I spend almost every day working with campaigns around the country.  Most campaigns seem to have the same playbook: start with fundraising, then move on to persuasion and end with GOTV.  The logic is that money pays for advertising (to persuade voters) and staff (to recruit volunteers for GOTV). But what if your opponent has more money than you or you want to use your campaign funds more efficiently?  How can you do things differently?

After working with over 500 campaigns in the last year, here is my recipe for success:

  1. Develop relationships with the local influencers.  Reaching voters one at a time is expensive and time consuming.  But if you get a few key influencers to support you early, each relationship can lead to hundreds or even thousands of votes.
  2. Start persuasion on Day One.  It’s significantly easier to persuade voters when there is no competition.  Start 6-12 months before election day for local races and 12-24 months for statewide and federal races before you have to compete for attention.
  3. Keep it personal.  Research has shown that people trust their friends, which is why word-of-mouth marketing remains the holy grail of most consumer brands.  Campaigns should do the same.

So who are the local influencers that you should develop relationships with?   Our research with our clients’ campaigns has shown that parents appear to be the most engaged, influential, and connected members of most communities.  And the most engaged parents are typically PTA presidents. The first thing you should do when you run for office is to make a list of every school in your district and get to know every current, past, and future PTA president.  You should do this before hiring a consultant, making a website, or raising a single dollar.  (Frankly, you should do this even before you are sure you are going to run for office).  In addition to PTA presidents, you should reach out to leaders of other influential community groups: youth organizations, churches, resistance groups, county parties, and elected officials.  

The earlier you develop relationships with local influencers, the stronger those relationships will be and the more voters they will help you convert.  Your interactions should be genuine and not transactional. In short, sincerely become their friend. Learn about your constituents. What are their problems?  How can you help them? What you learn should inform every aspect of your campaign: messaging, fundraising, meet and greets, rallies, social media and as well as digital outreach with campaign platforms such as VoterCircle.  You can’t meet every voter in your district.  But if you start early, you can become friends with a few influencers who know every voter in your district and can help you win.

Sangeeth Peruri is the CEO and founder of VoterCircle, a friend-to-friend outreach platform that dramatically reduces the time and cost of outreach.  He serves on the boards of the Los Altos School District, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, Principal’s Exchange, Think Together and Beyond12.  In his spare time, he is a fitness fanatic and competed on American Ninja Warrior 6 (check out his video here).