Cheap Campaign Advertising Strategies

Running for office can seem like an endless push to raise the most campaign dollars. But what are you supposed to do if you're one of the many candidates out there with big plans and a small budget? This short guide is designed to help.

The very expensive uphill push for office.

Every campaign season, we’re told about the millions, and even hundreds of millions of dollars that Presidential candidates fundraise to fuel their campaigns. This is all very relevant if you’re one of the handful of candidates running for leader of the free world. It’s not so relevant if you’re one of the thousands of others running for office in your constituency or community.

If you’re one of these others, it’s very likely that you don’t have all the support and all the financial freedom you need to run the kind of no-holds-barred campaign you’d like to run. Luckily, there are many ways in which you can cut corners to maximize the power of your budget.

Communicating in Print

Most of your budget (as much as 70%) should be going towards voter communications, which means that this is where it would be great to get the most bang for your buck. Areas such as TV and radio advertising, and web site construction and management, all come with the same caveat: you can do it cheap, or you can do it right.

Print advertising comes with no such caveat. With political campaign printing, there is almost always a cheaper option. One of the main reasons for this is because it’s easy to TARGET your audience using printing. Conversely, a website or TV ad is going to reach a much larger (and more irrelevant) audience than is actually necessary for your campaign goals, which means higher costs for a lower ROI.

Let’s look at just a few of the ways you can save money on print voter communications.

Consistent Design

Before you even start thinking about printing posters, stickers, and palm cards, you’ve got to settle on a consistent print design. Consistency of message is crucial to the success of a print campaign. Sure, you’ve got a variety of issues to get across, but voters only have time for the short version.

Once you have a clear message, you can begin to develop a design scheme that compliments and reinforces it. At this point, it’s time to decide what your colors will be, what fonts you’ll use on your printing, what your logo will be, and what iconic images, if any, will you employ?

How can this save you money? By beginning your campaign with a complete print design scheme, you can have all your advertising materials printed quickly and easily without worrying about how they’re going to look, without needing to hire designers every time you want a different print item done, and without settling on the subpar templates offered by many so-called political printing experts.

If your printer doesn’t have to work with a different design every time, the cost and expense of your print jobs can be greatly reduced. At the same time, the consistency of your print design will translate into greater voter recognition, and you’ll spend less than candidates whose images and messages are all over the board, and need to be constantly reiterated in order to have an impact.

Reduce Budget Woes by Encouraging Supporter Participation

Even if you’re campaigning on a relatively small scale, a well-designed website has become an essential component of a successful run for office. Fans of internet campaigning love to brag about how inexpensive it is compared to other advertising streams, however, the truth is that building and maintaining a high-quality website is anything but cheap!

If you’re a candidate that doesn’t have the budget to hire a team of advisors, and you’re your own campaign manager, fundraiser, and volunteer coordinator, then you’re probably not looking to drop 30-40% of your voter communications budget on a website and a web master to maintain it. The problem is that if you have a website with information that doesn’t update, zero new content, and an unprofessional design, you might as well not even bother.

To offset the expense of your shiny, new website, you should make your print designs readily available and accessible to your supporters on your website. With supporters printing out signs, some of the expense of getting posters and stickers out there will be relieved. This can be accomplished in two ways.

First, you can make signs available for anyone to download and print on their desktop printer. Encourage your supporters to get out there and do some postering for you! You can even advertise this as an option for supporters who can’t really afford to make a cash contribution but are happy to help out in other ways.

Second, you can work with your printer to accomplish a similar, albeit more high-quality, grassroots campaign. Have your print designs available on your website for your supporters to order and send to your printer. You may even be able to work with your printer on this, and have them offer special rates to your supporters.

This second option does not have to be as costly for your supporters as it might sound. For example, Hotcards prints campaign palm cards at a rate of $60.00 for 1000 cards, and 1000 flyers are only $90.00! Again, supporters who cannot afford a major campaign contribution can be pointed to your print designs as a way to show their support for a very low cost.

Working with a Printer

You can save big campaign dollars by choosing a printer to work with from the start of your campaign, and sticking with them throughout. Find a printer that is willing to offer you special rates based on the long-term, high volume relationship that you, as a candidate running for office, promise to provide.

A close relationship with a printer can offer you all kinds of monetary savings, and some printers, such as Hotcards, also offer print design and web design services – very convenient! Having a printer that can build you a website as well as take care of all your printing needs is an invaluable resource for any campaign, whatever the size.

Lightweight, High Return Direct Mail

The fact that direct mail is an essential part of voter communication is no surprise, but it might surprise you to learn that many campaigns waste time and money on types of direct mail that are much too expensive and high maintenance.

Mailers that go in envelopes will most likely never be read, adding insult to the injury of licking all those stamps and envelopes! Brochures have a much more immediate impact, but they’re expensive, and they require the extra work of folding.

Postcards, on the other hand, are the perfect form of direct mail for a political campaign. They’re very inexpensive - $108.00 for 1000 two-sided full color postcards at Hotcards – and they get their message across whether the voter is interested or not! While a letter can be thrown away unread, a bold message on the front of a full color postcard can be processed almost instantly.

Not only are full color postcards cheap, they’re 100% guaranteed to hit your target audience, unlike a cheap website, or a cheap late night radio ad. You can tailor your direct mail campaign to hit the exact voters in your community that you need to get the word out to. Now that’s a strategic use of a limited campaign budget!

Buttons vs. Stickers

Little badges of support are one of the best ways to bring out voter enthusiasm. For some reason, a piece of paper is just a piece of paper – until you put a sticky back or a pin on it. Do that, and suddenly you’ve got a gift, a priceless memento that voters can look at and recall, with a smile, all the good times they’ve had with you at rallies and fundraisers.

Of course, anyone who’s ever tried to have some pins made knows that they’re not cheap. In fact, pins generally cost three or four times what stickers do. That’s why thrifty campaigns are choosing stickers over pins.

Lapel stickers can be specially designed and shaded to look like a pin, so that from a distance (on TV, say) you’d never even know the difference. It’s true that a sticker isn’t as durable as a pin, but it all comes down to a question of budget. If you have the money to throw at pins, then do so! If every penny counts, then save yours and ask your printer about button-style lapel pins.

The Local Campaigning Difference

Anytime you do something new, you turn to the pros for advice. However, in the case of campaigning, candidates running on a local level shouldn’t necessarily take a page from the book of Presidential candidates.

If your running for a local government position, odds are your voters value intimate, personalized communication. Instead of blowing the bank on a TV commercial, invest in handshakes, door-to-door introductions, stickers, posters, and local mailers.

You might not have the budget of a Presidential candidate, but neither do you have the monstrous demographics. Take advantage of this by choosing the inexpensive, personalized nature of print communication, and watch you campaign take off!