Response lists get new respect for breadth of coverage

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Traditionally, database “response lists”—those assembled from magazine subscriptions, trade shows, white paper downloads and product purchases—have been praised for their accuracy and condemned for their coverage. Good detail, yes, but poor overall breadth of industry niches, went the criticism.

Better to add in one of those immense “compiled lists” from phone books, government records, Web scrubbing, etc., to deliver huge volumes of contacts across an entire vertical spectrum.

That point of view may now be outmoded.

According to a new study, “B-to-B Response Databases: A Comparative Analysis,” response lists are growing in size and breadth of coverage, to complement their traditional accuracy.

“It was a surprise,” said Ruth P. Stevens, president of b-to-b marketing consultancy eMarketing Strategy, professor of marketing at Columbia University and co-author of the study. “The number of companies reported by Standard Industrial Classification and the number of contacts per company were impressive. These databases are really doing a great job of grabbing up wide swaths of the target audience.”

Stevens, who co-authored the study with Bernice Grossman, president of database marketing consultancy DMRS Group, said a new generation of list vendors has emerged that not only use a variety of tools to eliminate duplicates and enrich response-list content but also offer an increasingly massive database composed of many separate response lists.

“Today, for marketers to run around saying, "We can't build business on response data alone' may be not true anymore,” Stevens said.

Infogroup, one of the companies examined in the study, is typical of the new breed of response-list purveyors, working to provide mass along with detail. The company maintains an in-house cadre of 500 telemarketers to work on verifying the 15 million names in the company's various response databases.

“And we never tell our customers we can't get the names they need,” said Jeff Mungo, VP-business-to-business list management at Infogroup. “For email lists, for example, we take the top-line information, then examine hard and soft bounces, delivereds and opt-outs, then go further with clicks by segment and date.”

Mardev-DM2 is another response-list database company that voluntarily participated in the study. This month, the company released an updated list of professionals worldwide, augmented with 5 million new email addresses and 10 million more names. Total list size: 60 million contacts.

“We are aware that working with suppliers who are response-generated, you get information about purchasing intention and history you won't get any other way,” said Zina Manda, global director of Mardev-DM2. “On the other hand, none of us responding to the study is offering pure response data anymore. We're working with a whole range of sources to overlay and extend it.”

Worldata also participated in the study.

To test accuracy, the companies were asked to provide complete contact information on a list of 10 real-life executives who had given permission to be test subjects for the study. Overall, the contact information was remarkably complete, with name, title, company, address, phone and email often in place.

For breadth, the companies were asked to provide contact counts in a variety of SIC verticals and for 10 well-known companies. Providing “complete” contact records for those 10 companies as well validated both accuracy and breadth.

In the past, Stevens and Grossman have conducted similar studies with vendors of compiled lists. As with those studies, the response-list study revealed that some database vendors had gaps where others did not.

“Our advice is for marketers to develop a detailed ordering methodology,” Stephens said. She recommended acquiring samples and testing these against known in-house contacts, testing samples by phone and comparing different vendors lists for duplicates, an additional indicator of accuracy.

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