Posts Tagged ‘Contact Validation’

Saving More of Your Labor this Labor Day

Labor Day is much more than the traditional end of summer in America: it pays tribute to the efforts of working people. It dates back well over a century, with one labor leader in the 1800s describing it as a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” And we aren’t forgetting our friends in Europe and elsewhere, who celebrate workers as well with holidays such as May Day.

As we celebrate work and the labor movement – and enjoy a long holiday weekend – we wanted to take a look at some of the ways that we help you save labor, as you try to carve grandeur from your organization’s data. Here are some of the more important ones:

Validation and more. Let’s start with the big one. For nearly two decades, the main purpose of our existence has been to take the human effort out of cleaning, validating, appending, and rating the quality of your contact and lead data. Whether your needs involve marketing, customer service, compliance or fraud prevention, these tools save labor in two ways: first, by saving you and your organization from re-inventing the wheel or doing manual verification, and second, by saving you from the substantial human costs of bad data.

Ease of integration. What is the single worst data quality solution? The one that gets implemented badly, or not at all. One of the biggest things our customers praise us for is how easy it is to implement our tools, to work almost invisibly in their environment. We offer everything from API integration and web hooks with common platforms, all the way to programming-free batch interfaces for smaller or simpler environments – backed by clear documentation, free trial licenses and expert support.

Speed and reliability. As one customer put it, “milliseconds matter” – particularly in real-time applications where, for example, you are validating customer contact data as they are in the process of entering it. Our APIs are built for speed and reliability, with a longstanding 99.999% uptime and multiple failover servers, as well as sub-second response times for many services – so you don’t waste time tearing your hair out or troubleshooting responsiveness issues.

Better analytics. Your contact data is a business asset – put it to work as a tool to gain business insight for faster, more informed decision-making and market targeting. You can target leads by demographics or geocoding, enhance your leads with missing phone or contact information, or leverage your customer base for better decision support, among many other applications.

Customer support. We recently interviewed a major longtime customer about using our products, and when we asked them about support they gave us the highest compliment of all: “We never need to call you!” But those who do call know that our best-in-class support, staffed by caring, knowledgeable experts who are available 24/7/365, represents a large savings of time and effort for our clients.

We hope you enjoy this Labor Day holiday. And when you get back, contact one of our product experts for a friendly, pressure-free discussion about how we can create less labor for you and your organization!

 

data privacy laws

A New Data Privacy Challenge for Europe – and Beyond

New privacy regulations in Europe have recently become a very hot topic again within the business community. And no, we aren’t talking about the recent GDPR law.

A new privacy initiative, known as the ePrivacy Regulation, deals with electronic communications. Technically a revision to the EU’s existing ePrivacy Directive or “cookie law,” and pending review by the European Union’s member states, it could go into effect as early as this year. And according the New York Times, it is facing strong opposition from many technology giants including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others.

Data privacy meets the app generation

Among other things, the new ePrivacy Regulation requires explicit permission from consumers for applications to use tracking codes or collect data about their private communications, particularly through messaging services such as Skype, iMessage, games and dating apps.  Companies will have to disclose up front how they plan to use this personal data, and perhaps more importantly, must offer the same access to services whether permission is granted or not.

Ironically this new law will also remove the previous directive’s need for the incessant “cookie notices” consumers now receive, by using browser tracking settings, while tightening the use of private data. This will be a mixed blessing for online services, because a simple default browser setting can now lock out the use of tracking cookies that many consumers routinely approved under the old pop-up notices. As part of its opposition to these new rules, trade groups are painting a picture of slashed revenues, fewer free services and curbs on innovation for trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT).

A longstanding saying about online services is that “when something is free, you are the product,” and this new initiative is one of the more visible efforts for consumers to push back and take control of the use of their information. And Europe isn’t alone in this kind of initiative – for example, the new California Consumer Privacy Act, slated for the late 2018 ballot, will also require companies to provide clear opt-out instructions for consumers who do not wish their data to be shared or sold.

The future: more than just European privacy laws

So what does this mean for you and your business? No one can precisely foretell the future of these regulations and others, but the trend over time is clear: consumer privacy legislation will continue to get tighter and tighter. And the days of unfettered access to the personal data of your customers and prospects are increasingly coming to an end. This means that data quality standards will continue to loom larger than ever for businesses, ranging from stricter process controls to maintaining accurate consumer contact information.

We frankly have always seen this trend as an opportunity. As with GDPR, regulations such as these have sprung from past excesses the lie at the intersection of interruptive marketing, big data and the loss of consumer privacy. Consumers are tired of endless spam and corporations knowing their every move, and legislators are responding. But more important, we believe these moves will ultimately lead businesses to offer more value and authenticity to their customers in return for a marketing relationship.

DOTS Address Validation verifies, cleans, and validates contact data so businesses can rely on accurate data for shipping, building a database, and a myriad of other functions.

Anatomy of a Service: DOTS Address Validation 3

DOTS Address Validation 3 is one of our most popular services – for good reason! This service is robust and good at what it does. Our powerful CASS certified engine provides our customers with quick and efficient address validation. Because of the complexities associated with DOTS Address Validation 3, there can be lingering questions about what certain fields mean or even how to use it. I am one of the integration specialists here at Service Objects, and I am here to help demystify some of the key features that DOTS Address Validation 3 boasts.

DOTS Address Validation 3 Use Cases

One of the most popular ways to use DOTS Address Validation 3 is to put it directly in a web form where the user enters their address. In this case, an address can be sent to our services, verified, cleansed, and validated before it is used for shipping purposes or before it is put into a database. Based on the DPV code that our service returns, we can also indicate whether an address is missing secondary unit information (i.e., like an apartment or suite number), or if the given secondary unit information isn’t considered valid by the USPS. This DPV value can be used to relay information back to a customer to correct or add the right Secondary unit number.

If you don’t have the ability to call an API from a web form, another use case could be to collect the addresses that you acquire and submit them in bulk with an FTPS set up. Our processes will determine when a file has been uploaded and will process the records and then spit out a file with the validated data that you can use to upload back into your database

If you have a large existing database of uncleansed addresses, you are in luck! We offer large list processing that will allow you to cleanse existing databases. We are experts at running large quantities of data quickly, so we’re happy to process these lists for you to clean up your existing database.

Responses

Knowing how an API works is essential to integrating it and to using its response. One thing to note about DOTS Address Validation 3 is that if an address is invalid, then it will return an error object in the response. In other words, if DOTS Address Validation 3 returns an error, it means the address couldn’t be validated. If an address is valid or partially valid (more on that later) then it returns the address information. There are different errors the service can return that will help you troubleshoot what is occurring with the API call and determine so you can correctly handle each type of error that comes back.

 

  1. Error Code 1 – Authorization Codes

These errors indicate that something was wrong with the license key. These errors are not billable. You may also need to reach out to Service Objects if you encounter these errors in a production environment.

Error Desc Code Error Description Additional Desc
1 Please provide a valid license key for this web service There was no license key submitted to the service. Oftentimes this occurs when the URL encoding hasn’t occurred correctly.
2 The daily allowable number of transactions for this license key has been exceeded. This doesn’t apply to all keys, but some have a daily maximum transactions
3 The monthly allowable number of transactions for this license key has been exceeded. Some keys have a monthly maximum. You will encounter this value if you pass the monthly maximum
4 The total allowable number of transactions for this license key has been exceeded The overall amount of transactions has been exceeded.

 

  1. Error Code 2 – User Input

Something was wrong with the inputs. Either necessary fields were blank, or the inputs were too long.

Error Desc Code Error Description Additional Desc
1 Address and Address2 fields were too long. Together, they must be 100 characters or less. The input fields were too long
2 Address field was too long, must be 100 characters or less. The input fields were too long
3 Please input a street address. There was no Address1 or Address2 values entered
4 Please input either zip code or both city and state. The service needs either a zip code or both city and state to perform a successful validation.

 

  1. Error Code 3 – Fatal Errors

These errors indicate that a Service Objects web service is behaving in a way that it should not. If you ever see this error in a production environment, please notify Service Objects immediately.

Desc Code Error Description Additional Desc
1 Unhandled error. Please contact Service Objects. Like it says, please contact Service Objects immediately and let us know what inputs you used to create this error.

 

  1. Error Code 4 – Domain Specific

These errors occur when something has gone wrong with the validation process; usually, an invalid address. There are also more specific messages for each error you can use to help decipher the reason for the failed address validation.

Desc Code Error Description Additional Desc
1 Address not found Major issue with the address that doesn’t fit known USPS special case scenarios.
3 Multiple addresses match Several address candidates were found that are equally likely given the input.
Ex: “1 Main St” matches “1 E Main St” and “1 W Main St”.
5 Please enter a valid address number.
7 Street not found Street name not found for the general area (city/state or zip)
8 Street number or box number out of range Street name found in the area, but the given primary number is not valid for that street
12 Internal error. Returned when an unexpected error occurs while processing address, or for special address cases. This error isn’t likely to appear
14 City not found City name not found for given state or postal code
15 State not found State abbreviation not found. The input state didn’t seem to be a valid state.
17 Address not found but the region has General Delivery service Given address not found, but the region provided matches a known area that only provides General Delivery services. Mail sent to “General Delivery” with the recipient’s name may get delivered to the recipient.
21 Unable to parse address. Indicates that the input could not be parsed into address fragments.


Non-Error Response

If there wasn’t an error returned, that’s good news! It means your request has resulted in validated address information. Below is a list of all the values recommended for a GetBestMatches operation. If you are using an operation other than GetBestMatches, then some of these values may not apply. Another thing to be aware of regarding GetBestMatches is the possibility it will return multiple addresses if the input address is vague. For example, when directional information should have been included but was not. In that case, the service will return multiple addresses and let the user navigate the ambiguity.

Return Value Description
Address1 This is the standardized Address1 line of the address. This along with City, State, and Postal Code are where you will find the verified and standardized address components
Address2 The USPS doesn’t consider the Address2 field to be necessary for mailing purposes. If there is any valid Secondary Unit information sent in the Address2 input our system will pick it up and append it at the end of the Address1 field. If there is any extraneous information in the input Address2 field (i.e. “c/o John Smith” etc.) we’ll try to maintain it in the Address2 field.
City The validated city for the given input address.
State The corrected and validated state name.
Zip The validated and corrected Zip + 4 for the given address.
IsResidential A “TRUE” or “FALSE” flag will be given to indicate whether the input address is considered to be residential
DPV A value between 1 and 4. This is arguably the most important values to look at when determining what to do with an input address. The DPV value will essentially indicate the total validity of an address. Your use case may vary but here is an example of how to deal with different DPV values when a customer may be entering address information on a web form.

  • DPV 1 – The Address is in the USPS database and is considered to be a valid mailing address.
  • DPV 2 – The address is not in the USPS database. This means that this address may exist, but the USPS simply does not deliver to it. Perhaps try using an alternate mail delivery company to deliver something to this address.
  • DPV 3 – The given secondary unit information on the address is invalid, ask the user to double check the given Secondary Unit information and try again.
  • DPV 4 – The service and subsequently the DOTS Address Validation 3 service expects a Secondary Unit (i.e., apt, unit, suite etc.) but none was provided. Perhaps ask the customer if they are missing the required unit information.
DPVDesc The text value that explains the DPV result
DPVNotes Numerical notes that indicate different pieces of information about a particular address. Some of the notes can be things like: Post Office Box address, Firm or Business address, Address exists but is vacant, Military APO/FPO address etc. For a full list of these codes please visit our developer guides.
DPVNotesDesc The text descriptions that are associated with the values in the DPVNotes field
Corrections An enumerated list of codes that indicate certain corrections were made to the input address. I.e., City corrected, state correction etc. For a full list of Correction codes, please visit our developer’s guide.
CorrectionsDesc The text descriptions for the codes provided in the corrections field.
BarcodeDigits This is a value that the USPS uses to sort mail. Each deliverable address has a unique barcode digit value. A benefit of this is that users can utilize this value to dedupe records in a database. Meaning if you have several different records with the same Barcode Digit, then you can clean up your database.
CarrierRoute A 4-character string that highlights the carrier route the USPS uses to for this address.
CongressCode This is congress code that is associated with the congressional district number in which the address is located
CountyName The name of the county in which the address resides.
FragmentHouse This is the parsed-out house number for an address. i.e., 123 of 123 W Main St N. The rest of these values are typically used to reconstruct an address that has been validated. Most customers who use these values use them to reassemble an address into different fragments for cases where an application might have character limitations.
FragmentPreDir The parsed pre-directional of the address’s street. “W” of 123 W Main St N.
FragmentStreet The parsed-out street name. “Main” of 123 W Main St N.
FragmentSuffix The parsed-out suffix of the street. “St” of 123 W Main St N.
FragmentPostDir The parsed-out directional fragment of the address. “N” of 123 W Main St N.
FragmentUnit The parsed-out unit designator of the input address. Can be values like APT, STE, UNIT etc.
Fragment The parsed-out unit number of the secondary unit designator. “4” of Unit 4
FragmentPMBPrefix The parsed type of personal mailbox designator. This will likely be “PMB” or “Box”. Some addresses have personal mailboxes to which mail can be delivered.
FragmentPMBNumber The parsed-out number from the PMB designator. 4 of PMB 4.

 

This covers most of the basics of DOTS Address Validation 3. As I mentioned, because of the robust capabilities of our CASS certified engine and the comprehensive nature of DOTS Address Validation 3’s data input fields, users are sometimes confused about how to use certain fields or how DOTS Address Validation 3 can be used or integrated. If you want to learn more about how DOTS Address Validation 3, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us! We’d be happy to answer any follow-up questions you may have and make recommendations on how to interpret and use the results from the service.

As the GDPR ushers in a new generation of consumer data privacy controls, the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal proves businesses need to prepare.

Facebook, Data Quality, and the GDPR

With 2.1 billion active users, Facebook presents an exceptional opportunity for targeted marketing and businesses interested in harnessing the power of consumer data. In fact, there are now entire industries devoted to collecting and selling personally identifiable information. Unfortunately, the swift expansion of social media, with its tantalizing trove of consumer information, has left lawmakers playing catch up. However, that’s about to change, thanks, in part, to the scandal surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and its intersection with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), an EU law governing data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union.

The GDPR Effect 

Though the GDPR will not take effect until May 25, 2018, if the breach of 50 million user account had happened while the law was in place, it would have resulted in a costly error for Facebook. As Austrian privacy campaigner and Facebook critic Max Schrems was quick to point out, had the unauthorized the sharing of profile data to Cambridge Analytica occurred while the GDPR was in effect, it “would have cost Facebook 4 percent of their global revenue”, somewhere in the ballpark of $1.6bn (€1.3bn).

But even before the Cambridge-Analytica story grabbed headlines, GDPR implementation was set to trigger significant changes to Facebook’s business operations. According to Reuters, Facebook faces a double-edged challenge: comply with the new GDPR rules and allow European users to opt out of targeted advertising, or violate the GDPR and face fines of up to 4% of the company’s annual revenue.  Considering 24% of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from EU users, either course of action represents a significant hit to profits for the company. And with global adoption of GDPR-type privacy protocols beginning to take hole around the world, Facebook and its social media cohorts will need to adapt to the changing consumer data landscape. 

A Global Movement

Though the EU primarily applies directly to data from EU citizens, it also controls the flow of personal data from within the EU to countries outside its borders. With US and UK legislation probable, this new era of data security means enormous changes in the way companies do business. As a result, international adoption of the GDPR’s privacy protocols is already taking hold around the world as counties begin to change their own data privacy rules. 

How Businesses Can Prepare

So how can business owners make sure they do not follow in Facebook’s footsteps? Companies entrusted with customer data must first acknowledge their responsibility in keeping that information secure. It is not enough to create a security protocol; organizations must also enforce and audit those policies. Robust and comprehensive quality analysis is also crucial, especially in light of the GDPR Article 5 mandate requiring the personal information of individuals within the European Union (EU) be current and accurate. Finally, the use of contact data, especially when it comes to combining information from different sources, should also be monitored. It is not enough to know your information is accurate; you must also make sure you are using it in the manner it was intended to be used, both legally and ethically.

The Benefits of Data Quality Best Practices

Though many businesses are still unprepared for the GDPR’s May 2018 deadline, it seems clear this latest scandal involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica will spur many businesses into action.

The good news is implementing data quality best practices to comply with Article 5 makes good business sense. It will save organizations considerable money in the form of streamlined marketing and sales campaigns, improve overall customer service and reduce the waste associated with bad contact data.

Service Objects can help you get a better understanding of the role your customer data plays in becoming GDPR compliant. Send us up to 500 records (it is a 100% secure process) and we will provide you with an overall score of the quality of each record based on fields such as name, phone, address, email, IP, and country. Get started today.

Service Objects Announces Record Breaking Number of Transactions Processed on Cyber Monday 2017

Cyber Monday 2017 was a busy day for many online retailers, including Service Objects. We were so busy, in fact, that we processed a record number of contact data validation transactions. Looking at the online shopping stats, we shouldn’t be surprised. According to numbers released by Adobe Insights, shoppers spent 16.8% more in 2017 than on Cyber Monday 2016, setting a new online record of $6.6 billion in sales.  The mobile sales record was also surpassed, reaching $2 billion over a 24-hour period.

So why did Service Objects’ break our own record? Because our contact validation services play a vital role in the online shopping process for many merchants.  We enable retailers to verify that an individual’s contact information is genuine, accurate and up-to-date. In addition, by validating a person’s name, address, phone number, email and device, businesses significantly increase package delivery rates and considerably increase their ability to detect fraudulent transactions.

In fact, some of the largest retailers in the world use Service Objects’ real-time contact validation services. While consumers were busy breaking sales number records on Cyber Monday, Service Objects’ customers processed over a million more transactions on that day than previous years, making it the largest day in our history.

And we see this trend continuing. As online shopping continues to capture a larger percentage of retailers’ overall sales every year, Service Objects will play a vital role in ecommerce by providing the ability for merchants to validate and clean their customer contact data against hundreds of authoritative data sources – all in a blink of an eye. It also doesn’t hurt that we have a 99.999% server uptime guarantee, unlimited no cost technical support and bank grade transaction security.

For more information or to test any one of Service Objects’ 23 contact validation solutions, please visit https://www.serviceobjects.com/products.

The Direct and Indirect Costs of Poor Data Quality

Imagine that your company runs an online ad for a product. But when your customer gets to your website, this product has actually been discontinued. And from thereon in, every time the customer surfs the web they are now constantly served with banner ads for this non-existent product.

This scenario really happens more often than you think. And it is a perfect example of marketing at its worst: spending your budget to lose customers, ruin your service reputation, and destroy your brand.

We often talk about data quality on this blog, but this time I would like to focus on the results of lack of data quality. In the case above, poor linkages between inventory data and marketing lead to a bad customer experience AND wasted marketing dollars. Much the same thing is true with our specialties of contact data and marketing leads: bad data leads to a wellspring of avoidable costs.

First there are tangible costs. Bad leads and incorrect customer addresses lead to specific, measurable outcomes. Wasting human effort. Throwing away precious marketing capital. Penalties for non-compliance with telephone and email contact laws. Re-shipment costs and inventory losses. According to one Harvard Business Review article, the real costs of poor data quality now exceed $3 trillion per year in the United States alone.

Then there is the part few people pay enough attention to: the indirect costs of poor data quality. In a recent piece for CustomerThink, data management expert Chirag Shivalker points to factors such as sales that never materialize, potential customers who turn away, and the subtle loss of repeat business. Whether it is a misdirected marketing piece, an unwanted pitch on someone’s cell phone, or a poor customer experience, some of the biggest consequences of poor data quality are never quantified – and, perhaps more importantly, never noticed.

Finally there is the fact that data, like your car, is a depreciating asset. Even the most skillfully crafted database will degrade over time. Contact information is particularly vulnerable to decay, with estimates showing that as much as 70% of it goes bad every year. A recent article from insideBIGDATA put the scope of this in very stark terms: each and every hour, over 500 business addresses, 800 phone numbers and 150 companies change – part of a growing ball of data that, per IDC, will swell to over 160 zettabytes (for the uninitiated, a zettabyte is one sextillion, or 10 to the 21st power, bytes). And the bill for validating and cleaning up this data can average $100-200K or more for the average organization. So an ongoing approach is needed to preserve the asset value of this data, as well as prevent the costs and negative consequences of simply letting it age.

A recent data brief from SiriusDecisions breaks down these costs of poor data quality into four key areas: hard costs, productivity costs, hidden costs, and opportunity costs. And it is not like these costs are exactly a surprise: according to Accenture, data inaccuracy and data inconsistency are the leading concerns of more than three-quarters of the executives they surveyed. Their solution? Better use of technology, combined with process improvements such as formal data governance efforts.

The people in our original example above probably had no idea what kind of lost business and negative brand image they were creating through poor data quality. And ironically, I would say let’s keep it that way. Why? Because it is a competitive advantage for people like you and me who pay attention to data quality – or better yet, build processes to automate it. If you are ready to get started, take a look at some of our solutions and let’s talk.

Service Objects Launches Newly Redesigned Website

Service Objects is excited to announce that we have launched a newly redesigned website, www.serviceobjects.com. The redesign effort was undertaken to enhance the user experience and features a new graphical feel, enhanced content and improved technical functionality. Visitors can now more quickly find information on how Service Objects’ contact validation solutions solve a variety of challenges in global address validation, phone validation, email validation, eCommerce and lead validation. Free trial keys for all 23 data quality services can also be readily accessed.

As part of the launch, Service Objects also made significant updates to its data quality and contact validation blog, which contains hundreds of posts on topics such as fraud protection, address validation and verification, data quality best practices, eCommerce, marketing automation, CRM integration and much more. New content is published weekly and visitors can subscribe to have new content and updates sent to them directly.

“The recent launch of DOTS Address Validation International and DOTS Lead Validation International has firmly established Service Objects as the leader in global intelligence,” said Geoff Grow, CEO and Founder, Service Objects. “We redesigned our website to more prominently communicate Service Objects’ expertise in the global intelligence marketplace and continue to reinforce what is most important to our customers: in-depth developer resources, guaranteed system availability, 24/7/365 customer support and bank grade security.”

New features also include three ways to connect with our services: API integration, Cloud Connectors or sending us a list.  We hope you will take a look at our new website and blog and send us your feedback at marketing@serviceobjects.com.

Bringing Dead Letters Back to Life

All right, we are finally going to admit it: there are some bad mailing addresses out there that even Service Objects can’t fix.

Of course, we’re talking about cases like illegible handwriting, physical damage, or the kid who addresses a Christmas letter to “Santa Claus, North Pole.” But even for them, there is hope – in the form of a nondescript building on the outskirts of Salt Lake City, Utah, known as the USPS Remote Encoding Center. Images of illegible mailing addresses are sent here online from all over the United States, in a last-ditch effort to get these pieces of mail where they are going.

Behind the walls of this beige, block-long building lies an optometrist’s dream: nearly 1700 employees working 24 hours a day, each scanning a new image every few seconds and matching it to addresses in the USPS database. (The same database we use to verify your contact address data, incidentally.) Most get linked to a verified address and are sent on their merry way; the truly illegible ones are forwarded to the USPS’s Dead Letter facility to be opened, and those letters to Santa get forwarded to a group of volunteers in Alaska to be answered.

According to the Smithsonian, there used to be more than 50 of these facilities all over the US. With time and improving automation, all of them have now been shuttered, with the exception of this lone center in Salt Lake City. To work there, you need to be fast, precise, and then go through more than a full week of training – and then you get put on one of 33 shifts, handling the roughly two percent of mail pieces that the Post Office’s computers cannot read automatically. That’s between five and eleven million pieces of mail per day on most days.

Of course, technology continues to improve, and USPS has become a world leader in optical character recognition for both handwritten and machine-addressed mailing pieces – even 98 percent of hand-addressed envelopes are processed by machine nowadays. In an interview with the New York Times, the center’s operations director acknowledges that computer processing could eventually put them out of business entirely. But for now, human intervention for illegible addresses hasn’t yet gone the way of the elevator operator.

Thankfully, your business correspondence probably isn’t hand-scrawled by your Aunt Mildred. And hopefully Santa Claus doesn’t show up very often in your prospect database (although fake names get entered for free marketing goodies more often than you think, and we can easily catch and fix these). So your chances of ending up on a computer screen in Salt Lake City are pretty slim – which means we can help you ensure clean contact data, and leverage this data for better marketing insight.

So for those of you who can’t spell, failed penmanship when you went to school, or have a habit of leaving your envelopes out too long in the rain, there is still hope. For the rest of you, there is Service Objects.

The Great Debate: When to Validate Your Contact Data

A famous beer commercial had people debating whether it tasted great or was less filling. A similar debate is brewing among data quality professionals: do you validate your contact data when you first add it to your marketing automation platform (MAP), or at the time you use it?

The answer to both debates is exactly the same: YES.

First, let’s look at the first argument. Validating contact data such as names, email and physical addresses and phone numbers before recording them to the MAP has several advantages up front:

Saving money.  Most of the platforms charge based on the number of contacts in your MAP.  By validating the lead ahead of time, you can avoid adding and paying for bad leads in your MAP.

Garbage in, garbage out. Putting dirty data into your marketing database skews whatever metrics or analyses you might do beyond marketing campaigns, including the all-important conversion rate. And catching bad contact information in real-time, lets you message the user at time of entry so they can correct it, preserving valuable leads and preventing possible customer service issues.

Detecting bogus names and fraudulent leads. What good is a database full of Donald Ducks and Ninja Turtles, who faked you out to get a free report? Tools such as name validation can programmatically catch and keep fraudulent contact information out of your MAP in the first place.

Avoiding penalties. Saving the wrong contact data can cost you – big time – if it violates regulations such as the TCPA and Do Not Call lists for phone numbers, or CAN-SPAM compliance and ‘spam traps’ for email addresses. Automated validation tools let you flag high risk contacts before you save them.

Finally, there is the broader question of lead quality. MAPs provide lead scoring based on how the user used the site, but may not protect you from fraudulent or bad data. Contact-level lead validation adds a quantitative value of lead quality, based on over 130 criteria, that lets you decide to fast-track a lead, put them in your drip campaign to see how they respond, or even discard the lead.

Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin. Validating lead data regularly, particularly at the time you use it, has several advantages as well.

Coping with change. Over 70% of contact data will go bad in the course of just a year. Lead validation tools can check your existing leads and then correct, update, or remove them based on the results. This saves you money by only keeping and paying for viable leads, allowing marketing to identify sources of high and low quality leads, and providing more accurate reporting.

Avoiding penalties, part 2. You logged a phone number in your MAP last year. You used it in a marketing campaign this year. What is the difference? Up to $14K in TCPA fines, if this number changed from being a landline to someone else’s cell number. Always validate phone numbers and email addresses before every campaign, to ensure TCPA, Do Not Call and CAN-SPAM compliance.

Taking care of your customers. By triggering emails or other contacts to customers who appear to have changed their addresses, using tools such as our national change-of-address (NCOA Live) capabilities, you provide better service and pro-actively avoid future service or delivery failures.

Making your IT department happy. Lead and contact validation tools are easily automated within most MAP systems – for example, Service Objects’ contact validation tools have webhooks and API interfaces you can use with platforms including Marketo, Eloqua, Hubspot, Pardot, Ontraport and others.

Incidentally, that beer company never did resolve the “tastes great/less filling” controversy. Likewise, we’re going to play both sides of this debate – because it is easy and inexpensive to validate your lead and contact data every time you enter or use it. With the right automation partner, data quality can simply become one less thing to worry about in your marketing efforts.