Direct Mail Marketing and Vote-by-Mail Communications

Official government communication doesn’t need to have clever copy or elaborate designs, it just needs to be crystal clear to be effective

Direct Mail Marketing and Vote-by-Mail Communications

Voting by mail has been in place since 2011 in Washington State. Prior to each election date, voters receive two pieces of communication:

 1. A voter pamphlet detailing:

  • The election date
  • Ballot items
  • Ballot arrival date


2. And the ballot
detailing:

  • The election date
  • Ballot return options

The breakdown of each mailer truly is that simple. And the efficacy of this 1-2 strategy? Record-breaking.

Washington state ranked #1 for highest voter turnout among ALL the states during the presidential primary back in March—yes, MARCH 2020, when we as a nation were starting to make tough stay-at-home choices and Washington state was the epicenter of the COVID outbreak.

To mirror this strategy—and, ideally, its success—let’s take a closer look at what’s clearly working.

Clear Goals

We can safely assume that the shift from in-person voting to voting by mail was to make voting more accessible and increase voter participation. For voting by mail, the goal is simple: Vote. 

When creating your communications, start at the end by identifying your ideal outcome. What do you want your audience to do: Call? Schedule an appointment? Sign up for or buy services? Then, make that goal your North Star.

Clear Expectations

In business, we know to set expectations within an organization to positively impact engagement,  motivation, loyalty, even pride. Your audience is no different: Expectations are VITAL.

As mentioned, Washington’s voter system uses a 1-2 strategy, but let’s just focus on the first mailer, the voter pamphlet, for now. In it, voters learn:

  • What to expect: There is an upcoming election that requires your participation.
  • When to expect it: Your ballot will arrive in your mailbox by such-n-such date.

Then consider your own marketing. When you ask people to call, are you also telling them what to expect on the call? If you’re asking them to schedule an appointment, do they clearly understand what will happen during that time or how much time it’ll take? Remember to inform your audience not only how to take action, but what they can expect when they do.

Clear Art & Copy

Remember that the goal of your piece IS your North Star.

  • Establish your messaging hierarchy.
    By creating a hierarchy that supports your goals and expectations, you can more easily place relevant next steps or calls-to-action where they will be most needed.
  • Establish a visual hierarchy.
    Use design mechanisms, such as size and color, to call attention to the most important information, then repeat them as necessary to create cohesion and drive action.
  • Be consistent throughout your campaign.
    From mail communications to (in this case) drop boxes, the design must be consistent across all audience touch points to build trust. 

If this were as easy as it sounds, we’d call it “Pictures & Words,” but as a marketer there is an art to clarity. Hone it in by ensuring all design elements or content support your goal—if they do not, please remove.

Clear the Path

Anything that prevents your audience from achieving your goal is a barrier. Without going deep on the six barriers that prevent revenue growth, let’s just stick with the high-level basics. Because, truly, the obstacles to voting by mail are likely similar to some of those your customers might face, namely: deadlines, accessibility, and clarity. (For “clarity” reference all of the above.)

Let’s look at deadlines. To alleviate the stress of voting by the election date, WA state provides two options for casting your ballot: Either place your sealed/signed envelop in an official drop box by 8 p.m. ON Election Day or make sure your sealed/signed ballet is postdated in the mail BY Election Day. Of course, in-person voting is always an option to increase accessibility and meet demands of the voters.

How do you handle deadlines in your communications? Naturally, these details rank at the top of your communication hierarchy, but are you giving your audience enough time and multiple ways to respond? 

Clear Metrics

It’s obvious for voting that each response (read: ballot) must be measured (read: counted)—every vote matters. But it would be naïve to think Washington state’s record-breaking strategy has gone untested.

Measurements = Insights = Improvements. Sure, many marketers feel they know the most important metrics that matter. But again, make sure your goal is your North Star and gauge which metrics ladder back up to that so you can get a better grasp on what clearly works for your programs and improve upon those areas with each and every campaign.

Want help gaining clarity in your direct marketing communications? Let’s talk.