Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Data Appends: Why I’m Not a Fan

So the general idea is that you have a customer database, and you feel it’s inadequate so you go to one of these companies and send them info, and they match it and send it back to you. Sometimes you get these cute scores and nicknames based on zip code, like mine, “Bohemian Mix.” I’m supposed to have an Audi, read the New Yorker, etc. None of that is true.

Managers who decide to buy data appends are crying out in desperation for insights into certain hidden segments of their database. What they really need is an analytical tool to help them dive into their own data. Acquired data is not going to tell them anything useful. Instead, they have a lot of information, they just don’t have the tools to get to it.

Three main reasons why I avoid them at all costs- is that they require you to submit data which they then add to their databases and sell the findings to other customers (anonymous-ly, but still). More importantly, there is no visibility into the logic that they use to determine models and segmentation, and neither are the sources. Also, it’s largely without consumer permission.

But companies have permission from their customers- from interactions. If the companies just take the time and effort to dive into their own data, they can find out trends and behaviors far more significant and relevant than those provided by these vendors.

Try it at home- as I’ve done on numerous occasions to prove the uselessness of these farms- randomly split a list into a control, and two test groups. In group A, further segment using your own behavioral thresholds, in group B, apply the relevant data farm’d segments (i.e. “Bohemian Mix,” “Digerati,” etc.). Give the control group a randomly pruned list of the same size. My experience, doing this on various campaigns over a year, was that data farm segments provided less or no lift than internally derived findings on purchase history, interactions, and past campaign behavior logic, to name a few.

I believe the savvy email marketer has to recognize (and avoid) their own bias, rely on previous findings from tests and analysis, and continue to test and model to create an ongoing, maturing view of the customer. Quick fixes like data appends simply muddy the waters, and worse, substantiate assumptions about the customers without data, testing, and findings behind it. Their sources are too diffuse, and the wins aren’t big enough.

Another issue for me is that to use the appends you must provide them with data- this in turn creates the very product they are selling back to you. Repackaging data and forwarding it on is unethical in my view, a disservice to the consumer, and costly.

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Written on Tuesday, 12. August 2008 at 11:53 In the category CRM, data analysis, vendors. Follow the comments via RSS here: RSS-Feed. Read the Comments. Trackbacks- Trackback on this post. Share on FriendFeed

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2 Comments »

  1. Great post

    Comment: career counselling – 26. August 2010 @ 6:23 am

  2. What if you have a list of prospects, with only the company name and address? Is there a good site that you could recommend to append data? I am looking in the non-profit vertical.

    Comment: Bill – 15. March 2011 @ 11:55 am

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