I’m going to go out on a limb with today’s blog and say it’s unlikely that data management is the most exciting part of your business. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. Potential customers won’t be wooed by a glimpse into your in-house bar code management database, your top-notch order processing software, or the inner workings of your CRM system.
But based on my own experience, I know that data organization and management—good or bad—can mean the difference between success and failure.
My professional history isn’t in custom software, it’s in political campaigns. And even though there are complex strategies, in-depth communications plans, and numerous laws regulating campaigns, it’s best to think of them as data collection and utilization efforts for this exercise. Campaigns at the highest levels utilize and generate massive amounts of data, but even small campaigns can run into trouble if they don’t properly manage their data.
To explore the importance of data in both campaigns and business, we’ll look at the three stages of data management in a fictional political race and the distinct database solutions that accompany each of them. This week’s blog will focus on pre-campaign data gathering, though you could just as easily tell the same story about a business expanding into a new market.
Jane Smith has decided to run for City Council. She’s a long-time member of her community, the president of her neighborhood association, and a passionate advocate for her city’s parks. Jane has a great personal network of friends who have promised to donate and volunteer on her campaign. She’s also been lucky enough to be endorsed by two sitting council members, and they’ve each agreed to share their donor and volunteer lists with Jane’s campaign.
In addition to these private data sources, Jane has requested the list of voters who signed petitions for a recent ballot initiative to increase funding for the City’s parks. She rightly assumes that these voters will be supportive of her pro-parks message and hopes to ask for their votes, their donations, and their service as volunteers.
Knowing that campaigns move quickly, Jane decides to centralize all of her data in a single database. The basis for her system will be the publicly-available list of voters in her community from her local Supervisor of Elections, but Jane plans to customize the pre-existing data with the other public and private data sets she’s gathered.
When done manually, the process of integrating different data sets can be very time consuming. Thankfully, custom software solutions like the ones designed by DragonPoint, Inc. can expedite the process. Either way, combining your disparate data sets using a unique key—in this case a voter ID number—will reduce confusion once you begin utilizing your database.
Ready to Run
With her database ready to go, Jane begins planning for her campaign kickoff speech and rally. In the business world, this would be the equivalent of a grand opening celebration: the moment where the rubber hits the road.
In the coming months, Jane and her campaign will be tested in many ways. Some of the obstacles they’ll encounter can’t be predicted, but others are not only predictable, they’re avoidable. Data management mishaps fall into that final category. I hope you’ll come back next week as we explore how effective database management can contribute to happier volunteers, more effective fund raising, and more efficient voter contact operations.
Why Does this Matter to Me?
At this point, you’re probably asking yourself how this applies to you and your business. Great question.
Any business that’s looking to expand to a new market, grow in its current location, or run more efficiently can benefit from the lessons of Jane’s pre-campaign organizing. While you may not have access to a publicly-available list of your likely clients, diligent research can help identify potential new competitors, illuminate an area’s demographics, or streamline an existing sales system. Even existing businesses can benefit from stepping back, reorganizing their data, and re-launching a more efficient system.