Quality Contact Data Equals Quality Leads

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Matt Sopiars, TeleSign
Matt Sopiars, TeleSign

The success of lead generation companies is predicated on the quality of the data they collect. Simply put, quality data equals quality leads. The competitive nature of this industry has created an insatiable appetite for accurate, real-time data on businesses and consumers.

Historically, lead generators have focused on lead validation and verification, but in recent years the focus has shifted to lead scoring. The score helps to determine the sell price of the lead and helps sales teams to prioritize their calls. To determine a score, lead buyers choose certain attributes that model an ideal customer and then use that criterion to score and prioritize leads.

The first and most important step for most lead generators is to ensure the validity of the phone number(s) captured. Although many direct marketing organizations collect email addresses as a piece of contact information on their landing form, the phone number is still the primary contact information. Ask any seller and they will tell you that an accurate phone number is of more value than an email.

In the past, lead generators have used older, less-reliable databases to check phone validity. One popular method for this check is to perform an NPA-NXX lookup. NPA/NXX refers to the combination of area codes (NPA's) and local exchanges (NXX's) that map to a specific region.

For example, 314-555 is the NPA-NXX for the phone number 314-555-5493. By looking at NPA-NXX info for lead validation, companies can assume a phone type, determine basic validity, and return general location parameters at a relatively low cost.

The challenge with NPA-NXX information is that it only performs this check on the first 7 digits of a phone number, or a particular block of phone numbers based on the area code and local exchange. It doesn't provide information on a specific phone number. There are many reasons why this can be problematic for the company performing this lookup.

Identifying validity and phone type using NPA prefixes has become more complicated since the introduction of mobile phone numbers and number portability. There are now mixed and shared prefixes that include both landline and mobile numbers. NPA-NXX has become less accurate with the proliferation of mobile numbers because more users are porting their landline phone numbers over to mobile phones. This causes a discrepancy in most NPA-NXX lookups.

Several other issues arise when identifying the geographic location of a mobile number using NPA/NXX information. Ignoring that mobile phone users are in fact, mobile, the actual base location information of mobile phone numbers is not as precise as landlines because the boundaries of wireless services areas are often larger than landline service areas.

As NPA-NXX information becomes less and less effective, lead generators are turning to other sources of phone number validation.

A phone number can provide valuable information about the user of that phone. The most effective data points to review when scoring a lead or determining a buy or sell price include subscriber and device status, phone type, and user name and address.

Subscriber and device status

A phone number can have a subscriber status and a device status. The subscriber status indicates whether the subscriber is maintaining an active phone service with the carrier. It can also tell if the phone number is disconnected or suspended, for example for non-payment or delinquency. The device status indicates whether the device, landline or wireless, is currently able to receive a call. For example, a wireless/mobile subscriber may have switched off the phone, run out of phone battery, or be out of cellular coverage area and be "unavailable" to receive a call at a given point of time. It will also note “roaming,” which indicates whether the device is currently roaming in a different country or region than its origin.

Phone type

The phone type can provide a breadth of information about the person filling out the form. Phone types such as VoIP or prepaid mobile numbers are inherently higher risk for fraud because of their anonymous nature. Additionally, lead generators can make assumptions about the quality of the lead that are reflected in the score. Someone who provides a landline or contract-based mobile phone can be ranked higher than a lead providing a pay-as-you-go Trac phone.

Name and address

Verified contact details are often the Holy Grail for lead buyers and sellers. Using a product that returns the leads address information enables lead buyer and sellers to determine if the lead provided their correct information. This information can strongly influence the lead score and help sellers price leads appropriately and buyer prioritized their follow-up.

Frequently, online merchants only implement phone number validation to ensure that the phone number format is correct. This is only a small piece of information needed determine the value of a lead. With access to additional data points about a lead's phone number, merchants can effectively and efficiently determine a lead score.

Matt Sopiars is operations lead at TeleSign.

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