ve already got a pretty good idea what his “hot button” issues are.

The next time you do a fundraising letter, you will send it out by e-mail. And you’ll have every individual e-mail tailored to the recipient. When Bill receives an e-mail emphasizing right-to-life and Second Amendment rights and opposition to President Obama’s stimulus package, what do you think he will do?

Even if he doesn’t donate, he’ll begin receiving even more targeted follow-ups. And depending on how he responds, you’ll tailor your message even more finely. In other words, communications with Bill will become more and more of a “two way street.” Multiply this by thousands, or tens or hundreds of thousands of contacts, and you can see the power of CRM.

Why Not Get Started Now?

You already have a lot of information about your support base. Why not use CRM to leverage what you have, and to expand it? CRM technology is surprisingly affordable. In many cases, it pays for itself with the first targeted donor solicitation.

You owe it to yourself to explore the possibilities of this powerful technology. At ConservaTechnology, we’d be happy to consult with you at no expense or obligation to you. Please contact us today for a consultation via phone or e-mail.

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