List Providers, Appenders, and Drive Train

You need prospect data to support your sales efforts and make your direct marketing systems go but it’s a confusing landscape of potential providers.  How do you know which sources are good and what to expect from each type.  As a player in the business I see the confusion everyday so I put together this guide so you can understand the landscape a little better.

Ok, so I’m looking for a list or database to feed my salespeople or direct marketing programs.  What are my choices?  At the highest level you have three options.

1.  List Providers.  There are tons of these guys and they’re often reselling the exact same list over and over and over again.  You can expect that whether you buy a flat list in spreadsheet form or query from an online tool, the data you get will be about 50% correct and 50% complete.  Email addresses will cost extra and they’re really what you want.  Jigsaw has extended the life of this category by making the email address the essential part of their data set, but still only about half or slightly more of their data will be current.

2.  Data Appenders.  These guys will take a data set that you own and complete it with information they cross match to their master database.  These guys can work pretty cheaply on a per record basis.   They too depend on databases that were correct at some point in the past so they can’t be 100% complete either.  This can be a super good fit if you have a data set already but lack certain information like phone number or email address.   Full Contact is a new provider of extensive appending services.

3.  Drive Train.  This is a unique hybrid approach that goes beyond the delivery of a database because it bundles in an intelligent first-pass prospecting campaign prior to delivery.  This is a powerful option not only because of the real-time verification, but also the attendant vetting and segmentation.  The drive train process eliminates bad data, and makes the good data safe to use and easy to prioritize. In other words, it’s a database that can be put to use immediately.

In general, most prospect data providers fall into the first two buckets, and that’s the way business has been done for a long, long time.  Drive Train is a new approach that is not the cheapest option on the block but may be a much better value.

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