Pruning Your Direct Mail Lists -- Be sure to check out the latest edition of PolitIQs: Chism Strategies' Voter Behavior Research Newsletter
Most political direct mail lists are based on some combination of demographics, vote history, partisan score, and perhaps some issue model (choice, guns, environment). While voter modeling is better than ever, sometimes the universes are a bit fuzzy. In some Red States, the partisanship scores are not as refined, and in races everywhere the political landscape is not a left to right continuum; a single issue or candidate trait trumps ideology. Out of an abundance of caution, the mail universe grows to a very large number, and in the end, includes some households who are beyond persuasion. In campaigns with several flights of mail, this unavoidable inefficiency is a drag on the campaign budget.
We’ve used two different types of telephone voter contact programs to prune the lists to a more manageable size, finding the HELL NO's who would never vote for our candidate and removing them from the mailing lists.
We’ve used IVR (interactive voice response) Programs and Live Callers to ask proxy questions without reference to any particular candidate or contest, identifying those in the persuasion mail universe who will never abandon our opponent. Typically, the hit mail pieces are a guide for scripting; we adopt even more extreme positions with a hypothetical candidate and then test to see if the voter refuses to move away from that candidate. If a voter steadfastly supports a hypothetical opponent with an even more radical position than our real opponent, we recommend removing that person from the mail universe.
We’ve found this tool to be helpful in culling 20% or more of a broad persuasion mail universe, so our clients could translate these savings into more mail to smaller, more select audiences or reallocate those funds to other messaging platforms. With highly charged mail pieces, this exercise reduces the potential to energize the opposition. There are also environmental savings to consider.
The break-even calculations for this pruning exercise are simple: The average costs of a mail piece multiplied by the number of flights of mail versus the average program cost of identifying a HELL NO household.
Below, we provide two different charts since the contact rates and survey participation rates forIVR and Live Callers vary. The light blue bands on the program charts highlights the break-even points. Given our assumptions, a 7% list pruning is the break-even point for an IVR program. Any more HELL NO's beyond that rate are savings for the campaign. For a live calling program, 13.5% of list reduction in our example is the break-even point. Any additional HELL NO's are savings:
When deciding which calling program is best for your mail list pruning efforts, remember that IVR program costs are much less, but the actual list penetration is lower—lower initial costs, but less potential savings.
If you’d like us to run a potential cost-savings analysis through our mail list pruning calling program, please email or call (601.918.4563) anytime.
And as always, we invite you to join our voter research conversation on Twitter @ChismStrat.
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