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#73 Political Polls v. Direct Mail Tests
From:
Denny Hatch -- Marketing Expert Denny Hatch -- Marketing Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia , PA
Tuesday, October 29, 2019

 

Posted by Denny Hatch

Political Polls v. Direct Mail Tests:
 Utter Drivel v. Absolute Precision

Part I of our “How the Press Failed You” Series…
“The entire 2016 campaign season was been characterized by a series of spectacular Silver blunders. Not only did he notoriously give Hillary Clinton a greater than 99% chance of winning the Michigan primary (she lost), and bungled Indiana as well, but he spent much of the past 18 months emitting a series of embarrassing declarations as well as ludicrous prophecies that totally failed to materialize. 
—Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs, December 29, 2016

On Monday, November 7, 2016, polling wunderkind Nate Silver, age 38, was in orbit as the modern era’s most spectacular predictor of political win and losses.
     On the following day, Tuesday, November 8th, against all odds and predictions, Donald Trump was crowned President of the United States.
     The voters shot Nate Silver out of orbit and he became a meteorite crashing into Earth creating a mile-wide crater.
     In short, overnight Silver became a chump (which rhymes with Trump).
My Opinion: Nate Silver and Vladimir Putin’s
 Meddling Cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency
For me, Hillary Clinton was not a likeable candidate. She came across as a smug, strident elitist who didn’t bother to visit key states. Because Nate Silver gave Hillary a 99% chance of winning, it was an excuse for many voters—who could not stand either candidate—to simply stay home. It was Putin who iced Trump’s crumby, crummy cake.

What Political Pollsters Can Learn from Direct Marketers
Political polling and direct mail testing are basically one in the same.
     You contact a small representative sample of like-minded people on a big list.
     From the responses, presumably you can project the winner of an election—or the number of orders you will receive on the roll-out of a direct marketing offer.
     But, there’s a huge difference.

The Precision of Direct Mail Testing
 Eric Utne

The year was 1984. East West Journal editor Eric Utne had an idea for a new magazine. He had two choices.
1.   He could spend a fortune—$1,000,000.00 or more—to rent office space, hire staff, start publishing UTNE READER and try to sell issues by mail and on newsstands.

2.   Spend $150,000 to hire the brilliant copywriting/design team of Bill Jayme and Heikki Ratalahti to create a direct mail offer and send it to 5,000 names on 20 different carefully chosen lists of known readers of magazines and books.

The Dry Test
Utne opted for a “dry test”—a powerful FREE offer with a strong letter from the editor for a product or service that does not exist. It’s a lot cheaper than blowing a million bucks producing an actual magazine that might bore the hell out of readers.
     Elements of Utne's dry test mailing included: a brochure describing the features and full-color cover of the proposed premier issue, a postage-paid Business Reply Envelope, and a personal letter—yet another Jayme masterpiece.
Bill Jayme, Legendary, Direct Mail Copywriter

Here’s Jayme’s delicious lede:


Jayme’s Outside Envelope and Order Card

Note the Simple Binary Offer on the Above Order Card
Choice #1: PLEASE SEND MY FREE COPY and reserve my one-year subscription.

Choice #2: Trash the mailing.

Unlike the response to a political pollster’s question, the UTNE READER customer’s positive response was cast in concrete.
     You can take it to the bank, unlike a political survey where the responder can have second thoughts in the polling booth after a debate fiasco or an email scandal.
     Okay, with UTNE READER the publisher had no way of knowing the conversion rate—the number readers who would become paid subscribers vs. those who would find the final product to be tedious and fail to pay the invoice.
     But at least Utne had a private universe of folks who raised their hands and said they wanted to see more. 
Two Wildly Different Political Polls
Released on MSNBC the Same Morning
From The New York Times:

Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren? New
Polls Differ on Who’s Leading 2020 Race
Surveys released this week show varying, and sometimes conflicting, races unfolding nationally and in early primary states.
   A pair of new national polls present starkly different results. A CNN survey released Wednesday had former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with a commanding lead of 15 percentage points ahead of Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. But a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday had Ms. Warren as the front-runner, seven points ahead of Mr. Biden.
     A number of things can affect a poll’s results, including the wording of a horse-race question and the order that items are asked. In CNN and Fox News polls this year, respondents have typically been asked for their opinions on each of the Democratic presidential candidates, among other questions, before being queried about their vote preference. 
     In Quinnipiac’s polls — as well as those conducted by Monmouth University, which have also shown Ms. Warren climbing steadily — people have not typically been asked to evaluate the candidates one-by-one before giving their vote choice.
     If such small differences in survey structure are indeed having an effect on results, it may reflect the fact that many respondents are not yet certain about their feelings.
—Matt Stevens & Giovanni Russonello, The New York Times, 10/24/2019

It’s the Numbers, Stupid!
According to Rasmussen Reports, the total number of registered Democrats as of July 2018 across all 50 states is 44,242,975.
     That’s 44.2 million people.
     Now look at the small print at the bottom left of each of the two charts above:
Quinnipiac: Among 713 Dem Reg. Voters, Oct. 17-21 +/- 4.6 Pts.
CNN:           Among 424 Dem Reg. Voters, Oct. 17-20 +/- 5.8 Pts.

These two pollsters queried a total of 1,137 Registered Democratic voters nationwide.
     That’s a micro-minuscule 0.00003528 percent of the Democratic electorate.
     Put another way, if the above pollsters surveyed all 50 states, it means CNN talked to an average of 9 Democratic voters in each state, while Quinnipiac talked to 14 Democratic voters in each state.
     With these teeny-tiny samples of roiled Democrats involved in the most highly charged and contentious election in a generation, it’s no wonder the results are not only contradictory, but also preposterous.
     Clearly these were quickie-polls done on the cheap by organizations desperate for media coverage and recognition.
     CNN should know better.
     IMHO, Quinnipiac is a minor little University down the street from Yale—and pathetically ranked (in a tie) for #153 by US News & World Report. It has somehow achieved recognition for its PPP (Political Polling Prowess) and releases the results of its QQQ’s (Queer Quinnipiac Questionnaires) to the gullible, content-horny media for P.R., Development and Student Acquisition purposes. So they blew this one big time. Memories are short and these sad sacks will be b-a-a-c-k next week.

The Idiocy of MSNBC
In their sick need to make news, Morning Joe released these two absurd polls side-by-side on the same morning.
     NBC’s resident expert geek Steve Kornacki—who delivers his findings with all the jumping around and manic gesturing of Huey Long or Beto O’Rourke—said, in effect, “In this case we’re in the business of choosing polls rather than candidate.”
     MSNBC/NBC News and Morning Joe should be ashamed of themselves for perpetrating this obvious insanity.

Takeaways to Consider
Attention Direct Markers:
• With an 800-year history of trial and error, direct marketers have refined the business of testing down to a gnat’s eyebrow.

• Political pollsters are still in the dark ages.


• Why is the basic direct mail test 5000 names? The ballpark response to a direct mail effort is an average of 2%. Two percent of 5,000 is 100 responses. A list of 100 names is the minimum for statistical accuracy in measuring back-end results.

• Seattle Direct Marketing Wizard Bob Hacker has come up with a system of multi-variable testing that enables marketers to get down-‘n’-dirty quick results with mailings of far less than 5,000 pieces. Warning: you need a Bob Hacker working for you to pull it off.

Beware of greedy list owners who gleefully screw direct marketers.
     If you do business with the owner of 1 million names, remember this: list rental income is free money. It costs nothing to supply a tape of 5,000 names at, say, an average $125/M or a free $625. Turn your entire list of 1 million names 20 times at $125/M, that’s a yummy $2.5 million revenue. That’s supplemental income—a.k.a. free money.
     List owners segregate their lists using the R-F-M (Recency-Frequency-Monetary Value) formula. The very best names on a list are those that have bought most Recently and most Frequently and who spend the most Money. These top tier names are the ones to be coddled, promoted and loved to death. They can represent 60% of a marketer’s revenue and 80% of the profits.
     If a neophyte marketer orders 5,000 names to test a list, an unscrupulous list owner might supply 5,000 of his top-tier R-F-M names.
     The result: the newbie entrepreneur will be dazzled by the high response and will order 500,000 of that list on the roll-out. The list owner will supply 500,000 of his least profitable names that will generate vastly poorer results. 
     The list owner wins big; the entrepreneur is screwed.

• Any inexperienced entrepreneur (e.g. a retailer) getting into the direct marking arena is nuts not to hire a world-class list expert as well as top creative people.

Attention Political Reporters (and Candidates):
• When seeing new polling results in print, online or on TV, the first thing you should look for is the number of respondents.

• Only once before in recent American history has a dark- dark-dark horse presidential candidate defeated an odds-on favorite. 
     The election was 1944 when President Harry S Truman was so far down in the polls against New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey that the Gallup Organization flat-out ceased covering him.

 
      November 3, 1948. Under tight deadline, The Chicago Tribune was 
      suckered into believing the projections and went to press early, 
      only to be humiliated by this bogus headline.
If you are thinking of running for office—or are working on a political campaign—for Congress, governor or local office—Philip White’s WHISTLE STOP provides a wiring diagram for victory. What worked in 1948 will work like gangbusters today, whether your candidate is running locally, statewide or nationally.


WHISTLE STOP is delicious reading—a rip-snorting page turner you won’t be able to put down. Guaranteed!

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Word count:1742



At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.

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Denny Hatch
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dennyhatch@yahoo.com

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