Candidates who do not already know will soon find out – election products cost a lot of money. For campaigns that are self-funded or have little fundraising this is a huge obstacle to success. Candidates need to walk the line between looking unprofessional and blowing the budget.
I have compiled four tips to beat the budget breaking blues and source good services and products.
1. Donated Services
If you have friends and/or family who are experts in a certain field ask them for help. Often these people want to support your campaign and you just have to ask. I find candidates get the most help from talented friends on copyrighting, graphic design and websites. If they are donating their services you need to give them a lot of lead time to complete each request. It’s unfair to expect free graphic design on your three-fold brochure within one day. If you need something quickly you may want to consider hiring a professional. Make sure you know your friends’ talents. You do not want to wait two weeks for a website and then have to break the bad news to your neighbour that you cannot use it because the free Blogger theme was not what you were looking for. Most important is to just ask for help when you can. The worst feeling is when you show your $300 designed lawn sign to a friend who says “oh I could have done that for free.”
2. Beware of Buy Local
This is an ongoing battle with some clients of mine. Some Candidates think that because they are running for local office they should shop their campaign locally. However, this is not like spending an extra dollar on a head of lettuce at a farmers’ market. Geographically limiting your election purchasing can end up costing you thousands of dollars more, or worse, you can end up with a bad product. For example, the SignARama franchisee owner around the corner is probably a great person and you may win her and her husband’s vote by bringing your business there. However, if she does not specialize in political signs and they require pounding a wooden stake in the ground it’s not worth it.
3. Know what you need
Based on your budget and campaign plan know what products you actually need. Some suppliers will try to sell you everything and the kitchen sink. Stick to what is effective and affordable. No need for a small town councillor to purchase a billboard or a big city councillor to buy a GTA-wide radio ad. If you are unsure about a product or service, send me a quick email or tweet and I’ll give you some free advice on if it’s worth it.
4. Always get quotes
There is no product or service in the world of elections that only has one capable supplier (despite what some companies may tell you). Always get at least three quotes on everything you buy. This can result in huge savings, especially on print services. Keep in mind the cheapest is not always the best. Ask them if they have done similar work and check the client list on their website. I remember in the Barrie 2000 Municipal Election a candidate purchased paper lawn signs with her face on them. After one rainfall the distorted mugshot did not achieve its goal of name recognition.
An extra note: Please know your own strengths. Just because you have Adobe Illustrator does not mean you know how to use it. You can do some of your own work if you’re an expert, however if you are going to take 3-4 months of your life to run in an election, do not cheap out on essential products.
Raise as much funds as you can and watch the pennies. Good luck in your campaign.