By Joe Mansour, Speak4 CEO

Conventional wisdom holds that political campaigns are prehistoric when it comes to innovation, while corporations are the fast-moving predators of the marketing kingdom.

After years of working on the front lines of performance marketing (and launching a grassroots advocacy tool), I’ve found that this conventional wisdom is wrong.

Political campaigns are often on the bleeding edge of performance marketing, for better or for worse. We watch them try, fail and succeed in the news every day, then share the resulting memes and move on.

But advocacy campaigns have an opportunity to learn from the political machine. The near-constant cycle of fundraising, aggressive recruitment and GOTV efforts have allowed our political brethren to identify tactics that deliver results amidst times of historically high polarization.

Outlined below are seven strategies public affairs and advocacy efforts can borrow from political campaigns, along with correlating tests to measure performance (downloadable here).

1. Urgency matters.

A sense of urgency is critical for driving action. 

But you don’t need to wait until your issue is sitting on a lawmaker’s desk to light a fire underneath your supporters’ thumbs. Create momentum by turning natural inflection points – political campaigns typically use the end of the month/end of quarter fundraising deadlines – into hard deadlines. Add countdown timers, shot clocks or other gamification features to your landing pages and creative to add pressure to “act now.”

How to test it? Gamification can add a 15% lift to your conversion rate, on average. Here’s how to A/B test gamification without getting stuck in red tape.

2. People will take multiple actions, but not multiple steps.

If they are excited about an issue, advocates are eager to take repeated actions. This excitement wanes when your supporters face an uphill climb toward converting though, such as clicking through multiple landing pages or being asked to provide too much information all at once.

Smart political campaigns streamline the action-taking process with clear calls-to-action and a focus on reducing friction. The shorter the distance between your advocate’s initial urge to act and the final “Send” button, the likelier it is they will convert again and again.

How to test it? Pre-fill parameters, combined with Saved Advocate View, can boost your conversion rates by 9x. Run a white-labeling test using this guide.

3. Stay in control of your data flow.

Data is a campaign’s critical advocacy fuel – and, if any of the snafus of previous years have indicated, data can be deadly in the wrong hands.

Learn from the mistakes of our political brethren. Reduce uncertainty in your tech stack by striking the right balance between security and connectivity: avoiding single points of failure while ensuring your suite of tools work well together with airtight integrations.

How to test it? For one Speak4 partner, real-time data flow brought a tech stack of six different platforms together to drive an average 70% engagement rate. Try it for your next campaign.

4. The enemy of your enemy is your friend.

In any campaign, there are two possible outcomes: you win or you lose. 

Is this mindset reductive? Sure. But by narrowing your focus on your ultimate goal, you can broaden your network of potential allies who are aligned with your desired outcome. Are there organizations with which you can partner, co-sponsor events or launch a co-branded engagement effort? Who are the unlikely allies that emerge when you zero in on your goal? 

Your campaign isn’t operating in a vacuum – and you may have more friends than you realize.

How to test it: Link advocacy efforts with redirect URLs to maintain advocate momentum, or level up with an umbrella Action Center. Test them using this.

5. Get into a feedback loop with your advocates.

Speaking of networks (and vacuums), it’s critical to stay attentive to how your advocates or would-be advocates are engaging on your issue, particularly on social media. Social platforms can feel like a polarized, divisive place to engage, but keeping a pulse on how your issue is being discussed online can inform your advocacy messaging, ensure you stay responsive to any sudden changes and maintain relevance in fast-moving online conversations.

How to test it? Social sharing is a way for your advocates to advertise their activation to your benefit. Retain control of your issue messaging, while expanding your advocacy network with a single toggle. Try it with this test.

6. Big changes happen at the micro level.

Everyone loves a David vs. Goliath story: the smaller, scrappier underdog uses wits and grit to overcome a bigger, more intimidating opponent. 

Take this narrative and expand it to issue-based advocacy work. If you have fewer resources than your well-financed opposition, don’t fret. Pick up your slingshot and aim for the most critical weak spot. 

What does this look like in practice? 

You don’t need to outspend the competition. You do need to outsmart it.

How to test it? One local coalition drove 126,000 messages in three days. A decisive recipient focus had lawmakers begging for relief by the end of the campaign. The best part? It took the coalition minutes to set up. Get the approach here.

7. Advocacy can add monetary value to your campaign.

The political fundraising machine isn’t foolproof, but this truth is: if an advocate takes action, they are more likely to immediately take a subsequent action – including making a donation.

This works for issue-based efforts, with one organization seeing a 117% increase in average donations per week. 

By integrating your grassroots advocacy efforts with your donation drives, you strike while the iron is hot with your supporters, catching them at their most engaged.

How to test it? Ask your advocates to donate with your redirect or confirmation message, as they are more likely to give after being activated. Run the test with this guide.

As the saying goes, those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The political playbook offers tried-and-true tactics for issue-based campaigns to deploy. 

Will you buck the conventional wisdom and put these tactics to work on your next advocacy effort?

Ready to roll?