By Lisa Heay, Marketing Planning Manager at Heinz Marketing
When we get started on a strategic campaign planning engagement with a new client, one of the first things to determine is the “who.” Who are we targeting? Who is the ideal customer for the company and their solution? What characteristics define those targets?
Sometimes the client will already have a database full of perfectly matched accounts and contacts ready to reach out to. Most often though, they don’t. In an ideal world, outbound efforts would be directed to interested target leads who have entered the database naturally through inbound channels, but that kind of engine takes a continuous stream of content and thought leadership spread across multiple channels, good SEO, and a lot of time.
So, what do you do in the interim? Many companies turn to list vendors and subscription databases to build up their audience. There are a lot of options out there to choose from—where do you begin?
Your evaluation may differ based on your needs. If you need a single list pull, you can ignore a lot of the following questions and focus in on just what you need right now. But if you’re thinking of pursuing a subscription service for ongoing list efforts, do your due diligence—spend some time to find the right vendor that will meet your needs.
Here are some questions to get your research started.
- First and foremost, it’s important to have the vendor pull a list based on your target contact/account filters and give you an idea of how many records they could provide. Is this database able to provide you that list of IT Directors in software companies that have more than 100 employees, with $500M or above in revenue, located in New Hampshire?
It’s also important to find out the level of penetration the vendor has into various business segments that’d be important to your initiatives. For example, is the database representative of mainly enterprise level companies (fortune 500), or mid-level and small businesses? B2C companies? B2B? Determine if the vendor can provide for your needs now, but also into the areas you may want to expand into later.
Whatever filters your target list includes, the more specific you can be up front in your requirements, the better. If the database doesn’t have enough of the data you need, all the other questions listed here are irrelevant and you should move on.
- Where is the data sourced? Some companies use web scraping, some are based on LinkedIn or email signatures, and some are based on crowd-sourced or even self-reported data. This matters when it comes to data quality.
- How often is the list updated? How is it updated? In Dun & Bradstreet’s 6th Annual B2B Marketing Data Report published in Fall 2018, they estimate that in the next 60 minutes, 211 businesses will move, 429 business phone numbers will change or be disconnected, 743 new businesses will open their doors, 284 CEO or owner changes will occur, etc. The point being—the business landscape is changing constantly. As a result, data becomes outdated very quickly. Will your list provider help keep your data current, and at what cadence?
- Are the contacts opted in to receive third-party communications? If so, how did they opt in? Maybe they entered a contest to win a prize and they aren’t expecting to now be on a marketing list. In a time of GDPR, Can-spam, and CASL requirements, countries are cracking down on data privacy. It’s up to your organization to decide how comfortable you are with that and the level of risk you’re willing to take, but as a baseline, it’s important to understand if the contacts you’re considering for purchase are willing to receive communications from you.
- Would the list provided be rented or purchased? Some vendors offer list rentals, which mean that it’s a one-time use. If someone you emailed filled out a form as a result from your campaign, you get to keep their record ongoing, but typical conversion numbers from email marketing indicate it’d be a very small percentage of the data you paid to use.
- Are the email addresses provided verified as deliverable? How often does that verification process happen? How is it verified? The first time you email a new list, you should expect a higher than normal amount of bounces. But you should do everything in your power up front to minimize that number. Some marketing automation platforms have strict rules on cold email sends and will flag you if you have high bounce rates.
Many list vendors will verify the addresses you purchase, or even offer guarantees for money back if you do send to a bounced address. If they don’t, you need to take on that step yourself. There are platforms like NeverBounce that will verify email addresses for you.
- Are the provided phone numbers the direct line for each contact, or just the main company phone? Are the provided addresses for the headquarters, or specific to each contact? If you’re purchasing leads with the idea sales would be able to reach out with a phone call or direct mail piece, the company headquarters data won’t help move your efforts forward.
- What list vendors do you regularly go up against for this type of audience? It may not be likely that they’d want to share their list of closest competitors with you, but it’s worth a shot!
- You’ll also want a deep dive into all the various categories of information the list vendor is able to provide. Can they provide budget or competitive intelligence? Are you able to see what technologies the target companies are using? Evaluate your needs thoroughly before you set out to evaluate vendors, so you know all the pertinent categories of information to inquire about.
- Is the platform able to provide intent data? If so, what is the source? They may partner with a company like Bombora to pull in intent data, or maybe they can determine intent by their own curation of website or ad activity related to the specific product or industry you’re searching.
- Finally, how much does it cost? Many vendors offer access as a subscription, and some are on a per record pricing model. Some limit the data sets you have access to, and some give unlimited access.
What are we missing? What information helps you in evaluating list vendors and databases?