Ladder of Engagement - Watch That First Step. It's a Doozy

Most people have heard the term "Ladder of Engagement" as it relates to political campaigns and issues advocacy organizations. It is the equivalent to a sales funnel in marketing. Using ladders of engagement an organization can attract the curious and develop them into supporters, supporters into volunteers, volunteers into donors, ambassadors and voters.

Typically the first ask is easy such as "Like our Facebook Page" or "Follow us on Twitter." When you see a "Sign the Petition" ad in your timeline, that campaign or organization just wants your email address. When you see "Text #FightFor15" to 308308, they just want your cell number. Email is still king for online fundraising. Given the very high open rate of texts, cell phone numbers are the Holy Grail for mobilization.

Whenever I advise a campaign or organization I monetize or assign a dollar value to an email address or cell number. It is the only way to measure the return on investment of money and time expended to acquire n email address or cell number.

400.jpgIn this time of COVID 19 many of the traditional field strategies of political campaigning are no longer viable. One of these is collecting nomination signatures to get on the ballot. You can't go door-to-door and if you set up a table at the local supermarket you are probably not going to attract a lot of people to sign.

Yesterday, I saw a Facebook Ad encouraging me to help get a certain candidate on the ballot for US Senate. I clicked on the link and was taken to a Google Form where I give my information and presumably be sent a nomination form to sign and return.

Obviously, the campaign would require my name and address to mail the form to me. However, both Email Address and Phone were required fields. The problem is that neither of those data points is actually required for me to take the action the campaign wanted me to take.

So I didn't fill out the form. The campaign didn't get my signature, my email or my phone. 

Why? Because I wasn't even on their ladder of engagement and they were asking me for my personal contact information. I wasn't interested in getting the fundraising emails or calls and texts to get involved. The first step was too high.

I understand the value of email addresses and cell phone numbers to a political campaign. As I mentioned above I set a value for each to be able to measure the campaign's ROI. I also understand that this campaign was trying to build its organic contact list. But at what cost?

Let's assume the campaign is spending $100,000 prior to getting on the ballot. The cost of not getting on the ballot is $100,000. Now let's assume that the value of an email address or cell phone number is $5.00. The campaign would have to collect at least 20,000 to make it worthwhile to risk not getting on the ballot.

There are a number of options here. The first would be to have the same form but not make an Email Address and Phone required. You could also A/B test the form by having one where they are required and one where they are not. If there is no difference in conversion rates (The number of people who fill out the form) then make them required. Based on my experience that would be highly unlikely. To be fair the campaign may well have done that.

My preference would have been to have a form without requiring an email address or cell number that, when I click the SUBMIT button takes me to another page where I can then "Sign up to get updates on our signature drive progress!" or "Text Signatures to 30303 to get updates." You could even send a mailer to everyone who sends in a signed nomination paper with "next steps".

I think the most effective Ladder of Engagement is one with a very low first step. Focus on what your campaign absolutely needs then give your supporters a rewarding path to what your campaign ultimately wants.



Looking for help with a NationBuilder website, database or digital strategy? Let's talk.