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ROI Topic: The Real World of Data Accuracy

We receive requests weekly from customers who say they have been burnt by having bad data in the past. This has been going on for years. Much of this issue has to do with expectations. This article will explain the reality of data accuracy.


Unfortunately, over the years, the data industry was inundated but thousands of regional, local, and mom and pop data resellers who were often not particularly ethical in their sales and marketing approaches. Either they sold data that had not been recently updated and therefore caused poor results when used for marketing, or they failed to disclose the real world expectations for accuracy and results. So let’s try to rectify the situation now.

A data list or even data record does not have an overall accuracy rate. It is field by field. Think about a data record typically including 12-15 data fields for postal address, company info, contact info, web site, phone, fax, SIC/industries, revenue and employee size, and sometimes a LinkedIn profile. The typical customer may expect that data will be highly accurate. But that is not necessarily the case. Unfortunately, many data providers are more interested in making a one-time sale than the establishment of a long-term relationship with repeat data orders. One and done has too often been the norm in recent years.

Data results will vary based upon many factors, including: the email tool or service used to send emails; the skill and experience of the message creation, value proposition, call to action and landing page if used; the ISP policies for volume and other aspects; the recipient email server filtering software or spam software provider used; market need and timing. In addition, for the data part, results also vary based on: the correct capture of target market records; the affirmation of non-niche SIC subsets for the data or if needed, done correctly; availability of primary SICs for your target market (relates to the previous concern mentioned); whether or not the contact person is still employed at the company in the record; the accuracy of the email addresses; the accuracy of the contact job titles; the accuracy of the company phone number; and how recently the data was updated. So I think you can see there is a large potential for data error and not all of it has to do with the accuracy of the email id. Often times the reason the email ids can be verified just prior to delivery and still end up with 20% bounces or even more is that the email recipient servers send false undeliverables. In other words, they send back saying it is a user unknown address when actually it is valid. That is done purposefully to influence you to remove their address from future sending. Our experience in email marketing over a decade is that about 40% of bounces are for this reason. In addition, ISP’s may have rules that prevent the emails from even being delivered, let alone have the chance to bounce back. Indeed, the challenges in email marketing are great but it is still the #1 ROI rated digital service.

Data Accuracy

Below are the industry averages for key data fields. You should require that your vendor guarantees these. If they provide higher guarantees, they merely provide more replacements because this is reality. If anyone says they have permission data, opt-in and double opt-in data at a higher cost because it gets better results and helps in protecting your brand, I would be extremely skeptical of those claims. (Please note another ROI Whitepaper topic called “The Importance of Opt-in Data.

  • 80% on email id (I’ve seen a verified email list result in only 60-70% deliverables many times)
  • 95% on postal fields
  • 60% on phone and job titles (a 25 million record global database cannot be frequently updated for phone numbers/LinkedIn profiles are only 60% accurate
  • 75% on SICs/Industries, revenue and employee size (most companies are listed under one or more primaries and several secondary; some companies are very hard to identify within an SIC; revenue and employee sizes can change quickly and are done through customer surveys which are not always completely accurately)

There you have it. These are realistic expectations and why. In the end, because of these issues and because all major data sources have essentially the same data and accuracy, our recommendation is to focus on price, relationship with the provider, and quality guarantees for the key fields above.

About ROI Outsourcing LLC

ROI is a data services and telemarketing provider with numerous global data sources and offices in the US and India. Collectively ROI has 55 years of experience in marketing, sales, management and business development, 15 years marketing data services, and 12 years previously marketing our own email marketing solution. Please visit our web site at http://www.roioutsourcing.com or call us at +1-678-745-8385.

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