(Cartoon by Peter Noonan)
Less than one year ago, Bernie Sanders was relatively unknown to most of the voting population and Hillary had few impediments on her path to the oval office. There was no question that she would win the Democratic primary and quite possibly become our next President. It seemed as if there was no stopping the Clinton juggernaut. So, how did Bernie, who was unknown to many voters just months ago, get more #FITN NH primary votes than any other candidate, Democratic or Republican?
Rather than focus on the status quo marketing techniques, like TV ads and mailers, that the other candidates hold tightly to despite waning ROI, Sanders was building his inbound marketing engine. Looking at each of the candidates, you would never expect that the messy gray-haired guy from Vermont would be the one who was dominating online campaigning, especially with the former CEO of Hewlett Packard in the race (who just dropped out today), but that’s exactly what he’s been doing.
Bernie’s campaign has harnessed the ability of the internet and technology to connect with voters in a highly individualized and targeted way. This allowed him identify likely supporters and motivate them to turn out on election day better than the other candidates who relied the status quo outbound marketing techniques.
Inbound marketing allows businesses (or candidates in this case) have individualized two-way “conversations” with interested parties. It allows you to collect information about those prospects to use in future communications. There is no way to get someone’s email address from a TV commercial or mailer and no way to click a TV ad to donate money. In fact, many people go for weeks without watching live TV, which means they are skipping the ads altogether.
Of course, Bernie isn’t breaking any ground with his use of digital marketing for a political campaign – Barack Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012 used social media, email and online ads to drive people to the polls with outstanding success. In fact, Sanders hired a tech company that was founded by members of Obama’s 2008 campaign. Using online marketing, Bernie’s website was getting 5 million visitors a month – twice the traffic of Clinton and more than all the Republican candidates combined.
This commitment to digital advertising and inbound marketing has shown in the support that Sanders has from younger voters. While his message resonates with many of these voters, it is the way that his campaign is delivering his message that has made the difference. If Bernie was delivering his ideas only through TV, he would never have gotten the response that he has.