At the store I work at part-time, while it is merely an entity that sells tools and other implements necessary to construction or home improvement, those who run it have been able to grasp a concept that many involved with political action seem blind to: obtaining and updating the contact information of the customers. In the case of activism, voters and activists are as vital to the success of political ventures as the target market of the store is to its long-term success.
Any time one makes a return, purchases an extended service plan, or signs up for our preferred customer membership or to receive our catalog, they must provide us with their address, phone number, and if applicable, email. The importance of creating and retaining contact lists has always been crucial in retail, yet is overlooked in many of the campaigns or groups I’ve had involvement with in the past two and a half years, with the notable exception of the one I volunteered for this past spring. While I routinely criticize the poorer or less efficient aspects of the business I work for in private, the collection of contacts en masse is something I applaud in public.
Regardless whether you are selling drills or ideas, your contacts are both your target market and those who will promote your product via word of mouth. Contact lists cannot be underestimated in the long-term flexibility they will give you going forward. A contact list is not merely about numbers; it is about what the numbers, the individual contacts, can contribute to you down the road. Has a certain contact noted that they can phonebank? Has a certain contact noted that they can canvass? Has a certain contact entertained the idea of making a tax-deductible contribution, in the case that your group has been recognized as a 501(c)3 organization? When obtaining their information, ask such questions and make note of them in order to better tailor your direct mail or email alerts. The end result is not only that you waste less time and money in contacting them, but that you also recognize one of the most important aspects of customer service: treating the contact as an individual that your organization or campaign has established rapport with.
As mentioned in previous pieces, I was involved in a long-term tax reduction advocacy campaign with Americans For Prosperity- Indiana. Their contact forms were the best I’ve ever seen, asking not only for the basic information such as someone’s name, address, email, and phone-number, but also posing questions as to whether or not the person would be interested in activism, and if so, what capacity they would specifically prefer to get involved in. This struck me as significant, especially since I’d worked so many things in the past where such forms were never present, even at events that attracted decent numbers of people!
While Americans For Prosperity ultimately had success in the aforementioned advocacy campaign, the contacts that were collected will prove significant in future battles or local activism. In that sense, a contact list is not only short-term, but something that can continue to serve long after the campaign is over, provided that the people who gave their information are still motivated and aware of what your organization is doing. This can be accomplished by email alerts or direct mailings on a regular basis.
While extremely mundane in nature, successful businesses and advocacy groups have been able to keep customers, activists, and donors coming back respectively, via contact lists and effective follow-up communication. It is not a task that should be overlooked, whether you are in the business of selling physical products or your beliefs to the general public.