How to Get Your Email Opened: A Brilliant Political Example

Election Day Edition

When you donate money to a Presidential candidate, you wind up on a list. You start getting email — a lot of email. It’s a marketing master class.

“Enter the conversation already taking place in the customer’s mind.” — Robert Collier

I thought of Collier the other day when this email landed in my Inbox.

Sales letters ask for action

The first step in getting an email opened is the subject line, and this one’s brilliant:


Stop Refreshing FiveThirtyEight


FiveThirtyEight is a blog/website run by polling guru Nate Silver. Silver became a national legend when he called almost every state correctly in the 2012 Presidential election.

His “forecast” page makes a percentage prediction on the chances of each major candidate to win the election. As of this writing (early morning, Election Day), he gave Clinton a 71.6% chance of winning, and Donald Trump a 28.4% chance.

It was closer last week.

Democrats, in particular, have been visiting the site compulsively as anxiety has increased. I know — I’m one of them. At the time the letter landed, FiveThirtyEight had Clinton’s odds at about 65%, with Trump’s numbers improving daily.

When that email arrived, it entered the conversation in my head — I had just been to the site a few minutes before, and it wasn’t my first visit of the day. 

This email got opened.

Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook may or may not have written it himself. Whoever did so deserves an award. What followed was one of the best sales letters I’ve ever read.

[One note: it’s entirely possible that the Trump campaign has produced high-quality work as well. Because I’m not on their list, I haven’t seen any emails from them. If you’ve got a strong one, please forward it my way.]

The body copy got to the point in a hurry.

Per Nate Silver’s latest forecast, [Donald Trump] now has a 1-in-3 chance of beating us on Tuesday. If that number stesses you out, here’s what you can do — Chip in.

Then came the call-to-action: the letter explicitly asked for a monetary donation, suggested specific amounts, and gave readers an easy way to make it happen.

Closing paragraph reminded us why we opened the email in the first place, and what we were supposed to do:

Refreshing FiveThirtyEight every five minutes and worrying over the latest polls from Florida or North Carolina won’t do anything to help us actually beat this guy. Chipping in right now, even if it’s just a single dollar, will.

Let’s do this!”

While it will be tempting to try to forget this frequently-ugly campaign as soon as the results are in, there are lessons to be had. For direct-response copywriters, Robby Mook has given us a good one.


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