Let's kill the marketing funnel, says Obama CIO

By Erin Griffith , written on February 26, 2013

From The News Desk

Michael Slaby, CIO of Obama for America, is looking just slightly more relaxed than he has in the past few years. Speaking at the press event today, he presented a view of the Obama campaign's success that runs counter to the narrative that emerged from the President's successful campaign.

Rather than succeeding because the campaign employed were technological number-crunching geniuses, or so the narrative goes, Slaby says the campaign won because of its laser-like focus on its singular mission: getting votes. "We don't get more votes for using better technology," he said. "The idea that technology made [the Obama team] win is a false choice."

Campaigns are limited by their resources and running a successful campaign is an exercise in proper resource allocation. The Obama campaign only adopted technology and platforms that they knew would help them get more votes. They did not allow themselves to be distracted by new technology or the latest shiny thing, he said.

The biggest thing to learn from the Obama campaign, he said, was that the we have lost control of when and where people communicate with us. The age-old internal battle over which business segment owns which social media channel -- is it the CRM team, the PR team, tech tech team or the marketing team in charge of the Facebook page? -- does not matter to the customer (or in this case, the voter). "Customers don't care about your org chart, they just want to be serviced," he said.

Further, the marketing funnel is just-plain dead. The idea of pushing a bunch of email addresses and accounts through a marketing funnel is offensive, Slaby said. "Every person we talk to is a person with a story whose personal experience matters, who has a unique relationship with the campaign. We see this not as a bucket to process but as an opportunity for voter-initiated contact." Call it the Special Snowflake approach. However you characterize it, it worked.

Slaby wasn't excited to make predictions for 2016. A question to that effect and the thought of another campaign actually caused the color to drop from his face. But he noted that there are a few big tech problems left to be solved. The local issue -- connecting local candidates with voters, their local voting place, and their local volunteers through the Web and through social network -- has still not been solved.

One area that might not ever be solved? Social fundraising. Facebook makes it awkward to raise funds on its platform, other social media outlets haven't been huge drivers either, Slab said. "I don't know that these platforms will be core channels for fundraising this time around." Obama's fundraising in 2008, for example, was driven primarily by email, he said.

At a keynote presentation later in the afternoon, Mark Benioff touted the Obama campaign's winning use of cloud versus on-premise software. If it's not clear, the Obama campaign was a Salesforce customer. To an "intimate" crowd of 1000 reporters and customers, Salesforce today launched "Service Cloud Mobile," a platform that allows Salesforce's clients to service their customers from mobile.

[Image courtesy of D.H. Parks on Flickr]