Make Your Database Work As Hard As You Do

by Edward Garrison, Conservatechnology

Every candidate knows that a good database is essential: Whether it comes to soliciting donations, recruiting volunteers, getting out the vote, or even finding locations for yard signs, your database will be the hub for reaching out to like-minded persons and enlisting their support.

Simply having a database, however, is not enough to make the magic happen: a database is only as good as the data it contains. Here are seven key ways to ensure that your data will truly work for you.

7 Ways to Ensure Your Data Will Truly Work for You

Keep Your Data Up To Date

First and foremost, keep your data up to date. People move (on average, once every three years). They get married--and divorced. And, of course, they eventually die. These things often happen between political campaigns. So resist the temptation to forget about your database once the election is won. Just like a car, a database will perform much better, and cost you less, if you maintain it on an ongoing basis rather than waiting for it to fall apart.

Use Multiple Sources

Second, use multiple sources for your data wherever possible. Because people's life situations are constantly changing, no data source is perfectly up to date. By obtaining multiple data feeds, and using your database's "merge-purge" capabilities, you stand a better chance of having data that's better than the opposition's.

Know and Track Your Hot Button Issues

Third, know and track your "hot button" issues. Is your constituency passionate about taxes? Abortion? Gun control? Health care? Terrorism? Or perhaps local issues that someone a hundred miles away wouldn't even know about, but that are critical in your district? Nothing mobilizes people more quickly than approaching them about issues that matter to them. And conversely, nothing creates ill will faster than being on the wrong side of these issues. Try to get lists of people whose feelings about hot button issues are known. And, of course, customize your database to track these feelings on a person-by-person basis.

Store Relevant Data

Fourth, store all relevant data you can get your hands on. Disk space is dirt cheap these days, so you don't have to skimp on what data you track. If a data source includes demographic information, store it. You never know what you might use it for later. Remember the old "roach motel" commercials? Treat your data the same way: let data "check in" to your database but never "check out." Store it all.

Create a Feedback Loop

Fifth, create a feedback loop to constantly verify your data. For example, if a campaign worker is on the phone with someone, have them verify the person's address and email. When you do a mailing and an address change comes back, have a system in place to record it. And as we mentioned above, do this on an ongoing basis, not just while a campaign is in progress.

Leverage the Power of Micro-Selection

Sixth, leverage the power of micro-selection. If you're tracking all the data you can and know who is interested in which hot button issues, target your activities accordingly. It's true that for direct mail, there are economies of scale that make bigger mailings cheaper than small ones. But don't let the economy tail wag the effectiveness dog. For email and phone campaigns, economies of scale hardly matter at all. So tailor your activities as finely as you can even if you sometimes have to target very small groups. You'll be surprised how much more effective your efforts will be.

It's All About the People

Finally, remember it's all about people. Don't get so caught up in the wizardry of the database that you forget that every person it contains is an individual. And nobody likes to be treated as if they're just a card in a file or a record in a database. Give your activities a "personal touch" wherever you can, and remember that building a database is only a tool to build relationships. So use the tool to the fullest, and those relationships will pay off when it's time to go to the polls!

This article was reprinted with permission of Edward Garrison at Conservatechnology, 872 Milwaukee Ave. S., #109, Libertyville, IL 60048. Copyright 2015. Edward Garrison. All Rights Reserved. For more information about the author go to:

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