If you’re on political mailing lists, you probably know a sad truth: Most of those begging letters are breathlessly desperate…or blah and boring.
This letter came from a politician who’s not in my state. It’s a model of a marketing email, regardless of whether you agree with him. Let’s look at what he wrote and why it’s so good. Notice that it’s not smooth and polished, which is appropriate. He probably didn’t write the letter himself – senators have staffs – but it sounds “homemade.”
To avoid distraction, I’ve stripped off references that would identify him or his party.
Subject: “A lot of my colleagues can’t do this…”
I want to share a story with you about why these emails are so important. I hope you’ll read it, because I believe you’ll appreciate the message. Then maybe it will inspire you to make a contribution to my re-election campaign.
Last month, one of the people on my finance team asked me to do a meeting with a [wealthy potential donor] so that I could ask him for money. Now, there are some good donors who give a lot of money to [my party’s] campaigns because they believe in the cause, but there are also those who have other motivations for giving. Some donors are giving because they want to influence public policy to the benefit of their industry or their wallet. This potential donor was of that category, and I said no to the meeting. It felt great.
A lot of my colleagues don’t have this luxury, especially not if they want to be re-elected. I’m not saying other Members of Congress engage in transactional fundraising, but it’s just not healthy for democracy for candidates to have to rely on donors who are giving in the hopes that [legislation] pass that will enrich them personally.
I don’t have to ask these types of donors for money, and it’s in large part because of the response to emails like this one. They keep my time on the phones and at events to a minimum, and that allows me to focus on the work you expect me to do as [an elected official]. But it also means I have to ask from time to time:
Can I count on you to make a [$ amount] contribution to my re-election campaign to keep me off the phones, out of events, and focused on the work I am actually elected as [an elected official]?
The truth is, I would MUCH rather run a campaign funded by lots of people giving small amounts of money. That’s what we’re doing here and it’s liberating. So thank you for all of your continued support. It means the world to me.
What makes this message so powerful? It’s worth asking, because this particular Senator has been raising money effectively using an email marketing campaign.
The subject line arouses curiosity. You expect to read about his skills, background or expertise. Instead, as we’ll see, he turns the attention back to his readers.
He sets you up for a story and asks you to keep reading. He doesn’t hide the purpose of the message, but he’s not doing a job of heavy selling.
The story has enough detail to keep readers convinced as well as engaged, and he makes a point that’s timely to citizens of both parties in the US (and possibly in other countries where lobbying takes places). He’s saying, “If you support me, I’ll have time to keep working for you. I won’t need to take time from my job to fund-raise. I won’t have to accept funds from donors who will hold an agenda over my head.”
He expresses appreciation. Many marketers skip this step, but we shouldn’t. Thanking your readers does a number of things:
… It makes them feel part of a community, not just targets to be manipulated for money.
… It builds reciprocity: he appreciates you so it’s natural to want to give back.
… It’s more likely to get you to say “yes.” Something as simple as, “Thank you in advance…” will be likely to generate a response in an email message. A warm, genuine-sounding thank you will be even stronger. Notice he doesn’t just say “thank you.” He shows why he’s appreciative.
Notice that he adds, “It means the world to me” as a final statement. In the context of this message, as well as other message he’s sent, the sentence comes across as genuine. Otherwise the whole piece would backfire.