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Data Hygiene Key to Local Government Email Database’s 97% Accuracy

Spppppssst. Wanna buy a local government email list?

Buying a prospect email list can feel a lot like buying a Rolex watch for $50, in a dark alley, from a guy named Spider. If it seems too good to be true it probably is. And we get it. You’re struggling to find local government contact data. And this guy is offering 2,500 records, from the latest industry conference, for a few hundred bucks.

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You’re taking your chances with most contact list sellers. Instead, look for a Sales and Marketing Intelligence provider.

You’re under pressure to deliver first quarter leads so you go for it and buy his list. You send your campaign, and the results are terrible. 60% of the email addresses bounce, most aren’t decision makers, and your emails are getting tagged as spam at an alarming rate. You swear that you’ll never buy another list again.

Sales and Marketing Intelligence Provider vs. Contact List Sellers

Contact list sellers glom together their data by scraping the web and filling in the blanks with guesses made based on known data points. The resulting data is incomplete, low quality, and a snapshot in time.

Power Almanac on the other hand is a sales and marketing intelligence provider. We gather local gov decision-maker data by calling 21,474 local governments every 90 days (yes, by telephone) and asking who is responsible for select functions. And, if that data changes, we let you know. The key to complete and accurate data is having rigorous processes that emphasize data hygiene. That’s why Power Almanac’s local government contact data is complete, high quality, and forever fresh. In fact, the average age of a Power Almanac record is just 11 weeks.

Data Hygiene

To better understand data hygiene, I asked Kavish Kasbekar, Power Almanac’s head of Product and Engineering, for an explanation. “Data hygiene is fundamental to good data and is examined through four dimensions at Power Almanac. The first dimension assesses whether the data is complete. The second dimension looks to see if the data is accurate at a given point in time. The third dimension looks at how the data is refreshed.

Power Almanac’s proprietary software helps a research team of 16 to maintain an outstanding accuracy rate of 97%.

And the fourth dimension asks, ‘Is this the best, most valuable, data that we can get?’ For example, if the email address for a given role in our database looks to be generic like inspector@cityofnewhaven.gov we’ll seek the version tied to an individual like john.doe@cityofnewhaven.gov. Both are accurate but the second, if it exists, is more valuable for our customers.”

We have a team of 16 researchers dedicated to collecting the best data possible. This team is divided into 3 groups of researchers. 11 perform scheduled update calls, 3 perform rapid response research when a contact record is found to be no longer accurate while the last 2 provide daily quality checking on all our research.”

Starting with a Complete Set of Local Governments

Power Almanac’s research begins with data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. When the Census Bureau updates its information, we pull data for all counties, municipalities, and townships, with populations greater than a 1,000, and see what has changed. Local governments are added, removed, and updated from Power Almanac’s database when they consolidate or incorporate.

Power Almanac incorporates U.S. Census Bureau into its dataset giving you powerful filtering options.

We also use the Census Bureau official Government ID as the unique identifier for local government records in our database. This is incredibly valuable as it lets you work with additional data sources to answer Sales and Marketing questions. For example, when I worked for a civic tech company, I used Power Almanac to add the Census Bureau Gov ID to all local gov accounts in our CRM. Then, in Microsoft Power BI, I compared past sales to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) and found that we were winning a lot more deals in affluent communities with smaller populations. From there, I was able to target my audience in Power Almanac, fine tune my message, and deliver campaigns that were 3X more effective.

Accurate Local Government Contacts

When Power Almanac adds a role, like Head of IT, we won’t release it until it’s complete. Here’s an example. As of this writing, there are 4,975 heads of IT across 21,474 local governments. For a variety of reasons, many local governments don’t have someone on the payroll who is responsible for managing a central IT department/function.

Maybe there’s a contract with an outside vendor, or if it’s a city or town, maybe the county government takes care of it. Whatever the case may be, our researchers will ask who is responsible for IT again (and again and again) because local governments are always adding and subtracting roles.

A record cannot be submitted into Power Almanac until researchers fill in 11 mandatory fields.

When a new contact is added, our researchers complete 11 required fields with information including first name, last name, email address, mailing address, and title. The researcher can’t mark the record as “complete” until all fields have been filled in and validated.

Updating Local Government Contacts Post-Election

Elections pose a unique selling opportunity. They represent a window in which local government officials are more open to change. And because you’ll need to strike while the iron is hot, Power Almanac aligns its call schedule with local elections.

Local government elections are spread throughout the year. Image source: Power Almanac application.

Our researchers start calling post-election local governments in the month following their elections. If we call in the same month as their elections, we’d get the outgoing office holder’s information because they have not yet transitioned out of their role.

Ensuring Local Government Contact Email Address Accuracy

At Power Almanac we understand how import accurate email addresses are for your marketing efforts. That’s why we have four levels of validation in place to achieve 97% accuracy.

  • Level 1 – Syntax: when a researcher enters an email address our application automatically runs a syntax check to make sure that the email address is well formed.
  • Level 2 – Real-Time Validation: before the email is accepted into our system it is validated on-the-fly through Zero Bounce, a leading email validation service, to make sure that email exists.
  • Level 3 – Ongoing Validation: every week our entire database is run through Zero Bounce to find bad email addresses that were at one time good. We’ve found that emails decay at a rate of about 0.5% week over week. Our rapid response research team follows up on and corrects these bad emails that same week.
  • Level 4 – Catchalls: Sometimes, email servers are cheeky. When Zero Bounce askes an email server if an email address exists, the server doesn’t answer “yes” or “no”. Instead, it answers, “I got your request.” This is referred to as a “catchall” and it’s not particularly helpful. So, once a month we run all catchall email addresses through another validation service called Email Checker, that employs a different algorithm to validate these emails. And again, the Rapid Response Team swings into action if any bad email addresses are found.

Quality Control Processes

Every record that’s captured in Power Almanac goes through a Quality Control review. The Quality Control reviewer looks for inconsistencies in the data and either fixes it themselves or kicks it back to the researcher for review.

In addition to 4 levels of electronic validation Power Almanac records undergo two levels of human inspection.

On top of that, the Quality Control reviewer also listens to a random sampling of recorded calls to ensure that the information captured matches up with the phone call with the local government. And again, the reviewer either fixes it themselves or kicks it back to the researcher for review.

Local Government Contact Data is Not Created Equally

I hope this peek behind the curtain shows you how hard Power Almanac works to bring you the most complete, accurate, and valuable local government prospecting data possible. Achieving and maintaining 97% data accuracy takes dedication, persistence, and a process-oriented mindset.

Finally, beware of contact list sellers hawking email addresses from the latest annual conference. Bad data hurts email deliverability while increasing the likelihood of your domain getting blacklisted as a spammer. It also slows pipeline growth and damages sales and marketing morale. So, know where your local government comes from so you can prospect with confidence.

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