Political party turns CRM on voters

New Zealand political party Association of Consumers and Taxpayers (Act) is attempting to become more intelligent about its potential voters with a new customer relationship management system.

This week the minority political party goes live with SalesLogix 5.2 running on a Microsoft Corp. SQL database.

Act has imported the electoral roll, which has 2.8 million records, into the CRM (customer relationship management) system. Political parties can purchase the roll from the Electoral Enrolment Centre for a range of uses outlined in the Electoral Act. The party has also imported aggregated census data into the system.

Act chief of staff Christopher Milne estimates that most political parties lose 99.9 percent of the intelligence that comes into their office because they don't have a system to gather it.

He says the system won't be used for campaigning, rather for tracking contact with people that have already approached the party.

"We have thousands of people writing to us all the time. Now we're able to link correspondence to electoral roll records. If they write again we can quickly see what they've written about before and what our response was."

The CRM system will also be used to manage subscriptions to newsletters.

"We are able to link the Web site into Saleslogix so that when people subscribe through the Web site it's recorded in the CRM system."

Milne says bringing in data from the electoral roll in a meaningful way has been "quite a complex exercise" which meant the system had to be easy to customize.

"There are 150,000 different ways that people describe their occupations, for example accountant, chartered accountant, finance officer. There have been a lot of adjustment calls about those things."

Milne says Act has overlaid "psychographic" information, which looks at likely attitudes, based on income and occupation.

"For example, airline pilots are high earners but don't tend to be entrepreneurial because they're salaried earners and are heavily unionized. But a company managing director earning the same salary is more likely to be entrepreneurial."

Milne says Act had to split records between those who have contacted the party and those who haven't so that the system will run faster.

With such a hefty database, Act needed a "grunty" but mid-range priced system, says Milne. Act chose SalesLogix particularly for its ease of customization. It is being implemented and customized by CRM specialists The Integrators.

Before getting a CRM system, Act was using an MS Access database and some applications written in Clarion.

The Alliance party is still using an Access database although Alliance general secretary Gerard Hehir says an MMP system means information on demographics is becoming more important.

"We are increasingly looking at niche markets. Parties recognize that they have to target specific constituencies and that geography is of less importance. Occupational class is more of a determining factor when you look at who votes for who."

He says all parties are trying to develop better data information systems about the people they contact and the people on their mailing lists.

Alliance also extracts information from the electoral roll, "but that's as far as we're taking it. You could take it to extreme lengths."

The Labor party is also using a database written in MS Access. Party president Mike Williams, who founded Auckland database marketing company Insight Data (now Cadmus Insight Data) and sold it in 1997, says Labor has been doing demographic and psychographic analysis since the 1980s.

"One party in particular seems to have rediscovered it," he says. "It's a limited utility because voting is really an individual decision. You can't go in and say all women who live in Mt Eden, between the ages of 45 and 55, and who are in a particular profession are going to vote National or Labor. You almost have to make contact on a individual basis."

The National party doesn't have a shrink-wrapped CRM system. President Michelle Boag says it's not party policy to disclose what type of contact management system National uses because it doesn't want to give information to the opposition.

"We have a system that makes full use of the technology available to enable us to communicate with voters, track them and their movements in and out of electorates."

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