The Ins and Outs of Obtaining Data

Wordle: Data Rental

Underlying all direct marketing activity is data, the details of the Clients, donors and prospects to be contacted as part of the campaign, whether by mail, phone , email or SMS. This data may well be data you already “own”, such as your Client or Prospect data. However you will often want to reach for a new unknown potential market. This is usually achieved through obtaining data from third party data suppliers.

Whether your target market is businesses (business to business marketing or B2B) or consumers (business to consumer marketing or B2C) there is an endless supply of data available to meet your requirements. Understanding your potential customer is key to successful data purchase and more importantly to achieving a real return on investment for your direct marketing campaign.

So how do you go about getting hold of the data? Whilst you can purchase data that you then own, the majority of data is only available to rent. In these days of privacy and data protection, it is important that data is sourced and used legally and conforms to the Data Protection Act. By renting data, responsibility for the use of the data primarily lies with the data supplier (or “data owner”). The supplier will have made sure that use of the data is legally compliant. Choosing a reputable supplier is important, there are organisations such as the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) who can provide guidance and direct marketing service companies, such as DDL Group, that have expertise in understanding the extensive data rental market and can source data on your behalf.

Quality of the data rented is important, and as a general rule is the more the data costs to rent, the better the quality. Factors that affect quality will include where the data was originally sourced from, how recently the contact details have been checked and confirmed (data will go out of date as people and businesses move on or cease to exist) and whether the business or individual has been contacted directly to confirm their details or whether this is through a third party. Ignoring very niche data, data can cost anything from £100 to £500 to rent per 1000 records. You would expect the higher priced data to perform better.

In order to get a count of numbers of available records and the cost to rent the data, the supplier will ask a number of questions:-

  • Will you be using the data once or more often? Once means either one mailing, or one email or one telephone call. Normally data is rented either for a one-off use or for multi-use over a one year period. In order to check you are using the data correctly, the list supplier will add “seeds” to the data supplied. These are records that look like all the other records but when you use them the marketing activity  will go to the supplier so they can track your usage. Remember, however, when you contact someone from your rented data and they respond to you giving you permission to speak to them further the ownership of then the data record becomes yours.
  • Do you want name and mailing address only or do you telephone numbers and/or email addresses? The more contact details you request the higher the rental cost. And again importantly, data suppliers may not hold all contact details for all data records and so the number of available records may change depending on the contact details you require.
  • For business data do you require a named person at the Company or are you happy to contact a generic job title (such as “the Managing Director”). Do you want one contact at a Company or several? Named contacts will add to the cost, the data will go out of date quicker (people tend to change jobs) but contacting named individuals tends to bring about higher response. Seeking named contacts will tend to reduce the number of records available, particularly if you specify a specific job role rather than any “senior decision maker” at the Company.
  • What selections do you wish to make to better target the data? You may wish to select by geographical area which could be specified by region (e.g. North West), postcode area or district (e.g. CH and WA postcodes), towns (e.g. Chester and Crewe) or even by distance or drive time from a certain location (e.g. 10 miles radius of your office). For businesses you may wish to select by business types, or annual turnover or number of employees? You may only want business head office locations only or may require all branches and depots? For consumers you may wish to select by demographic profile, age group. gender or income?

There are many techniques, too numerous to detail here, in how to understand your ideal target market to enable you to best select the right third party data for you. However the starting point is often is understanding your business and the type of customers you have attracted to date. The experience and instinct of the business owners and managers in invaluable in defining this. Assuming you already have a significant number of customers, the clever way is to analyse your exiting customer base and determine what factors these customers have in common. There are formal profiling systems that can assist here, producing such a profile that can be used to select data from the third party supplier. It is surprising how often the profile of a Company’s prospects and those that have actually become Clients differ which clearly highlights the need to understand the customer as a focus to guide all sales and marketing activity . And while profiling can occasionally draw a blank (any consumer or business is likely to purchase) and in general terms it may tell you what the the experienced managers already know or assume, the detailed profile will help you narrow down and focus on who should be contacted, which in turn will reduce marketing costs and improve the return on investment.

Does renting third party data work and if so what will be the response rate? Nearly every Client asks this question and there is no simple answer. As with any direct marketing activity there are a range of factors that will determine response levels. Most importantly is the product or service you are selling or promoting. The method of the marketing approach, the quality of any design, timing as well as the data quality and relevance are all factors that will determine whether your campaign is successful or otherwise. What direct marketing does give you however, in all its forms, is the ability to test. There is no need to utilise the whole of your marketing budget in one go. Generally, however well the test works, will roll out as you repeat, assuming all the factors that affect response stay the same. And of course the testing allows you to refine, improve and retest.

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