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5 Easy Tips for Evaluating External B2B Prospect Lists

We all know how important the data is when it comes to campaign performance. You could knock the creative out of the park, and you might be right on target with the messaging—but if those communications aren’t getting to the right people none of it is going to pay off. Identifying B2B prospect list can be risky—here are some tips to help you spot the red flags.

Your initial list research process.

The first thing to look for is a good variety of file sources to start comparing to one another. Try some type of membership file, a well-known publisher within the industry, check on any tradeshow lists available, and then maybe a trusted list compiler. But beware, there are CAN-SPAM laws that regulate unsolicited emails, and prohibit the sale and transfer of email addresses—even in the form of mailing lists. It can actually be a good sign of data quality if a list company does not permit the release of emails to the end user, and instead will load the creative to blast it themselves.

Pull some different counts from multiple sources. It’s a good idea to request all contacts per location and one per location so that you can determine how many sites are being represented. At this point, you should be able to get a feel for your universe of contacts. Time to sniff out the red flags.

1. Compare different source counts.

If one of your sources is claiming they have a drastically higher number of records than the rest, it might be a sign that they aren’t cleansing this part of their file often enough, and have a lot of throw away records like retirees, people who are no longer with, etc. Another caveat to look into is whether this data is at business, at home, or a mix. This might explain why you have a big difference in the number of locations, and could affect your decision to include or exclude them depending on what’s appropriate for the effort. If it’s a mix, ask the list owner if they can give you the percentage breakdown so that you know how many records you’re working with.

2. Request some sample records.

Once you’ve narrowed your search down to what you think are the most credible sources, ask the vendors for some sample records. Even if they only give you 10, this could save you from wasting precious marketing dollars on a list that doesn’t turn out to be what you thought it was. If you find that some of these contacts have moved to a new job, position, or have retired from the company listed—the list might be outdated and not a good buy.  Doing some of these manual lookups is going to make you feel a lot more confident that you’re on the right track to finding the right prospects for your campaign.

3. Gut check the male/female ratio.

After the file is released, take a closer look at the names. If you know your market sways one way or another with gender dominance, this can be a simple gut check on data quality.

4. Skim over the email providers.

If the vendor does end up releasing the emails—take a look at the email providers. Do they end in a company address? Or do they end in a Gmail or Yahoo account? This might tell you if there’s are a lot of personal email accounts on a file you thought was strictly professional. Also, more and more these days, people are using ‘burner emails’ that they rarely check to sign up for things in order to avoid clogging their business email with promotional updates.

5. Identify duplicate records at multiple addresses.

Look for the same contact at multiple locations—this is more prominent in some markets than others (for instance it’s not uncommon for doctors to work at a few different offices), but if you’re looking at a file that has 4 different John Smiths within the same city/state, check the radius to make sure it’s not the same contact at multiple locations. If this is the case, you could end up mailing/calling him several times.

Opt ins and the data on your house file is always going to have a higher level of quality. But whether you’re entering unmapped territory with a new product, or trying to reach people who aren’t actively searching for you, using an external source to supplement your database can help you reach more prospects.