Targeting is one of those aspects of political campaigns that is part science and part art. At its most basic form, targeting simply means choosing which voters will be most receptive to your message and using various techniques to reach those voters. For more information on targeting and how it is done, check out these recent articles:
These articles will give you a basic understanding of political targeting and its importance to political campaigns.
What Do I Do Now?
Many candidates, after running the numbers and choosing various groups of voters or various areas and precincts that they would like to target, ask, “now what?” What parts of my campaign should rely on my targeting? What tactics depend on my targeting information and which do not? The answer is: every part of your campaign and every tactic you use should rely on your targeting to determine who is going to receive your message.
For example, let’s say your campaign is ready to put up yard signs. At this point, many campaigns simply send out volunteers to find lawns and roads to put signs on and place their signs accordingly. Smart campaigns though know that, like every political tactic, yard signs should be a targeted tactic. These campaigns determine what areas to place signs in using their targeting data – where are the people who are most likely to vote for this candidate if they only knew about him? What high visibility areas do our targeted voters pass regularly?
Every Tactic, Every Time
This thinking should be applied to every tactic, every time it is used. Campaigns should plan out their strategy before hand, target voters, and target their tactics accordingly. Are you going door to door in a primary election? Target the homes of your party’s voters, or if time is short, of your party’s voters who voted in the last two primaries. Skip the homes of your opponent’s party members, independents, and non-voters.
Are you a Republican sending out direct mail in a general election? Send your mail pieces to Republicans, swing independents and conservative democrats. Or send your mail to precincts with high GOP and swing voter data. The targeting decisions – when and where to send the mail – must be made by you, depending on your strategy. The important thing is that you have a strategy and that you target your tactics to reach the voters your strategy has targeted.