The first key concept that any successful campaign needs to understand is targeting. Targeting is the process of choosing which people your campaign intends to communicate with.
I can hear you saying, “What do you mean which people we’re going to try to communicate – we’re going to try and communicate with everyone!” I also know that that’s not true. You don’t want to spend money to communicate with people who live outside your district, do you? How about people who aren’t registered to vote, or who can’t vote you in the primary because they are from the other party?
Campaigns are expensive. It costs money to send out direct mail, put gas in the car to go door to door, print up yard signs, or do any of the important things your campaign needs to do to win your election. You simply can’t waste money – you have to target who you are going to communicate with.
The examples above are the obvious ones – of course you only want to target those voters who can actually vote for you – ones who live in the district, are eligible and registered to vote, and, in the case of a primary, are the same party as your candidate. The real decisions come when you decide which of the voters who can vote for you are your targeted priorities. That’s right – you need to decide which of the voters it would be a waste of your time and money to communicate with, and which you should lavish more of your attention on.
The targeting decisions you make will affect all aspects of your campaign. When you’re ready to send out direct mail, you’ll use your targeting to determine which precincts get five pieces of mail per voter and which only get two. Your targeting will determine where events need to be held, where to go door-to-door, and where you need to garner more earned media. In short, targeting gives your campaign tactics direction.
Every campaign, no matter how small, relies on targeting to make strategic decisions. Don’t think that just because you are running in a local election your race is “too small” to worry about targeting. Even if you plan to knock on every door in the district, your campaign still needs to do targeting to define its strategy. No campaign is too big, or small, to target.