01 February 2010 Category: Blog

Data is the foundation of all direct marketing. An inaccurate or off profile database will mean that a proportion (perhaps even the majority…) of your DM budget will be wasted, whether you are using the database for Telemarketing, direct mail or any other below the line activity. It is of critical importance that databases are bought with several key considerations in mind.

This short guide is intended to highlight some of the major issues for buyers of B2B data.  The Telemarketing Company will always assist its clients in the data buying process, but ultimately the process is collaborative and the client must ensure that the data selection reflects their prospect profile. Real focus is needed on the issues in this document to ensure the best result…

Data Quality

By quality we mean the accuracy, not the relevance of the data. Marketers sometimes describe data as “poor quality” if is off profile i.e. it doesn’t match the ideal buyer profile that the marketer would wish to address. This is misleading and usually the root cause is poorly thought out data selection (see below). The accuracy of the data is a different matter and is a result of two main factors:

 • The “recency” of the data (when was it last updated)

• The accuracy of the information captured at the time of last update

Both points are important – in B2B data the rate of decay is frightening. A database, which was updated only last year, might be 30% inaccurate. The more recently updated the data the better – best of all is a freshly cleaned and profiled database, which we can deliver using our research team. If you’re telemarketing or sending expensive DM to a selection of key contacts, you don’t want half of the contact names to be incorrect….

The accuracy of the data that was entered at the time of last update is also important – data updates come from a variety of sources ranging from calling companies directly, to electronic enhancement using sources like the PAF file, to feeds from other databases, which in themselves may or may not have been recently updated. The truth is that no database is perfectly accurate, but The Telemarketing Company has deep and hard won knowledge of who the best suppliers are in this respect and we’ll buy from the holders of the most accurate data we can find for your budget and selection criteria.

Selection and Profiling fields

Beyond the core contact details, most databases also offer the ability to select by, and purchase, other key data, including anything from SIC code, to number of employees, to turnover, to key infrastructure and IT information.

The accuracy of this information is never 100% and the sources of inaccuracy are manifold. One source is the modelling techniques used by some data houses to populate fields based on other, known data (e.g. turnover is sometimes modelled using SIC codes and other data). Another problem is that data in these additional fields is often pulled from questionable sources – ask yourself how accurately you complete surveys, registration forms and magazine subscriptions questionnaires….?

One other consideration is that preparing counts costs data suppliers time and money.  Generally they will be prepared to run one or two counts with no charge, but many will not be prepared to run repeated selections for you to review without an order in place.

Despite these caveats, selecting by and then buying profiling fields is probably the most important element in ensuring that your database fits the “ideal customer” profile.

Job Titles

As a B2B marketer you will rightly be concerned that your database contains contacts with the correct job title (and more importantly function). Generally speaking, suppliers can provide key job titles such as those listed below: 

IT Manager

Managing Director

Financial Director



Other, more specialist job titles may be available from niche data providers, but often it is more sensible to buy data with one senior contact and use this to help establish the name of the correct person through calling. In other words, we may have to compromise. 

Completeness, Wish Lists and Database Buying

No matter how carefully you make your selection, you should always expect that the database will never be “complete” in the sense that you will discover that records you expect to be included are not. Sometimes this results from classification rules (sometimes a record will not be classified in the SIC code that you select, even if you think it should be). Another problem is that no supplier claims to have 100% coverage of every organisation – some companies explicitly request that their data is not sold to third parties, for instance. 

Some clients might already have identified the 100 organisations that they wish to target. Generally it is not possible to purchase a list of companies just by providing their names. However, a list like this can be used to build a database from the ground up (something we do regularly for clients) using the web and phone to build anything from a basic list of names, job titles and contact details right the way through to a full company profile.

The Universe

We generally suggest purchasing data from the supplier with the biggest universe of records, which match your profile. This is important because you may want to buy further data in the future – expanding the geographical scope of your database, for instance. If you buy from the same supplier this is straightforward.  However, if a different supplier has to be found, it becomes extremely difficult to “top up” your data without buying duplicates of records you already hold.


The Telemarketing Company buys data on a one-time Telemarketing only basis. If you want to use the data for direct mail as well as Telemarketing, for instance, just let us know and we can buy on the right license terms.


Unless otherwise agreed, The Telemarketing Company will buy single site, head office records. This approach minimises the instances of records where decision-making authority is not held on site. For instance, if you are marketing to restaurants, you are unlikely to want to buy a database full of the branches of high street chains.

Email addresses

Bought in email address lists can be of wildly differing quality. The first thing to consider is that most email addresses that are bought and sold are not personal, but rather to addresses like “info@abc.co.uk” or ”sales@xyz.com” . These email addresses have very high “deliverability”, in the sense that few should bounce, but the emails are rarely seen by the individual you are trying to contact. Just as importantly, it is very rare for the email addresses to be more than 60% accurate in any database that is bought in. 

There are some sources of high quality, individual opt-in email addresses, but they are few and far between. If you want opt-in email addresses for the right decision making contacts within organisations, the best approach is to simply call switchboard and ask for them. We regularly conduct this kind of project and with our intelligent testing and quality assurance processes we deliver accuracy rates of around 90%.

De-duplication against existing clients

This should be the last step before you use your data – but remember to allow the time and some budget for a proper de-dupe against the organisations you are already engaged with before marketing to your new database as if they have never heard of you.

Also remember that no de-duplication process is 100% accurate. You will always end up with some duplication in any marketing database. 

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