Powerful Lessons in Data from the Presidential Election

Now that we’ve had a few days to recover from the U.S. presidential election, it’s a good time to take a step back from politics and look for the customer experience lessons that we can take away.

The most powerful lesson is that when you know more about your base, you will have an advantage over your competition. That advantage will translate into you winning and your competition losing.

Michael Scherer of TIME was given access to Obama’s data analysts two days before the election. His account is documented in Inside the Secret World of the Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win. What we learned from Scherer’s inside view is how well Obama’s team did in getting the right data, analyzing it, and acting on it.

This data team recognized how critical it was to break down data silos within the campaign. As Scherer noted, they created “a single system that merged information from pollsters, fundraisers, field workers, consumer databases, and social-media and mobile contacts with the main Democratic voter files in the swing states.” The Obama analysis was so meticulous that they knew which celebrity and which type of celebrity event would help them maximize campaign contributions.

With a single system, their data models became more precise. They determined which messages were more successful with specific demographic groups and that who made the calls mattered. Data analysis also led to many other changes in Obama’s campaign including a new ad buying strategy, using social media and applications to tap into supporters’ friends, and using new social news sites.

While we did not have that same inside view into Romney’s campaign, much of the post-mortem coverage indicates that Romney’s team did not have the right analysis. As Peter Hamby of CNN wrote in Analysis: Why Romney Lost, “Romney officials had modeled an electorate that looked something like a mix of 2004 and 2008….” That historical data did not account for the changing demographics in the U.S.

Does your organization approach data like the Obama or Romney team? Do you really know your base? How well can you predict what is going to happen in your business? If you haven’t already put together a strategy and plan to know more, this week’s civics lesson is a powerful reason to do it sooner rather than later. Your competitors are probably thinking the same thing that you are!

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