What’s In Your Database?

Databases are only as good as their content. Yet, many times the contents of a database can be surprising.

For some manufacturers the biggest surprise may be that highly valuable data is readily available in the form of warranty registrations, drop shipments, parts orders, customer service calls, technical support requests, online opt-ins, and many other sources of information that can be thought of as a ‘database.’

When using a database, pay close attention to its content. What’s in it can be surprising as well. Here are some considerations:

  • Composition. Manufacturers typically attract a much wider array of End-Users and Buyers than they ever imagined.
    • In every end-user analysis we have performed, we found the manufacturer had attracted at least some buyers from every segment (over 100 business segments and 71 residential segments). Their ‘core markets’ clearly stand out, but what is always interesting are segments that are not well supported with sales, marketing, and distribution resources. Using contact level information it is relatively easy to find out more about them (why they bought, how they bought, and what they want to buy next).
  • Home Addresses of End-Users and Buyers instead of their business addresses is very prevalent in B2B databases. A recent end-user analysis for a large manufacturer found that half used their residential address. This is not uncommon and there are many reasons for this including:
    • An individual works for a business (e.g. a large manufacturing plant) and prefers to use his/her home address for any of a variety of reasons. For a large truck manufacturer we found many instances of responders to promotional events using their home address to receive an incentive such as free gloves, hats, and belt buckles.
    • An individual who works out of his/her home but is not registered as a business (e.g. an auto mechanic or tradesman doing side jobs).
    • An individual that may be a hobbyist with a home shop (e.g. a woodworker, metal fabrication artist or someone restoring a car or furniture).
  • Bogus Information, especially when using gated content or requiring data entry.
    • When reviewing records in a database it is not uncommon to find clever (and sometimes humorous) examples of bogus information such as Mick E. Mouse, Dont Ask, My Name, and others. There have also been more than a few obscene and nasty ones used by those that resent having to provide personal information to access a white paper or access to other information.
    • People sometimes use bogus information to avoid being contacted by a salesperson afterward.
    • A ‘Flame Filter’ can be used to identify such occurrences and remove them from the database.
  • Dead People, especially if someone else continues to use account information instead of updating it and/or if the database hasn’t been cleaned lately.
    • There have been occasions where someone has not bothered to change their spouse’s account information after they have passed away then will contact a company (or post on social media) asking how they could be so clueless and heartless to keep messaging their spouse who died years ago. For some reason, they always seem to find their way to the CEO who may not understand why or how this happens.
    • There is a ‘deceased file’ to identify consumers who are dead and remove them from the database. The file is compiled from public record information of deaths for use to bump against a database.
    • Don’t despair, some of your best buyers may actually be ‘dead’ but alive and active in your database.
  • Competitors looking for information like white papers or monitoring marketing activities are almost certainly residing in your database.
    • There is no real shortcut to purge or suppress these records but the list is usually small and easy to manage manually.
  • Outdated information, especially with business addresses and contacts, is not uncommon. Businesses close, relocate, merge, or are acquired. Or, the contact has simply changed jobs causing the quality of data in a database to erode over time.
    • Ruth Stevens, a leading expert and author in B2B data says: “B2B data tends to degrade at the rate of 4% to 6% per month. So that means a third of your data will become obsolete every year.” Her most recent book is B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results (now available on Kindle).
    • The Bureau of Labor Statistics Employee Tenure Report reports that a high percentage of younger workers had short duration jobs. Among jobs held by workers with ages from 25 to 34, the median tenure is 2.8 years.
    • From ages 35 to 44, the median job duration was fewer than five years, and from 45 – 54, the median tenure at a job was 7.1 years.
    • For residential addresses, the USPS reports that about 16.8% of the country moves annually. Only about 60% of movers fill out a Change of Address form, and only about 50% of those people fill it out correctly!


  1. When requiring data make sure there is good reason for it, meaning there needs to be something of value being delivered where they have a vested interest.
  2. Regularly run data through hygiene and updating processes.
  3. Use outbound telemarketing to verify and update information.
  4. Build and maintain an end-user database for data collected online (forms, opt-ins, requests, etc…), from warranty/product registration, parts orders, customer service, tech support, drop shipments, accounting/billing, and any other source where business or contact level is provided.
  5. Enhance your data / database with 3 rd party data that can provide business firmographic and residential demographic information (e.g. occupation, education, age, income, etc…).

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