B-to-b response databases can broaden reach

Business-to-business marketers reluctant to use response files have some pleasant surprises in store: There is a broader range of names and information available than previously thought.

That’s the biggest revelation from a new report on b-to-b response databases. But it’s not the only one: As study coordinators Bernice Grossman and Ruth P. Stevens found, the broad range of names in response databases is backed up by a fair amount of accuracy and coverage in data points per record.

This represents a change in the role of response files, according to Stevens, president of eMarketing Strategy. Traditionally, b-to-b compiled files, which are pulled together from phone directories and government documents and the like, were known for having a wide swath of records.

“You got access to every business in the category,” Stevens says. “If you are looking for pizza parlors, you get all the pizza parlors. But because the pizza parlors on the files didn’t do anything except take a telephone call to get there, they are not that responsive.”

In contrast, response databases are made up of people who had volunteered their contact information when they took some sort of action — a pizza manager who subscribed to a trade publication or attended a trade show, for instance. “You’re going to get higher response rates because of accuracy and because they are responders,” Stevens says.

The study, titled “B-to-B Response Databases: A Comparative Analysis,” tested coverage of b-to-b response databases among three companies. Stevens and Grossman had invited eight, but several declined, saying that since such databases are made up of response files contributed by their clients, it would have to be the decision of their clients to participate.

Participating compilers were asked to provide counts for the number of records within 10 industries, as well as within 10 specific companies. Additionally, each company was given a list of 10 individuals — the same individuals in all cases — and asked for a double handful of data points, such as title, phone number and email address.

While the number of records turned up in the industry and companies’ tests varied, the response databases did well in matching the 10 individuals with their correct contact information. This has traditionally been a sweet spot for response files, as compiled files have tended to crawl the web looking for executive contact information.

That tactic works — to a point. It’s especially effective in generating C-level contact information, which is often posted online. But response files tend to have a wider range of job functions.

“Response data goes below C-level, where a lot of b-to-b marketers want to market,” says Grossman, president of marketing database consultancy DMRS Group. “There are a lot of marketers who don’t want to market to the CEO because the CEO is too high-level for whatever the offer is.”

Response databases not always better

So based on the broadened reach of response files, plus the trend of response database managers to augment these files with firmographics, is it fair to say response databases have become more valuable than compiled files?

Absolutely not, say both Grossman and Stevens. “You can never read a report and figure out [which type of data] to use,” says Grossman. “You can only get that answer by testing.”

The aim of her report is to familiarize readers with the named participants in the study, and to present some of their comparative strengths and weaknesses in coverage.

“But unless you have a crystal ball, you will never know which ones work better until you test,” Grossman adds. “Even if responder file A has lots of names in the restaurant business, and B does as well, the sources would be different.”