Navigating the world of data and data broker

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First let's start with the good news. There are thousands of data sources and mailing lists available in the marketplace that you can leverage for your direct marketing campaigns. And now for the bad news. There are thousands of data sources and mailing lists in the marketplace that you can leverage for your direct marketing campaigns.

Yikes! Where is a marketer to start? What list sources are legitimate? Which lists work for best for bank marketing? Who can help sort through this maze of data?

Data...there is so much out there!

A savvy direct marketer who understands the general principles of list selection will be able to maximize its relationship with its data provider and make sure it receives what it needs to make each and every campaign successful. Let's start with a review of general terms and background on major list categories.

First, there are five major list types in the direct marketing industry: compiled; specialty response/donor; subscription; customer files; and compiled lists.

Compiled lists are put together from various existing sources, all brought together to form a larger database. Compiled data is the least expensive list, because it is compiled from public sources including telephone directories, public records or automobile registrations.

Compiled data is broken down into three general categories: resident/occupant data (also known as res/occ data), consumer data and business data. These general categories represent the first step toward targeting. Depending on your goal, one or all of these list types might fit the bill.

Resident/occupant data

These data lists, compiled from the U.S. Postal Service and updated quarterly from mail carriers' information, include every deliverable address available.

Resident/occupant lists are perfect for the broadest campaigns-for those that aim to reach everyone in your town, city, state, region, or even the country. For example, bank marketers may use these types of lists for a branch grand opening.

Consumer data

Every one of us is a consumer all day long, whether as business people, parents, spouses, hobbyists or individuals. We make buying decisions constantly. And when the right marketer offers us the right campaign, we're bound to respond. Compiled consumer lists can often make that connection.

Consumer data lists, updated monthly, are compiled from a variety of sources including telephone directories, public records and others. More flexible than res/occ data, consumer data lists not only include addresses, but a vast amount of additional selections: names, phone numbers, demographic data and psychographic data, to name only a few. These choices make it one of the most flexible data solutions on the market today. Consumer data allows you to target your audience from either a broad nationwide sweep or a specific detailed search.

For example, if you want to promote your mutual fund savings accounts you can target only those people in your community with a certain income, marital status or net worth.

Business data

Compiled business data is collected and updated monthly from a number of sources, including Yellow Page directories, business credit reports, annual corporate reports and business/industry directories. With over 12 million business records to choose from, compiled business lists provide the most comprehensive, marketable information available.

Of course, the compiled business database is great for business-to-business offers, simply because it represents the most businesses currently available. But whether you market a business-to-business product or not, you should consider these lists as a way to reach a lucrative market. Many consumer-based businesses can increase revenues by targeting people where they work.

Specialty lists

While a bit more expensive than compiled data, specialty lists are targeted toward a very specific audience, almost guaranteeing a bigger bang for your campaign. Inexperienced marketers often mistakenly assume that buying a specialty list is no different than buying consumer or business data and adding certain selects, but specialty lists offer more.

Most specialty files are pulled from specific sources that are guaranteed to contain the criteria you request. Unlike compiled data, nothing is inferred or assumed.

Here's a sampling of some of the most common specialty files that marketers use:

New homeowner data

A rich source of new prospects, this database is compiled from public sources including county deed records and is updated weekly. A new homeowner list enables you to target offers to the millions of Americans each year who change addresses. These "new to the neighborhood" consumers often have special needs and are eager to establish loyal relationships.

Trigger data

Trigger data is an emerging category of data that recognizes audiences "most likely to respond." The data identifies people that are likely to buy a particular product based on a change. Some examples are new mortgage applications on a daily basis, new phone connects daily, expectant parents, college bound high school seniors, newlyweds, new homeowners, and new movers by distance of move.

Other triggers include purchase transactions by date, type of item, and/or dollar amount.

Response/donor lists

Whereas compiled data lists assume certain things about a target audience, response and donor lists leave much less to the imagination. If accuracy is crucial to your campaign, response data is a great resource for you.

Response/donor lists contain individuals who have specifically expressed interest in a product or service, by filling out a survey or donating to a charity. Many associations and charities augment their fundraising by selling their lists to reputable marketers. Respectable organizations almost always insist on approving your marketing piece before they'll sell you their extremely valuable file. But as long as your campaign doesn't bring up any ethical or competitive roadblocks, the sale normally goes through without a hitch.

Subscription lists

Subscription data lists are more popular with some marketers than others. Why? Because these lists are comprised of individuals who have subscribed to a particular magazine, periodical, newspaper or journal. While they offer the potential for a great target, it's smart to keep a couple of tricks in mind.

For example, magazines that focus on golf seem to be a great target for many companies, from sporting goods retailers to high-end resorts. But did you know that sometimes as much as 60 percent of a subscription file is filled with public placement circulation like doctors' and dentists offices?

If you're seeking an audience that's solely made up of golf enthusiasts, it's good to keep in mind that - contrary to popular belief - not all doctors golf.

While subscription files can offer a great return on investment, it's best to work with an experienced professional when choosing your list. They'll help ensure that you get exactly what you want, without the unnecessary extras that can waste your time and money.

Customer files

Ask any experienced marketer, and they'll tell you that the most valuable list in the world is the one you already own. That's right-the value of your current customers and prospects is huge.

You already know your customers, but do you know how to hone your file and make it even more valuable? For cross-selling, up-selling and just plain selling, your database needs tender loving care. With a little attention, it will reap major rewards for you.

Here are just a few of the things you can do with the data you own.

  • Clean up that file with data hygiene.

This process allows you to save money by keeping your data as comprehensive and up-to-date as possible, with the following services:

Data Consolidation and Standardization

NCOA: The National Change of Address

DSF: The Delivery Sequence File

LACS: The Locatable Address Conversion System

CASS: Coding Accuracy Support System

Deceased Processing

  • Make it more valuable with data enhancement.

Data enhancement solutions enrich your database with data appends (additional fields of information) that allow you to learn more about your customers, and therefore, target and talk to them more effectively. By pulling information from multiple data sources, you can maximize your insights and ensure the highest quality of data available.

  • Learn more about your customers and prospects with data analytics.

Data analytics allow you to find out much more than the names and addresses in your file. Among many other uses, these solutions help you:

  • Identify people who own specific products
  • Find the demographic and psychographic makeup of your customers and prospects
  • Build a regression analysis, so that you can market to the appropriate people during a particular life event.
  • Start connecting through the Web with e-mail append

E-mail append allows you to open a whole new communication channel with your customers, by adding e-mail addresses to your database. With the appropriate targeting, e-mail marketing is quick, cost-efficient and offers a rapid return on investment.

Do I really need a data broker?

In today's busy world of doing more with less, there is simply not enough time in the day for marketers to understand all the ins and outs of data and mailing lists. That's where data brokers come in.

A data broker is someone who represents either one or more data files or type of lists and sells the information on behalf of the data owner for a commission. The good thing about data brokers is that they live and breathe the data they sell. The bad thing about data brokers is that they can sometimes force-fit their data solution to meet your needs.

Here are some ideas and ways to make sure your goals stay the priority and not your broker's commission.

  • Choose a broker that represents multiple files and offers you a variety-it's all about options, options, options.
  • Choose a broker that has been around for a while, at least a couple of years.
  • Look for signs of legitimacy. Is it a member of the Direct Marketing Association?
  • Does it have a Web site with a physical address listed on it and a privacy policy?
  • Does it ask you about your campaign and goals? Remember it should be all about your needs.

As a marketer, you have your own unique marketing challenges so it is important that you also look for a data broker that understands your industry. There is nothing more frustrating and time consuming than having to keep training your vendors on what you do.

A solid foundation and understanding of your options and some key components in to what to look for should make you more confident in your buying decisions and should definitely improve your marketing campaign results.

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