Question: Where should I start talking to voters? Who should I talk to first?
Is there an easy way to find certain types of voters without a lot of trial and error? What are the best places to talk with voters?
I think it depends on what phase of the campaign you’re in. Typically, the early months of a campaign (from January to early summer of an election year), you spend building your organization (people & money). When you’re building organization, you are recruiting, training and deploying volunteers — typically from the social network of your key supporters, organizational allies, lists of previous campaign volunteers, and even lists of good voters. Reaching out to these folks is different than direct voter contact.
Once you’ve built up a good corp of volunteers, you can use your volunteers to talk with targeted voters. Working with a list of registered voters from the VAN (contact your local party or many progressive organizations) is a good way to reach out to the voters most likely to turn out on election day. To reach significant numbers of voters, you typically have to call, visit, write, and e-mail them. Phone contact rates are typically very low on cold calls so if you have the volunteers to go door to door, it can be a better use of time (depending of course on the concentration of your targeted voters). By carefully tracking your contact and response rates, you can figure out the most effective way for your campaign to reach its targeted voters. Good luck!
For the targeting question, see the thread on that subject. I would add here that it is rarely too early for a candidate to get out there and start talking to voters, especially consistent voters. You shouldn’t waste money on glitzy campaign events early on, but getting out and knocking on doors just to introduce yourself and hear some of the issues in different communities is a good way of getting your name out there and starting to build up a base. You can even work your early start into your pitch - you could say something like that you know it’s early, but it’s a big district and you are committed to learning everyone’s issues. Rarely will people begrudge hard work, especially if you give them a chance to express their feelings. These conversations won’t be as rushed and are likely to have an impact down the road.
Also be sure to attend community events in the early stages of the campaign. Do things that show sincere interest - if a neighborhood is experiencing crime, ask a resident to take you for a ride through the neighborhood (even better if there is an HOA or neighborhood association president). Raising money is very important, but don’t lock yourself up in the office making calls all day. Be sure to include community outreach, even in your early campaign schedule.