d.Mark consulting LLC | Politician Email Marketing Incompetence
Republicans have been slow to the digital dance & behind the curve on email marketing unlike Democrats who embraced digital several political cycles earlier
Email Marketing

Politician Email Marketing Incompetence

For political junkies (like myself) – the eagerly awaited ramp up for another presidential election cycle has finally arrived. The remaining 99.99% of the voter populous don’t share this enthusiasm. Political junky or not, it’s no secret to experienced digital practitioners that Republicans have been slow to the digital dance and behind the curve when it comes to email marketing. Democrats – by nature more progressive – embraced email marketing several political cycles earlier with Obama elevating it to an art form in 2008. GOP candidates on the other hand appear somewhat challenged with mastering this millennium’s primary means of communication.

I say that because one candidate in particular sends 2-3 messages a day soliciting donations. Seriously. If you’re on that email distribution list you’ll receive no less than a morning and an evening email asking for money with an afternoon message from time to time peppered in the mix because 2 asks a day just isn’t enough. The weekend lightens up with 1-2 a day but come Monday morning it’s back in full swing with 2-3.

Does the digital leader, communications director and fundraising strategist of this campaign seriously believe 2-3 asks a day is the recipe for fundraising success?

This candidate’s digital team doesn’t recognize inbound marketing best practices or email industry standards – so much so it borders on digital malpractice. The thought crossed my mind “Did an opposing candidate plant digital marketers within the campaign to intentionally sabotage all email efforts toward success?” Then it occurred to me – maybe this isn’t an anomaly – maybe all GOP email campaigns demonstrate similar incompetence.

Hence the action of signing up for an additional 2 candidate’s email communication to explore the political email landscape between 3 opposing GOP candidates.

I have no baseline to measure the actual progression of email acumen from the last election cycle till now but we can benchmark performance with inbound marketing best practices and email industry standards as the core metric.


Email campaigns have dozens of attributes that determine performance but we’ll start Phase 1 of the assessment with sign up basics by first looking at where any email relationship begins– the website form sign up page. From there each touchpoint that follows (or at least should follow) is judged.


Competence is scored on the following criteria:

– Website form sign up page composition

– The landing page a visitor is taken to following form submission

– Email response following form submission and it’s originating sender

Inbound Marketing best practice determines the underlying score per category. BP Rationale (a.k.a. common sense) are listed for reference but when has common sense been synonymous with politics? Next to never – unfortunately confirmed by Candidate 1, 2 and 3 abysmal scores.



1. Social Share buttons are prominently positioned on the website form page

BEST PRACTICE: YES – do this! Position social shares sitewide, ideally static on scroll so they’re never out of site.

RATIONALE: All pages on your site should be sharable to gain additional reach beyond your owned, earned and shared digital properties. Form pages in particular are one of the more important pages within a site because they seek a specific action from the visitor. Bottom funnel engagement is always preferred over mid or top of funnel.



Candidate 1: Yes, but you need to scroll far below the form section to view so why bother

Score: C+

Candidate 2: NO

Score: Fail

Candidate 3: NO

Score: Fail

2. Social follow buttons are prominently positioned on the website form page


BEST PRACTICE: Do NOT position social follows prominent but instead toward or in the footer and never position adjacent a call to action for deeper website engagement.

RATIONALE: Don’t distract a visitor who’s just arrived at the goal website destination by redirecting them away from the site. Social channels, albeit important, are website portals. A social follow call to action that takes visitors away from the website is counterproductive. Yes, Candidates, you should engage voters socially but conversions (a.k.a donations, volunteers, grass roots support, etc.) occur on websites not social channels. The end goal for anything digital is get eyeballs to your website and once there, draw visitors deeper into it. All digital channels should lead to that end.




Candidate 1: Yes – social follows direct visitor AWAY from the site

Score: FAIL

Candidate 2: Yes – social follows direct visitor AWAY from the site

Score: FAIL

Candidate 3: Yes – social follows direct visitor AWAY from the site

Score: FAIL


3. Number of form fields for email sign up


BEST PRACTICE: Minimum 3 (require email address, first and last name), maximum 5 fields

RATIONALE: At the very least you should know the first and last name of the person signing up to support your campaign. This is essential for future email campaign personalization. More than 5 fields has shown high abandon rates.




Candidate 1: 2 fields – email address and zip code only (they don’t care what your name is but they’ll take your money despite not knowing your name)

Score: FAIL

Candidate 2: 9 fields with 5 required

Score: FAIL

(Although only 5 of 9 are required, the appearance of 9 fields to complete is a negative. You have 2 seconds to capture a visitor’s interest-don’t give the impression your form takes work. A visitor may not see during that 2 sec window that asterisks are only beside 5 of the 9 fields. Wonder what the abandon rate is on that form….)

Candidate 3: 5 fields with 1 required – obviously that being the email address. This Candidate also doesn’t care who you are by name but will surely still take your money same as Candidate 1.

Score: FAIL



4. The landing page a visitor’s taken to following form submission


BEST PRACTICE: The landing page should comprise a thank you signifying form submission confirmation with call to action for further engagement

RATIONALE: It’s proper etiquette to say thank you when someone takes the desired action you sought. By submitting a form the visitor walked through your digital door transforming from spectator to supporter– thank them! But don’t stop them at the door threshold by thanking and closing the door. Invite the visitor in beyond the threshold and further engage their interest. You’d do that in the real-world, wouldn’t you? Or would you accept the form they have in hand, say thanks and close the door in their face? No call to action on the landing page for further engagement does just that.




Candidate 1: Thank you message followed by an overly aggressive DONATE ask. Sure invite me across the threshold to further engage by holding out your hand – that’s brilliant. You only want me for my money.

Score: D+

By the way, this score is highly generous giving credit for at least saying thank you but honestly my first inclination is FAIL because this candidate’s overly aggressive ask dwarfed the thank you.

Candidate 2: No standalone landing page – overlay message of thanks but no call to action for deeper audience engagement

Score: C

Scored for the really nice thank you message, but you still didn’t invite me beyond the threshold to further engage.

Candidate 3: Landing page is missing those 2 important words: Thank you. The subscriber gets no thanks just a subscribe confirmation and there’s no call to action for further engagement.

Score: C-



5. Email response following online form submission


BEST PRACTICE: Triggered automated message of thanks signifying subscribe confirmation and call to action for deeper engagement.


RATIONALE: Your digital team should track email deliverability to new subscribers by monitoring spam bounce and adjust email settings as indicated for future communication. This first email also gives recipients a chance to flag you as an authorized sender to avoid future spam delivery.




Candidate 1: NO email response at all.

Score: FAIL

Candidate 2: Trigger email received instantaneous submission

Score: A+

Candidate 3: Trigger email received instantaneous submission

Score: A+



6. Sender of email response following online form submission


BEST PRACTICE: Personalization is paramount – reflect the email sender as an actual person’s address not general/generic mailbox incognito with display name


RATIONALE: Using a real person’s name like joe@company.com will help make your emails more recognizable and credible, not to mention personalization increases open rates. In best case scenarios the sender is an actual person tasked with follow up to any response messages. General/generic email sender is impersonal – no one wants to feel they’ve interacted with a robot. Changing the display name but still sending from a generic/general mailbox isn’t enough. Recipients can and do see your half-hearted attempt at personalization. You cared enough to fake it by changing the display name but not enough to engage as more than a robot.




Candidate 1: Display name changed but still originates from general mailbox.

Score: C

Candidate 2: Display name changed but still originates from general mailbox.

Score: C

Candidate 3: Display name changed but message originates from an obscure address that identifies an email engine delivered the message. That sender address is far more robotic in appearance than the impersonal general mailbox sender.

Score: D



Candidate 1 – 37%


Candidate 2 – 42%


Candidate 3 – 39%


Final Score for all Candidates: FAIL


As you can see, email marketing acumen relies heavily on numerous attention to detail variables – and, we haven’t come close to covering the related A/B testing or even touched on effective creative design.

Stay tuned for a future Phase 2 assessment that scores email subject line, its content and subsequent message send timing.

In the meantime, Candidate 1-3, I’m happy to assist with improving your digital performance score, not to mention Candidate 4-16 –d.Mark’s here for you as well.

Contact Us today for an assessment of your company’s email marketing performance.



And, take a look at these d.Mark Email Marketing Resources

5 Email Mistakes That Make Me Cringe

Narcissism Began With AOL You’ve Got Mail

Digital Body Language

Best Practices in Email Deliverability

1 Comment

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