Originally published: 02.01.09 by Mike Callahan
Barack Obama was an unknown brand as little as eight years ago. In fact, so unknown that he was turned away from the 2000 Democratic National Convention because he did not have a ticket to get in. Yet, with little more than two years in the United States Senate, he positioned himself as the leading political brand, out-maneuvering the marketing machines of powerhouses like Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Regardless of how anyone feels about his politics, the success of Obama’s presidential campaign shattered the traditional broadcast television model that has dominated American politics since the early 1960’s. During the 21-month campaign, Obama’s use of new media technology successfully mobilized millions of Americans. As a result, he raised more than half a billion dollars to fund one of the most successful marketing campaigns in American history. According to www.washingtonpost.com, “3 million donors made a total of 6.5 million donations adding up to more than $500 million.” To save you the math, that’s an average of $80 per donation. The purpose of this article is not to herald Obama’s triumph. Rather, it is to examine the marketing strategy, approach, and five of the online tools that his campaign employed. Then we will see how we can apply these same tools to growing your hvacr company.
Team Obama’s marketing strategy was designed to build a new political brand that would reach and mobilize a new target audience. They implemented this strategy using powerful Internet tools. Through the use of a high-tech toolbox, the Obama marketing machine kept momentum both online and offline. This system managed 500,000 volunteers, three million donors, and 8,000 affinity groups. This “new media” provided a marketing approach using Internet platforms that delivered real-time messages through Simple Text Messaging (SMS) and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), which is the method by which a mobile phone sends and receives text and multimedia messages. It’s a technology that enables a mobile phone or PDA to access and exchange information with the Internet. In addition, Team Obama used video, multi-media, and social networking. These tools resulted in an army of organizers enabling Obama to outwit, outman, and outmaneuver the competition. So what is this online toolbox and new media all about and how can it help you grow your business? Here are a few marketing lessons from the Obama campaign that have practical (and powerful) applications for marketing your business.
The E-Mail Address Tool
The campaign staff began by building a database of more than 13 million e-mail addresses. At every rally information cards were handed out and collected with participants names, e-mail addresses, address and phone numbers. When accessing his Web site, viewers were first asked to register their e-mail address and postal code. Using information gleaned from his effort, the campaign staff composed and sent more than 7,000 different messages targeting specific ages, genders, ethnic backgrounds and donation levels. In total, the campaign sent more than 1 billion e-mails. E-mail enabled Obama to keep in touch with (and solicit donations from) supporters without the expense of more costly television advertising. Additionally, the campaign segmented the e-mail database and used varying technology depending on the person’s demographic. Younger voters received e-mail and text messages on their mobile phones. In fact, more than 1 million people signed up for Obama’s text messaging program. Older voters received shorter, concise e-mails.
Through demographics, staffers also identified these different groups of voters’ interests and used this information to recruit volunteers for last-minute voter drives, phone bank help, contests, and securing donor support. Applying an e-mail database strategy: As a contractor you, like Obama, can also grow your business by building an accurate e-mail database. First, make certain that all of your team members (employees) request e-mail addresses on each and every contact and communication with your customers and potential customers. There should be a line for email addresses on your service dispatch tickets, your invoices, and every other piece of paper that your company uses in its daily activities. Once you have built this e-mail address list, talk to your Direct Response Marketing Company about adding demographic data like “age.” Then you can tailor your message to satisfy the individual expectations of each demographic group. For example, a message touting the benefits of energy efficiency to a young affluent segment might stress becoming “green.” The exact same message, energy efficiency, to an older retired segment might stress saving energy dollars. In addition to messages like these, e-mail provides an excellent vehicle for distributing promotional messages and customer satisfaction surveys. Clearly, e-mail marketing is quick, responsive, and cost-effective, especially when targeting your own customer base.
The Behavioral Targeting Tool
The Obama campaign used online behavioral targeting to identify potential supporters and to help staffers understand the habits and interests of these voters. Internet tags, called cookies, were placed on users’ Web browsers after they visited www.BarackObama.com. Visitors were then tracked according to what other political sites they clicked on and what political advertisements and videos they watched. Following future site visits helped better identify the characteristics and behavior of these potential supporters. How is behavioral targeting relevant to a contractor? Following your potential customers’ future site visits enables you to better analyze their demographic information including age, gender, affluence, and interests. In addition, this will let you know if the prospect is looking at other hvacr sites, which ones, and at what products or services they’re looking. This information is critical to tailoring customized sales approaches for potential customers. If you want to build a behavioral targeting tool, first, ask your Internet service provider (the company that manages your Web site) about adding the programming codes that enable the Internet tags to follow your customers’ browsing habits. Then, consider adding an analytic tool like Google Analytics (provided free by Google) to help you learn how your visitors spend their time on your Web site. This is something else that your Internet Service Provider or your Web developer can help you with. Once you have put these tools into place, we recommend you engage the services of an Internet marketing firm to help you gather and analyze this data so you can tailor a customized sales approach for that potential customer.
The Social Networking Tool
The Obama campaign recognized the importance of social networking early in the campaign, which Wikipedia, explains as “online communities of people who share interests and/or activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others.” Additionally, it says, “Most social network services are Web based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as e-mail and instant messaging services.” To do just those things, the Obama campaign designed their own proprietary social network, www.MYBarackObama.com or www.MyBO.com. More than 2 million people created profiles on this network. This enabled the campaign to capture hundreds of thousands of specific pieces of information about volunteers and supporters that would later help them with voter registration, get out the vote, fund-raising, and two-way communication efforts. In addition to their proprietary social network, the campaign was extremely visible on such networks as BlackPlanet, Facebook, MySpace and Eons. In all, the Obama campaign reached more than 5 million people on more than 15 social networks. Facebook alone generated more than 5.4 million users who clicked on an “I Voted” button to let their friends know that they made it to the polls. Now, that’s powerful referral marketing! Social network marketing for contractors: Using this same social network marketing tool can help you refine and target your advertising messages. Since participants in social networking provide their lifestyle and personal interest information, you can more efficiently match advertising messages with consumers. While some may think that these social networks are just for teens and young adults, they’re not. In fact, Jay Levinson, in his book Guerrilla Marketing on the Internet, indicated that 40 percent of the more than 200 million www.MySpace. com users worldwide are between 35 and 45 years old. That’s more than 80 million people. (Surely, some of them must be your potential customers.) Want Baby Boomers? Then get on www.eons.com or one of the many other social networks devoted to seniors and boomers. Between 1946 and 1964, American mothers gave birth to more than 76 million babies. (Surely, some of them must be your potential customers.) An hvacr contractor can take advantage of this networking opportunity by simply identifying potential customers by desired demographics, such as age, income, gender, geography, etc. Search for networking Web sites that appeal to each of these groups. (If you want to contact us, we will be happy to provide you a listing of networking sites that are appealing to each of these demographics.) You can then proceed to craft both advertising and public relations messages appealing to each market segment, making your message more personal in nature. For example, instead of advertising 10 percent off of a service tuneup, congratulate your local Habitat for Humanity on their most recent build. Better yet, participate in the project, then sponsor an open house to promote the charity. Another idea is to write an article telling people to save energy, or how to be more comfortable during the winter months. That is the beauty of Social Networks. They provide open platforms, which translates into a huge opportunity to tap into and use a very low-cost but highly effective method of reaching your potential customers.
Next month: Text messaging, viral marketing, privacy and applying your own well-coordinated online marketing plan!
Mike Callahan is President of Callahan/Roach & Garofalo, Inc., marketing and management trainers, consultants, and merger/acquisition specialists to the hvacr industry. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
David Stein is an expert in hvacr marketing and advertising. He is new media and marketing consultant at Callahan/Roach &
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