How to Choose a Data Provider

man in data center in dark

By Logan Kelly, VP of Strategy at Union Resolute

We bring on a new data provider at least every quarter, if not every month. Along the way, we’ve learned some lessons about how to bring on new data partners. Here’s a guide to help you through the process, with some examples of tools I like.

Look at the Gaps

If you are going to spend thousands of dollars each month on a data set you need to figure out how much overlap there will be with what you already have. You need to know what your company needs and what the data company says it can bring. There are lots of different kinds of data. There’s contact data, technographic data, etc. With contact data, like an email address, you HAVE to get it right. Incorrect contact data, whether used in email outreach, targeted advertising, and so forth, reduces your chance of success by stacking the deck against you. You are losing before you get to the starting line.

Reasonably accurate technographic and firmographic data can be used to frame your Total Addressable Market, or segments within the TAM. These data types have more margin for error. So when you’re wondering if a company uses a specific kind of software, being right 80% of the time may be a big improvement.

Go for Quality

Unfortunately, you can’t get a real test sample from an unknown dataset. In order to know if it’s any good, you might need 100,000 records, and data companies generally won’t give you that for free.

So reputation is everything. My advice is to shy away from the unknown. After having tried out data from a few startups, I realized that few of them have what I need. So I’ll let others pay to test them out.

For my part, I ask around. Do you know anyone who has used the data provider in the past, or is using them now? Ask your connections what their experiences have been like. Seek to understand the following (from either your network or the data provider itself):

  1. How does the data provider get its data?
  2. How often is it updated?
  3. What is the provider’s QA process?
  4. What is the provider’s goal for its data? Does the provider use it for sales outreach, marketing, or something else?

Think about Delivery

Data comes in three basic forms: As a spreadsheet (sometimes called a “flat file”); or through a platform; or as an Application Programming Interface (called an API).

I’m not a fan of the flat file. Looking at tons of data on a spreadsheet can be brutal.

UI is a better format, but it takes some work upfront. You’ll need to train your team on how to use the UI. Given people’s schedules, it may take weeks or months to onboard. Once you do, though, it becomes part of your stack — one more thing that your team will automatically log onto and use. One example of this type of platform is NetWise. NetWise’s UI is clear and efficient, enabling us to use its B2B ID Graph data to run tests and export for campaigns quickly.

APIs are also better than flat files. (Anything’s better than flat files.) It might take just 45 minutes to hook this app into your system, and you’re off and running. BuiltWith offers a great API – we use it to glean insights on the types and patterns of technology usage of prospects in a particular addressable market.

When it comes to data, there is no silver bullet. Without carefully vetting and understanding how the data fits, there’s a good chance it will be useless. So temper your expectations. As you onboard, you’ll have to figure out where this data provider fits in your stack.