In the early 90’s, when my self promotion consulting practice was still very young, I had a client (and friend) who was running for mayor of Hoboken and, while helping him, I remember realizing that what he was doing was the epitome of self promotion: asking people to vote for him.
He did not win that election, but that experience must have planted a seed somewhere in me, because I recently decided I was tired of feeling like my vote doesn’t count. So when a neighbor asked me to run for a seat on a local committee, I said, "yes." And last Tuesday, 10 citizens in the 5th Ward in Hoboken won seats on this committee, including me.
One of the main marketing lessons I’ve learned so far is the importance of identifying the market, not just the general group of prospects, but the actual prospects, one by one. In this case, we had to identify our voters. Because with limited time and resources at our disposal, we couldn’t possibly campaign to all the potential voters in our district. So we had to cherry-pick the voters most likely to vote for us and focus our attention on them. And that’s what we did.
We targeted 75 voters in our tiny district. We personally addressed letters to them, hand-wrote the envelopes, then walked around the neighborhood and hand-delivered them. Besides saving on postage, we thought it would be more effective to hand deliver them. We wanted them to put faces to the names, to know who they were voting for. If the voters were home, we introduced ourselves, chatted a bit, and asked for their vote. If they weren’t, we left the letter in a conspicuous place, away from the junk mail.
I had moments of the type of fantasizing that I teach my clients to avoid. "He’ll slam the door in my face." "She doesn’t like me." etc. And each time I overrode those voices, I made actual contact with a real person who, to my surprise, was usually interested and sometimes even thanked me for getting involved.
We spent a lot of time out on the street (my dog Charlie was a great asset in this process). We stopped people, asked if they were registered to vote and kept track of those who seemed most receptive so we could reach out to them again and build a relationship, which would be especially necessary if we won.
On election day, we were outside a lot, just being visible, handing out cards, reminding people who may have forgotten it was election day or for some other reason weren’t making voting a priority. Some people seemed kind of annoyed about the reminder, as if I were treating them like a child, so we were sensitive about that and just made it our business to be visible.
An hour before the polls closed, I ran into one neighbor laden with bags on her way home. She said, "I was just thinking about you. I’m going to put these down and go vote right now." When I called her the next day to tell her we had won and to thank her for voting, she said, "It was a good thing I ran into you because I was really tired and I was just going to go home and crash without voting.
It was a virtual landslide. I won with 37 votes (compared to my opponent’s 13!). More to come as I figure out what I’ve signed up for….