Sales and Marketing Lessons for Truckers from the Obama Re-Election Team
Despite being the incumbent President, Barrack Obama and his re-election team were faced with a tall challenge in trying to secure enough votes to keep him in office. After the Great Recession of the mid 2000s, a major stimulus effort and low interest rates were not able to revive the American economy. Entering the election, President Obama faced an economy with 7.9 percent unemployment and 23 million Americans out of work. He also faced a Republican candidate with a highly successful career in the private sector, something President Obama has not had.
Governor Romney did not help himself by staking out some policy positions to meet certain extremist elements of his party and by making some widely publicized verbal gaffes. Nevertheless, the economic headwinds faced by President Obama made this a tight race that could have gone either way. President Obama was able to gain re-election by 4 million votes. While some people will point to the gaffes and policy positions of the Republican Party, one of key reasons for Obama’s victory was the team of computer wizards who helped mastermind the victory.
“If you look at the numbers, we raised more money online this time than last time, had more donors, more volunteers, registered more people to vote online, and did all kinds of revolutionary stuff through Facebook and Twitter,” stated Teddy Goff, digital director for Obama for America in a recent article in Businessweek. Based on my understanding of the work they did, the Obama team was able to outperform the Romney team in three areas.
Marketing, particularly using social media marketing
Face to face communication with committed and prospective voters
On the data mining front, the Obama team was able to develop highly detailed profiles of Democratic and Republican voters. In addition to the demographic profiles (e.g. Democratic voters are more likely to be women, African-Americans, Latinos etc.), they were also able to discern specific preferences when it came to such things as music (e.g. Democrats tend to like Smooth Jazz more than Republicans), dining out (e.g. Democrats prefer Red Lobster while Republicans prefer the Olive Garden) and reading material.
By identifying these voter profiles, they were able to better target their marketing messages and personal solicitation strategies. They were better equipped to focus on the prospective voters in the key counties in the “swing states.” They were more successful than the Republicans at contacting their most likely voting prospects through the appropriate social media and targeted advertising. “The biggest idea we brought to bear was integrating data and then acting on what it told us,’ says Dan Wagner, who ran the analytics team. “Through the single database we built, we could tie everything together and make an assessment based on all of somebody’s online activities, whether or not what we were doing was actually producing offline outcomes.”
“Of our turnout targets 29-and-under, half couldn’t be reached by phone, either because they didn’t have one or we didn’t have their number,’ Goff says. “Yet we were able to reach 85 percent of them through targeted sharing. Almost everyone is on Facebook.” He estimates that 5 million voters were contacted this way – more than Obama’s margin of victory.
The Businessweek article highlights that “what excited marketers about social media was that a friend’s endorsement was a more powerful, and therefore valuable motivator than traditional forms of advertising - - seeing somebody you know rave about Pepsi on his Facebook wall makes you more likely to try it than a newspaper ad would.” “The fundamental building block to targeted sharing is an overlay of the voter file and the social graph,” says Goff. “If you apply that same concept - - the social graph and the consumer data - - then almost any company stands to gain something.” The Obama team was also more effective at mobilizing volunteers in these locations to go out and meet these potential voters and secure their commitment to go to the ballot box.
What can truckers learn from the Obama team? While very few trucking companies would have the budget to undertake a data mining/sales and marketing initiative of this nature, there are still many powerful tools that are currently available to help achieve successful results.
When it comes to data mining, trucking companies with good computer systems can identify the services, lanes and yields on their customers’ business. If not, this should be a top priority to fix. This data can provide a wealth of information on shipper preferences. The data can also highlight services and lanes that are not matching up well against the competition. In addition, increasing numbers of trucking companies utilize customer relationship management (salesforce automation) software such as salesforce.com. These types of tools when related to a company’s own data on customers’ use of their services and competitors’ services, can yield very valuable insights into a customer’s preferences and decision-making processes.
It is always important to remember that it is not companies that make buying decisions but rather the people working for these companies. They have demographic and psychographic profiles just as do voters. These profiles can be gleaned through mining the data in CRM systems, focus groups and market research studies.
The next task is to successfully marshal this data so as to select the key verticals (e.g. food shippers that require a high level of customer service), customer data (e.g. participation in selected supply chain organizations that cater to the food industry) and personal data (e.g. college educated, younger, females, prefer to meet for lunch due to after-ours commitments etc.), that when taken together can provide a more focused sales and marketing effort.
Armed with this information, these prospects can be found in specific LinkedIn groups, on Twitter and in industry associations. They can be reached through the appropriate blend of social media, target marketing and focused sales effort.
The participation of Canadian and American trucking companies in social media was one of the items covered in the presentation by Lee Palmer, president of Palmer marketing at the 2012 Surface Transportation Summit. He noted that Canadian companies are not keeping pace with their American counterparts. He also highlighted that “in Canada, the small guys have turned to (social media) marketing more so than the big guys.” Hopefully the success enjoyed by the Obama re-election team, particularly in making such effective use of social media, will encourage business leaders in industry, particularly the trucking industry, to give social media more focus in their marketing strategies.