Data is more powerful in the presence of other data. That is a hard, fast, immutable law. But what do you do when you run out of first party data (the data you collect yourself)? Or, what if you simply don't have enough meaningful data to build the model you need for your particular program?

Often marketers will purchase data from third parties such as D&B or Experian to augment, or in some cases, amplify their first party data. Is it a good idea? How can you tell if the data you are purchasing from a third party is valid?

Most marketers I know approach third party data with caution and purchase only from name brand, reputable data warehouses such as D&B or Experian. After all, D&B has been in business for over 100 years. It must have excellent data... right?

Yahoo Finance describes D&B as follows: "The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation provides commercial data, analytics, and insight on businesses or content worldwide. The company offers risk management solutions, such as DNBi, an online application that offers the customers real time access to global business information, and monitoring and portfolio analysis; and various business information reports that are consumed in a transactional manner across multiple platforms, such as DNB.com."

While this description would suggest that D&B has exceptionally accurate information, I can assure you it's not 100% accurate. In fact, if my recent experience is any indication, the data that D&B has to offer may be years out of date.

Attend the D&B Chronicles

Day 1 09:30a: A new vendor requests my DUNS number as part of its standard credit application process. I know we have one, so I go to DandB.com to look it up. The site is overly complicated and filled with sales pitches for D&B products, but within a few minutes I have what I need, except... the address and phone number for my company is 15 years out of date. I click a link to reach customer service and input the following into the content form:

The address and phone number you have for my company slp productions, inc in nyc is 15 years out of date. Who do I contact to update my corporate info?

Day 1 10:08a: Camelia Sullivan, Business Credit Advisor writes:

Good Morning Shelton,

I can help you. What is your company's Duns#?

(Yes, my given name is Shelton, but you can still call me Shelly.)

Day 1 10:17a: I write back:

To: Camelia Sullivan
Subject: Re: Incorrect Information

The information you have for my corporation slp productions inc (a NYS c-corporation) is 15 years out of date. The correct address and phone number info is below. Please contact me so that I can verify that you have an up-to-date file. My duns number is XXXXXXX. Thank you. -s

Company Name: SLP Productions, Inc. dba/Palmer Advanced Media
Company Address: 123 Any Street, Anytown, State, Zip
Company Telephone: +1 212-532-3880 x1
Contact Name: Shelly Palmer <shelly@shellypalmer.com>
Contact Mobile Phone: +1 123-345-2345
DUNS Number: XXXXXXX

Day 4 08:18a: I receive a call on my cellphone from Ms. Sullivan. She informs me that I must logon to dandb.com and update my information myself. She walks me through the process. When I get to the "update" area I let her off the phone and proceed to fill out my personal information. After a minute, I realize that the old address and phone number are greyed out and are uneditable (which I should have noticed while she was still on the phone with me). I'm really a bit angry that she has taken up this much of my time without any results, so I write a terse email to her:

To: Camelia Sullivan
Subject: Re: Incorrect Information

So this was a total waste of time. The address line was greyed out and not editable. So, obviously, I could not change the incorrect information. I truly don't care about the accuracy of your information, but I would like you to remove the incorrect information if it is used by people who pay for it -- I've sent you the correct information -- deal with it or don't. I'm done. -s

Day 4 8:45a: Camelia Sullivan wrote:

Hi Shelly,

In the future if you would like to update your account you may call Client Services at 866-584-0283 and they will be able to assist you. Have a nice day.

Camelia Sullivan
Business Credit Advisor

Day 4 12:37p: Nonplused at this ridiculous response, I write back a rant...

To: Camelia Sullivan
Subject: Re: Incorrect Information

Camelia - Let me make sure I understand what you are saying to me. You (Camelia Sullivan an employee of D&B) are telling me you are not going to fix this problem. Instead, you are advising me that if, in the future, I wish to try to figure out your antiquated online system, I can do your work for you.

Please respond in writing. I want to make sure that I understand that you have been advised that the information on dandb.com is incorrect and you are not going to do anything to correct it... except pass the buck to client services...

Please be advised that you and your employer have created an information profile (with incorrect information, btw) without my permission and are selling the information as accurate even though you have been advised that it is not. Thank you. -s

Day 4 12:50a: Camelia Sullivan writes me back the most awesome email...

Shelly,

I am not an employee of D&B. I am an employee of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. We are a strategic partner with D&B. I do not have the ability to fix the problem you are having. You will need to call Client Services at 866-584-0283 for assistance. Please let me know if you have any questions or if I may be of further assistance. Have a nice day.

Camelia Sullivan
Business Credit Advisor

So there it is. The customer service person who answered my original email, called me on the phone then reset my password and walked me through the website, works for a different division and can't update my information.

As you can imagine, I found this pretty interesting on several different levels. D&B has 15-year-old info and is hoping that I will spend as much time as needed to make sure that it is up to date. Knowing that it is out of date is not a good enough reason for them to fix it. And, of course, it's not fixed.

How accurate is D&B's third party data? I can't wait to ask someone from Client Services.

Shelly Palmer is Fox 5 New York's On-air Tech Expert (WNYW-TV) and the host of Fox Television's monthly show Shelly Palmer Digital Living. He also hosts United Stations Radio Network's, Shelly Shelly PalmerPalmer Digital Living Daily, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment. He is Managing Director of Advanced Media Ventures Group, LLC an industry-leading advisory and business development firm and a member of the Executive Committee of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (the organization that bestows the coveted Emmy® Awards). Palmer is the author of Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV 2nd Edition (York House Press, 2008) the seminal book about the technological, economic, and sociological forces that are changing everything, Overcoming The Digital Divide: How to use Social Media and Digital Tools to Reinvent Yourself and Your Career; (York House Press, 2011) and Digital Wisdom: Thought Leadership for a Connected World (York House Press, 2013). For more information, visit shellypalmer.com.

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