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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   January 2004

Tips for Keeping Your List Data Clean and Compliant

There’s a lot at stake when purchasing prospect data. Getting inaccurate data means that you may be wasting your direct marketing budget contacting consumers no longer at the address to which you’ve mailed an offer. Even worse, non-compliant data means that you may be hit with large fines if you contact consumers on any of the Do Not Contact registries. 

If you choose your list provider wisely by asking the right questions and understanding how the provider cleans its data, you can be confident you are buying accurate and compliant data. 

Keep in mind the following important issues:

  • Ask your list provider how often it updates its lists. While more frequently updated lists mean fresher data, it may also mean that your list is more expensive. But you can find a comfortable trade-off between price and data freshness. For example, credit scores can change practically overnight, so it is wise to pay more and update this data more frequently. 
    An example of less expensive data that can be updated quarterly is consumer attributes such as income range, number of children, and even whether a consumer is male or female. However, since 17% of consumers move each year, make sure you get monthly updates on mortgage data. 

  • Another factor that affects data cleanliness is the number of sources from which the list provider pulls. By using multiple sources, the data provider can verify that the data is correct. For example, if the address for John Doe is the same from four different sources, it is much more likely that the address is, indeed, correct. And if the address differs from source to source, a good list provider will test to prioritize them by accuracy probability. 

    Gathering data from multiple sources also enables the list provider to “fill in the blanks” of any missing information. For example, if one data source provides name, address, and phone number and the next provides name, address, and income range, the provider is able to piece together a more complete picture of the consumer. 

  • Make sure that your data provider uses a top-notch file cleansing package from a well-known vendor. File cleansing software performs essential roles, such as validating consumer names and removing unnecessary and incorrect characters such as dashes and symbols. The software also ensures that the data conforms to U.S. Postal Service Address Standardization Guidelines, eliminates any inaccurate records or undeliverable addresses, appends zip code + 4 to addresses as needed, and identifies zip code errors. 

  • A good data provider will also make use of database management tools that allow it to prioritize data elements through the use of business rules as well as sort data and eliminate duplicate records. 

  • Are you confident that your data provider has scrubbed their data against the various Do Not Contact lists such as the FTC/FCC Do Not Call registry and the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Telephone Preference Service and Mail Preference Service? Complying with these regulations is a major undertaking for telemarketing regulations. Be sure your data provider continues to maintain their Do Not Contact lists, and be sure you know the provider’s update schedule.

The FTC also requires list providers to obtain Subscriber Account Numbers (SANs) and areas codes from their clients prior to selling any data containing residential telephone numbers. As a Seller, you are responsible for following this regulation, so make sure your list provider is asking you to provide this information to them. 

Any list provider that maintains data that includes residential telephone numbers is required to maintain strict security of its data and careful written documentation of its compliance procedures and staff training. Ensure your list provider is compliant.

It is important to carefully select a list provider that follows an appropriate data cleansing regime, rigorously monitors regulations, and can assist you in staying compliant. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask your list provider to answer any questions and concerns you may have. A reputable list provider will be glad to help.   


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