Author Archives: myAdmin

Choking the Goose*

You may have noticed that the 2020 US presidential contest has been plodding along for more than a year (for some it’s been three years) and has another year to go. At last guestimate there were 16 Democrats, three Republicans, and some as yet obscure number of third party and none of the above candidates. Many potential voters have been so far been able to ignore the pre-electoral noise and save their attention for later in 2020. These political abstainers may even surpass the 45% of eligible voters, who, according to CNN, didn’t vote in 2016.

From its extensive database of media spending, Politico estimates that 2020 will be the most expensive election in US history. $2.8 billion for the presidency alone. (Yet another case where paying more doesn’t mean getting more.)

To acquire close to $3 billion, the candidates and their parties are spending more time and effort than ever on an escalating treadmill of fundraising. They have a marketing problem. They are trapped in an ever tightening spiral of fund raising. Few are doing it well and at least five have already dropped out, citing financial challenges. This is a classic marketing problem.

For small donations, fundraising is a mix of direct selling: store fronts to street corners and doorbell ringers mass media: print and broadcast targeted media: email, direct mail, social platforms, interactive media, and SEO.

In any of these, the marketers face a challenges of optimizing yield. How much should they spend to reach out how frequently should they accost prospective donors?

Too Many Knocks on the Door

Consider the following experiment: donate a nominal amount to ten mid-tier candidates. In practice this meant Democrats. Had this been 2016, I’d have chosen Republicans. This was not an experiment about parties or the respective merits of particular candidates. I excluded leading candidates of any party, because they had established brands, substantial resources, and large experienced fundraising organizations. This is not to say that they do not also have fundraising challenges.

Within seconds of the donation, I received an acknowledgement message contained a request for an additional donation. As one completed the online contribution, the collection website (all of the Democratic candidates used the same site, asked for an additional donation in the form of a “tip.” The romancing continues with an almost daily email solicitation. Sometimes the message’s subject is a direct request and sometimes it’s deferred until the second or third paragraph. Regardless it’s incessant.

In their zeal for funds, these candidates, apparently failed to test for the optimal interval between requests. Looking at the lackluster boilerplate email copy, They also often fail to brand their candidacy or confirm why they, among a crowd of at times up to 22 contestants, are the best use of voters largesse.

A few somewhat more enlightened supplicants, give the recipient the option of indicating that they would prefer to be contacted less frequently, such as only weekly.

Fundraising, like virtually any marketing, requires experimentation. The availability of cheap or free data analysis tools, means that those campaigns which don’t continually test are guilty of fundraising malpractice.

Whether the goose, i.e., donor, is laying gold, silver, bronze, or chocolate eggs, by carpet bombing the inbox, many candidates are chocking, if not killing the goose. Their campaigns will cease prematurely as they run out of funds.

  • With apologies to Aesop

Your Free Event Is Too Expensive

Product presentations are like a long horned steer. A point here, a point there with a lot of bull in between. (Attributed to Alfred E. Neuman)

Time is the least thing we have of – Ernest Hemingway

If you’re like me, your inbox is seldom empty of invitations to events. “Opportunities” to learn about industry trends, hear from “leaders,” network, and, by the way, see, try, or experience the hosts products. Throw in some tchotchkes and a free meal – what have you got to lose?

Plenty, it would seem – either as a host or attendee – especially if you value your time.

Against my better judgement, I allow hope to prevail over experience and go to some of these events. You can occasionally learn a few things and meet some interesting folks. There is that little voice in your head intoning “you never know/unless you go.” Even without an explicit charge, the cost of these benefits can include:

  • Travel time
  • Parking and tolls
  • Extra waiting time – Starting “a few minutes” late waiting for stragglers. I. e., let’s hope a few more attendees show up, so the forum won’t look so lonely.
  • The gratuitous irritation of overly long, dumbed-down sales pitches pretending to be knowledge and insight
  • Adding injury to insult, the events are often prolonged by adding
    coffee breaks. Opening coffee is fine; but why should the event require another caffeine boost? In any event, the coffee is seldom drinkable
  • Lunch – cold pizza, stale sandwiches, grim buffets – yet another reminder that there is no such thing as a free lunch
  • Drawings for “Prizes” such as the tsatskes they couldn’t give away at your last trade show
  • An “inspiring” lecture from an “industry guru” a.k.a. an executive at the host firm with time to kill before his next flight
  • The assumption that as long as you’re there, they can add just one more demo or product pitch

As a result, both you and the host spend too much time for too little benefit. From the the piles of undisturbed collateral and untouched pastry and sandwiches, one might gather that the opportunity cost in time was too high and people bailed. As an added bonus, you may also alienate prospects, who are actually interested in and would benefit from your offering.

This is not that difficult to improve if not solve.

  • Keep it short
  • Increase the ratio of signal to noise or content to fluff
  • Leave the audience wanting to comeback for more rather than raring to get out the door
  • When tempted to add more slides to your presentation deck (while you’re at it) – don’t
  • Archive and publish the events online promptly

Your attendees may be so grateful four your respecting their time, that some become customers.