Political data firms traditionally have been perceived as list providers and often not much more. But that's changing drastically as local and national campaigns invest more in data services.
Democratic data outfit TargetSmart Communications wants to be seen as a more holistic and integral component of the modern political campaign. The company's launch of a strategic consulting division last week is indicative of the evolution of the political data firm from mere supplier of voter information and scores to consultative data service provider.
"Data vendors should be really looked at as partners and allies on the campaign rather than just kind of an obscure technology," said Matt Taverna, director of sales and business development at TargetSmart.
"Data is no longer a new and shiny object," he continued. "We're not just fulfilling orders like we're robots…. Campaigns will be increasingly calling on us to help them interpret some of the nuts and bolts of the file."
The division will complement the firm's primary data services by helping clients apply it in a more holistic manner that reflects their longer term strategic goals. Greg Adams, director, strategic consulting services, will head up the new group.
Mr. Taverna declined to name 2016 political campaigns or organizations the firm is working with. Observers can expect the company's data and analysis to factor in to efforts on the left through its partnership with data management and software firm NGP VAN, whose platform is used by top Democratic organizations. NGP VAN counts the Democratic National Committee and Service Employees International Union among its clients, and worked with Hillary Clinton shadow campaign Ready for Hillary before she announced her 2016 presidential candidacy.
Carving out a strategic consulting division could have an impact on TargetSmart's bottom line because it should result in the firm billing for time spent educating clients on how to implement the information the company provides. For example, a labor union fighting a state law might use the company's data to target and attract new members, which would require a different approach to employing voter files an election campaign might use for door-knocking or fundraising.
In the past, said Mr. Taverna, some staffers have assisted clients without billing them for what can amount to a significant amount of time.
"Now that campaigns are completely data-driven we want to have a more holistic approach of how the data is being used," he said.