Develop a target audience: Acquire a list of likely voters — those who have previously participated in similar elections — in your town or city and identify those who are most likely to support you by looking at their party registration, demographic info, etc. Be sure you’ve identified not just enough voters for you to be successful but a healthy cushion as you won’t convert everyone you target.
Understand the concerns of your target audience: For local races, when you don’t have the resources to conduct opinion research, the best way to determine community issues is to go straight to members of your target audience, ask and listen. Attend a variety of community events and forums where local leaders and regular citizens have a chance to talk about what matters to them. Finally keep an eye on local media, both print and online, as this can be a great resource for gauging the community’s issues. Don’t rely too much on social media for this – it can be a representative sample but more times than not it tends to be dominated by complainers and outliers.
Focus your resources on your targeted audience: No matter how limited your resources are, focus your spending and your time on communications that are certain to reach your targeted audience. Direct Mail and targeted digital advertising are great ways to do this, as is going door-to-door to those who are on your target list. Spend very little or no time on people outside your targeted audience or those who never vote in local races in order to use resources most efficiently.
Build your core message early: Once you’ve identified your target audience and developed an understanding of their concerns, develop your core message. Don’t launch your campaign without doing this. A great way to get started with message development is to think about the 3 to 5 words or phrases that you want voters to associate with you when they go into the polls to vote. Build your message around these phrases and test it with members of your target audience, asking for feedback and adjusting accordingly.
Consistency: One of the most common shared characteristics of good candidates is consistency in messaging throughout all forms of delivery. Once you’ve identified what your core message is, stick to it. New issues will most likely arise that you have to address, but address them in the context of your core message whenever possible.
Have a plan and stick to it as much as possible: During the initial phase of your campaign, create a campaign plan or timeline that runs through Election Day. Include everything that you think you need to do to succeed as well as all important dates leading up to the race. Budget around this timeline and stick to it whenever possible, though you will need to make some alterations as circumstances dictate.
Fundraise: Every town, almost without exception, has business and community leaders who are invested in the town and may be concerned about the direction it is taking. Every candidate should have a list of people who will support them based on preexisting personal relationships, even if the contacts are out of town or politically unengaged. The size and economic status of the community will affect how much you can raise, but it can be done even for the smallest races. Base your fundraising goals off your budget, not vice versa.
Don’t be afraid to seek help from a professional: Many candidates for local offices never seriously consider hiring a consultant to help with their campaign strategy or their advertising because of the cost. However, many consultants offer a package of services that are applicable to local races. Even without keeping a professional on retainer, many consultants will provide ala carte services such as direct mail design and fulfillment or digital advertising. With so many different trends and innovations in politics, it never hurts to have an experienced voice in your corner.