As the 2004 Federal elections begin to take shape, the role of the Internet in modern political campaigns has garnered significant media attention. While the focus has remained primarily on the national scene, the local and state levels are also experiencing a technological revolution. At the forefront of this metamorphosis is a new, comprehensive Web-based campaign platform called WinCampaign.

WinCampaign enables campaigners to create sophisticated voter lists using demographic and geographic information, conduct canvassing efforts that collect information about voters and then send them a personalized letter on the issues they care about, survey voters via the telephone, track the campaign’s finances, create dozens of detailed reports, and mobilize volunteers efficiently by tracking whether supporters have made it to the polls on election day.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Tad Segal, President of WinCampaign, about this Web-based campaign platform.

What makes WinCampaign truly distinct from its competitors?

The revolutionary idea behind WinCampaign is that we give candidates a way to truly engage voters with two-way communication. It’s just not enough anymore for a campaign to lay out its position on the issues, spend some money on advertising, do a little door-to-door and call it a day. There’s just way too much competing campaign clutter out there. These days, voters are too busy to rifle through everyone’s direct mail pieces to find where you stand on the issues they care about.

WinCampaign works so well because it allows campaigns to actively collect information about their voters and then use this information to distance themselves from their competition. Our robust search function allows campaigns to create highly targeted voter lists for canvassing, phone banking, polling, fundraising and GOTV (get out the vote) efforts. You’re able to quickly and easily collect valuable information about your voters, which is used in all aspects of the campaign process.

For example, using WinCampaign for door-to-door canvassing, candidates record a voter’s issue of concern and support level simply by using bar-coded walking lists. This information is entered into the system using a barcode scanner in just seconds. You can then send a pre-written, highly personalized, issue-specific follow-up letter to those voters you’ve just canvassed in the time it takes to scan in a barcode. That kind of personalization cuts through the clutter and gets you noticed.

But it also means you’ve collected information about your voters that you can use for other campaign activities. For example, let’s say that from your canvassing operations, you discover that 100 people said they fully support your campaign. With WinCampaign, it only takes a couple of minutes to send those prospects a personalized fundraising letter.

And because WinCampaign is Web-based, campaigns are no longer limited to just one computer at one location. Campaigners are free to access all their campaign functionality from anywhere there’s an Internet connection. That gives campaigns tremendous freedom, flexibility and control. This combination of features and accessibility is what truly sets us apart from our competitors.

What do you see as your greatest challenge over the next few years?

I think we’re seeing the beginning of an increasing trend toward greater integration of technology into the campaign management process. But we’re still at the beginning of this trend.

I think political campaign management has been slow to catch on to the growing technological revolution. So we’re responding to this by educating people that we’re not reinventing the wheel. You still have to go canvass your voters. You still have to do effective fundraising, and you still have to have a solid GOTV operation. We’re just demonstrating there’s a better, faster, more efficient way of accomplishing these time-honored activities and to enhance them in a way that gives your campaign more power to connect with the right voters.

What do you feel is your single greatest competitive advantage?

Having a robust, comprehensive campaign management solution that is Web-based is clearly an innovation that puts WinCampaign ahead of its competition. Being able to run your campaign from anywhere is a huge advantage.

The idea that a campaign management tool has to sit on one computer, or a network, in one location is just no longer relevant to how campaigns are being run today. That model is simply outdated and ineffective in today’s world of instant information.

Our ability to offer seamless integration of multiple users from multiple locations, all working together on the same system, is something no one else has figured out how to do successfully. And because we’ve designed the program with this in mind, we’ve enhanced many of the features to take full advantage of this mobility and connectivity. And we’ve also built in safeguards such as redundancy, top of the line servers, automatic backups and firewalls to prevent any disruption in service. Users can also download their campaign data over their Internet connection any time they want, providing another layer of security.

Will platforms such as WinCampaign fundamentally change the way that local and State level campaigns are run in this country? If so, how?

I think if you go back and look at some of the races WinCampaign has been involved in, there’s no doubt that we’re changing the rules. We’ve worked with a number of candidates who faced serious obstacles to election. These are folks who ran in contested primaries against long-term incumbents or in a general against a much better-known and funded opponent.

We’ve worked with candidates who had little or no name recognition, very little funding and who didn’t have the party nomination. Yet they’ve prevailed against overwhelming odds because they were able to identify and target those voters most likely to turn up for them on Election Day. That’s what it all boils down to and we’ve figured out how to help maximize this advantage.

How do you see Win-Campaign evolving over the next few years?

WinCampaign will be working hard to meet demand, increase visibility, and further connect with our customer base. One of our biggest advantages is the tremendously positive word of mouth from our clients. As we get to know new clients, we will work hard to continue to ensure that everyone is provided with the highly personalized level of service and support that our customers have come to expect from us.