By Mike O'Neill
I have been attending Campaigns and Elections seminars as an individual and occasionally as a speaker for fifteen years. In 2008 I decided to pack First Contact’s convention booth and join the vendor ally on the mezzanine of the Washington Marriott.
There were some surprising results. There were more attendees than I had expected, more Canadians and more countries represented. Certainly there was a steady stream of interested people coming to our booth. Then, suddenly, the great crowd of animated delegates would stop talking, networking and shopping vendor wares and disappear into the campaign training sessions, not to be seen for another ninety minutes.
So there we were, a few dozen vendors staffing booths in the lobby while the action, or so I thought, took place behind closed doors. My partner and I took turns at the booth, one attending a session while the other paced the floor, stacking and re-stacking literature, not wanting to miss a stray delegate. Waiting.
Waiting and then networking among ourselves. Our company, a voter contact management firm for Liberals and Democrats providing live call centre, recorded messages and proprietary targeting, mapping and data analysis tools via a customizable online client portal, is in a perpetual software development mode. We are always on the lookout for developers to contribute to the process or for products to bolt on to our platform.
The adjacent booth, SpatiaLogic, displayed a range of high quality maps. We had made a significant investment of time and money in mapping over the previous 18 months and were still unhappy with the results. I introduced myself to Charlie Lindauer, the company’s President. I learned his company has developed mapping applications for the political, healthcare and the financial services industries for 15 years. After a couple of conversations I was confident they could push our mapping forward and overcome one of our problems, which was that our mapping application for displaying VoterID at the household level was sending so much data in real time that it was straining the limits of the underlying mapping software.
We entered a contract with our fellow vendor soon after the convention and have not looked back. The code they wrote in 2008 for our data-rich application was much more efficient than our existing application.
In June 2009 we hosted a technology conference to kick off our next round of development and SpatiaLogic was again at the table. We were so confident in them that rather than buy and deploy data visualization software that would allow our clients to study their own data, we contracted SpatiaLogic to develop interactive maps that look like graphs, or “false geographies”. We also extended the use of interactive maps to new tools allowing clients to select records to send to the call centre, robo-call and our other telecom applications when they would prefer to use a map rather than a database query.
From SpatiaLogic’s perspective, the relationship has been….
This is not the only vendor relationship that the C+E seminars have spawned. We were back in 2009 and added video teleconferencing to our product mix. John Wallace and Jordan Lieberman, Politic’s Director of Advertising and President, respectively, were particularly responsive to requests for introductions and showed up a few times at our booth with the words, here is someone you should meet.” We have several more alliances in the works as a result.
From the perspective of an entrepreneur, it was also encouraging to find a network of small and innovative businesses in the same market. If we do business together because we have different niches or are working across the floor, you can always learn from the experience of others.
I will be back in 2010 equally focused on the vendors and the participants. I might even be able to attend some sessions!
Mike O’Neill firstname.lastname@example.org is the President of First Contact www.callfirstcontact.com , a voter contact management firm for Liberals and Democrats providing live call centre, recorded messages and proprietary targeting, mapping and data analysis tools via a customizable online client portal. First Contact has helped to elect more than 550 candidates at all levels of government.