Archive for June, 2009

List acquisition is about contacts not just companies

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Ardent readers of Database Marketing magazine may have spotted my letter regarding data acquisition published in the June issue and I thought it worthwhile expanding on the topic here. I had written in response to an article in the May issue concerning the availability of business universe databases, such as Thompson Local or Corpdata. I made the  point that whilst the focus always appears to be on the number of companies available in such databases, be it 1.8 million records at Thompson Local or Corpdata’s 1.2 million, less attention is paid to the availability of individual contact names.

Establishing the businesses that exist within the UK (or elsewhere), particularly at the medium/large end of the spectrum, is relatively straightforward. Incorporated companies in the UK are registered with Companies House, whilst in France all trading entities must register with the authorities. This data is a matter of record, and the suppliers mentioned above aggregate and enhance it to create business universes which can be rented or purchased. Identifying smaller business can certainly be more challenging, although databases such as Information Arts‘ Business DNA in the UK do exist.

At the larger-organisation end of the spectrum though, databases and lists are invariably made available with contact names consisting of the “officers” of the company (directors registered with Companies House in the UK for instance) and perhaps other senior executives. Other data sources have more specific contact names among IT, finance or marketing decision makers, and specialist lists (particularly publishers’) may enable selection from a wide range of job functions and responsibilities.

However, these selections frequently do not go far enough in terms of their granularity, and tend to offer merely “key decision makers” or “most senior decision maker”, which are usually hopeless. I’ve been involved in activity recently involving IT decision makers with responsibility for “application infrastructure” or a specific and somewhat obscure software platform, to whom we were promoting high end enterprise software solutions. When list suppliers contact me trying to sell their database of “4 million UK companies with named IT managers”, I’m underwhelmed.

My message to data owners then is, make sure you understand your target market’s requirements and don’t try offering generic lists when more specific data is required. Trying to impress potential customers with big numbers based on the count of companies in your database will backfire, and suggesting inappropriate contact roles will destroy your credibility.

Equally, if you’re procuring data, don’t be taken in by claims of database size and how many contacts you are being offered. Dig into the detail and ask what size the organisations are, what is the seniority of the contacts and what are the specifics of their roles. Don’t despair however, as even if pre-built lists or existing databases don’t exist, there are cost effective methods of building databases to your requirements.

This is the message for data users though: if you want quality data, you must accept that there is a cost associated, and it may not be instantly available either. An investment of time and money though, along with strong creative and proposition, will be rewarded.