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It’s all about making people do what we want

As I can’t resist getting involved in local politics, it’s usually about this time of year that I get asked by one candidate or another to help with electioneering. When it comes to the crucial campaign literature, it’s not too hard to offer at least some useful advice, because most candidates don’t have any marketing experience. However, I have over the years streamlined the general advice, and it occurs to me that this can be used on a far broader range of literature than political material.

Normally, we get one shot at engaging the recipient – the headline – and this must be the biggest “what’s in it for me?” statement. Lead off with a label (such as a political candidate’s name) and the chance of the rest of the literature being read falls through the floor. Sadly, people like to see their name and organisation in as large a type size as possible, and this ends up being the conventional approach, so it can be a tough argument to make.

Once we’ve got the attention of the reader, bullet points are key. Almost every marketer (in politics or business) assumes people are way more interested in the offering than they actually are. Every moment spent with the literature is another chance for them to switch off. There’s no alternative to being concise.

Consequently, we need to make sure that every element continues to answer the “what’s in it for me?” question (also known as listing the benefits, not the features). To refine these, as I’ve written many times, one approach is to read every point made and imagine a reader asking: “So what?” If there’s an answer to that question, the statement can be improved.

Finally, we shouldn’t waste time with claims where the opposite is something that nobody would want. Politicians love to talk about how hard they’ll work, how they’ll listen to people, how much they love the area, etc. But who’d want anything else?

I don’t think there’s too much difference between selling products and selling politicians.