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Purveyors of Dirty Data: Mystery Vendors Peddle User Lists

Since I joined Informatica over a year ago, I’ve received a daily stream of unsolicited emails from vendors selling “marketable user email/contact list databases” of myriad software and hardware technologies ranging from enterprise apps, business intelligence, Cloud computing, networking and infrastructure, etc.  You get the idea – and I’m sure many of you experience a similar phenomenon on a daily basis.     

My catalyst for writing a post about this is when I considered the relevance, transparency and quality requirements that data governance leaders strive for –and how these vendors seem to dismiss all of the above.

Annoyance #1 – Relevance: Target marketing list providers don’t know their targets

Aside from the obvious annoyance we all get from SPAM emails, I am extraordinarily amazed at the audacity of these marketers since what they’re trying to sell me is a supposedly qualified list of target customers but they clearly make no efforts to quality me as their marketing target!  

My title here is vice president of Product Strategy.   Nothing in my job title (or my job history for that matter) implies that I have any role in marketing programs or campaigns.   So I’m far from being either a decision maker or an influencer.  But they account for this – that’s why almost all of them put in their emails a statement like “If you feel I should talk to somebody else in your organization with regards to email list purchase, it would be great if you could forward this email to the right person.”  Kind of like Amazon.com shipping a 500 pound safe to a customer and telling them “We don’t know if you want this or not, but if not can you just ship it back to us or try to sell it to your neighbor and send us the money?”

Annoyance #2 – Transparency: These list providers are hiding their true identities

I just compiled a list of the names of the vendors that have sent email solicitations to me this week – or at least the guise they presented themselves under:

  • AA Data Inc
  • Dataxperts
  • Clear Data Info
  • Complete Email Data Services
  • Global-Biz Group
  • Leads Directory
  • Lead Pyramids
  • MarketingLead Forum
  • Netstricker Data Inc
  • PD-Marketing
  • TechDatabase.biz

It got interesting when I took a few moments to perform a web search for these names. Most do not return a result or have any clear web presence or method for communicating with any corporate entity (Not all, but most).  Not that a corporate website equals legitimacy of course, but in the year 2013 you would think a reputable business would at least be mentioned somewhere in some context on the worldwide web.  So who are they?  Maybe they’re a pyramid scheme of outsourced, fully commission-based temps all reporting up to one conglomerate email marketing list provider? Insert your conspiracy theory here, I have no idea.

Annoyance #3 – Quality: Winner of most clueless mystery vendor goes to…

The brilliant shop “Marketing Enterprise” (if that’s their real name) sent me an email asking if I wanted to buy a list of Informatica Users.  To me.  An Informatica employee.  At my email address ending in “@informatica.com.”  Really?   Clearly not even the most basic data quality validation logic or filters on their mass emails.

Any marketers care to weigh in?

The question I would like to pose to direct marketing professionals:  Is this business model working?  Are any of you purchasing lists from these anonymous sources, and if so – is the relevance and quality of those lists up to snuff providing expected minimum response rates?  

I’m not a direct marketing expert, but I expect most well-run marketing organizations would look for qualified, transparent proof that the lists they purchase are in fact fresh, targeting relevant roles and job titles, and are in fact truly open to (i.e., not explicitly opted out from) marketing communication.   Is any form of data governance in place to define the policies and standards for the quality of list purchases?

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2 Responses to Purveyors of Dirty Data: Mystery Vendors Peddle User Lists

  1. Mike King says:

    Rob,
    If someone asked you to purchase an Informatica customer list I think I’d ask how much, tell them you want one and to send them an invoice for it. Then I’d get my hands on it and do some analysis to decode where it came from. I might also ask for the entire dataset, not just the names and addresses. You’d have a “Big Data” problem. You could put the challenge up on Kaggle and offer say $4k and I bet you’ll find some interesting things about where it came from. Just a crazy thought.

  2. Rob Karel says:

    Mike – That would be a fun exercise, but hoping (to save the time and money) someone will just come out and give me the answer! I imagine some of these vendors have read this blog and there’s a whisteblower out there who wants to go public.
    —To that would-be whistleblower: We can’t offer you immunity, job security, or…well, anything. But would love to hear from you anyway! ;-)

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