Posted by: Malcolm Jarvis

Data lists, whether residential or business to business, are the fuel that keeps an outbound campaign running. Efficiently managing your data to ensure you get the best return on your investment is a post in itself, but how should you go about buying your data in the first place?

Every year, we advise dozens of customers on all kinds of data purchases which has given us a unique insight into what to look for and what to look out for. Here’s our top 10 tips for smarter data purchasing:


1. Provide a deduplication list

There’s no point buying the same record time and time again, and it’s not a good use of anyone’s time going back to your supplier with a list of duplicates after they’ve supplied the data so that they can provide replacements (which will likely have more duplicate records). By sending a list of all your existing numbers (and no other details) when requesting a quote, you can be sure that you’ll get accurate counts prior to placing your order.


2. Check the terms of the agreement

Some providers will provide data lists that you can use indefinitely while others provide it only for a limited period of time, after which you need to cease all calling to these numbers. If there is a time clause, there will usually be special rules for numbers that you’ve already contacted allowing you to continue to interact with them, but look out for rules relating to customers who have callbacks scheduled and so on and make sure that they’re compatible with your campaign requirements.

You should also check what the policy is with regards to invalid/bad numbers, wrong numbers, business numbers for residential campaigns (and vice-versa), duplicates and so on and what the policy is for replacements. Some suppliers simply provide 10% extra records or something similar to compensate for unsuitable numbers whereas others will require a full list of such numbers to be returned prior to issuing replacement records


3. Does the data list households/businesses or individuals

When requesting a count, make sure that you’re clear whether you’re looking for households/businesses or individuals. The latter means that you can have two or three names listed with the same address and/or telephone number, which for many campaigns isn’t what you’re looking for. Of course, you’ll not find out until you import and deduplicate your data, at which point it may be too late, so always check up front prior to making a purchase.


4. Buy in bulk

In almost all cases, there are substantial discounts available when buying data in bulk. Of course, this in itself requires a larger investment up front, but you can sometimes get a deal to spread the cost. For example, if you estimate that you’ll need half a million records over the next five months, you may be able to get a deal to purchase 100,000 records every month for five months. This can open up the door to getting a bulk discount on 500,000 records while spreading your payments over a longer period.


5. Shop around

There are a lot of data suppliers in the market, and a range of different approaches to pricing and added value. You never know when a provider might have an extra incentive on that could get you a particularly good deal, so it’s worth establishing a base of two to four trusted data suppliers that you can rely on and make a point of approaching each for a count and quote whenever you’re looking to add data to your campaigns.


6. Get a free sample

Whenever you’re approaching a new supplier, or trying out a new data profile, it’s always worthwhile to request a small number of records prior to making a purchase. Most suppliers will be happy to oblige (provided you eventually buy something!), and you can save yourself a lot of hassle and expense by trying before you buy.


7. Get it TPS checked in advance

If you're cold calling data that’s not opted in, Ofcom regulations mean that you’ll need to TPS cleanse your data at least every 28 days in order to stay on the right side of the law. With this in mind, there’s no point purchasing data if you’re only going to remove a large percentage of the numbers because they’re on the TPS list.

It’s usually a little more expensive to buy data that’s already been TPS checked, and the counts that you’ll get will naturally be smaller, but it’s usually a lot more cost effective than TPS checking it yourself after you’ve paid for it.


8. Check proof for opt in data

Due to tightening Ofcom regulations and stricter enforcement by the ICO in recent years, there’s a lot of talk about opt-in data, or data where the customer has agreed to communication from a company or it’s “trusted partners”. While this is potentially an excellent means of expanding the list of customers you can contact, as the TPS regulations omit opt-in data, you need to be able to prove when the customer opted in and how. Just saying that “our data provider sold it to us as opt-in data”, isn’t going to get you off the hook as the onus is on you to prove that you made reasonable checks to ensure the data was as opt-in as it was meant to be.


9. Check age of survey data

Survey data, or lead data, is usually a step above opt-in data, in that the customer has not only agreed to future communication, but they’ve also provided additional data such as age range, employment status, residential status and so on. This can make it easier to offer your products and/or services to potential customers who are more likely to be interested as well as giving you a vital foot in the door.

However, a lot of survey data has been around for a long, long time and is continuously sold on to company after company. This means that not only is the data badly out of date, but the poor customer on the receiving end is thoroughly fed up with receiving marketing calls. With this in mind, always check how recent the survey is and how many other companies have purchased the list recently. As good survey data is going to be a lot more expensive than regular data, as mentioned earlier requesting a small sample is well worthwhile.


10. TPS cleansed only lasts 28 days

When buying data that isn’t opted-in, it’s common sense to request data that’s been TPS cleansed by your supplier. The regulations state that companies need to suppress numbers that have been added to the TPS within 28 days at the most. This means that at the very least, the ICO expects you to TPS cleanse all your non opt-in data every four weeks. If you’re leasing your data for four weeks or less, then this isn’t a problem provided it was supplied TPS cleansed on the date of purchase, otherwise you’ll need to have a mechanism in place to keep you on the right side of the ICO’s requirements.


Data purchases, especially in the early stages of a campaign, will be one of your most significant investments. Making mistakes can have a disastrous effect on the success of your campaign whereas the right data from the right supplier can really make your campaign fly!

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