Recently, I’ve dipped my baby toe into local politics here in Hoboken, NJ, and it’s put my marketing skills in a different light.
On Election Day (May 8), as a volunteer for Peter Cunningham, one of the 3 candidates running for the city council seat in my ward, my job was to stand on the corner and hand out postcards to strangers, encouraging them to vote if they hadn’t and thanking them if they had. Some people were in a hurry; others acknowledged me, took the card and moved right on by. But what amazed me most was how many people ignored me outright! (I learned quickly not to even bother with the ones wearing headphones or talking on a cell phone. In fact, it made me think the purpose of those gadgets is to be left alone!)
I experimented with all sorts of opening lines to figure out which worked best. Should I say hello first or just launch into "Have you voted yet?" I didn’t want to tell anyone who to vote for but of course the postcard does that by itself. Ultimately I decided hello was important; actually what I said mostly was, "hi there" which seemed a little friendlier. Then I wondered if I should get their attention by invading their personal space with my postcard or wait ’til they looked at me before trying to give them the card? In most situations, it seemed more effective to let the card be the entry into a potential conversation. Some people just took the card but clearly didn’t want to talk. But a few were genuinely interested, had forgotten about the election and were grateful for the reminder. In fact, they helped Peter become the highest vote-getter with 47% of the vote.
But he hasn’t won yet. There will be a run off on June 12th. So there’s more of this campaigning/marketing to do over the next month. I’m sure to learn a lot more.