The political season has just sprung. Over the weekend, Hillary (finally) announced that she’s running. Ted Cruz has raised his hand, as have dozens of others.

This early in the race, it’s important to grow a support base. To identify where a candidate can secure votes from, and then “feed” that support base over the next 19 months to Tuesday, November 8, 2016 is a primary objective that any success-seeking candidate must follow.

Let’s break down the most simplistic strategy by which a candidate can grab the relevant information from a website visitor, so that they can follow-up with them in the future. First, we must ask:

What is the minimum information a candidate needs from a potential supporter to communicate with them over the next 19 months?

The answer is simply their email address. That’s how Ted Cruz can contact his support base. He could instead ask for a Facebook “Like” and try to update his fans via Facebook posts, but an email will get better results than a Facebook post will – that is, unless the candidate has a very strong social media presence.

An email address is enough to grow mailing list of supporters, but it would be convenient to know where the supporters lived and voted. For this, we could do a quick Geo-IP lookup and report back to the Customer Relationship Management technology where the user is viewing the site from, but if you’re like me, you work in a different district than where you vote. For this reason, political candidates should be asking for a zip code.

The most simplistic strategy to collect a visitors email and zip code is to request it “above the fold” on a website. That position refers to newspapers, where anything above the fold would be seen in a news stand and therefore get more readership than anything below it. Once the prospect submits their email address and zip code, something needs to happen. A confirmation that the information was received as well as a “next step” is typically expected.

Let’s draw out a simple marketing map of what this process would look like:

Political Campaign marketing signup flow chart

You might be thinking how nice it would be to have the first and last name of the subscriber, or their mailing address. You’re absolutely right – that would be great information to have. However, when we start a relationship with a new prospect, we need to ask for as little as necessary at the beginning, then as trust grows, so can our data profile. The minimum viable information we need on a prospect is their zip code and email. If someone asked you for your first and last name, phone number and email, you might be more hesitant. You want to support your candidate, but you don’t want them to call you during dinner.

In the above marketing map, any prospect that gets to the “Thanks for signing up!” page is a hot lead. They’re obviously interested and have offered to support the candidate by giving their personal contact information. What’s the next logical step here?

All candidates need money. All savvy candidates know that money is hard to come by, so they first ask for an email address, then follow-up with ways the new lead can donate. The “Thanks for signing up!” page is an excellent place to immediately ask for a donation. Let’s draw that out:

marketing flow chart for political campaign

I believe this is the best strategy for creating a quick-and-efficient funnel that drives a prospect from the main page all the way through to becoming a donor.

Let’s see how the current candidates are shaping up, in light of this ideal signup and donation funnel:

Lincoln Chafee

Former Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island has an attractive website that shows a profile of him on an American flag. Patriotic. Let’s look at his marketing angle…

Fresh Ideas For America” is traditionally trite, without much backing. It’s too early to have a strong position on anything anyways, so let’s assume that’s fine. Below the headline is the ability to donate. I don’t think this is ideal – he’s asking for money first, then contact information second. This is akin to asking a stranger to marry you before you ask them on a date. I feel this is a missed opportunity to build trust with his audience.
Below that main image, there’s an email capture:
lincoln chafee email marketing strategy for president 2016

When I fill in that form and hit the green button, it doesn’t take me to a confirmation page. It just refreshes the form and says:

As you scroll down the Governor’s site, you’ll see he asks for a donation four times (including the navigation bar at the top) but asks for email only once. He never asks for my zip code.

How will Chafee email those highly sought residents of New Hampshire? How will he contact his support group in Florida? He won’t, and he’ll hurt because of it.

The Grade:

This old Governor gets graded a “C” for his site. It’s average.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders marketing strategy for 2016 presidential race
US Senator Bernie Sanders site is closer to the goal. At first glance, it covers all that it needs to cover – it asks for the visitors email address and zip code above all else. Smart. Nice job Wide Eye Creative.

Sanders’ team knew that an email address and zip code was most important. Yes, donations and volunteers are important, but volunteers will fight harder to help than a visitor will fight to just sign up. Grease the chute for the widest audience, the prospect. Make it super simple to sign up and ask for as little as possible.

When I “Joined the campaign,” I was taken to an attractive “Thank you for signing up” page with a photo of Bernie on the left.

What’s great is that he’s leveraged the “hotness” of the lead who signs up to join his campaign and asks for a donation immediately. This is a picture-perfect example of how the process should flow. His donation levels, however, may be off-putting to a lot of visitors. If you remember back to Obama’s last presidential run, he asked for small $3 donations. It was these small, easy-to-afford donations from a larger base of supporters that ultimately helped him. Could Bernie raise more money by offering a smaller donation amount and therefore getting more unique donations? That’s a question for the person running marketing tests on their website. To me, the answer is “we better test it!”

I do like that there is a $2,700 donation amount. Why not ask for a high level? It may be a bit of a decoy offer, considering it is over 5X the second highest donation amount. Could it be there to make the lower donation levels look much more inexpensive? I’ve used similar psychology to sell subscription services, where adding one that is wildly more expensive positions the level that you’d like to sell as being a “deal.”

The Grade:

Generally speaking, Bernie Sanders’ site gets an A-.

Jim Webb

Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, on the other hand, must have skipped out on Marketing 101. I don’t know what his team was thinking, since his announcement back in November 2014, his site has had one of the worst marketing approaches.

Take a look at the image carousel that rotates on the top chunk of the site. Images of the former Senator without much substance. He’s not with voters, he’s in front of trees, or on a podium. There’s nothing warm about it. But that’s a photography thing. What we care about is how effectively he can build a support base through his website. As we scroll through the main page, there is no opportunity to input your email address and “join the campaign.” He offers a “Quick Donate” button, hoping to possibly solve an objection that donating can be slow. But I think he missed the mark completely.

On the navigation, we can click on “Newsletter” and fill in way too many fields just to get a Newsletter.

Tell me, who do you know that wants more newsletters? That’s the last thing I want in my inbox. I want campaign updates, exciting thing, funny stories, pictures of my favorite candidate doing good work and being just like me. I don’t want a damn newsletter.

Check out the fields he’s asking me to complete to get something I don’t even want… He has a full time Sales Prevention Department working to help his campaign.

The Grade:

Jim Webb gets this campaign cycle’s first F. He has failed.

Hillary Clinton

hillary clinton marketing strategy for presidential race 2016
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, takes the cake. Check out the simplicity of her site. She knows her demographic and talks to them effectively. Regardless of your take on her, you have to admit – she has the marketing done right.


At first, she asks for an email address and zip code. The design is easy to read, even if you’re on the older side of her voting demographic. Once you hit [Join Us], you’re taken to a Thank You page which offers a similar approach to donations as Bernie Sanders had:

Notice her donation options. They’re more manageable for her demographic, whom she acknowledges in her main page quote “Everyday Americans need a champion.I want to be that champion.” Can an everyday American afford $30, like Bernie is asking? Without question, everyone can afford a $3 donation.


Another big win for Hillary is that she offers her website “En Español.” She knows her demographic so well that she’s had her entire site translated. With the Hispanic population making up over 8% of the nation’s vote, it seems prudent to cater to their native tongue.

Hillary knocks this out of the park. Her Volunteer funnel is similar to her general traffic funnel, and it ends by collecting an email address and sending the new volunteer to a slightly different “thank you” page. Here, the new volunteer has the ability to share their support for Hillary via social media. If I could add one thing here, it would be a video of Mrs. Clinton talking to the volunteers saying “Thank you for signing up to volunteer. It’s because of people like you working hard to help me win the nomination… Here’s what I want you to do—First, share that you’re supporting me on social media. Tweet and use that hashtag #helpinghillary and let the world know that you’re on my team…” A video like that could really push the visitors to multiply the engagement the new volunteer’s friends have with Hillary. And as Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Hillary getting a volunteer’s friends to engage means likely finding more supporters through immediate relationships.

Hillary earns an A for her website and marketing strategy. It wouldn’t take much for Jim Webb to improve his site to be as effective as Hillary’s, but first he would need to see the value.

Langiappe: The Best of the Worst Award

John Worldpeace 2016 Presidental Candidate Marketing
The Best of the Worst Award goes to John Worldpeace and his presidential bid website.
such design. much flag. wow.

How can you apply these simple marketing principles to your website?

Simple – figure out what information and the most logical pattern your prospects need to go through in order to start a conversation with you. Ask for their email and provide value. If you’re a political candidate, engage your design team with your marketing team. Get everyone on the same page, be clear that your goals are to grow a mailing list of supporters first and foremost. Donations can happen later.

Just think – If Bernie Sanders needed to raise an additional $500,000 before a big primary, he could have his marketing team run through the database of qualified voters who have opted in and send them a unique message asking for their help. In less than an hour, he could have a message in front of thousands of individuals who said “Yes, I’ll support you!” and ask them to put their money where their mouths are. If he was persuasive enough in the email copy, he could raise that money quickly.

What about you? What political candidates have great or lackluster websites? What grade would you give them?