The impact of this campaign season may be felt more in marketing fields than any other. Long after the messages have died down and we’re mired in political reality, the lessons for marketers will live on.
Marketers work under the traditional marketing funnel in which prospects have two paths – customers or not. The funnel creates prospects by generating awareness, creating consideration, driving preference and intent. At the point of action, there is an assumed hand off to sales. After the sale, marketing picks back up to build loyalty and evangelism.
Digital media, through e-commerce originally, has blurred the line between marketing and sales. Questions have emerged as to whether the funnel really exists anymore. David Armano points to the spiral as a better model. Similar in nature to the funnel, the spiral is more adept at explaining digital interactions or what he calls micro-interactions.
The difference between many campaigns this season has been the recognition of these micro-interactions and the move from a linear funnel to a more cyclical process. Driven by polling, these campaigns have been forced to focus on both acquisition, retention, and win back strategies at the same time. Helped by user passion, thousands of channels have appeared both in support and to the detriment of candidates.
Sen. Obama’s campaign has been the frontrunner in adopting a new digital strategy. The campaign site acts as a home base for all other efforts. This provides the definitive information that stretches out to many social and content spaces. At its greatest, the campaign has allowed individuals to market to themselves. The iPhone application mobilizes supporters, allowing them to act on behalf of the campaign. Messages are very personal and relevant. The campaign only provides the tools. At its weakest, messages have been heavily diluted. Though the presence of a home base serves to clear up misconceptions.
The greatest learning coming from this campaign season has been the realization that lost customers are not truly lost. Often, they require more convincing. Providing knowledge can lead to them selecting you.
Marketers have long addressed this knowledge gap. However, the most likely solution appears as incentives. Rather than make either a more relevant case or improve perceptions, customers are provided with richer offers.
This has been no different with the campaign season. Candidates are well known for making promises. Trouble arises when the promises or incentives are expected to get richer just to hold onto those that have been conditioned to buy on cost benefit.
So while politicians have led the way in novel digital strategies this campaign season, they have lacked in regards to the wisdom they have brought to these approaches. If this election has taught anything, it may be that micro-interactions and micro-channels are valuable to all marketers. Given the proper resources, customers will often market to themselves. Knowledge on where to incent remains the largest challenge.
Just how much money has been wasted this campaign season trying to sell voters that were already sold? How much money do we as marketers spend selling customers that are already sold?