5 Questions You Should Ask Your Data Provider


As a direct marketer, you’ve probably worked with a variety of Data-driven marketing audience data providers: list brokers, co-ops, list exchange partners, etc. Each of their approaches to providing names and prospects differs, but one issue remains the same: the quality of the data.

But what constitutes great data, and how can you be sure you’re getting the information you need to find the audience most likely to respond to your offer?

Below are five questions you should ask your data partners and providers.

1. What is the original source of your data?

When working with data providers, it is important to determine whether they are providing first-party data (data they themselves have collected on their own audience) or third-party data (data aggregated from multiple sources). When two organizations exchange lists, that is what some refer to as second-party data, i.e., shared first-party data. If you’re working with a data co-op, you’re essentially benefiting from a wealth of second-party data contributed by participating members. The bottom line? The closer the data is to the original source, the better.

2. What makes your data unique? Behavioral, demographic, transactional?

Knowing your audience’s demographics is important, but knowing how they spend their money is the key to marketing to them effectively. Ideally, your data provider will have different types of data (behavioral, demographic, transactional, etc.) that provide a complete view of your customers and their buying behavior. One great truth should guide your data analysis and audience modeling: the best predictor of future purchase behavior is past purchase behavior.

3. How frequently is your data updated?

Recency matters, as consumer purchase behaviors can change quickly. While there’s no absolute rule about how often data should be updated, a good practice is for your data provider to update their database with client information as soon as they receive it, followed by a total database update every week or two. This way, you can ensure that you’re getting the most relevant information for more accurate analysis and modeling.

4. Is your data individual or household?

If you’re interested in targeting a family instead of an individual, household data can be useful. However, it is important to remember that individuals within the same household can have very different interests and purchasing behaviors. Therefore, individualized data is critical, and far more useful than household data alone.

5. How deep is your data?

Depth refers to the amount of data points for any given customer, and obviously more data equals more predictability. When working with your data provider, see if they work with clients across multiple industries like publishing, nonprofit, retail, and consumer services. Data points from across industries give you a 360-degree view of your prospects and customers; and you can analyze their transactions across multiple brands to better predict how they might interact with yours. If your provider has data on the different promotional marketing channels (digital, direct mail, mobile, email, etc.) used by consumers on the list, as well as the transactional channels where a purchase is made (in-store, online, over the phone, etc.), all this serves to further enhance the depth of audience data.


Who you pick as a data provider will ultimately depend on several factors like your budget, your unique market and your target audience. You will want to work with a partner that will not only help you develop responsive prospect lists, but also help you understand your current customers better. The right data, whatever its source, is essential for a successful direct marketing effort that results in high response rates, reduced cost of customer acquisition, and optimized marketing to existing customers.

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