Marketers put a lot of effort into campaign planning, but sometimes their data selection comes as an afterthought. They may forget that the target audience is the single most important driver of campaign success. It deserves attention—and support of an independent partner, namely a data broker. In the data world, brokers represent the interests of the marketer and develop a deep knowledge of the lists and data available from many sources. Here is a seven-step process for finding and working with a data broker who will get you the best data for prospecting campaigns.

  1. Find a data broker with experience in your target audience category. Ask around. Industry associations are a useful source. Find out the names of brokers working with your competitors. Once you select a broker, make that person your full partner.
  2. Interview broker candidates carefully, using the following questions:
    • Describe your experience with lists in my target audience category and my intended media channels.
    • Have your worked for any of my major competitors? (Paradoxically, a “yes” answer to this question is desirable.)
    • Who would be involved in managing my account, and what level are they?
    • Are you a member of the Direct Marketing Association(DMA)?
    • Do you have business partnerships with other marketing services providers?
    • Describe your commission structure, any other fees and your billing terms.
    • Provide three client references, including one from a former client.
    • What steps do you follow to ensure an ethical business process?
  3. Describe your target. Use your market research, audience profiles and personas—whatever richness you can add to the description and the marketing strategy. The broker will convert your description into the language of data, and come back to you with a recommendation for lists and segments (selects) with the closest possible match to your vision. Build in enough time for the broker to research your options and prepare a recommendation for you.
  4. Review the recommendation thoroughly. Here, too, ensure you have enough time for due diligence. Beware of the data card. Data cards provide details about the sources, uses and characteristics of the list, and are very helpful in determining its suitability for your campaign. But keep in mind that the card is designed as a sales tool. View it with a critical eye.
  5. Take a sample of the data to test, if there’s time and if the universe of potential prospects is large enough. If you end up with a sizable file from a single list, consider developing a message specific to the characteristics of that audience.
  6. Examine the data on arrival. If the data was sent directly to your agency or another third party, request a sample from them. Visually inspect the output for problems like transposed or missing fields, or names that appear to be duplicates. Compare a sample of records against your own database to check for outdated addresses or phone numbers. Ask your sales team to look at names in key accounts they manage.
  7. Post-campaign: review the results and share them with your broker. The more information you can provide about your campaign goals, your market, your products, your offer, your past results—the better the broker can perform. This is not the place to be cagey.

This article is excerpted from the white paper “How to Place an Order for Prospecting Lists and Data That Ensures You’ll Get Exactly What You Need.” Get your own copy here.

About Ruth Stevens

Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, and teaches marketing at companies and business schools in the U.S. and abroad. Crain’s BtoB magazine named Ruth one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing. She is the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, and Trade Show and Event Marketing. Ruth serves as a director of Edmund Optics, Inc., the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. Learn more at

This article was recently published in Biznology