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How Accurate Are Marketing Lists?

Just How Accurate Are Marketing Lists?

There are two primary reasons why our customers call and ask us this question. First, they are just starting their marketing journey and they’ve not used marketing lists before. Second, they’ve just had what they think is a bad experience with marketing data, more disconnects than they would care for or a lot of returned mail pieces, maybe even a bunch of hard bounces on the email list that they used. No matter the reason why you are asking the question, the basic answer is the same:

Most marketing lists from reputable sources are of about the same accuracy.


The reason for this basic answer is very straightforward: If all data compilers did there job perfectly, the data and the accuracy would be exactly the same. When the data is not exactly the same there are only three reasons why it is not of exactly the same accuracy.

  1. The data was collected at a different time

  2. The data was collected in a different way

  3. The data collected was inaccurate or false to begin with

The data was collected at a different time

It’s not surprise that data changes over time. We grow older, our age changes. We move, get a new job, change our phone number, get married or divorced, purchase a new car, and have more children. Each of these changes in turn causes a change in the marketing data that is collected and compiled. To use a very simple example. On December 2, Compiler A records the county property records and sees that John Smith owns 123 Main Street. On December 15, the county updates their records to reflect that John Smith sold his home to Jane Doe on December 1. On December 16, Compiler B reviews the same property record and sees that Jane Doe owns 123 Main Street.

The data was collected in a different way

There are several ways to collec the exact same data. For mailing lists, for example, Compiler A may buy or collect data from public county property assessments. Compiler B, on the other hand, may collect mailing addresses from credit card or loan applications. In most cases, a person who owns a home also lives in that home and uses that home address on their credit card application. Nevertheless, it is possible that John Smith applied for his credit card before he purchased his home and moved, and if Compiler B does not use industry standard data validation and updates, John Smith’s address will be incorrect in its database.

The data collected was inaccurate or false to begin with

There are any number of reasons why consumers write down fake addresses that range from fraud to avoiding being marketed to. Reputable data compilers and brokers have no incentive for making up or falsifying the information; it’s bad for business. Nevertheless, especially when working with compilers that collect method online or from market research and surveys, the consumer may have an incentive to falsify their information to avoid solicitation.

Different Kinds of Data Change More or Less Frequently

On the list of things you probably already understand on a basic and logical level but have never deduced said out loud is that different types of data change at different rates. You change your phone number more frequently than your address and your email more frequently than your phone number. Here’s a short table that you can review to see how often certain types of data need to be updated and the reason it becomes inaccurate.

Data Type


Mailing Lists

Mailing lists need to be updated because people move. Who moves and how frequently? Here are basic rules of thumb:

  1. 10 - 13% of the US Population moves every year (about 36 million)

  2. Young people move more often than older people

  3. Single people move more than married people

  4. Older people move around the age that they retire

You can find an in-depth report from the U.S. Census Bureau on who moves and why at https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p20-574.pdf.

Telemarketing Data

Telephone numbers need to be updated because people cancel their landlines or change their phone numbers. Because cancellations and number changes are managed by privately owned telecom companies, it is difficult to determine the number of people that cancel or change their phone numbers. The FCC published a report in 2010 that estimated that between 7 and 9% of landlines were cancelled in 2009 at https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-301823A1.pdf and if trends have continued, that could be as high as 15% of landlines that are cancelled each year.

Email data

On average, between 25 and 31% of people either create a new email address or change their existing email address. You read more about those statistics here:





Social Media Data

More than 58% of adults in the United States have a Facebook account and 70% of those use it every single day! Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are also very popular social media sites. Advertising on social media has its nuances, and users are usually responsible for populating their own information, from age, income, and likes and interests. Here’s an in depth study from the Pew Research Center that should provide you with more details about social media users.


Even the most recent data can still be wrong

For the most part, you can trust that most of the records will be correct most of the time, and for most marketers that’s good enough. Nevertheless, when you are buying data it's important to understand that even the most accurate purchased data or user provided opt-in data can still be wrong for many different reasons. For example, some users will provide false information to prevent from being marketing to. Other times, users will make typing errors. Some high wealth individuals own several homes and maintain different contact information. Just be prepared for some duds, regardless of how much you pay and from whom the data comes.

How much is accurate data worth to your business?

The importance of data accuracy varies by the business. If a business uses autodialers, the technology will usually be able to handle less accurate data, so telemarketers will put a premium on paying a small price for data that meets DNC and TCPA regulations. High volume direct mailers will also put a higher premium on price because they will often validate postal addresses directly with the USPS before they print and mail. Lenders and car dealerships using FICO or credit information will often put a premium on higher quality data, because of the types of loans and regulations for using credit scores for marketing purposes. Email marketers value opt-in and validate email data because it prevents them from dealing with spam traps and getting their email services shut down or their email servers blacklisted by the major emails service providers.

How can I improve data accuracy?

There are several great ways to improve the accuracy of your data. For telemarketing companies, you can use our free DNC scrubbing tool. These companies can also find autodialers that will automatically scrub for DNC and TCPA compliance, to offer even more assurance that your meeting your regulatory due diligence requirements. Companies doing direct mail can find third party National Change of Address (NCOA) Link service providers to get the most recent addresses from the postal services, and ListShack offers great email append and validation services for email service providers.

Why ListShack.com makes sense for your business

ListShack.com is the best choice for great prices on marketing data. ListShack is the most reputable company offering affordable marketing data solutions and with its great compliance tools, it will also ensure your business stays on the right side of the regulations. ListShack.com is rated an A on Better Business Bureau and gets great reviews on Insurance-Forum.net, Facebook, and many reputable sites. Check out our customer reviews here.