Libertarian State Leadership Alliance
The Libertarian Volunteer
Libertarians can compete against the "big boys" -- if they're clever enough
Like a midget on a basketball team, the Libertarian Party is surrounded by giants.
Sure, the Libertarian Party has the best philosophy and ideas -- but, like any other midget, it must struggle to be seen over the shoulders of its giant rivals, the Republicans and Democrats.
Out-spent, out-manned, and generally out-gunned, the Libertarian Party can't keep its name in the public eye through million-dollar ad campaigns, or gavel-to-gavel C-SPAN coverage, or by dominating newspaper headlines, as the Republicans and Democrats can.
Instead, it must be smarter, more nimble, and more resourceful than its opponents.
One possible way to do it: Guerrilla Marketing.
In his classic book Guerrilla Marketing, author Jay Conrad Levinson outlines how small business can successfully market themselves -- even when competing against the "big boys." His rules apply to upstart political parties, too.
What is guerrilla marketing?
Levinson explains: "Guerrilla [marketing] tactics provide you with an alternative to standard expensive marketing. They enable you to increase your sales with a minimum of expense and a maximum of smarts. You do what the big spenders do without having to spend big."
In a nutshell: Reach the public by using "mini-media" -- small, cheap, non-traditional niche communications vehicles that the big boys scorn as too insignificant. Some examples that Levinson recommends: Canvassing, telephone marketing, circulars and brochures, classified ads, and signs.
Effective? Yes -- if you do it right.
By aggressively using all of these kinds of marketing opportunities, state Libertarian parties can keep their name in the public eye, increase vote totals, generate prospects names, and recruit new members. While the R's & D's use crude, expensive, wasteful "shot-gun" methods like national TV advertising, clever Libertarians can cheaply and narrowly target prospects with the accuracy of an arrow aimed right at a bulls-eye.
Here are five methods Levinson recommends for guerrilla marketers. Small businesses must stress those mini-media options, Levinson argues, "[because] it is in mini-media that practitioners of guerrilla marketing have their chance to shine."
[All quotes are from Levinson's Guerrilla Marketing.]
"Canvassing can be the most inexpensive marketing method. In fact, it can be free, except for the time you devote to it. After all, canvassing is merely asking prospective customers for business. During a canvas you should engage in three separate steps:
"The first step, called the contact, is when you first meet your prospect. The first impression counts like crazy. So make your contact friendly, upbeat, customer-oriented, honest, and warm.
"The second step of a canvass is called the presentation. During the presentation, you outline the features of your offering and the benefits to be gained from buying from you.
"The third step of a canvas is the most important part. It's called the close, and it is when you complete the sale. It happens when the prospect says, 'Yes.' "
Five tips from Levinson for successful canvassing:
1) "Qualify the prospect. Try to learn your prospect's attitude toward your type of offering."
2) "Be brief, friendly, and outgoing."
3) "List the benefits of doing business with you."
4) "People do not like doing business with pioneers, so mention the acceptance of your products or services by others -- especially people in their community."
5) "Important elements of your contact are your smile, your attire, your posture, and your willingness to listen and look directly in your prospect's eye. Your nonverbal communication is as important as your verbal."
2. Telephone Marketing
"A telephone call takes less time than a canvass, is more personal than a letter, costs less than both, and provides you with fairly close personal contact with your prospect."
Three tips from Levinson for successful telemarketing:
1) "Talk clearly. Use short sentences. Talk loud enough, but not directly into the mouthpiece of the phone; talking across the mouthpiece makes for the most effective voice transmission."
2) "You must use an outline to structure your phone conversation. If your outline is longer than one page, there is probably too much and you should try to streamline it."
- "Your contact should be brief and warm. Your presentation should be concise, yet loaded with references to benefits. And your close should be clear and definite."
3. Circulars & Brochures
"There are several ways to distribute circulars and brochures. They may be mailed alone, mailed as part of a package, placed in mailboxes, slipped under doors [or] windshield wipers, handed out on street corners, handed out wherever lots of prospects congregate, or placed on racks that say 'take one.' "
Three tips from Levinson for successful circulars and brochures:
- "The content must be factual information, enlivened with a touch of style and romance."
- "Unlike ads, which must flag a person's attention, a brochure -- or circular -- already has that attention. So its primary job is to inform with the intention of selling."
- Always be sure to include information about how to get in touch with you: address, phone number, and place to find you [a campaign appearance, for example]."
4. Classified Advertising
"Many a flourishing enterprise exists primarily on the pulling power of classified ads. Many people read the classified ads every day. Some read them to find specific bargains. Others read them to merely browse via the newspaper. And still others find them the most fascinating part of the newspaper."
Five tips from Levinson for successful classified ads:
- "Keep your headline short -- and be sure you do have a headline."
- "Write in short sentences. Try to sound more like a human being than a want ad. Write copy as though you are talking to one human being."
- "Be sure you include a way to contact you. More than once I've seen an ad with no phone number or address."
4) "It's false economy to try to keep your classified ad as short as possible. Don't use too many adjectives, but do use a lot of facts. Aim to be as clear in your message as you can. Remember that your classified ad is really your sales presentation."
"Think first in terms of clarity, then in terms of reader interest. You've got to capture your reader's attention. Do it with a catchy word or with a zippy headline. Keep in mind that you have but a fleeting instant to gain attention."
"Most exterior signs are there to remind, to create a tiny impulse, to implant thoughts a wee bit deeper, to sharpen an identity, to state a very brief message."
Six tips from Levinson for successful signs:
- "As a rule, exterior signs should be no more than six words long."
- "Almost (but not quite) as important as the wording of the sign is the overall look of the sign. By this I mean the picture, the lettering style, the colors, the design of the sign."
- "Using one type of lettering makes it easier reading than using more than one type."
- "The words on the sign should be as large as possible while leaving room for the picture."
- "The only punctuation with which you need be concerned is the exclamation mark. It lends a tone of excitement."
2) "[Use] some of the strongest words in the English language. Psychologists at Yale University tell us the most persuasive words are: You; easy; money; safety; save; love; new; discovery; results; proven; health; guarantee. To these I would hasten to add: Free; yes; sale; benefits; now; announcing."
For more information: Guerrilla Marketing, Jay Conrad Levinson, Houghton Mifflin Books. $8.95 (Paperback)
by Bill Winter
How can Libertarian state parties increase membership? The answer is through a vigorous, carefully planned marketing campaign -- to your members and prospects.
Let's face it: Only a small number of people will join an organization simply because they agree with the philosophy and goals. Most people want to belong to an organization that will actually accomplish something.
People also don't want to buy a ticket to a sinking ship. So people are less likely to join an organization that is obviously failing, or in a state of decline. They also don't want to belong to a group that is stagnant, apathetic, disorganized, lackluster, ridiculed, or riddled with infighting and purges.
They want to join an organization that is energetic, growing, thriving, respected, and accomplishing good things.
So, your job as Libertarian leaders is to convince people that your state organization is energetic, growing, thriving, respected, and accomplishing good things.
How do you do this?
Step One:Create an effective newsletter. I cannot stress this enough: A professional, timely, news-intensive newsletter is the basic building block of any successful organization. For most prospects, and perhaps even for most of your members, your newsletter may be the only contact they have with your state party. Everything they know about you -- your personalities, your plans, your projects, your enemies -- will be filtered through your newsletter. The image that your newsletter projects will be the image they have of you.
Look at your current newsletter. (Do you even have one?) Is it professional? Does it come out on a regular schedule? Does it portray your organization as active and energetic? Does it contain actual news about your activities? Does it show that your leaders and members are good, decent, concerned people? Does it sell your vision of the Libertarian Party? If not, it needs to be improved.
Step Two:Create projects for your party to do. These projects must be political in some way -- like running someone for office, mounting a campaign against a particular bill, or lobbying your legislature. Be sure it is a project where everybody can help -- either by testifying, writing a letter, making a phone call, or by donating time or money. It must be a participatory project.
Whatever it is, your position on the issue or fight should sharply illustrate Libertarian philosophy. (I have become convinced that we can no longer define ourselves by what we say. We must start defining ourselves as a political party by what we do. Your activity on these projects should illustrate who you are as Libertarians.)
But the single most important thing to remember about this project is the following: You are not doing it to necessarily win a political victory; you are doing it because you can "sell" it to your members and prospects. (Of course, actually winning a victory is a nice bonus!)
This project defines who you are, and what you stand for as Libertarians -- but does so in a way that can be effectively marketed.
A cynic might suggest that such projects are nothing more than public relations "ploys" to get more members. That might be true in a very narrow sense -- but it's also completely false when the big picture is considered.
After all, the national Libertarian Party has a mere 10,000 members. Your state party has far fewer. No matter how many members you have now, it is not enough to make any kind of major, systemic changes in your state government or laws. Sure, you might help get the occasional good law passed, or a bad one killed. Perhaps you will elect a few people to office.
But with your tiny membership, all your gains can be swept away in a minute by an overwhelming tide of Republicans and Democrats. You cannot defend your gains. And whatever small victories you win are outnumbered by a hundred defeats. The exact minute you help roll back one small tax, the Republicans and Democrats will pass one hundred new ones!
If we ever want to succeed, we must use our current resources to build the party. With more members -- and hence more resources -- we can recruit still more members. As our membership grows, so will our number of volunteers, our expertise, our number of candidates, our financial resources.
With this growth will come victory.
Without this emphasis on growth, the Libertarian Party will continue to stagnate.
That's why our Number One priority for the near-term future must be to build membership.
And that's why these marketable projects are not a cynical "ploy." Instead, they are an investment in long-term victory.
Step Three:Use your newsletter to "sell" your projects to members and subscribers.
As I said before, people want to join an organization that is energetic, growing, thriving, respected, and accomplishing good things. With interesting projects to write about, your newsletter can be your tool to convince prospects that you have exactly such an organization.
Use one issue of the newsletter to announce your project. (And give your project a snappy name!)
Use the next issue to talk about how it's gotten underway. If you have a "From the Chair" column, use it to enthusiastically call for support. Print letters to the editor from people who are excited about the project. Tell people specifically how they can help.
Use the next issue to talk about what you accomplished so far. Urge everyone to participate, and explain that if they don't, the project may fail. List any media coverage you've received, praise from well-known individuals, or other attention you've generated.
Use a final issue to declare victory! (Or at least to pat yourself on the back for giving it a good try.) List what you've achieved. Thank everyone who helped. Don't let the project drag on forever -- four to six months should be the maximum. And announce the next project.
A prospect who is reading your newsletter (assuming he or she agrees with basic Libertarian philosophy) cannot help but to be impressed with the image this series of stories has portrayed: A brave, enthusiastic, dynamic, vibrant organization -- getting things accomplished! You most definitely won't look like a bunch of armchair philosophers, afraid of getting their hands dirty in the real world. You'll look like real political movers and shakers!
Two rules to follow:
- Make sure the project specifically illuminates and advances Libertarian goals. Sure, you could launch any number of projects that captures the attention of your members or the public -- but what is the point if they're not explicitly Libertarian? We're the Libertarian Party. Do Libertarian things.
2) Be honest. When I talk about "marketing" your project, I don't mean to make false or misleading statements about your goals or your success. Dishonesty is never a proper strategy. I do mean to put the best possible spin on events, and play up your successes.
Does this system work? Yes. In New Hampshire, we went from about 40 members to more than 400 -- an increase of about 1,000%.
And the best news: As you start doing these projects/sales pitches, and you gain more members, the projects you can do get bigger, and your success rate increases.
By projecting the image of a growing, energetic political party, you can become a growing, energetic political party.
Do you ever comb your hair before going out on a date? Put on nice clothes? Buy flowers? That's marketing!
What is marketing? It is the system of successfully promoting your product (in our case, the Libertarian Party) using one or more media to effect a measurable response and/or transaction (in our case, getting new members or winning votes).
Unfortunately, most Libertarians don't spend enough time marketing the party. Newspaperman Stuart Henderson Britt once wrote: "Doing business without advertising is like winking in the dark. You know what you're doing but nobody else does." The same is true of political parties and marketing. If you're not out there marketing our identity, our ideas, and our successes -- then nobody will know we exist.
That's why this issue of The Libertarian Volunteer focuses on marketing. Libertarians need to start thinking with a marketing mindset -- so the party will stop "winking in the dark."
We also feature several articles pertaining to campaigns, which should be helpful to the 600+ LP candidates who are receiving this issue. After all, what is a campaign but an opportunity to market your candidacy?}
10 (new) rules for effective campaigning
Election season is fast approaching. To achieve our goals, we must debunk a few myths, and establish effective new campaign rules based on our accumulated experience. Here are my "10 New Rules for Effective Campaigning:"
Rule #1: Votes should come from membership recruitment, not the other way around.
The Clark campaign [in 1980] generated more votes than any other LP Presidential campaign, but the resulting membership growth was negligible. The reason is simple: vote tabulations don't come with lists of names and addresses attached. You can't tell who voted for you and who didn't.
The kind of campaign required to recruit members can also generate votes, but a campaign aimed at vote creation alone cannot recruit significant new members. The former approach can do double duty while the latter can't. Votes must come as a fallout from recruitment. We must put the cart, at long last, behind the horse.
Rule #2: Give the media what they want.
In 1988 I told the Editorial Board of The San Diego Union that if they preferred to cover campaign tactics and strategy instead of issues, they should move their election coverage to the Sports page. They all laughed and agreed with my assessment, but their policy didn't change.
Oh well, if you can't change them, cooperate. I decided from that point on that I would never write another "issue based" news release. All of our releases during my tour as Marrou/Lord Chief of Staff were based on political strategies and tactics -- things we were doing to win votes. We didn't send very many of these releases, but everyone we did send was used.
Rule #3:If a reporter asks you about more than one or two issues, tell him to print your phone number.
Journalists may accurately report our positions on one or two issues, but we can't expect them to do it more often than that. Instead, ask them to print your phone number. That way we can provide voters with our own undistorted explanations of what we believe. Our job is to sell ourselves, not help sloppy journalists make us look like schmucks. We want to tell our story our way.
Rule #4:The media won't do our job for us.
They won't. Their job is to make money, not build political parties. We have the mistaken belief that the major parties succeed because they get daily media attention. They don't. They get daily media attention because they've succeeded. It's a result, not a cause.
Actually, what we think of as a problem is really a blessing. If we got as much media scrutiny -- and scrutiny is exactly what it is -- as the D's and R's get, our party would be finished. Believe me, we couldn't stand the attention -- there are still too many rough spots to smooth out.
When the media does begin to give us major coverage it will be because we've succeeded by our own efforts, and then we won't need their dubious help anymore.
Rule #5: TANSTAFM!
There Ain't No Such Thing As "Free" Media. And, frequently, free media isn't good media.
What's that you say? Any coverage is good coverage as long as they spell your name right? Wrong! Ask yourself this question: would you willingly go out and pay good money to place an advertisement saying that Libertarians are atheistic anarchists who believe in child pornography, heroin in vending machines, rapacious monopolies, and the right to discriminate against gays and black people?
The truth is that you already have, because that's been the quality of much of the so-called "free media" you've paid for in the past. We may find it emotionally satisfying to see our name in print (spelled correctly of course) but that doesn't mean it helps us achieve our mission.
Rule #6: The three most important tools in campaigning are repetition, repetition, and repetition.
The electorate's mass mind is kind of like Ronald Reagan's mind. It believes the last thing it hears -- and it has to hear what it hears 30 times before it retains it. A major problem with our LP Presidential campaigns, for example, has been the diffuse nature of our outreach. Ten million people seeing one of our ads one time is a lot less effective than one million people seeing it ten times.
Rule #7: Sell benefits.
Most Libertarians think we should talk about the issues that the polls say are "hot." If we do, we probably won't be heard, and if we're heard, probably no one will care. Case in point: the deficit.
Yes, we have a solution for the deficit: cut all government spending. Big deal. The D's and R's can cure the deficit too, and they can do it with a program that is a lot less radical and a lot more likely to happen. Why should anybody care about our crazy ideas for deficit reduction? The fact is that they don't, haven't, and won't care anytime soon, unless we change what we're doing. And that means changing the subject of the discussion from "the hot issue" to "the big benefit."
For us, the issue isn't curing the deficit, it's doubling the take home pay of every American by cutting government to the bone at all levels. Doubling a person's take home pay is a BIG BENEFIT. And when a radical idea comes in the form of a big benefit people are much more likely to take the time to listen to your plan for achieving that benefit, even if it sounds too good to be true at first.
Stressing the concrete personal benefit instead of "the hot issue" gives our reasoning at least a limited chance of being heard, while concentrating on the "hot issue" will just relegate us to the fringe of the debate.
Rule #8: Available funds rise arithmetically, while the cost of each new vote rises geometrically.
If you have good polls showing that you're on track to meet your vote goals, don't get carried away. Success today doesn't mean more is possible tomorrow. You've probably already picked up the "easy votes" and are about to experience diminishing returns. Your opponents will have noticed your success and will spend more money contesting each additional vote. Since they're bigger, count on them winning the "arms race." Stay within yourself, and fight to hold onto what you've already got.
Rule #9:Candidates should talk to 10 potential Libertarians for every one current Libertarian.
Yes, we need our candidates to go out and encourage the troops, but let me tell you -- the troops will be a lot more encouraged by seeing an LP candidate speak to one thousand non-Libertarians than they have been by seeing him or her in a small room full of one hundred people wearing LP message tee-shirts.
Rule #10:New ideas are the enemy of progress.
What I mean by "new ideas" are "new campaign ideas." I've seen many an effort devolve into a ceaseless orgy of innovation. We like innovation so much we often neglect execution. Once a campaign has started, the opportunity costs incurred for most acts of innovation are just too high, because the time devoted to innovation saps time from execution. It's far better to just plug ahead. Execute your original campaign plan ruthlessly
How money can predict who wins, and loses, Congressional elections
Like some kind of persistent, plucky political flower, they sprout every two years: Libertarians running for Congress who announce they are going to actually win.
Don't count on it, suggests the Sunshine Press Service, a Washington DC news service that specialized in tracking money in politics. In a sobering article in the Washington Post [September 18, 1994], Edward Roeder writes: "All it takes to call [victorious] House elections is simple arithmetic. The candidate whose consultants can raise and spend [the most] money wins, almost always."
The evidence is irrefutable: Over the past eight years, there have been 1,740 House races. In 1,552 of those races, incumbents sought re-election, winning 1,505 of them. That's a 96.97% success rate for incumbents -- and a mere 3.03% survival rate for challengers.
So, if you're a non-incumbent Libertarian, your odds of winning are, right out of the starting gate, 33-1.
But it gets worse. In 1,088 of the races, the non-incumbent spent less than $250,000. Only seven of those low-budget challengers won, which means that 99.35% of the incumbents won. And in races where the challenger spent up to $350,000, incumbents won 98.53% of the time.
What about races against just one "major" party candidate? That was the situation in 244 of those 1,552 races -- and all 244 of the "major" party candidates won. So, based on history, a Libertarian running against a single "major" party candidate has a 0% chance of winning.
What about open races, where there is no incumbent? The odds get a little better -- but not much. There were 192 races between 1982-1992 with no incumbent. In 148 of those races (77% ), the biggest spender won.
Does this mean that Libertarians should never run for Congress? Not at all. But it does mean that a Libertarian candidate (running against an incumbent) who raises less than $250,000 should probably not talk about winning.
Of course, there are still legitimate reasons for Libertarians to run for Congress -- ballot access, voter education, and to recruit new members. But the lesson to be learned from this study: Libertarians who want to win an election should bypass Congressional races. Instead, look at races for city council, selectman, state house and senate, and mayor. It's in those more humble -- but still important! -- races that Libertarians can achieve victory today.
On Columbus Day -- three to four weeks before election day -- the campaign marathon turns into a sprint.
"The tidal wave comes after Columbus Day. That's when it gets serious," advises The Finish Line, a newsletter for GOP candidates published by the Republican National Committee. "People are back from the summer [and have increasing] awareness that the campaign is happening."
The newsletter gives the following eight tips to Republican candidates -- useful for Libertarians, too -- as they enter the remaining weeks of the campaign: [All quotes are from Michael Vallante in The Finish Line.]
1) Mentally prepare for the stretch run."[There will be] so much going on, you'll wonder how you'll get through it all or keep track of it all. Have a cup of coffee and re-read your [campaign] plan. That's the road map that charts [your] course. It will help you not to over-react to the events happening around you."
2) Review your finances."Now's the time to have the money to buy the mail, buy the radio, and buy the television. If you don't have the money now, to seal the deal with the people, you might as well go back to bed."
3) Focus on the two principle jobs of the candidate-- raising money and meeting voters. "Don't count paper clips. Count the hands you shake. Don't produce the television commercials, produce the contributors that will pay for the television commercials."
- Think wholesale. "You are looking to reach large numbers of voters -- in your schedule, in your earned media, in your paid media."
- "Don't preach to the choir. Reach the undecideds, the ticket-splitters, the Independents . . . Now is the time to convince and convert."
6) Execute your campaign plan."Now is not the time for planning. Now is the time for execution. The planning for get-out-the-vote, absentee ballots, door knocking, media buys, and mail schedules, all should have been done. Now is the time to put it all into motion."
7) "Hit on all cylinders.You should be going morning, noon, and night. You should have all your paid communications efforts or mail, radio, and television at maximum frequency. You should be shaking hands at key locations to meet large numbers of people."
8) Keep in mind that the election will be over soon."It will. And win or lose, you'll never be the same, you'll be better for the experience. But remember, your job is not to have an experience, you job is to win."
Here are four easy activities to increase your campaign exposure and (hopefully) your vote totals:
1) Send a personal letter.Write to everyone you know, asking them to vote for you.
2) Offer to speak."Send a letter to every group you are connected with, offering to speak if they have a program on the upcoming election."
3) Use radio."Find out when your local radio talk show is discussing the election. Call in and make your points."
4) Use your answering machine.Put a plug for your campaign and a GOTV message on your home and business answering machine starting on November 1st.
-- The Finish Line
Could your prospect information package be more effective? Asking yourself these three questions may help:
1) Did you create a USP (unique selling proposition) and convey that message clearly in your copy?
2) Did you design your letter so it's easy to read?
3) Did you give your prospects good reasons to respond NOW?
-- Target Marketing Magazine