By Todd Tiahrt - Politics is politely avoided at Thanksgiving meals.  However, this year politics gave proof to a marketing principle; know your customer.  And for marketers, the subject will come up frequently, possibly even served up at a meal that includes turkey.

Contrary to many pollsters, the Obama campaign knew their customers and effectively motivated them, winning all but one of the “swing states” in the 2012 Presidential Election.  This gargantuan task was successfully carried out using the tools commonly used by marketing professionals, data mining. 

Data Mining Crossover

Data mining is frequently referred to as an electronic tool to find out as much as possible about your customers.  It can be defined as the process of discovering patterns in large amounts of data electronically.  In a sense, it mimics the human mind by taking multiple inputs and memories then predicts a probable outcome.  Marketing professionals use forms of data mining to effectively know the customer and develop strategies to promote an outcome to close a sale.  

In the political world, the President’s campaign data miners accumulated information through tens of thousands of personal interviews in key states asking about personal data, likes and dislikes, brand preferences, as well as other information.  This material was melded with polling data, demographics, and geography and voter registration lists, among other information, to calculate a probability outcome in the form of a vote.

Similarly, in the marketing world, data mining is the one of the initial steps to a successful public relations effort.  Although not all data mining is electronic, the process of accumulating information is essential.   Marketing professionals consume multiple data inputs about life styles, purchasing practices, likes and dislikes to accomplish a situation analysis.  From the information they are able to develop a marketing strategy and determine the optimum media and means to craft a public conversation and develop a market for the given product.

Specific Conversation for Specific Audience

The rural life style is a unique market to families that live outside the city limits of urban areas.  They have different needs for yard work, access to the internet and entertainment.  Commuting is a cost consideration and often those in the rural life style buy seeds, grow decorative plants and produce.  Marketing to a specific audience like those living the rural life style requires professional talents and techniques to reach the needs and desires of those targeted.    

If your product is light utility vehicles, a big part of your market would be those living the rural life style.  The data mining would include electronic information but also accumulating knowledge about where the targeted audience shops, what periodicals they subscribe to, where they go to eat, where they get their news, how far do they commute to jobs, to ball games and school activities.  Interpreting this information is part of the job marketing professionals do in crafting the language for the intended audience.

Just like politics, it begins with understanding your customer, assessing the situation, developing the right strategy, crafting the conversation and choosing the best means to communicate.  The result can be successfully selling an idea or product.  So pass the turkey and let the conversation begin. 


Todd Tiahrt is a former Member of Congress, Partner at Paulsen Marketing, and consultant in government affairs.

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