Tips from the Obama Campaign to Make Data Work for You

By: Nickie Harber-Frankart

Since the presidential election, discussions have been popping up on the Internet and in the media about how each candidate used data-driven campaigns to target voters. Many agree that Obama’s analytics were far more sophisticated than Romney’s.

I believe the success of the Obama campaign attributed to three simple rules. Apply these to make data work for you.

  1. Merge multiple sources of data. A single dataset consisting of all of your constituents (customers, donors, volunteers, etc.) linked to transactional data is a valuable asset. Data merged across departments and an entire organization can provide powerful insights about constituent relationships, needs, consumption behavior and other knowledge. Data crunchers for the Obama campaign amassed data (voter files, field data, consumer databases, and more) to form one “megafile.”
  2. Behavioral modeling. Using the variables from the “megafile,” the Obama campaign built complex behavioral models. The advantage: predictability and measurability. As Time Magazine reported, statistical models allowed the campaign to target voters efficiently and effectively, using data to determine how and where to reach voters–either by phone, knocking on doors, sending direct mail or social media. The campaign then processed polling and voter-contact data “66,000 times every night,” providing the campaign with instant results about Obama’s odds of winning swing states to help allocate campaign resources (also reported by Time).
  3. Retain data. Some organizations purge data on a regular basis, the Obama campaign did not. The campaign team quickly learned this was a benefit. Analysts discovered that people who had unsubscribed from the campaign’s 2008 e-mail lists were among the easiest to re-engage for support. It’s much easier to retain or re-engage past constituents than win new ones. (Sound familiar?) At some point, you’ll want feedback from customers who don’t (currently) use your products or services. Keep your data. You will want it someday.

We know that careful statistical analysis can provide remarkable precision and results. Follow the rules outlined above to get you started, and next time you have a data question just ask us. OrangeBoy has been helping clients gain customer insights from data for the past 16 years. We’re happy to help.

Leave us your comments or questions below.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

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