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Six rules marketers should learn before buying a list

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11th Dec 2013
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Buying the wrong data list can be the fastest way for your direct marketing campaigns to fail, so avoid the pitfalls with these six steps to data success;

1.    Don’t buy a list, buy a prospect pool

Most organisations are working on a tight budget and value for money is important.  So why not consider a prospect pool rather than a data list? This data is compiled of the people who are likely to buy from you, and you can also buy this information in quantities that make sense to you and fit within your budget. If your business works selling to 50 customers, you don’t need a list of 50,000.

2.    Understand your existing data

The starting point for understanding prospects is the data you already have. What relevant pointers does it give you about your customers?  It could be the type or size of company, the level of person who makes the decision, the company location or how often they buy. Develop a scoring system to rank your best and worst prospects; don’t waste your money chasing prospects that score badly. If you already have good penetration within a particular sector, is there genuine room for growth? Can you see opportunities in sectors where your current penetration is low?

3.    Getting the brief right

Use the insight gained from your existing data to develop an effective list-buying brief and help any list owner understand the kind of people you want to sell to. You know something useful about your customers, and you want find more people just like them. Don’t simply rely on SIC codes.

4.    Check for relevant variables

Before you buy, you should be confident that the prospect pool is up-to-date, relevant, de-duplicated and has great depth. Sadly, there are many lists around that aren’t. As a minimum, you want individual name, title, function, address, email address, phone number and purchasing authority. The more relevant variables the data covers, the more insightful your analysis can be and the more effective your scoring system will be.

5.    Analyse the customer’s buying patterns

Once you’ve found some great prospect pools, it might be tempting to just contact them all and wait for the business to come rolling in. That could be a mistake. First, look for any buying patterns in your scoring system – is seasonality a significant?  It may also be prudent to run a test before blowing your budget. What looked like a causal relationship in your analysis could turn out to be just a correlation. Select two or three variables that look really significant and run a short term, tightly defined test to find out which really make a difference. Scoring might have said that female FD’s at start-ups are your perfect prospect, but it’s always better to run a test.

6.    Record, score and learn

Finally, in our dynamic business world, learning is crucial. Record the campaign data and feed it back into your scoring system.  Your crucial variables will become clearer (they may not be those you have traditionally relied on) and you’ll be able to plan future campaigns with an even greater chance of success.

A great list can be the difference between a mediocre and a magnificent direct marketing campaign. No matter how good your strategy, how insightful your targeting or how compelling your messaging, a bad list is the fastest route to failure. 

An up-to-date and de-duplicated list is the very least any marketer should expect; the real goal is qualified prospects - people who might actually be ready to buy or at least fit a typical buyer profile. Hopefully our six steps to data success will help you to increase your marketing power and get your name in front of the people who matter.

Dale Pilling is data sales director at The Blueberry Wave

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