Selecting the right company to append email addresses to your postal file is a big decision. Pick the wrong company and you'll wait weeks and weeks, pay too much, receive garbage matches or all of the above. Here are some things to look for when selecting the right email append or email data processing company.
#1) Size of Database
Having a large database to match your data against is very important. It's difficult to tell however how many records a provider may have, so it's important to view their overall reputation and any statements from prior clients. This will affect the match rate.
#2) Data Source
Does the append provider have a credible story for where the data has come from? Do they manage the lists for publications or do they have licensing arrangements with large web sites? It's often difficult to ascertain the source of the databases you wish to append against because the sources of data is often viewed as propriety information.
#3) Match Rates
Higher match rates aren't always better. It's important to realize you want the highest match rates for quality data. That said, the major append providers typically can produce 17-25% match rate on a consumer file. Business-to-business files match closer to the 20-55% range and sometimes much lower. Be careful of append companies that promise the world.
#4) Free Match Test
Many quality firms will perform a match test free of charge if you have a substantial order. This allows you to know beforehand how many matches you will receive on your file, without getting the matched data or being having to pay for it. Usually in this scenario the append provider will return a file with records flagged to indicate which matches were found.
#5) Pay Only for Success
Quality append firms charge only for records that are successfully matched and deliverable. Successful matches have received the opt-out mailing and haven't removed themselves. You should not be charged for removals. The only exception is a minimum run charge, which typically ranges from $1,000 - $1,500 depending on the provider.
#6) Guaranteed Accurate and Deliverable
The appends you receive should be guaranteed deliverable for at least 14 days from the point which they were matched. It's important to pay quickly and pick up your data so you can process your first mailing within this time frame. If any of the records you received generate hard bounces within guarantee window, your provider should refund your money for those records.
#7) Fast Turn Around
Assuming everything is in order most append projects should can be performed within 3-4 business days. After this there is the opt-out mailing which can take an additional 3-4 business days. If a provider quotes you a long time for an append, the likelihood is, they are shipping the data out and sending it to multiple processors.
#8) Date/Time/Origin Stamping
Does the append provider offer date / time / source stamping? This will come in handy in the rare event that there are any complaints. The provider can look up the record and offer precise proof of opt-in to the recipient and avoid any legal issues.
#9) Competitive Rates
It's good to be careful here. In the world of email append the old cliché, "you get what you pay for" holds true. There are many companies willing to offer very low rates per match, but their data is seldom worth it. The best way to get a feel is to contact two or three firms and give them the number of records you have for append. Then let them bid on your project. To get the best rate it's also great to be able to say you are ready to go right away (and mean it).
#10) Free Opt Out Message
You should not be charged for the opt-out message. This should all be part of the append cost-per-successful-match pricing. If you wish to send the opt-out message from your own servers you need to ask if this is possible. Some append providers allow it and others do not.
#11) Professional Service and Follow Up
It's important to pay close attention to how you are treated from the very first call. Quality companies work very hard to answer your questions and respect your need to make sure their operation is legitimate. If anyone gets impatient or refuses to provide useful information this should be a red flag.
With that information in mind, you should be well-prepared to make some phone calls and shop around for your append provider. You may also wish to find an append company that can provide additional services after the sale. Be smart and do your homework. There are several quality append providers available.