2016 Email Strategy: Early May

Five more campaigns have started up in the past few weeks. To see early April’s campaigns, click here.

What information are the campaigns collecting?

Rubio collects the usual email and ZIP code, but also allows users to sign in with their Facebook account. That’s something I haven’t seen with any other contender.

Fiorina’s campaign asks for (but doesn’t require) phone number. Looks like they’ll depend on phone outreach.

Carson collects only three fields, but interestingly requires First and Last Name (written as one field). I can’t imagine that combining first and last into one field will be helpful for their database.

Interestingly, Huckabee asks only for email and ZIP code, but then filling out that form causes an error:


Then you’re thrown to a long form signup. This is really going to hurt conversions, and doesn’t bode well. Huckabee also asks for both ZIP code and state on the long form. That seems redundant, and will only hurt conversions from here on out.

What Call-to-Actions are the campaigns using?

“I’M READY!” – Rubio uses the Cruz-style call-to-action here: it’s all about the subscriber’s perspective.

“SUBMIT” – Fiorina uses arguably the least effective call-to-action possible. Disappointing.

“Join Ben” – Carson takes a similar approach to the Clinton call-to-action.

“JOIN ME TODAY” – Huckabee follows Carson and Clinton, but uses some urgency. That’ll help.

“JOIN” – Sanders uses the bare minimum CTA.

What happens after the user gives their email address?

Rubio, Carson, Sanders and Huckabee take the typical approach here. Users are immediately tossed to a page that solicits donations.

Fiorina misses an opportunity here by only offering an email confirmation. She might benefit by having easy donation buttons on her confirmation page.

Spam protection

Rubio, Carson, and Sanders campaigns use the same mid-level verification that the Paul campaign uses. You’ll need an @ symbol and a period to pass through.

Intentional or not, Fiorina has the most stringent email spam protection that I’ve seen outside of Clinton.

In your inbox (or not) after you sign up

The Rubio campaign was the first on the GOP side to send out a confirmation message. Unfortunately, they were also the first to go directly to my Spam folder in Yahoo! webmail. As far as the messaging itself, Rubio’s team attempts to fit in three colorful CTAs. They play it safe by ensuring a text CTA for donations in the messaging.

Rubio Welcome

Carson’s campaign has both good and bad points. The good: I received a welcome email almost immediately.

Ben Carson Welcome

The bad: his campaign sent the exact same email out again the following day. I’m not entirely sure what the strategy is there.

Last, the Sanders campaign uses the classic letter format to introduce the candidate and solicit donations.

Sanders Welcome

Unfortunately, I still haven’t seen anything from the Fiorina and Huckabee campaigns.


The good news for Rubio is that his welcome message includes an Unsubscribe link (as opposed to the Clinton campaign). It looks like the Rubio team is using Vervemail to send, which has some interesting features that include integration with SurveyMonkey. It should be fun to see if the campaign utilizes it.

I neglected to mention the Clinton campaign’s ESP in my previous article. It looks like her campaign is using an in-house system. When I attempted to unsubscribe, I was tossed to https://www.hillaryclinton.com/unsubscribe/.

Carson’s team somehow has a .org email address to send from, which is a good start. The unsubscribe link is bizarre – it auto-creates an unsubscribe request email that the user has to send. That could hurt them in the future.

The Sanders campaign uses NGP VAN, a privately held company that specializes in Democratic and Progressive email fundraising. This is the first campaign that has clearly hired out its email fundraising efforts. Wikipedia states that they ran the Obama 2012 campaign, so the Sanders campaign is in good hands.

Five Big Questions

1. Will Clinton’s in-house ESP provide an advantage in the general election?

2. Is the root of Rubio’s spam issue his ESP vendor? Will his sender reputation improve?

3. Does NGP VAN stand a chance in winning against a Clinton campaign flush with cash?

4. How will the Carson campaign approach personalization if their Name field isn’t useful?

5. Will the Huckabee/Fiorina campaigns recover from some pretty large errors in their signup processes?


2016 Email Strategy: April

It’s April 12th, and Hillary Clinton declared her candidacy for President of the United States. Now that there are three official candidates, it’s a good time to check out their email strategy.

What information are the campaigns collecting?

Eight months out of the first primaries, campaigns focus on bringing in large quantities of people to their list. All three of the contenders ask for email and ZIP code. The Cruz 2016 campaign sticks out for placing its email signup on a separate page, instead of the top of its home page. Once you click through to this page, two forms appear on the same page. You’ll see one long form and one short form that appear to sign up the user for the same list. The Cruz folks might want to simplify their signup to get more users.

What Call-to-Actions are the campaigns using?

“JOIN US” – Hillary Clinton appeals to the user joining a movement when they give their email addresses.

“Learn more →” – Rand Paul promises users more information about him when they give their email addresses.

“I’M IN” – Ted Cruz ironically uses an OFA 2012 re-election campaign slogan to gather email addresses.

What happens after the user gives their email address?

Cruz and Clinton seem to feel their prospects will know enough about them already to immediately donate. Both toss the user to special pages designed to collect donations. Paul’s campaign continues to take the approach that users are still gathering information at this point – you won’t see any donation requests here.

Spam protection

The Clinton campaign is running the tightest spam protection at this point. In order to pass through, you’ll have to enter an email with an @ symbol, a period, and three letters after the domain (example: hillary@clinton.com will pass through, but hillary@clinton.democrat will not).

Rand Paul takes up the middle ground of spam protection. You’ll need an @ symbol and a period to pass through.

The Cruz campaign only requires an @ symbol to pass through.

In your inbox after you sign up

It’s been 45 minutes since I signed up on these lists, and only the Clinton campaign sent out an onboarding message. It looks a little weird in Yahoo webmail:

Hillary 2016 Onboarding Message

It’s an okay start for onboarding (three separate actions seems to be a bit much), and it’s not double opt-in. Unfortunately, there’s no opt-out.

What does this tell us about the 2016 race?

Looking at the signup process, the Cruz campaign will have much smaller lists than the other two. At least they will have much richer data, including user geographic and social information.

The most interesting development so far is the difference between the Paul campaign and the Clinton/Cruz campaigns. Paul’s team is banking that anyone signing up for email updates isn’t ready to donate just yet.

Last, it’s apparent that none of these campaigns are concerned about deliverability issues. None of them confirmed that I’ve joined their lists, and only the Clinton campaign sent an automated email follow-up. The Cruz campaign is extremely vulnerable to spam problems. When email marketers combine:

  1. Barely any in-form spam protection
  2. Single opt-in messaging

They get a recipe for bots and blacklisting trouble on their lists.

It’s only been three weeks, but there is so much to learn from the campaigns. Only 575 days until the general election!