Modern marketers know that data is the key to increasing efficiency and return on investment for outreach campaigns. However, they also know that collecting data organically— asking interested consumers to provide their information to your organization, such as through an email newsletter sign-up form, and building your data assets incrementally— is a long, taxing process. And, it’s not going to provide information about the prospective customers that you don’t yet know about, and therefore don’t know to ask for information from!
So, what do you do when you want to drastically elevate your team’s marketing strategy, but don’t have access to the data assets to do so? You invest in data append services.
We’re going to take a deep dive into data append through the following points:
- Overview of Data Append
- Understanding Data Append Services
- Top Tips for Improving Your Marketing Strategy with Data Append
Then, we’ll wrap up with a quick overview of AccuData’s data append services and let you know where you can learn more. Let’s dive in!
Overview of Data Append
What does the word append mean?
“Append” refers to the process of adding something as an attachment or supplement to another thing. As a marketing professional, a few examples of appending that you may have encountered in day-to-day life are:
- Emailing out marketing communications and appending a flyer to the message, elaborating on the topics included in the email.
- Creating an agenda for a meeting with a client and appending (linking) any deliverables to the document.
When you append information, you supplement the information already available to give the person or team using that information a better understanding of the topic at hand. This improved understanding allows you to improve your marketing efforts— whether it’s giving customers a more comprehensive view of your product or service or giving your internal team a stronger understanding of your target audience for more precise outreach.
In this guide, we’re going to focus on one specific type of append— data append. Data appends enhance your team’s data resources to improve your marketing efforts in a myriad of ways, so let’s dive into them further.
What is data append?
“Data Append” describes the process of supplementing the information within a brand’s internal database with additional data from external sources.
There are a few reasons why a business may choose to append external data to their existing records:
- To fill gaps in the information, such as missing contact information like email addresses or phone numbers. Let’s say you ask customers to fill out a survey and they’re required to provide one form of contact— phone or email. But, you want to have both forms for future outreach. You can append the missing contact information to ensure you have a complete record for each customer.
- To discover information about a new audience segment, with the goal of more precisely targeting that segment. For example, imagine you represent a restaurant that has previously focused on hyperlocal outreach for its one flagship location. Now, the restaurant is opening three new locations in different states. You can append data about lookalike audiences that resemble the flagship location’s audience in these new locations for targeted outreach before the new openings.
- To conduct new forms of outreach, by appending contact information you haven’t prioritized in the past. Let’s say you’ve focused principally on direct mail marketing in the past, but are interested in expanding your efforts to digital channels. You can append information about your current audience, such as email addresses and social media handles, to target this audience through digital means.
- To add specificity to your current marketing efforts by narrowing down your target audience. For example, imagine you’re marketing a moving truck business. In the past, you’ve marketed to all homeowners with little return on investment. This could be because your audience is too broad— not all homeowners are planning to move anytime soon. You’d want to append data about prospects that are planning to move or currently doing so to improve your ROI.
Data append can be as straightforward as filling in gaps in your audience records or as complex as building out a unique audience for more precise targeting. The process involves working with a data provider that can provide your team with access to leading external data sources, such as AccuData Integrated Marketing. These large datasets are then used to strategically supplement your company (or your client’s) internal records.
Let’s examine this process further.
Understanding Data Append Services
What is the process of appending data?
Before we dive into the steps involved with appending data, it’s important to remember that data appends are just one step in the process of creating a comprehensive marketing strategy— and, they’re rarely the first step in that process. Strategizing around what data will need to be appended and how that data will be used in your marketing efforts occurs outside of the data append process. Appending data is the task you complete to gain the assets needed to carry out your overall strategy.
With that in mind, here are the basic steps of a data append:
- Your existing data assets are uploaded to the data append service you’re using.
- These records are matched with parallel entries in an external database that the append service accesses.
- You choose which data attributes you’d like to append, such as contact information, demographic information, etc.
- Your chosen attributes are pulled from the external database and appended to your records, creating a more complete picture of each record.
The process of appending data can vary slightly depending on the information that’s needed to supplement your specific marketing efforts. A great example of this is the difference between batch append and real-time append, each of which shines in a different marketing scenario.
Batch append describes the process of appending data to your or your client’s database in batches. It most closely resembles the process described in the previous section, in that the data is appended in one fell swoop to give the marketing team a comprehensive picture of its audience.
Consider the following example:
Let’s say you’re creating a direct marketing campaign for a regional pet care business. During checkout, patrons are invited to provide either their email address or phone number to register for the business’s rewards program. Through this, you’ve secured one of each form of contact for all rewards members— phone number or email address— but not both.
You want to conduct a loyalty email campaign specifically targeting rewards members, but you don’t have access to the email addresses for all of these patrons. In this instance, you’d conduct a batch append to add the email addresses corresponding to all existing rewards members that are missing that information. You may also consider appending demographic or lifestyle information to your records, such as age, gender, marital status, presence of children in the home, and even hobbies so that you can improve your communications to these members and segment your offers for greater success.
In contrast to batch append, real-time append is an ongoing process. With real-time append, data (contact information and demographic attributes) is appended to your records in real-time, building off of a single name, phone number, or postal address.
Real-time append uses the following process:
- A customer visits your, or your client’s, location or website and provides identifying information (such as their name or contact information).
- Through the use of an API, the database and the data provider’s system are able to transmit information almost instantaneously.
- The predefined data attributes that you’ve chosen to append are added to that contact record in your database.
- Using this information, you’re able to offer personalized recommendations to that customer in real time.
To illustrate this further, consider the following example:
Let’s say you’re working with a retirement community that offers resort-style senior living across multiple states.
Consumers inquire about living in the community via its website. As they do, real-time append adds a predefined set of demographic data (age, home market value, income, marital status, net worth, occupation, religion) to the information that’s submitted through the contact form. The retirement community can then use this demographic information to create a buyer profile and make appropriate property recommendations to the unique consumer who submitted the form.
To learn more about this process, explore our real-time append product sheet.
What types of data can be appended to your records?
Now that we’ve discussed the process of appending data, let’s explore the types of data that can be appended to your records.
The data you append depends on your marketing goals— so, for each data type, we’ll discuss a case in which that type of data can be a useful addition to a company’s records.
Demographic data gives insight into who the members of your audience are as individuals. This includes information such as:
- Marital Status
- Level of Education
- Presence of Children in Home
- Lifestyle Attributes (Hobbies/Interests, Student Status, Occupation)
- Buying Behaviors (Online Product Purchases, New Movers, Online Gift Registries, Ailment Related Buyers, “As Seen On TV” Product Buyers)
This information is ideal for making precise product or service recommendations to the consumers most likely to be interested in them. Let’s say, for example, you’re representing a new K-12 tutoring center that’s opening in your location. You’ve accessed a list of all households within a 15-mile radius of your location, but don’t want to waste marketing dollars sending flyers to homes without children.
You could append data regarding the presence of children in the home to your database to narrow down your outreach to only those homes that might be interested in using your tutoring services. In this scenario, demographic data helps you find the ideal audience for your marketing efforts. However, demographic data can also help you personalize your outreach to your audience, like in the real-time append use case we discussed earlier in this piece.
Appending phone number-related data to your database is most often used to fill in gaps in your records. This comes in two forms:
- Phone Append: This is the process of using directory data to append phone numbers to incomplete customer records.
- Reverse Phone Append: This is the process of appending missing information, such as the customer’s name and email address, to a record that contains only the phone number.
For example, perhaps you’re working with a university that is increasing its data hygiene procedures, starting with an initial, extensive clean-up of its alumni database. During the process, the marketing team discovers that one of the biggest discrepancies is incomplete contact information— specifically, alumni records that are missing phone numbers. Because phone communications are a main source of alumni donations, this missing information can drastically impact the university’s fundraising efforts.
With phone append services, the university would simply upload its alumni records and have those records matched against an external database. Through a batch append, the missing phone numbers would be added to their alumni records, allowing the university to resume fundraising with ease.
Similar to phone data, email data is appended to your database in the case of missing or incomplete information. However, with email data, emphasis is placed on appending recent, active email addresses that have already been verified using an opt-in permission email to decrease bounce-backs after an email is sent.
Email-related data can be appended to your database in two ways:
- Email Append: This is the process of appending email addresses to customer records that have incomplete contact information.
- Reverse Email Append: For records that contain an email address but little other information about the customer, the email address is used to discover additional information such as the individual’s name and phone number.
For example, imagine you’re working with a nonprofit organization that relies on direct marketing— both direct mail and direct email— to raise awareness about upcoming fundraising opportunities. Their weekly newsletter has been incredibly helpful, and supporters who visit their website regularly fill out the form to sign up to receive the recurring communication. However, the pop-up form only asks for one piece of information: the supporters’ email address.
Because of this, the nonprofit now has many email addresses without any other identifiers (such as name, phone number, or address). With reverse email append, the organization can have these email addresses matched with other identifying information such as the supporter’s name. With this information, the nonprofit can personalize its outreach to email readers and connect in new ways, such as direct mail.
For agencies or brands that aren’t targeting individual consumers but instead conducting business-to-business marketing, appending firmographic data is the way to go. With firmographic data append, you can supplement your records with the following information about businesses in your target market:
- NAICS Code
- Internal Structure
- Annual Revenue
- Market Segment
- Phone Number(s)
- Website Address
- Email Addresses
- Key Contacts
For example, imagine your brand specializes in a new type of office paper that is made from recycled materials in a fully “green” process. You’re looking to expand your target market for paper sales— for example, mid-sized to large companies versus the small, single-location firms you’ve sold to in the past.
With firmographic data, you can discover the size of your new prospective firms, the industries they represent, the best way to contact them, and who the decision-makers are when it comes to making new internal purchases.
Last in our discussion but certainly not least, you can append geographic data. Appending latitude and longitude coordinates to records in your database empowers you with enhanced geo-targeting and personalization capabilities.
For example, consider a scenario in which you’re representing a restaurant franchise. The franchise has experienced great success at its first three locations, but they’re looking to expand even further in new cities across their state.
By appending geographic data, you could add the addresses of homes within a 10-mile radius of the new locations into the franchise’s database. Then, the franchise can send advertisements to those homes to increase attendance at their opening.
Top Tips for Improving Your Marketing Strategy with Data Append
Establish clear data hygiene procedures to prevent a disorganized database.
Data append involves adding new information to your database. So, if your existing records are disorganized, discordant, and challenging to parse, appending data will just add to the problem.
Disorganized, non-standard data doesn’t provide valuable information for analysis— in fact, you’ll spend more time trying to navigate the database and your business could lose money because of it. This is why before adding any new information to your database, we recommend revitalizing your data hygiene processes.
Begin by conducting a comprehensive audit of your database and an initial clean-up to discover which portions of your database are most disorganized and alleviate those issues. After that, create ongoing processes for data hygiene, with steps like:
- Creating standardized rules for data entry, from phone numbers and email addresses to titles and names.
- Outlining a process for handling errors, from whether staff members will be authorized to make updates to how those updates (such as deleting duplicate entries or fixing incorrect, nonstandard entries) will be handled.
- Preventing data build-up going forward, such as by only collecting necessary, useful information from customers and clients in the future.
Once you have a clean database and procedures in place for maintaining that going forward, you can invest in data append with the confidence that this information will be accessible after it’s added to your records.
Clearly define your marketing goals and objectives before appending data.
As you’ve seen, there is a wide variety of data that can be appended to your records. At the same time, it’s not a great strategy to add as much information as is available, because it will clog your records and cost more than is necessary.
Before investing in data append, we recommend clearly outlining the marketing goals you’re trying to achieve with the newly added data. For example:
- If you already have a strong understanding of your target audience, but simply don’t have the information to contact them, you’d want to invest in phone or email data but not demographic data.
- If you’re looking to obtain a greater understanding of who you’re targeting and narrow your audience, you’d want to access demographic, geographic, or firmographic data to do so.
- If you’re relying on direct mail marketing, it wouldn’t make sense to invest in email data.
The idea here is that you only want to invest in information that will directly improve your data-driven marketing efforts. Rather than purchasing a plethora of records and then seeing how that information can factor into your strategy, create your marketing strategy first and then purchase the records that will allow you to carry it out.
Work with a reputable data provider when appending data.
Lastly, you’ll want to work with a trusted, reputable data append provider for this process. There are many data append service providers on the market, but if you’re not working with the right provider, you may end up with inaccurate, non-verified information added to your database.
The marketing analytics company that you partner with should abide by any existing regulations relating to the data you’re appending. For example, email address data can be regulated by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 in the U.S., the GDPR in the E.U., and the Canada Anti-Spam Law. Any data added to your records must be collected and verified in accordance with these regulations to protect your marketing strategy from legal repercussions.
Beyond protecting your team from legal repercussions, prioritizing accuracy and verification ensures you’re not investing in data that won’t be useful for your strategy. For example, say you invest in phone data and half of the records represent phone numbers that are no longer in use. Working with a reputable company ensures that all of the data added to your database can be used effectively in your strategy.
Learn More About AccuData’s Data Append Services
AccuData Integrated Marketing has been in the data-driven marketing business for 30+ years, first entering the field with direct mail marketing and now specializing in marketing data and analytics, email marketing, digital marketing, and— you guessed it— data append.
AccuData provides a full range of data and enhancement services, whether you’re seeking a batch append to fill in gaps in your database or marketing lists to guide your outreach efforts. With AccuData’s data enhancement solutions, brands, agencies, and data resellers can access all of the data discussed in this guide and more.
To learn more about our data enhancement solutions, contact the AccuData team today. In the meantime, explore the following additional resources:
- Database Marketing Services: The Full Guide [with Examples]. In this guide, explore database marketing services and case studies showing how these services can elevate your strategy.
- Data Hygiene: An Introduction to Processing Your Data. It’s crucial that your database is clean before you append any information to it. Explore this guide to data hygiene to bring your database to tip-top shape.
- Data Marketing: 4 Elements of a Successful Strategy. Are you new to the idea of using data in your marketing strategy? Explore this guide to learn the four essential elements of a data marketing strategy.