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Database Solutions: A Campaign Perspective (Part 4)

We’re back again this week with Jane Smith’s campaign for City Council. “But didn’t she already win?” you’re asking yourself. Yes, but she has one more important task before being sworn in – besides writing her swearing-in speech, of course.

Image courtesy of stockimages /
Image courtesy of stockimages /

In both business and politics, understanding why a certain outcome occurred is a critical part of ensuring that you can replicate that outcome (or avoid replicating that outcome) in the future. Did your big sale of the year bring in the new customers you wanted? Did a new branch of your company fail? Digging into your data can often help you figure out why.

A Local Example

A friend of mine is an elected official who ran (and won) two data-intensive campaigns for public office. During his first campaign, he knocked on every door in his district and had direct conversations with the voters who lived there. He did this not once or twice, but three times over the course of his campaign. Smartly, he captured the data from these conversations in a custom database solution.

My friend’s database also included information from his donors. Between the general election and runoff election, donors were able to contribute up to $500 to his campaign, and many people did.

After a victory that was attributed to my friend’s hard work at the doors in his district (and the way he managed his data from those conversations), my newly-elected friend decided to look through the publicly-available data from the supervisor of elections to see exactly how he had achieved his victory.

What he found was startling.

Identified supporters – some of whom had donated the maximum amount to my friend’s campaign – had neglected to vote. Simply knowing this fact allowed my friend to engage with these people throughout his next three years in office to ensure that they voted in his re-election campaign.

Sometimes, even when things go well, your data can point the way to a more efficient future.

A National Example

Former President George H.W. Bush was renowned as a sender of holiday cards. The President’s list began when he and Barbara were first married, but grew quickly as Bush traveled the country in his various jobs. By the time Bush was elected Vice President, the list had grown to the point of requiring a special line item in the Republican National Committee’s budget. By 1983, it had been cross-indexed into an early IBM database.

According to Richard Ben Cramer’s epic recounting of the 1988 Presidential race in What it Takes, the then-Vice President’s wife and staff would begin addressing cards by hand in May to ensure that they were completed in time to be sent out for the holidays. This was a big task, since by 1986 there were over 30,000 names and addresses on the list.

For President Bush, his holiday card list was a chance to keep in touch with friends from years past and ensure that future possible supporters felt a personal connection to him. The strategy worked, and in 1988, Bush secured the Republican nomination and, eventually, the Presidency. A failed attempt to become President in 1980 had laid the foundation for Bush’s later success, and a custom database played an important role in transforming failure into success.

Jane’s Last Hurrah

Thanks to her custom database, Jane was well-positioned for victory. By starting early and tracking her data relentlessly, Jane increased turnout in her own neighborhood and secured a lion’s share of the vote.

In other areas, Jane didn’t do as well as she had expected. With this fact in mind, she plans to target her constituent-service efforts in the areas where she needs to improve her standing. As an elected official, she’ll have plenty of time to convince the voters throughout the city that she’s working hard on their behalf!

How does this apply to my business?

Smart business decisions are rooted in experience and good data. The same is true of campaigns. Both are complex systems, but can be broken down into a series of individual decisions. The effects of those decisions can then be tracked in a custom database and future strategies can be altered based on the data you gather.