Accurate lists

4 Secrets to an Insanely Accurate Local Government List

You know your list could be better, a lot better.   Even if it’s “big”, you probably have no idea how many viable prospects are missing.

Worse, it’s almost certainly out-of-date. Which means your list is littered with bad names, bad emails, and bad phone numbers.

And as a local government marketer, you know that a poor (or even mediocre) list seriously hurts your marketing and sales results. Not to mention the time and money squandered chasing bad targets.

Your list should be AT LEAST 95% accurate at all times. If it is, stop reading. Otherwise, read on.

We’re experts in maintaining an insanely accurate (and comprehensive) list of local government officials. And in this blog post we’ll share our secrets.

Of course, we’d love for you to simply subscribe to Power Almanac. But you don’t have to. If you build a great list AND keep it up-to-date by putting these methods to use, you’ll be providing your marketing efforts with the great data “fuel” it needs.

Secret #1:   Source Contact Data from the Clerk’s Office

I’ve talked with hundreds of local government marketers, and for most their go-to source for updating contact data are local government websites.

WRONG ANSWER!

While “web-scraping” might seem fast and easy (it’s neither), more than 50% of the time you’ll end up with inaccurate or incomplete contact data.   (We know because we analyzed 520 local government websites for contact data; review the research here.) The punchline is that the contact details on these sites are often out-of-date, incomplete, or both.  Not to mention that 20% of local governments don’t have a website!

While professional organizations and conference organizers can be great resources in general, do not use them as your source for updating contact data, for a very simple reason:  maintaining accurate contact lists is not their priority.

To update your contact data, call the clerk’s office in each local government. That’s the 1st secret behind Power Almanac’s accuracy.  And you can do it too.

In local governments, the clerk’s office knows all. They certainly know who does what, and they will share that with you.  This approach is faster, easier, and, most importantly, more accurate than any other source of local government contact data.

Secret #2: Establish an Ongoing Weekly Process, Not a Project

Nobody enjoys keeping contact data up to date. (OK, other than yours truly and the Power Almanac team.) If you’re like most of the local government marketers I speak with, you put off working on this and hope that it’s enough that your sales team keeps your CRM updated (but you know it’s not, and they’re probably not). When you think about your list and its ever-degrading accuracy, you wince inside.

Then one day you wake-up determined to “clean the list!” You gather any staff you can – interns, junior salespeople, and/or offshore Upwork workers – and put them to work scraping local government websites and updating records. You’ve launched “big list cleaning project.”

Once again, VERY BAD IDEA!

While this may give you a temporary feeling of accomplishment, you’ll hate the results. The project takes longer than planned and you’re still left with too many bad records. And even if that’s not true, within a few months after the project is done the list will already be badly degraded.

Updating your local government contact list must be treated as an ongoing weekly process, not a periodic project. That’s the 2nd secret behind Power Almanac’s accuracy. And you can do it too.

Left untouched, we know from our experience that about 3% of your local government, senior-level contacts will “go bad” every month! In other words, for every 3 months that go by, nearly 10% of your contacts will require either full updating (new person in the job) or some “polishing” (e.g. same person, but with an updated phone number or email). That’s 36% annually!

That rate of decay can only be overcome with the steady drumbeat of ongoing, never-ending updating.

Because of our commitment to deliver 95% accuracy, we have PLANNED verification calls to every government every 3 months. Decide what level of accuracy you need to maintain, and plan your own process accordingly.

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Secret #3: Use Proactive Email Validation to Drive Rapid Updates

Even with an ongoing process to collect updated contact details from an accurate source (see Secrets #1 and #2 above), you’d like to know about changes when they happen, and not just when you call the clerk’s office. Using software to monitor local government websites is NOT the answer, because monitoring unreliable data sources won’t help you (see above about bad website data).

Use an email validation tool to validate your entire contact list at least every 2-4 weeks.  (We use ZeroBounce, but there are many alternatives.) It’s not enough to just look at bounces whenever you happen to send out an email blast to a portion of the list.

This is the 3rd secret behind Power Almanac’s accuracy. And you can do it too. (We do this weekly, but we’re a bit obsessive when it comes to accuracy.)

Why email validation?  Because local governments are reasonably good at keeping their emails up to date.  A “bad email” is often an indication that an official is no longer there.  Follow-up with calls to the clerk’s office to get the updated email addresses and new contacts.

Secret #4: Treat List Hygiene as a Research Job, and Train the Researcher(s) Well

Don’t ask a sales or marketing person to do this. They’ll hate it and do a bad job. And they might quit. Now you’ve lost a good employee and you still have bad contact data. And we don’t recommend using interns (who wants this internship!) or a temp contractor that you send email instructions to.

This is a research job. A job that needs to be done consistently and well, week in and week out. You’re depending on this person to know the different between a Head Clerk and the Clerk of the Court. You’re depending on this person to know if it’s possible for a “Finance Manager” to be the “head of IT” (it is), or to know if they should push for a “named” email when they’re given a generic “clerk@” email (they should).

Hire researcher(s) whose sole and ongoing job is to carefully update your list. Have a very small list? Then hire a part-time researcher. Have a really large list? Then hire multiple researchers (Power Almanac has a 16-person research team). And make sure that every researcher is trained on local governments, best practices for accurate data collection, and your data updating process and priorities. This is the 4th secret behind Power Almanac’s accuracy. And you can do it too.

Think of it another way. This research is necessary fuel for your company’s marketing and sales efforts. No matter how much you spend on list hygiene, it will be a small fraction of your total investment in sales and marketing investment. On the other hand, even a modest improvement in list accuracy can yield a very high ROI in terms of sales results.

Bonus Secret

You can skip all of this hard work by simply subscribing to Power Almanac.  Our process incorporates the 4 secrets above, plus other elements like tailored tools and technologies to help our researchers be more productive and more accurate, and a separate quality checking process to catch human errors and ensure consistency.

OK, this really isn’t a secret.   

And the truth is, while we’d LOVE to work with you, you really can do this on your own.  And implementing the 4 secrets we shared above will yield tremendous dividends for your marketing and sales efforts.

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