When you’re running a campaign, you want to know everything about your opponent – where they’re traveling, who they’ve hired, what they’re saying, how much they’re raising – and in 2020 that also means their online campaign as well.
Having a solid understanding of your opponent’s digital efforts can help you identify gaps in your strategy and highlight competitive advantages you can leverage. Sun Tzu wrote, “If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.”
Here’s how to dig into your opponent’s online campaign.
Experience Their Conversion Funnel
The conversion funnel is the journey a supporter goes through from learning about a candidate on social media to signing up for email updates and then eventually donating. To do this, visit their homepage just sign up and follow along.
Last year, I wrote these teardowns of the conversion funnels for the Democrats running for president. It will give you a sense of the journey and how you can follow along.
Catalog Data to Find Patterns
It’s hard to recognize patterns just by watching individual posts, emails, ads, or texts. Only in their aggregate will data reveal patterns. Create spreadsheets with information about your opponent’s online campaign activities.
For each email they send, note the time it was sent, day of week, sender name, subject line (and its length), and other helpful details. Then, after a few weeks, you’ll be able to see patterns emerge, like how many emails they send each week, what time and day they’re most likely to send, and other insights that can help you improve your own email strategy.
Follow these steps for social media, text messaging, and any other online campaign activity.
Study their Spending
At the federal level, and in most other instances, campaign spending is publicly disclosed. Use this information to better understand how your opponent is investing in their digital campaign. Identify any tools or software they’re using, what types of agencies they’re working with, and where they’re advertising.
Ad Transparency Archives
When it comes to advertising spending, the ad transparency archives from Facebook and Google are major assets for competitive intelligence. You’re able to see what messages they’re using, how many voters they’re reaching, and how much is being spent on each one.
Make a note of spending on acquisition activities like list building and event turn out as compared to spending on persuasion. Be careful also not to mistake ad strategy for campaign strategy because a message that works for list building doesn’t necessarily translate into a message that works on the campaign trail.
Pundit Analytics will notify you when an opponent makes any changes to their website, launches a new online ad, and a number of other key online campaign activities. Another tool I use is Throttle, which lets me organize campaign emails away from my primary inbox.
Build Your Case
Now that you’ve gathered intelligence about your opponent’s online campaign, use that information to build a case with decision makers internally to increase your resources, adopt a proven tactic, or double down on a strategy. Keeping up with the competition is always an effective motivator.
Knowing what to do well is just as critical as keeping up with your competition, but remember, you have to run your own campaign. You may have resources your opponent might not have and vice versa. It’s also important to understand the why behind online campaign strategies. Some of your opponent’s tactics might not be worth replicating.