TargetSmart Communications

TargetSmart Communications

TargetSmart used Alteryx to combine a multitude of data sources into a comprehensive national voter profiling database.

TargetSmart Communications is a political data firm specializing in providing leading information resources, database services, and communications solutions. Washington, D.C.-based TargetSmart supports a variety of political activities for campaigns and political organiza-tions, including national party committees and the Obama for America Campaign. These applications include fundraising, voter registration drives, polling and political research, grassroots advocacy, and a variety of voter targeting and outreach services.

The Situation

TargetSmart works with political organizations who must process millions of records of data from dozens of data sources, from national, state, county and city records, in order to identify voters, track their tendencies, and to accurately count and call upon unregistered voters prior to an election. TargetSmart was using open source software solutions in an attempt to merge multiple databases, two of which consisted of 200 million voters each. The company used these databases to derive voter information for a variety of political purposes, including fundraising, polling, voter registration and other activities.

For the 2008 Presidential election, the company needed to build voter propensity models and score national files for political fundraising campaigns. In addition, clients like the Obama for America Campaign needed to identify people who were most likely not to vote. TargetSmart needed to quickly and accurately provide phone and text message lists to the Obama for America staff, from one location to another, all around the country, and in a matter of hours, not days.

The challenge TargetSmart faced resulted partially from the fact that government data for various voter categories involves hundreds of different file formats. In addition, compiling voter registration lists for states and counties is difficult - no universal format exists, and many states are not compliant even when stan-dards are recommended. While data is continuously being aggregated, it must also be constantly updated, cleansed and enhanced with demographic profiling data, and all of this must be managed at very fast speeds if TargetSmart clients are to act upon the data in a timely manner.

TargetSmart's choice of data processing tools was leading to a troubling lack of efficiency, accuracy and reliability. Since TargetSmart operates as a small business, and it was relying primarily upon three employees to handle these data compilation and business intelligence needs, the company decided to find a better solution for quickly processing vast amounts of data from multiple, disparate sources.

The Solution

"In order to find a more efficient and data-centric solution, TargetSmart evaluated several options. The strategy of integrating a collection of open source tools and standard SQL databases was abandoned following tests the team ran using a free evaluation copy of Alteryx®, received after registering on Alteryx.com."

Over the course of a few months, TargetSmart developed a national voter file using Alteryx to combine a multitude of data sources into a comprehensive national voter profiling database. Among the data sources were seven very large demographic data files, three companies' lists of phone numbers, millions of email addresses, and variously collected archives of regional and state voter file records.

In politics, time is really everything. The closer you get to the election, you’ve got to be able to make split decisions right then and there and be able to act on those things. That’s definitely what we are able to deliver on with Alteryx.

- Drew Brighton, Principal at TargetSmart Communications

The incredibly fast, built-in address-cleansing and geo-coding capabilities of Alteryx proved to be critical factors that enabled TargetSmart to combine all of this data into its voter file product offering.

VoterBase, TargetSmart's proprietary national voter registration database, is constructed, maintained, and delivered using the Alteryx Geographic Business Intelligence® development platform. Using its newly constructed voter data powerhouse, TargetSmart successfully competed in a bid to win the Obama for America Campaign as its client, beating out two very entrenched competitors in this market, and raising the bar for the industry in the area of data transformation and business intelligence.

The Results

"Alteryx allowed us to get in and not only become a competitive voter file vendor, but to win major accounts and provide services to clients like Obama for America," said Steve Brighton, Principal of TargetSmart Communications. "With Alteryx, we were able to do in minutes and hours what we were having trouble doing with conventional data processing systems in days and weeks. As a result, over the last year we have seen an increase in our market share and a rise in revenue beyond projections by more than 400 percent."

TargetSmart considers Alteryx one of its key competitive advantages, since its speed and accuracy does the work of five data administrators. Alteryx allows TargetSmart to be competitive in an industry where only a few vendors have been deep-rooted for decades. With Alteryx, TargetSmart is now an "up and coming" vendor that easily produces high-quality data, quickly and efficiently. VoterBase is able to aggregate, analyze, and deploy data rapidly and with precision, providing demographics, ethnicity, voter information, and propensity scores for party or issue affiliation and general political leanings.

In addition, TargetSmart uses Alteryx to routinely upgrade its offering by integrating multiple national databases, each containing hundreds of millions of records, whenever new compilations are available. In this way, TargetSmart's VoterBase maintains its leadership as a comprehensive, cleaned and current picture of the Nation's electorate, ready to summarize any request by counts, detailed spatial maps or lists of voter profile analyses by county, neighborhood or household.

The importance of Alteryx's speed and data-throughput capacity to TargetSmart's data transformation cannot be overstated. The voter file industry is incredibly fast-paced, and data requests routinely come in with an expected 12hour, or less, turnaround time. For the Obama Campaign, TargetSmart used its vast voter database to provide accurate voter targeting for fundraising, telephone polling and to assist with growing unregistered voter registrations. During the heat of the campaign, TargetSmart was able to use the power of Alteryx to deliver a summary and count within an hour or two of an Obama for America Campaign request for a series of metro or region areas. Within another hour or two, phone, email and physical address-es were available in lists, ready to put in the volunteers' hands.

The company credits Alteryx for its ability to process decades of national voter information in three weeks versus three months, and to update and geocode files at 5- to 10-times the speed of its previous system. After implementing Alteryx in January 2008, TargetSmart had gained substantial market share and increased its revenue by 400 percent leading into the Fall of that year.