Monday, November 10, 2014

Retail Politics

I’ve been walking precincts since Lyndon Baines Johnson ran for president. I knock on doors, announce my intentions to make a case for the candidate or issue I’m favoring, ask to leave a brochure, offer to answer questions, engage voters willing to be engaged, and afterwards be on my way.
     I enjoy precinct walking because it’s retail politics—making a pitch to voters one-to-one or one-to-family and keeping the pitch local. For the last couple of months, the three campaign signs in my front yard were all for school board and city council candidates, not for the statewide or federal races. My only walking this election season was for Curtis Hunt, whom I wanted to retain his seat on the Vacaville, California city council. Retail politics is a logical counterpart to my particular interest in the success of small to midsize locally-based retail businesses.
     I also enjoy precinct walking because it’s an opportunity to explore consumer psychology. With that in mind, I decided to conduct a little experiment this time: I alternated house-to-house between two ways of greeting those who opened their door:
  • “Hello, I’m campaigning for Curtis Hunt for city council. May I leave a brochure and answer any questions you have about Curtis?” 
  • “Hello, I’m volunteering for Curtis Hunt for city council. May I leave a brochure and answer any questions you have about Curtis?” 
     The responsiveness was noticeably better when I said I was volunteering rather than campaigning. I believe that’s because in my retailing my politics, “volunteering” communicated more personal commitment than did “campaigning,” and consumers value personal commitment in a seller.
     Another extension of my retailing my politics to retailing generally has to do with the value in screening prospects. Curtis gave me a list of likely voters’ addresses. But I screened further. When I saw a small sign reading “No Soliciting,” I rang the doorbell anyway, and it ended up being one of my most satisfying interchanges. When I’d see one of those signs that reads something like, “No Soliciting. We’ve found Jesus. We’ve plenty of insurance. We know who we’re voting for.”, I’d leave a door hanger campaign piece and move on. When I encountered a “No Soliciting. Dangerous Dog.” sign while hearing the sounds of barking and some large creature hurling itself against the front door, I moved on even more quickly.
     The end of the story: Curtis did win reelection.

Click below for more: 
Lift Up Your Local Community 
Vote for Selective Understanding & Recall 
Announce Limits on Item-Based Loyalty Programs

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