I was thinking more about the upcoming Politics Online conference and remembering my last few “public” appearances and what I tried to say at each of them. At one of the, 2004 Progressive Tech conference, I was asked the question “Is it important to be a Democratic-only firm in this market?”
In response to that question I cited a call that I had had from a Wall Street Journal reporter asking the same question. He was puzzled about why a software company would voluntarily cut its market in half. He went on to write an article on the subject that featured my firm and a competing firm that styles itself "nonpartisan."
My answer, both to the reporter and at the conference, is that it is not necessary to be a Democratic-only firm. I listed the some of the advantages to being non-partisan: among them a larger potential market, economies of scale, and not competing with your competition in part of the space, thus giving them a free ride.
At the conference I talked a little about my experience providing database technology to campaigns and organizations. I said that campaigns are not an easy market: they are not generally tech-savvy -- they have high turnover -- they are short-lived -- they have many special needs.
I noted that no one chooses a Democratic-only vendor if they think they are getting an inferior product.
I then suggested some of the advantages to partisan status. I said I felt that partisanship helps make us a better business -- it gives us motivation through a sense of working for the "good guys.” I said that campaigns are a service business. (I neglected that night to give examples, but I was thinking of numerous ones that I could have cited. For example, Louis staying up until 2:00 AM helping Kerry for President file FEC reports, Erin working late on data conversions for America Votes, Danielle and others working all night to launch a new version of the web-based software.) I also said that partisanship can affect the trust of sensitive clients and can help build relationships with party committees, consultants, and allied organizations.
I concluded by noting that when I started my company in 1997, I did not choose Democrat-only as a marketing strategy. I simply wanted to be able to look in the mirror and be proud of my work and my clients. I wanted to work for the good guys and I wanted that ethic to be a core value of my company. I said that if some day it is a model no longer works, I would do something else. It felt good that my conclusion was well-received.