Welcome to Part 2 of the “Mailing List Mistakes to Avoid” blog series. This blog series will be a lineup of major mistakes people make when buying a mailing list and how to avoid them. Make sure to read Part 1: Introduction to Investing in a List.

In Part 1 of the series, I went over the two main ways to go about when acquiring a mailing list, the “Do-It-Yourself” option or the “Leave It to The Pros”. Both work depending on your business and what your end goal is. However, I favor professionals. Data compilers and list companies have access to more information than you could find on your own. They have spent the time, energy, and money to build relationships allowing access to certain databases containing information. So, if you have a real marketing budget, and you value your time, let the professionals handle it.

At the height of the real estate bubble in 2006, it is said that there were over 2,000 companies selling consumer marketing lists. Millions of records containing names, contact information, and other details, both public and private exchanged hands on a daily basis. The industry was saturated with list brokers who purchased information in bulk from data compilers and resold it at a markup. The good ones purchased updated information regularly and provided their clients with fresh and accurate information. The bad ones didn’t. At the peak of the boom, there were more bad ones than good ones and the lines became blurred as fewer people knew what their options were and even more were misled with unrealistic response rates and sold outdated, inaccurate, and often incomplete marketing lists. This is why the most critical part of purchasing a list is doing your due diligence to identify a company that does not sell outdated lists with bad information but instead performs regular hygiene to keep their databases current, accurate, and fresh. Skip the bad data experience altogether with these simple steps:

1.   Check the BBB Rating. The BBB collects and provides free reviews on businesses in the United States and Canada. The BBB collects information on more than 3 million North American organizations and publishes the data in reliability reports. They receive consumer complaints and rates the performance and reliability of businesses based on a number criteria including advertisement accuracy. I recommend taking a look at a company’s dispute resolution section. As much as we’d like them to be, not every campaign will result in a grand slam, but a quick look at how a list provider resolved their disputes can go a long way.

2.   Look for company testimonials and ask for references. Most of the reputable mailing list companies will have a client list and testimonial section on their website, and it should be considered a red flag if they don’t. Websites like Google+ and other local pages also allow users to share their experience in working with a company.

3.   Ask about accuracy guarantees. It’s important to know that no mailing list is 100% perfect. There will always be at least a slight margin of error that can range from 5% to 50% depending on the source you choose. Guarantees may vary for postal, phone, and email lists so make sure you understand what they are. Always go with a company that provides some level of guarantee with their information. Think of it as an insurance policy against your hard-earned marketing dollars.

4.   Check the pricing. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and that saying holds true in the list business. At some point during your list buying experience, you’ll have to decide whether you prefer better quality or better price. If you’ve got your eye on a mailing list and have been quoted by multiple sources ranging from 30-40 cents per record, and then find one who is offering the same list for 8 cents per record, buyer beware! They are not the same list.

You should always be wary of lists that are too cheap. High-quality data takes time and resources to compile. Since first-time buyers might not be sure how much a good mailing list should cost, dishonest companies sometimes take advantage of that by selling you outdated or low-quality data. While it is difficult to predict mailing list prices in advance, since every business has different list needs, do make sure the company you are working with is upfront about the cost, and verify that they understand what you want from your data list.

Make sure to check-in next week for Part 3. If you have any comments or questions about purchasing a mailing list, feel free to leave them in a comment below or call US Data Corporation at (888) 578-3282.

Make sure to read the other parts of the series: Part 1: Introduction to Investing in a ListPart 3: Compilers vs. BrokersPart 4: Understanding Your Data, Part 5: Find a Trustworthy List Provider, Part 6: Be Open to List Suggestions.