B-to-b response data compares favorably to compiled data

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Ruth Stevens, Bernice Grossman
Ruth Stevens, Bernice Grossman

Most B-to-B marketers rely on a combination of compiled and response lists to fuel their prospecting campaigns.  Traditionally, marketers have viewed response data as delivering higher response rates than compiled—but since there being no free lunches in direct marketing, response data has provided only limited market coverage. 

To examine the accuracy and completeness of response data available to marketers today, we recently conducted a study as part of our ongoing research into the state of B-to-B database marketing. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that the new multi-list response databases on the market today offer not only high levels of accuracy—this is what we expected—but also better market coverage than most marketers would think. 

We crafted this study along lines similar to the studies about compiled data we produced in the last two years. To assess completeness in the response databases, we asked the participating vendors—Infogroup, MardevDM2, and WorldData—to provide counts on the number of companies in 10 industries of high interest to business marketers. We further supplied the names of 10 prominent companies in these industries, and asked the vendors to give us the number of individual contacts they had at each company. 

To assess accuracy, we submitted the names of 10 actual business people—the kinds of prospects marketers are likely to be targeting—and asked the vendors to share with us the records they have on each individual.           

Just as we were surprised at the results of our compiled data studies, which showed better than expected accuracy, we are now surprised at the response data we looked at, which is broader than we anticipated. The number of companies reported by SIC, and the number of contacts per company, were impressive. Comparing the counts with last year's compiled data (which is not quite fair, since a lot can happen in b-to-b data in one year) we would say the response databases are holding their own, certainly debunking our long-held assumption that response files give limited market coverage. When it comes to the individual contacts, less than a handful were missing records or particular data elements.

As we expected, the data reported was fairly accurate, with only a few minor errors.  When there were errors, they were not fatal for marketing purposes:  The mail or email would still be deliverable, and the telephone call would eventually get to the prospect, in most cases. 

The data field with the most problems—either missing or less accurate than other data elements—was email.   

We generally conclude that the data available in response databases is quite similar in accuracy and completeness to compiled data; and as was shown by our past studies, data varies by vendor, and each vendor has its strengths and weaknesses. 

Stevens and Grossman consult in the area of B-to-B marketing.  Reach them at ruth@ruthstevens.com and bgrossman@dmrsgroup.com.

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