OTHER STUFF

  • 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.

     

  • Masonic Lodge Template

    I am an officer in two lodges in Boston, Massachusetts. They both needed websites. I realized that the software program I use to build websites, NationBuilder would be perfect for the needs of a Masonic Lodge. By that, I mean scheduling events, taking RSVPs online, accepting payments, dues or donations, managing your emails with reports on open rates, click throughs, collecting information about prospective members and more. Let's take a look at the front-end of the site and then I'll walk you through the dashboard.

    Note: I am a NationBuilder Certified Expert and Designer.

    I was able to design an attractive, mobile friendly website. You can see a screenshot of the entire homepage hereOne thing that is important to note: Virtually all the content on the site is editable without touching any code!

    Screen_Shot_2020-03-26_at_3.58.04_PM-min.png

    You'll notice the MEMBER LOGIN button in the upper right. Once a member does log in, that button is replaced by EVENT RSVP, PAY YOUR DUES and FROM THE EAST where we post our minutes, notices and other resources all behind a secure firewall. (Lodge of the Royal Secret is new and is an "all electronic" lodge. We don't mail notices or minutes.)

    EVENTS - How often have you gone to a Lodge website and the next upcoming event is from months or years ago? That's part of the beauty of NationBuilder. The calendar page automatically archives an event's page once the event date passes. Also, once you create an event such as your Communication/Meeting, the software allows you to clone that event out into the future on a weekly or monthly basis.

    LRS_-events-2020-03-25-17_35_49-min.png

    (Note: This template allows you to have different banner on different pages with touching any coding.

    RSVP'S AND FINANCES - When a member RSVP's for an event they are automatically tagged. Let's say they RSVP for a dinner on April 20th. All would get tagged "dinner 4_15" which makes them searchable in the database so a day or two before the event, you can run a filter of all members with the tag dinner 4_15 and the database creates an alphabetized list of attendees. Granted, some older members may not use the website for RSVPs. Their RSVP can be added to the event manually and they will still be included in the filter. You export the filter and print out the list for your stewards.

    People_Filter_Marston_Digital_Solutions.jpgThis image is a filter for all members (People with the tag "member" but all filters work basically the same way. There are also dozens of filters that can be run.

    If an event requires a payment, the event page can be "chained" so that after RSVPing, they are automatically taken to a payment page. If they choose to pay online, they can be chained to a thank you page and they can also be sent an auto-response confirmation email.

    Also, if you add Last_Donation_Date to your "dinner 4_15" filter that will be added to the alphabetized RSVP list.

    If you choose to collect dues online, you can set up another donation page and tag and filter people who have made their dues payment.

    CREATING AND EDITING PAGES - Creating and editing pages is easy and again, requires no coding. There are 30+ native NationBuilder page types which can be created with the click of a mouse.

    New_Page_Marston_Digital_Solutions.jpgYou just name the page (The page slug auto-populates) click on the type of page you want to create and click Create Page. Adding and editing content is easy as well. If you know how to use Microsoft Word or Apple Pages you can create and edit page content.

     

    Another great thing is that people have used NationBuilder to create thousands of site. If you have any questions, they have easy-to-use support documentation, email and phone support. They even have a Facebook group where other users and experts ask and answer questions.

    THE BOTTOM LINE - As I mentioned at the outset, I am certified by NationBuilder and an Expert on their software and Designer/Architect. I've built over 200 sites using NationBuilder including one for a US Presidential candidate and an issue advocacy organization with over 1,000,000 members. Actually they only had 300,000 members when I redesigned their site. They reached a million about 16 months later.

    Since I have already designed this template for two other lodges, making it available to other lodges only requires a few hours so I am willing to offer it to any other lodge for $250 to partially cover the cost of my time. If you'd like, you can actually get a NationBuilder theme template for free. They're just not designed specifically for Masonic lodges.

    For $250 you get the theme template basically as it is. I can change the colors, fonts and pages in the top navigation. You also get a site guide to show you where and how to change and update content. You don't get changes or support from me unless you want to pay more.

    NationBuilder charges $35 a month for use of its software, $29 a month if you pay annually in advance. I don't get any part of that.

    You can see live versions at LodgeOfTheRoyalSecret.com or TheConsolidatedLodge.com.

    If you are interested, get in touch with me via the Contact form below.

  • 10 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE RUNNING FOR OFFICE

    If you’re thinking about running for office, now is the time to start moving. But before you “move” in any direction, it would serve you well to “think” about where you are, where you want to go and why it’s in anyone’s interest to help you get there. 

    Before Marston Digital Solutions takes on any new clients, we ask candidates to answer many key questions. Each of our questionnaires is candidate-specific, but whether you’re running for local school board or President of the United States, there are ten basic points that must be addressed. Clearly, the answers to these questions make a difference, but the thought process they trigger is even more critical. In business and politics, strategy must always precede tactics. Our questions and subsequent feedback will help you and your team develop a winning strategy.

    While our customized “Q & A” often includes up to fifty questions, here are ten that apply to virtually any campaign:

    1. Why are you running for office?

    This sounds basic, but you need to answer honestly. If you’re running because you need a job, don’t bother...Amazon is hiring. If you’re running because you like to “help people”, avoid the hassle and volunteer for a charity. Your public “answer” needs to be compelling, but your private motivation needs to be both noble and sincere. We already have enough career politicians who like to spend other people’s money. Think about it long and hard before answering. This question will come up dozens of times during your campaign.

    2. Is your spouse or significant other “on board” with the idea?

    Politics is an often nasty and always time-intensive business that places huge demands on relationships and marriages. Your family should always be more important than your political campaign. If you don’t put your family first, we don’t want you as a client; and if your spouse or significant other is not fully “on board”, you will probably lose anyway. Communicate. Address any of your partner’s concerns before you even think of announcing. If he or she “buys in” fully, you’ve not only secured your most compelling campaign “salesperson” but you’ve also reduced the chances that you’ll end up being banished to the couch for the next year or so!

    3. Will your next-door neighbor support you?

    Now, it’s quite possible that your next-door neighbors are completely insane (it happens), so let’s extend this scenario to your street and neighborhood. Bottom line: If you can’t persuade the people who know you best, you’re not likely to persuade total strangers. Reach out. Make friends close to home. Ask for their input and make them feel like a part of your team even before you have a team.  If you play your cards right, these folks will ultimately join your family members as some of your most loyal and active supporters. 

    4. Can you afford to run? 

    With very few exceptions, successful candidates view their political campaigns as full-time endeavors. Can you and your family survive for a year or more without an income? Can you take a leave of absence from your job? Can you loan your campaign “seed money” to get off on the right foot or are you totally dependent on donations? Volunteers are terrific, but at some point early in the process, you’re going to need paid staff. Where’s that money coming from?

    5. Have you recruited a Fundraising Chairperson?

    The four “M”s of any campaign are MONEY, MUSCLE, MESSAGE and MOMENTUM. Without money, most campaigns flounder, regardless of the candidate’s resume, policy positions or personal charisma. Securing an early commitment from a fundraising chairperson is absolutely essential. This person should agree to raise a predetermined amount and recruit at least ten others (e.g. “Finance Committee”) to do the same. After your spouse, this is the most important “sell” you’ll make during your campaign. If you can’t “close that deal”, you simply should not run.

  • TWO CANDIDATES WALK INTO A BAR

    Is this a joke?

    No. In fact, if you are running for office, it is very serious. Our hope is to briefly explain how digital strategy and field strategy no longer operate in separate “silos”...and how the campaigns that best merge the two will be more efficient, effective and ultimately, more successful.

    So back to our two candidates. They both walk into a bar and inside are 100 people who live in the district. Obviously, they both want to do the three jobs of a candidate; meet voters, secure votes and raise money. The challenge is that they only have 30 minutes. 

    One candidate starts working the room introducing himself and, hopefully, listening to people’s concerns. That is traditional “field.” Candidate 2 [C2] knows that of the 100 people in the bar, only 80 are registered to vote. Given that they are running in a primary, C2 also know which of those 80 voters are members of their party and so can vote for them. C2 also knows which of those voters have voted in at least three of the last four primaries. C2 knows who of those 20 or 30 voters own their home, have a net worth over $500,000 and have donated to past political campaigns. C2 looks for those specific voters and starts implementing her strategy. That is effectively merging field and digital.

    Who do you think used their thirty minutes most productively? 

  • NO CAMPAIGN PLANS TO LOSE

    ...What they do is fail to plan.

    In the private sector, startup companies often spend months developing business plans. That intensive but necessary process includes a significant amount of research...and that research is critical to the development of effective strategies and tactics.

    Most political campaigns are like business startups and the candidates are essentially new “products.” We published a blog post a couple of years ago “Ten Questions To Ask Before Running For Office.” Assuming you can ask and adequately answer those questions, the next question is “Now what?”

    The answer? Plan, Plan, Plan.

    The first number you need to know is “Votes To Win.”

    Do your due diligence. How many registered voters are in the district? What is the typical voter turnout in the district for your type of race? Keep in mind that turnout for the last Presidential election isn’t necessarily a good indicator for your City Council primary though it can be informative regarding your total universe of potential voters.

    There can be a lot of variables, especially in primaries with multiple candidates or in a race against an incumbent who has not faced a serious opponent in years. You may have to look at proxy elections. What was the turnout in your district for the latest State Rep. or Senate campaign? What was the turnout in the Congressional primary? The information is there. You just have to figure out where to look for it...then interpret it properly.

    Now, what is it going to cost to win?