Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Selling Campaign Bio – Your Key To Election Success

Why Do So Few Website Visitors Become Supporters?
 Ned Barnett

What does it take to “sell” a prospective voter on your candidacy?  It takes a few things – but only a few.  In fact, if you consider it closely, there are just four elements that turn a prospective supporter into a voter, volunteer or contributor.  And that last element in particular is absolutely vital to “closing the sale” with a prospective supporter – yet that’s the one selling factor that is most often overlooked by candidates and their campaign staffs.

What are those four voter selling factors?

First, you have to be running for a position the prospective supporter cares about – one where he feels that his support can make a real difference.

Having attracted her interest, to make a “sale” takes a voter who is in the market for the kinds of positions you stand for.  That interest in what you offer to stand for is what makes her a prospective supporter.

Next, he wants to see some indication that you can actually deliver on what you promise. He’s looking here for other elected, appointed or volunteer positions you’ve held – and what you did while you were in office. He’s looking closely for specific actions you’ve taken in support of those positions – or perhaps for support testimonials on those issues. Bottom line, he’s looking for some believable indication that you can and will meet his needs as a candidate now, and as an office-holder later on.

Finally, having gotten to that point, this is where the lack of the deal-closer “sales” tool causes most potential supporter “sales” to fail.  You have a prospective supporter, you offer what she’s looking for, and you are believable in your support for issues that matter to her.  But she doesn’t become your supporter – your voter, volunteer or even contributor.  Why?  Because you haven’t given her a reason to select you, to trust you, to literally put her city’s, county’s, state’s or country’s future in your capable hands.

When a prospect goes to your website, the first thing he looks for are those few key indicators which tell him that you have the potential to become her city councilman, her judge, her state assemblywoman, your governor, your Congressman or Senator. 

Then, after having browsed through your track record, your voter testimonials on key issues, your detailed explanations of the difference between legal and illegal, pre-viable vs. post-viable, or the difference between a tax increase and a spending cut, he goes finally to your bio.  That’s the deal-closer.  And all too often, the deal-breaker

By this time, she’s looking to be sold. She’s impressed with what you offer, where you stand and how you propose to make a difference.  She wants to trust you.  She wants to believe in you.  But have you given her a reason to?

Take your campaign bio and look at it for a minute.  What do you give him?  The bare facts.  Where you went to school.  If you served in the military, and if so, in what branch. The business and civic awards you’ve earned, and the organizational endorsements you’ve received.  The books or articles you’ve written. Maybe even something about your wife, your kids, and their pet Pomeranian. 

As Sergeant Joe Friday used to say on Dragnet, you’re giving her “just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”

But the facts aren’t enough for him to make a deal-closing decision.  Not by a long chalk.

If she’s like most voters, she doesn’t know the difference between Johns Hopkins University and Cartagena Community College – at least in terms of what you can do once elected.  She can’t make heads or tails of your business honors, and doesn’t know the difference between a political endorsement by the Heritage Foundation and the John Birch Society.  You’ve given her facts about yourself, but you’ve done so without putting them in context.  What you’ve told her about yourself and your live-experience tells her nothing about what you can do for her – or, even more important – why you’re better for her than any other candidate for the same office.

Instead of motivating him by inspiring confidence in your ability to help him with his political needs, wants and desires, you’ve either put him off or actually scared him – maybe just a little bit.  Yes, a prospective supporter becomes afraid of a candidate when too many technical or business or inside-the-beltway terms he can’t possibly understand get thrown his way.

In short, you didn’t create for her a “Selling Bio,” a deal-closing campaign voter-loyalty marketing tool. A Selling Bio takes your accomplishments and abilities, and presents them in a way that wins confidence, engenders trust, and motivates her to pick up the phone or drop in your election headquarters, eager to volunteer, or contribute, or just to vote for you.

And that’s not at all surprising.  No professor at business school – or even a Poly-Sci professor – ever taught you how to write a selling bio.  It’s not in most how-to guides for aspiring candidates.  Nobody along your road to becoming a candidate ever explained the importance of winning a prospective voter’s trust, instead of just giving him raw information and encouraging him to make up his own mind.

Effective politics requires a professional candidate – not necessarily a professional politician, but one who sees his campaign as a solo-practitioner business that is his entire future.  And successful campaigns require a professional campaign staff, men and women who’ve run fund-raisers and Get Out The Vote efforts – in other words, people who know what GOTV means, and it’s not a new Cable Network. 

So why shouldn’t a candidate’s selling bio require a professional?  In fact, it does. 

A “selling bio” has to be much more than mere facts.  It’s got to be compelling and motivating, as well as believable. Each sentence has to help “make the case” for the candidate, the campaign and his positions.  Each paragraph has to make a difference.  And a lot of “conventional wisdom” needs to be thrown by the boards, because it is just all wrong.

For example – I worked with one candidate who had a large family – six or seven kids, all of them under high school ate.  He proudly put his family forward as an advantage, a positive indicator of his commitment to family values.  Sure to win the woman’s vote, he thought, right up until the research came in.  Soccer Moms – a key demographic – actually felt sorry for his kids. Knowing the hours an elected official has to put in, they saw this candidate’s success as just shy of child neglect. 

This is not to say that large families are a liability – they’re not.  But they may not be the slam-dunk advantage that candidates assume.  And this applies to every “conventional wisdom” advantage that you can imagine.  Ask yourself:
·      How many decorated combat veterans get elected in Portland, Oregon or San Francisco?

·      How many “women’s studies” professors get elected to a Bible Belt State Legislature?
Men and women who have honorably served have a leg up in many districts – but not all.  And someone who’s a respected college professor got elected in my home Congressional District, District One, but she would not have succeeded in the far more conservative District Four.
Don’t assume that you know what advantages to play up, or that you are word-smith enough to put those advantages down in a compelling, motivating fashion.

Unless your undergraduate degree was in marketing and promotion, you are going to be far better off turning the creation of this vital selling tool – along with all of your selling tools – over to a professional.  You wouldn’t try to write, produce, direct and star in your own television commercial, would you?  If you want a truly high-quality campaign website, you aren’t going to turn that over to your out-of-work brother-in-law, are you? 

So why would you want to try writing your own selling bio?

In the right hands, the right selling bio can make a significant difference in the conversion rate from prospective supporters who visit your otherwise professionally-created website into passionate voters, volunteers and campaign financial supporters. 

If you want to convert more prospects into supporters, make sure your website has all four of those elements – prospects looking for and finding a candidate for an office they care about, a mix of political positions that meets their own political needs, a believable case that you can deliver on your promises, and most of all, a selling bio that closes the deal for you.

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