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The Straight Dope On List Vendors


A few weeks ago I went through the painstaking process of trying to find a decent list of IT contacts in the public sector.  Of course I've been down this road a million times and typically I'll go the standard route and attempt to work through the traditional list vendors out there, but I only ended up netting about 500 total names. Then I went to a company that specialized in public service, but they could only provide nothing more than the chief of police and main number to call and no email. Plus they could only provide me the data on cd-rom, yikes! Then I became desperate and posted the question up on an inside sales forum on Linkedin. Bad move. As you can expect I got bombarded with people reaching out to me from all around the world and I came up with next to nothing.List Vendors, Data Quality, 11 27 Craig

The only company that did come to the table with something offered me a list of 12,000K contacts at only $2 a pop. Yep, like I have $24,000 to spend. When I told him there was no way I was going to spend that amount of money on the list, he proceeded to say that he can make an "exception" for me and offer pricing that I would typically see from the’s of the world. This is when the terms got interesting. They said they would provide me the list 7-8 days post payment. So basically I would have to pay for a list that I have no idea was of valid quality at all (they claimed 85% accuracy) a week after paying for it. I'll pass. They came back to me again a week later saying that they could provide me the list upon receipt of payment, but they would need payment within 24 hours. Once again I passed. 

At the end of the day it just ended up being a colossal waste of my time. All in the pursuit of perfect data, which I'm sorry to say folks, doesn’t exist. I've been down this road with a wide variety of vendors with varied success. Everything's a trade off. Either you deal with very questionable data that you can get in high volume or you can get good quality data at lower volume at a much higher cost.

Here is the straight dope from what I've seen from the list vendors I've run into over last decade. I'll put them into buckets and not name names as to protect the innocent:

List Brokers: Data quality tends to be decent with 75% accuracy, but generally it's neither worth the wait nor the cost. Usually you won't get the list until 2-3 weeks after putting in the request. In some cases, with the real shady ones, they expect payment up front before they even deliver the list. 

Standard List Vendors: Data quality is lower around 65% from what we've seen, but we can get a list faster and it generally cost less. Most sales and marketing teams I work with go this route first when in need of large list quickly.

Higher End/ IT Org Chart Vendors: Fantastic quality 85-90% from what I've seen, plus you can gain some decent insight into the technology used behind the scenes. Problem is the pricing is very high and you usually have to purchase an annual subscription. Plus their focus tends to be with larger organizations, so there really isn't a huge volume of data.

List Renters: They tend to provide an initial email blast for you. List cost tends to be lower, but I cannot stand having minimal visibility into who is being prospected. Plus you have no idea of the quality of list since you only get the people who responded.  I need to actually own my lists.

Dealing with purchasing a list is rarely, if ever perfect, nor are you likely to get exactly what you're looking for. Be prepared to limit your expectations. Hopefully the 4 categories mentioned above will assist you in some way when looking at the variety of list options available.


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Thanks for talking straight with us. Really. There's enough bull in the market about lists and who's-got-what and it's enough to make someone hate the business of business data!  
I had to reach out and post a plea to anyone else reading this article to listen to your advice -- which is -- at the end of the day, understanding that perfect data doesn't exist.  
48M people changed jobs last year - due to the recession or even due to growth! A promotion, a layoff, both mean that your marketing database has changed. From our measurement (based on phone validation) a typical life-span of a business record is two years. Your database is most likely 25-30% inaccurate after 12 months. Imagine what it looks like after 3 years.  
We try to stay ahead of this at NetProspex with the verification process known as CleneStep. We also help clients manage their own databases through this process, which begins with a free assessment.  
What really makes me happy to share our solution is our ability to publish the accuracy of each contact, based on our initial validation, so you know exactly where we believe each contact is in their two-year lifecycle. We re-verify records constantly. 
I hope we aren't one of the companies mentioned in this article providing you with unfair payment terms and no transparency on quality. We set out to change this business for the straight talk reasons you've outlined.  
By the way, what's a CD-ROM? ;) 
Katie Martell 
Posted @ Friday, December 07, 2023 7:08 AM by Katie Martell
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