Deliverability advice to the DNC


I was working on another post for this afternoon, but when I checked Facebook Autumn Tyr-Salvia had posted a link that’s much more interesting to talk about.
It seems the Democratic National Committee has acquired President Obama’s email list from the 2012 campaign.

The […] list […] includes details about the amount donors gave and how they prefer to be contacted, will be a key tool in winning the 2016 election. With it, the Democratic nominee next year will gain access to a trove of millions of names and likely donors.

I’m sure there are a lot of people on that list who will turn into donors for the 2016 democratic candidate, but just having the list isn’t enough. One very important reason that the list was so valuable for President Obama is how they managed it. The list hammered recipients, but in a way that made people engage with it. The sheer volume ended up as a topic for discussion during President Obama’s “The Daily Show” interview.
Mailing a list from 2012, even a pristine, engaged list, is going to be a challenge. Some percentage of addresses are going to be gone. Some recipients are going to have decided they’re not happy with the current democratic field. Four years is even long enough for addresses to have recycled to new users, who may not be Democratic voters.
StrategyGlobeIf the DNC were a client I would spend a lot of time talking deliverability strategy with them. This is not a list you can just drop into a database and start mailing. It needs to be revived and processed. There is time for them to develop and re-engage with the recipients. I’d even say that in this case the good deliverability strategies are also good marketing strategies.
For the DNC I’d start with the following suggestions on how to get reliable deliverability for this list and throughout the campaign season.

  1. Segment the list into categories of engagers. Know who reliably opened and engaged with mail. This includes recipients who made donations even if those donations were not directly through the mail.
  2. Segment the list into categories of important recipients. What recipients does the DNC think are absolutely critical to talk to?
  3. Start mailing the list now. Engage the recipients so that when we really get into the heat of campaign season the list has been bounce handled and is full of engaged recipients.
  4. When you mail the first few times use the same address as the original list did. Take advantage of the filters and whitelisting done 4 years ago to improve inbox delivery.
  5. Start courting recipients using a series of emails about the Obama Presidency. These are the people who helped it happen, talk to them about the results and the things he did while in office.
  6. When someone interacts with any of the emails, move those addresses to a verified list.
  7. Set up the emails to encourage interaction with them.
    1. Ask a question. “Do you approve of the Iran Deal as negotiated?” “Have you contacted the White House in the last 4 years?” “Will you volunteer with the campaign?” Don’t overload the email with question, just ask per email.
    2. Make an offer. “Get your free campaign sticker!” “Lawn signs available here!”
    3. Have them take a quiz. Anyone on Facebook knows that quizzes generate clicks, put together a quiz they can take and then post their results on social media.
  8. Have a limit to the number of times you’ll mail to an address without getting some interaction back from them. This can be a number of mailings, or it can be a time frame. Continuing to mail unengaged people will hurt your delivery and delivery problems will hurt fundraising totals.

That’s just the start of things, but these are all issues the DNC should be considering and addressing. They’ve got time, they can do this and the list can be as valuable for the new candidate as it was for President Obama. The worst thing they can do, however, is just load the list into their database and start mailing it. That way will lead to delivery problems, like Secretary Clinton had when she started mailing her list from the 2008 campaign.

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  • I am fascinated by the ramifications of email deliverability for political donations.
    Are there sysadmins at the big ISPs who make human decisions on deliverability issues anymore? The power they have to make one candidate’s mail get delivered over another candidate’s mail is enormous.

  • I handle deliverability for one of the large email systems for Democrats and progressive organizations (and did so at another company). It’s a very interesting time and very different from other deliverability roles as far as I can tell

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