Written by James Scherer
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How the Obama Administration Uses Marketing Automation

Both President Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns were characterized by their use of the internet: social media, email and (yes), marketing automation.

Now I won't pretend I'm much of a politically savvy pundit, but I do know marketing automation when I see it.

And, after hearing a rumor, researching Obama's online re-election campaign in 2012 and going to the President's "Dashboard" site today, I'm confident the Obama administration has used advanced marketing automation software to great success.

The strategy would have been crucial in their ability to best-utilize volunteers, maximize their return on donor investment, and create a visitor-centric interaction and communication campaign within their website and beyond.

Now in 2012 this stuff was revolutionary. Today though, you can do 90% of what they have with software costing less than 75 bucks a month and a Google search.

In this article I'll show you how. I'll also show you how a re-election campaign is completely relevant to the success of your business.


President Obama's Marketing Automation

Let's take a quick look at the 2012 re-election's online website, called "Dashboard:"

marketing automation use-case

This is a squeeze page. Make no bones about it.

It's a page optimized to elicit lead information (email address, street address and zip code). Your business should have a few of these within your website (Wishpond has about 40).

This basic information would be sent to the Obama campaign's lead's database, in which every lead has their own profile which shows their lead information, activity and the segments they belong to. It might look something like this:

marketing automation use-case

Placing a marketing automation tracking pixel onto the Obama campaign's website would allow the software to see each page view, action and personal information in real time.

Through integrations with other tools and software providers, they could also see information such as email activity on Mailchimp, payment information from Stripe (donations, for instance), the details of an online chat a site visitor had with their helpdesk, or any information within their CRM platform.

How they could use this information:

Using marketing automation, President Obama's campaign was able to segment volunteers and donors into relevant groupings. They could target volunteers based on states or even neighborhoods which were politically in play. They could re-target donors who only donated once, or reward those who donated a large amount.

And they're still doing it. As this article is being written, the President's website features this form on the front page:

marketing automation use-case

And, if you dive a little deeper into the site, it prompts you to select the political issue you care most about:

This allows the President's email marketing team to deliver relevant content to contacts based on exactly on what they care about. Coupled with a zipcode "lead property," this enables them to notify people about important votes, events and fundraisers in their local area and about things they care about.

Compare this to enabling your business to deliver relevant content to leads based on what element of your service or product they're most interested in.This enables your marketing team to notify people about important sales you have running, features you've recently released, and general reasons you're awesome.

So, is there a real difference between generating volunteers or donors and turning them into voters and enthusiastic supporters and generating leads and turning them into customers and brand ambassadors?

Here's how you can set up a marketing campaign similar to what helped get President Obama elected:


Step One: Capture the lead information that matters:


Here's a quick screenshot of our landing page builder which shows how you'd build a simple form into a page of your site, designed to capture lead information:

marketing automation use-case

As soon as I added the checkboxes you see within the form on the right (the same ones you saw in the screenshot from the president's website above) they were automatically added as "lead properties" within your marketing automation system.

Essentially, this means that (alongside the default "email address," "first name," "phone number" fields) your marketing automation system can now "see" this new lead information as part of a person's profile.


Step Two: Do something with that lead information


While it's all well and good that we can now know more about our leads (and record that information), marketing automation is only powerful if we do something with the information.

The simplest thing would be to automatically trigger a welcome email to our new leads based on their selection within the form, so let's…

Set Up a Workflow:

Here's what the conditions of our workflow might look like (I'll explain what you're seeing below:**

marketing automation use-case

Basically, this simply says "IF someone provides their lead information within the campaign landing page AND they chose "Economic Opportunity" as their interest…"

THEN, trigger this action:

marketing automation use-case

Alright, I cheated, and added a little something to this workflow.

The second "action" you see above is a simple snippet of javascript which would change the headline and subheadline of my homepage based on this lead's interest - in this case, "Economic Opportunity."

Pretty cool, huh?

And I could do the exact same thing for all the other interests within that form.

Here's what an extremely similar automation workflow looks like within President Obama's current website:

marketing automation use-case

On the left, you see a form (similar to the one I have in my landing page above) which asks for a lead's state. On the right, you see some dynamic content, which changes the information on a "How Climate Change Affects You" page, further within the site. Because I chose Washington as my state, earlier in the President's marketing funnel, the site knows I'll care more about the fate of Washington than, say, Oklahoma.

But it's not just about changing my website or sending an automated email, it's also about how marketing automation can help me interact and communicate with this lead for their entire customer lifecycle.

Creating a lead segment...

If I'm going to keep track of my leads (or donors, volunteers or members, if I'm President Obama), I need to segment them intelligently. I can do this any number of different ways:

Segment based on…

  • Demographic information (gender, location, age, etc)
  • Chance of converting (have they visited the "donate here" or pricing page twice in the past two days but not gone through with it? They're interested!)
  • Interest (product they first bought, blog article they became a subscriber on, tool they first used within your software, etc)
  • Customer lifetime (How long have they been a customer?)
  • Customer value (Are they on your White-label plan? Basic? Did they buy a $10 discounted watch once and then never again?)
  • Etc, etc, etc

Here's how I'd create a lead list of people who converted on my earlier landing page and were also are interested in the topic of "Economic Opportunity:"

marketing automation use-case

Simple. This allows me to contact these specific leads with highly specific content. I can also segment this list one more time, by adding the location or state information (given previously), or by some other characteristic. Alternatively, I can combine this list with the others from this campaign to create a larger segment.

And, when there's a national "economic opportunity" event or TV special I want to tell all my economic opportunity fans about, I simply…

Manually send them a newsletter:

And here's what that might look like:

marketing automation use-case

This is the versatility of a good marketing automation platform. It's not all about marketing, and it's not all about automation.

It allows you to keep communicating with existing customers to maintain your relationship (not marketing). It also allows you to manually send email, add or remove content from workflows, and change the look of your website on the fly (not automation).

But, of course, it's mostly about saving you time and money while also making your business a more powerful marketing force.

After all, it got a President elected…

Imagine what it can do for your business!


Wrapping it up


Hopefully seeing how a presidential campaign used marketing automation has provided a little light into how you can use it as well. The strategies are the same, and the software is cheaper.

Have any questions about anything you see? Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter at @JDScherer.

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Written by James Scherer

James Scherer is the content editor at Wishpond. When he's not writing or designing for Wishpond he's risking his life biking around the city. Reach out to him on Twitter @JDScherer.