Be choosy when buying any data to improve conversions

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Kathy Greenler Sexton
Kathy Greenler Sexton

Customer relationship marketing and sales force automation tools are increasingly sophisticated. Yet, better automation does not always translate into higher marketing response or sales conversion rates. That is because a growing number of these systems actually overwrite correct data (data that you may have updated yourself, for example) with outdated, incorrect data. The tools are only as good as the data that fuels them, and unfortunately, much of the data we marketers buy is erroneous.

The stale data problem is so pervasive that marketers budget for it. We know that when we rent a marketing list, a certain percentage of the addresses will be bad, so we buy a list that is that much bigger.

When we buy data, we enter a noisy marketplace: different vendors making unique claims with various levels of veracity about data quality. Some buy content and some make it. To determine which data is the most accurate, follow these steps to avoid blowing your budget on big lists with stale data.

  • Narrowly define your 
attributes. Select as many 
specific data attributes as necessary to really pinpoint your buyers and create powerful microsegment campaigns.

  • Get a sample list. Take those attributes to a data vendor and say, "Show me the data!" Have your list created immediately to make sure you're getting results from the database as it exists in that moment. Ideally, get online with the sales representative as your list is created to ensure that it is not a "cherry picked" selection from the vendor's database. The size of the sample depends on the size of the eventual purchase — a 1,000-record sample complete with phone numbers and e-mail addresses is not uncommon.

  • Test. Examine the list right away to ensure that it contains prospects that fit your criteria — people who have the right job titles and other attributes. Send an e-mail offer to the list to find out how many messages bounce. 

  • Repeat. Try these steps with other vendors and choose the vendor with the best sample.

Many data vendors are ramping up their data collection, verification and updating processes. Soon, constantly replenished data — that smartly feeds technology solutions — will become the status quo. Until then, use sampling and testing and negotiate updates to lists so they are fresh when you reuse them. This will help you obtain and maintain higher quality data and improve your response and conversion rates.

Kathy Greenler Sexton is VP of marketing at Reach her at


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