Transcript: That Bought Data Case Study Episode

Gemma Amond from Freeman Clark discusses why they use purchased data to drive their marketing, and shares key things to bear in mind when you’re buying data and starting to use it.

Listen to the full conversation here.

Why do you use purchased data? What benefits do you get out of it? And what reasons Do you have behind it? 

So, Freeman Clark are a quite unique service. We provide experienced boardlevel IT directors, CIOs, and CTOs. But our model is different in that it’s work on a parttime or fractional basis. So, because it’s so unique, people don’t often necessarily know what to search for, or wouldn’t ordinarily know that our service is available. So, we really do need to go out and be able to explain that offering to them. So, to do that, we purchase data, so we can spread the message and build awareness. 


Have you been purchasing data and using that as a method or a marketing tactic for previous roles? Or has it mainly been at Freeman Clark? 

It’s mainly been at Freeman Clark. When I joined the business four and a half years ago, our main marketing activity was just outbound email marketing, where we were buying very small lists on a monthly basis. Our model has changed now, and we’ve become a lot more targeted in the way that we do that. And so working with data houses, you have the ability now to be more focused and targeted on the people, industries, revenue, turnover that you’re homing in on so that you can best present your offering to people that it’s most suitable for.  


When you’re doing your email programmes, what’s your end goal of it? Are you working on getting leads for your Sales Team or is the goal just to get in contact with those professionals to try and get them placed into different companies?  

Yes, absolutely. We’re selling a service which is quite an investment. So, a lot of it is about educating the recipient of our emails about exactly who we are, what we do and that and that takes time. So, we’re having an ongoing communication with people that we’ve bought this data for. First of all, it’s about building awareness of the Freeman Clark brand, and then by adding value. We always provide content and useful information in terms of the benefits that we can provide and our experience, but a lot of the content that we’re writing is specifically for chief execs of mid-market businesses. So, often they might not need our service there and then. So, we need to be able to have an ongoing communication. As I said, it could be three months, six months, could even be a year where we’re seeing people are engaging with our information, they’re learning more about us, we’re building our credibility. And were able to build trust with who we’re talking to. And at the point that they realise they might need our service is when typically, they would respond. So, you have to be in it for the long game really. I don’t expect to buy data, and then to suddenly have a response the following week after I’ve spoken to them once. It’s very much about building a communication plan with that data. So that you can deliver value and you can make sure that they’re well informed about the benefits that you can provide. 


Once you’ve got hold of that data, how do you go about managing it? One of the things that comes up when we talk to people about it is fear or bad experience of duplicates popping up. How do you manage that and make sure that’s not a problem for you? 

We’ve certainly had our measure of issues and frustrations. We’ve now got a very rich database as a result of acquiring data in a number of different ways, it’s not just purchased data. I think when you’re dealing with purchased data it’s often more complicated than you think. And it does take a lot more time, you need to be really clear on what your objectives are and what you’re trying to get out of that data. And so, you also need to fully understand your own database. It’s often the case that the way you have your data structured in your database is that you’ve got small pockets of different types of people in there, whether it’s networks or partners that you work with, that you might not necessarily market to, but they could they could potentially look like a perfect profile from a job type perspective. Or indeed, you might have your suspects or prospects that your sales team are already talking to.  

So, in order to limit the incidence of duplicates, you need to make sure that all of those different pots of people are presented to your data house so they can run a dedupe against them. So, you’re not then purchasing back the data that already exists. It is just about reducing the time-wasting exercise that’s taken place, on both the data houses side and on your side, and as I said, it’s, it’s been very complicated at times. But I think now we’ve got a very clear process that we undertake before we engage with a data house.  

And my second piece is there is that you need to be really careful that you’re being GDPR compliant, you are holding potentially sensitive data. And so if you’re going to share the data that’s in your database with a supplier, then you need to make sure there’s a contract in place between yourselves and the data house to make sure that once the dedupe has been run, that data that you shared has indeed been deleted. You have an obligation and a duty to make sure that’s all carefully managed. 


Yeah, if you’re just going to share a list of yours, you definitely want to make sure that you’ve got some kind of NDA or agreement as you’re saying with the with the data. When you talk about a legal thing there, I assume when you purchase data, you’re processing under Legitimate Interest to email rather than Consent? 

That’s correct. Yes, Legitimate Interest indeed. So obviously, we do also acquire data from people visiting our website and opting in to receive our fortnightly newsletters, for example. All purchased data that we do go out and get is based on Legitimate Interest. So, we are very clear about the target market that would be able to benefit from our businesses, we don’t go beyond that. 


And with those different data pots that you mentioned, do you send different campaigns to purchased data compared to your subscribers? Do you have a method or a campaign structure that says it’s going to go down this funnel compared to data from an event that’s going to go down this funnel? 

No, not in terms of comparing purchased data to data we’ve acquired elsewhere. Once it comes into the database, it’s essentially one pot. What we will do then is we will segment it based on a record’s level of engagement. So that engagement might look like high levels of activity on our website, for example, or people requesting further information on a specific subject matter. So, based on someone’s activity, we’re able to create specific nurture campaigns to acknowledge what they’ve been doing or what they’ve been engaging with to further add value that’s timely and relevant. 


Because you’re purchasing data, you’re already buying that data under a set criteria. We use the term personas. So, no matter where you get it from, somebody subscribing, meeting, an event or data purchase, you’ve already got comms based around either a job title or function or an industry. 

Correct, yes. We would always look to try and communicate with the chief exec of an organisation. So, our content is specifically very business focused and written at a strategic level, as opposed to very technical. So, we’re not writing for the tech teams, we’re writing for the chief exec, to be able to demonstrate how having one of our guys on their leadership team can deliver business benefits and growth through aligning a technology strategy with a business strategy. So yes, one of our criteria would be job description or job title. 


We said that Freeman Clark’s business model is quite different from anyone else who’s out there. With that in mind, what kind of experience have you had with a specific provider? Is there any that you found either particularly good or particularly bad that you can steer people either towards or away from? 

You know what, it really does vary. I think you do sweep the net far and wide to start with because initially, it’s about building your database. You want to try and get as many suitable and relevant contacts for you to be able to communicate withbuthen you do start to get a feel. One source might have particularly high bounce rates, for example, or indeed, just the engagement of working with that particular data provider could be more challenging. General poor customer service can obviously be a huge turnoff if you’re trying to get a job done. And it just seems like you’re pedalling uphill. So obviously, bounce rate, ease of ease of working with that supplier is always a big factor.  

So, we do have now two or three preferred suppliers, and we’ve worked with you guys as well, which has always been incredibly timely, and the data has been great. It’s something you never stop doing. So, we’re buying data two or three times a year and when you’re buying the data, you’re then looking to cleanse existing hard bounces or people that have said they’ve left the company. It really is quite a complex process, finding the right supplier that can work with you and understand your needs. So, if you get to a stage where you’ve got one or two preferred suppliers, then you’re in a good space. 


It’s always nice for you to name drop us there, Gemma, thank you very much! What do you expect when you buy data? Because the industry says that 20% of data when you buy it is rubbish straightaway. So, you have different expectations from when you buy data to getting inbound traffic? Do you measure that data slightly differently at all when you come to reporting on it? 

No, it’s a really interesting point. We haven’t got as granular as to measuring the different types of responses by data source. So, from inbound versus outbound, but from a data supply perspective, as I said before, you start to get a feel of what’s acceptable. And I think the more you work with data and the more experience you have, you have your own perception of what you think is acceptable or good.  

In terms of that initial hard bounce rate, I would always build it into my negotiations that I would expect to be credited for any of them that have been hard bounced. I’ve literally just bought that data, I expect it to at least land where it’s meant to land. So, I think that’s something that I would always stress to do is to build it into negotiations when you’re buying data. But, to my previous point, you have to be in for the long game. You have to remember that, depending on what you’re selling, whether it’s a service or a product, it’s about building brand awareness. And if somebody’s not heard from you ever before, then you can’t necessarily expect that data to convert just like that. It’s about building credibility, adding value, and gaining trust. So, it’s often the case that we see people engage with our communications for months and even years, but then one day, they’ll hit reply and say, I want a conversation.  


You mentioned building trust and credibility, do you send any particular things to new data to try and build that credibility? One thing that do is have a look at Google [Analytics] and see what our top performing blogs are. And we’ll try and send that to our personas, for example. Have you got any tips that you might send something, in particular to get people to engage, or that puts you on a good foot with that data set? 

Yeah, that’s an interesting point. When we were running our cyclical 90-day campaigns, we would typically introduce ourselves. I’ve come around to the way of thinking that most people’s inboxes are swamped from one day to the next. And, the chances of them remembering you so vividly from your previous communication, if they haven’t engaged with you at that point [are very slim]. I don’t necessarily think you have to go back to the beginning of explaining exactly who you are, it’s just I’m acknowledging that you’re a chief exec, I’m acknowledging that you’re this type of organisation. And I think that the information I’m presenting to you in my email is going to be of interest and relevant to you.  

So to your point, Simon, picking your top performing content, and adding that into your communication, I think is much more powerful than just simply bleating on about who you are and what you do, because it’s just, it just ends up ends up being you’re talking about me, me, me, me, me, and not really addressing that the person you’re trying to communicate with. 


Yeah, I think that’s very valid whatever data it is, whether it’s purchased or subscribers, sending them relevant, useful content, and trying to get them in engaged with that. Because the other thing that you mentioned, which is really useful is that as you’re saying, you are fighting to get that attention in the inbox. So, would you recommend not just sending one email, and don’t get disheartened if you don’t reply to that very first email? 

You can’t get upset, you have to grow thick skin.. And a lot of our campaigns will be multipart campaigns. So we would send a fortnightly newsletter, which is a one off, but again, it is either themebased or is touching on something that’s topical in the news. But then all of our other tactical campaigns would typically be two or threepart. We’ve just run a very comprehensive sectorspecific nurture campaign which had eight different elements to it of varying formats, which was great. And I think people are busy, so where your email might have landed, and they might have just opened it and not really scanned it, by the time the afternoon’s come, it’s vanished. So, you’ve then got another bite of the cherry by sending something else the next week, as long as people aren’t unsubscribing from your communications. I think it’s been sitting in two camps either not landing in their inbox, or they don’t mind receiving your information because it is of interest and it’s relevant, it’s just not timely right now. So, to your point, absolutely send 1, 2, 3 just don’t be irritating with it and always be adding value. 


How do you choose the topic for that initial email? First with organic traffic, the content your website, you’ve already got a snapshot of what they’re interested in. But bought data, you don’t have that. How do you go about choosing that content? 

I think the majority of the time, it’s working very closely with our sales team to understand the types of issues that they are faced with when they go into a sales meeting. So taking your understanding and experience from why people have engaged with you in the first place, when we have a sales meeting and say, right, well, majority of the time, it’s because they’ve got a problem, a real problem right now. And it’s typically one of these five things. So right let’s talk about what those five things look like in our in our outbound email communications. And if you could be more specific to a certain sector, all the better, but it’s about I think, for us demonstrating that we’re problem solvers, whether that’s, , I don’t have a technical strategy or whether it’s because My back end systems don’t talk to each other, or whether it’s because I need some I.T. leadership in my business, whatever it is, I think it’s making sure that you’re talking to the guys on the front line and bringing those conversations into your comms. 


You mentioned the dreaded “S” word there, Gemma, the sales team. Do you get the sales team involved with cold calling of that data, any postal campaigns at all? Do you do an omnichannel approach when you’ve got data sets? 

It’s mainly email. We don’t tend to do any telemarketing or follow up with phone calls. Often if we’ve got an indication that someone has been engaging with a specific campaign or contentthrough looking at our web analytics, then it may be appropriate to forward that information onto the sales team and say that “You’ve got five different businesses here, this gentleman or this lady has engaged with all of the content, it might be a good opportunity for you to connect with them on LinkedIn, reach out to them, and see if there’s anything else we can help with. 

But in actual fact, we’ve got other backend campaigns, which are automated, that also do that for us, trigger-based campaigns. So, we can capture those that way as well, in terms of using the purchased data for direct mail pieces. We’ve gone back round the houses and done a few traditional direct mail campaigns nestled in with some outbound emailing as well. With, to be honest with you, not huge amounts of success. It’s suggesting that the time that we reach out to them and send them that postcard or that letter is the time that they need us and quite often, it’s not. So, for us, it’s much more about talking to them regularly, which we can do so with our newsletters on a fortnightly basis and keeping our brand front of mind as and when they need us. And as I said, as long as they’re not unsubscribing from our communications, we can make the assumption that they’re happy to receive our comms because they’re helpful. 


We’ve tried some postal campaigns, which I think might be good for subscribers listening on the podcast to let them know. So, you mentioned that you didn’t have great success with postal ones, and we’ve been trying some where we will post out a letter saying that If you have a meeting with us, we’ll bring a free iPad. We’ll bring an iPad with us.  

Interesting point there just on that, I suppose it’s got to be something that’s relevant that the actual topic now I don’t necessarily be suitable to send to the chief exec of a 50millionpound business. It’s finding that right finding that right something, isn’t it? That’s going to be a value to them.


It’s always good trying to find out which content or which offers peak individual persona interests. And from a postal point of view that’s worked well for us from an email point of view. When we buy data, and we send campaigns we’ve got a lovely term for it, which is that we try to send an injection of love. What we mean by that is a bit what you’re talking about is we try to send campaigns that are relevant and useful to the individual so as a marketer, we might send you the top performing subject lines we found this week, for example, and then two days down the line, we might send you a guide on how to do split testing. So, we’ve got a process in place that when we have what we call net new contacts, they’ll go through a two-week series of emails, you mentioned nurture programmes earlier. But it’s that same scenario of, you’ve now got a piece of data, whether someone’s form filled or you’ve purchased it, you want to make sure you do something to it and try and get the most out of it. 

Simon, I was just going to ask you on your previous point, when you’re looking to communicate with somebody for the very first time, if, say it’s purchased data, you do you test your Call TActions? So, if it’s, as you say, adding value by sending an introductory piece of content, is it very much just “Here’s the content, consume it, thank you very much. Lovely to meet you”? Or do you always from the first communication present them with a very strong compelling Call TAction? 


That’s a very valid point. So, we make sure we never use anything like “Click Here, or “Download Here. We always make sure when we talk about that compelling Call TAction, it’ll be, “Get your top five subject lines, or download this brochure to help you get more leads. But I like to think that we always try to have a compelling Call TAction, or at least one that isn’t innocuous like Click Here. We go down that road of the BuzzFeed of, “Get your top five subject lines or “See how AI can help you get better Click Through Rates, those kind of compelling Call TActions, or at least topical Call TActions, if that makes sense.  

But the other thing we also do is the content we send out is Outlook style. So, it looks like somebody has sent you that email rather than a marketing email because you can spot those from a mile away. And in that email or that injection of love series, we will have a structure or play around. That first email that we send might be saying, Yeah, Hi, Gemma, here’s a great blog on [x]. And then if we see you engaging with it, we might try and drop you down to send you a case study. We’re trying to let you dictate what it is you receive, when you engage.  

If you don’t engage, we’re going to do a drip campaign to you which is we’re going to try and send you something you might think is useful. And it will all culminate in the email that goes out which is an email from a salesperson “We’re in your area this week, we’d love to have a meeting with you. Because our sales director is always in everybody’s area. 

He’s got a very fast card, and he’s in it a lot. 


You get an idea of the process. We’re trying to send you useful content but that doesn’t always 100% of the time work. As you’re saying, you’re fighting against an inbox that has, I think the stat out there is 120 emails a day a B2Bmarketer gets. So, you’re fighting for the attention anyway. And you might not always get there. So sometimes we’ll try and change it up by testing the content, mostly we’ll change by just testing the subject line, you wouldn’t believe how useful an email goes out without an actual subject line in it, it gets people to respond. But as long as you’ve got, like you said earlier, you need to have a thick skin because people will reply back and say “You just sent me an email without a subject line. But for me, that’s brilliant, because then I can be like, Oh, thank you for letting me know. Hopefully, that document we sent you was really useful. And it can start a conversation.

You’ve got Seth Godin who talks about a Purple Cow, talking about being remarkable. And basically, he just means you need to stand out. And that’s what we try to do in some of the emails. Before somebody even reads the content, trying to get them to open it can be a task in itself. As you were saying, you’ve got to have a thick skin, but you’ve also got to have more than one bite at the cherry, especially in the purchased data realm. You know that they’re not expecting any emails from you and you’re going to break into their inbox. 

You have to be really careful. About the way you do that, as you saidyou have to be non-intrusive, helpful, engaging, make it all about them and not you when you’re first trying to, not necessarily start a relationship, but when you’re just at least trying to gain access and acceptance into their inbox. I think people become quite guarded and precious about their inbox because, as you said, we get so much day in, day out. And it’s very easy to hit unsubscribe or delete, you’ve got to stand out from the crowd. 


So, are you passing leads on to your sales team within Dynamics, or do you do the old triedandtested “Here’s a spreadsheet and follow them up that way? 

Because we’re, we’re selling a high value service, we’re not getting 5, 10 leads coming through every day. So, they’re each handled very personally. So, if somebody responds positively to a marketing communication, we would forward that on to the R.D [Regional Director]. And, it shows them the email string, what they have received from marketing, their response, and then we would qualify those in Dynamics on behalf of the R.D. and hand it over to them. That sits with them to manage in the CRM system. And obviously, the way it’s qualified means that it’s no longer up to be pulled into any other marketing communications for that period, or certainly sales messages for that period. It’s a process. And sometimes things fall through the gaps. But on the whole, because we’re not getting hundreds of leads every day, it’s just managed quite simply, 


It’s useful to see that purchased data actually generates you use some leads and leads for the sales team. 

So for us at Freeman Clark, there’s no doubt that purchased data has a place for us, as I said at the beginning, because we provide such a unique service. There’s an awful lot of our market that just simply wouldn’t know we exist and what we do. So, it’s imperative that we have the opportunity to be able to tell people what it is. So, we’ve got people coming into the website and signing up to our business insights. acquiring data in a very engaged manner, then that is gold dust for us, but 100% to be able to buy data where we can reach out to our target market and communicate our offering is absolutely part of our strategy. 


When you purchase data from data brokers, do you buy data on unlimited usage? Or do you buy on a 12-month usage? I know some providers give you update files, or there are some providers that allow you to just purchase data and then it’s yours. How do you go about finding that data that you want? 

We’ve been finding our feet with that as GDPR kicked in. I’d say that we’ve bought some data which has been unlimited and [some which] has had a 12-month license on it. One thing I will say again, it just depends what the cost variance is, is that if you do buy a 12month license, what I have been doing is then saying “Right, well let’s look at what you think I owe you for another 12 months. I’m going look at the data you’re about to recharge me for it and see whether or not it’s actually been engaging in any of our content. And if it hasn’t even opened, clicked, then often I’ll say, “Let’s leave those guys for now. And only just relicense those that have actually engaged with the communications we’ve been sending.“ And I mean, to be honest with you, it’s pennies, I don’t think there’s a huge amount in it. But then when your database is still growing, and you’ve got 50,000 plus people in it, then the numbers do start to stack up. 


Yeah, it makes a difference, I guess then, a tip for when you’re doing that is making sure that you tag that data when you load it into your CRM or into your ESP. Just so you can actually find it after the 12 months is up to delete it. 

Yeah, absolutely. So any data that we import into our CRM system would have a data source flag in it which would have the actual name of the broker as you say, or and the date that it was imported as well. 


Do you do anything around changing your domains that you use to sending to purchased data, or any methods to make sure that you don’t get caught out with any honey trap or any bad data? Because if you take the 12month license scenario, they can come back and knock on your door for more money, if you’re using the data outside of the agreement. Do you manage that in any way? From a deliverability point of view? 

No, to be honest with you not as a result of buying new purchased data. We have in the past, changed our domain name for the question around deliverability, but not as a direct action from buying purchased data. because I mean, we’be doing it two, three times a year if that was the case. And it’s just not something that we’ve looked into that much detail, to be honest with you. 


One useful thing that I think our listeners would like to know is do you have a criteria in place that enables you to confidently process and target the data that you buy under Legitimate Interest? 

Yes, absolutely. This is something we took very, very seriously and continue to do so now. So in order to meet that criteria, we ensure that we are targeting chief executives or decision makers of businesses, which firmly sit in a revenue bracket of ambitious growing businesses that would afford and would benefit from our services. So that’s businesses that sit within 5- to 7-million-pound turnover up to 100-million-pound turnover. We work across a number of different sectors. So, it’s not necessarily about the sectors but it’s certainly about the revenue, the regions that we’re able to service and the actual decision maker in the business as well. 

And on top of that, I think it’s really important whenever you’re handling data, whether it’s purchased or acquired elsewhere, that you’ve got a really prompt and reactive response to people that no longer want to hear from you. You may have to be respectful. And we’re always incredibly apologetic, if we feel like we might have offended somebody, I’d just like to say we’ve got an incredibly low Unsubscribe rate and we very, very rarely get responses where people have been really miffed by us contacting them, but even so we have a very strict process. We have a separate email address that we forward that on to make sure that it is managed the person is deleted accurately in both our marketing automation platform and our CRM system. And just the bare basics of their details still have to remain in order that you don’t rebuy that data again. And we make that very clear. So, it’s stripping out any personal information about them, but we just have to maintain an email address 

Gemma, thank you. Thank you very much again for being on the podcast. 

My pleasure. Thank you very much for inviting me.  

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