B2B Data Purchase Guide: Evaluating Data Providers in a Global Marketplace

The importance of data is undeniable. But the path to reliable business intelligence is not always straightforward. When you set out to buy a third-party data set, you might assume you should compare based on quantity and cost. But using evaluations like “how many accounts can you provide?” or “what is your cost per contact?” often means the vendor with the most records wins and the one offering the highest quality data gets overlooked.

The dynamic nature of business requires an equally dynamic solution for acquiring and managing data. Teams that are purchasing data should look for a provider who can deliver accurate, current, and reliable data across an entire organization and help manage it in real-time. 

Here are the important factors to consider, steps to take, and questions to ask when choosing a global data provider.

Business Data is Changing Rapidly

Today’s business landscape is evolving at a tremendous rate. People are switching jobs, relocating, retiring early, and working from home more than ever before. The phenomenon dubbed “The Great Resignation” shows no signs of slowing down

In addition to careers, companies are transforming too. In 2020, the UK saw 40% more new business applications compared to pre-pandemic years, but also a steep increase in business closures across the same time frame.

All this activity has an enormous impact on contact and company data: 

  • When one person changes jobs, two contact records are affected: the outgoing employee and their incoming replacement.
  • When a business opens, they hire new staff.
  • When a merger or acquisition takes place, employee job roles and responsibilities often evolve or change. 

Choosing Between a List or a Platform

Purchasing a list of business data typically involves a static file with a large number of records for a low price. But it’s important to note that a list of data gets worse over time. It’s estimated that company and contact data degrades at a rate of 2 to 3% each month, or 30% year-over-year. And that number is likely much higher in the aftermath of COVID-19

To counter this rate of data decay, smart leaders are turning to data orchestration platforms. A well-orchestrated data solution allows you to enrich, cleanse, and unify records for companies and contacts, generate insights, route data where you need it, and maintain a standard of quality, coverage, and compliance. Also, by automating much of the manual data-related tasks, good data management frees up teams to focus on high-value, strategic initiatives, and prospecting.


Forrester states in its Data Ethics and Technology Report that, “the quality of business decisions you make using data will depend on the integrity of the data.” If you build your business on bad data, bad things are bound to happen. But when you feed predictive business models with quality information, you know the output is trustworthy — that’s the value of good data.

Rethinking How to Evaluate Data

What makes data good or bad?

The value of data is based on how well it helps you achieve your business goals. It is not merely a matter of which data option is cheapest. Cost may be an important evaluation factor, but as with most third-party global data purchases — you get what you pay for.

Sales teams usually seek a balance between quantity (data coverage), quality (data accuracy), and cost. But these can be opposing forces. Some vendors choose to cover a narrow range of data sets or attributes, capturing certain kinds of specialty or niche data. Other vendors attempt to provide a large number of records, but often at the cost of quality.

The following grid shows this quality vs. quantity trade-off.

FIGURE: The Data Provider Quality/Coverage Grid

When considering “coverage vs. quantity,” coverage indicates records that are actionable, active, and verified. Quantity is more a numbers game. To evaluate the potential quality of a dataset, compare the number of contacts or accounts from a provider against government census or population reports. If the number of records is inflated beyond what’s accounted for, consider it a warning sign that the vendor may be selling you outdated company records or multiple contacts for the same job.

It’s important to consider both quality and coverage when evaluating a data provider. Since every company has different goals, each will have a unique path for getting the most value from business data. One company’s tolerance for data quality will differ from another based on various factors, including the solution sold, the markets served, and the level of granularity required.


A useful step is to decide if quality or quantity is more important for the data attributes you need. For example, if your business primarily operates online, you may prioritize accurate, direct-dial phone numbers and email addresses over a large number of physical addresses. 

Consider that it can take an average of five or six calls to convert a cold contact into a lead. And for email marketing, a high bounce rate can ruin your reputation as a sender. Keeping your team in touch with the right contacts and your emails delivered to the right inboxes — that’s the value of good data.

When in doubt, we recommend prioritizing quality over quantity. We have developed a “data reliability” formula to help assess the quality of data: Match Rate multiplied by Fill Rate multiplied by Accuracy or Confidence Scores

FIGURE: The Formula for Calculating Data Reliability

In this data reliability formula:

  • Match Rate (%) = the portion of records matched
  • Fill Rate (%) = the portion of fields containing data
  • Match Confidence (#) = the level of certainty the match is correct
  • Fill Confidence (#) = the level of certainty the filled information is correct

Defining Your Goals With Data

To get the most from your business data, set clear parameters around what you need data for, to guide you to the provider who best fits your needs. 

Here are some examples of how your goals affect your data requirements:

  • If your SDR team has to make a certain number of calls in a day, does the data provider offer the volume of phone numbers you expect?
  • For outbound marketing, you probably want to maintain email bounce rates between 1–5%. Ask providers how they can help you meet that benchmark.
  • If you plan to merge multiple data sources, select a data provider that can help you unify various data sets correctly.
  • If your priority is data management, you need to understand the total match rate a provider can deliver and the fill rate of the fields that matter to you.
  • If you market to small businesses, make sure the data provider can thoroughly cover these types of companies.
  • If you need to know a certain data attribute, like sophistication rating, industry classification, or annual revenue, ensure the provider can deliver the attribute with a high degree of confidence.


You have lofty growth goals, but you can’t always hire new team members to reach them. Consider the average annual salary of a Sales Development Representative (SDR). Now imagine making them three to four times more effective, because they spend their time making connections and engaging prospects, instead of researching contacts and hunting through business articles — that’s the value of good data.

Identifying Your Data Needs

Once you’ve established what you expect from your data, document the important attributes you need, and develop a list of required types of data fields, data services, and quality standards. 

Use this list as a guide:

What are our data accuracy and coverage needs? (low, mid, high)

  • Email bounce rate
  • Match rate (coverage)
  • Match accuracy
  • Fill rate (coverage)
  • Fill accuracy
  • Other

What regions or countries do we need?

  • North America
  • South America
  • Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA)
  • Asia-Pacific (APAC)
  • United States (US)
  • France
  • United Kingdom (UK)
  • Germany
  • Australia & New Zealand
  • China
  • Japan
  • India
  • Other

What types of data do we need? 

Business data

  • Company name
  • Industry classification
  • Website URL
  • Employee count
  • Revenue
  • Physical locations
  • Parent-child relationships
  • Market news and trends
  • Sophistication rating 
  • Model scores
  • Technographics
  • Intent data
  • Scoops
  • Small and medium business (SMB) data
  • Other

Contact data

  • Name
  • Phone number (direct)
  • Phone number (main)
  • Email addresses
  • Job title
  • Department
  • Physical location
  • Social media profile
  • Other

What types of data services do we need?

  • Flat file delivery
  • APIs
  • Webhooks
  • Enrichment
  • Multi-vendor enrichment
  • Cleansing
  • Deduplication
  • Lead-to-account matching
  • Modeling
  • Scoring
  • Routing
  • Customer success support
  • Other

Can we achieve these privacy measures?

  • Consolidated customer data platform as much as possible
  • Proactive notifications, alerts, based on local jurisdictions and laws
  • Encrypt data at rest and in-flight
  • Easy ‘Opt-out’ option
  • Employ a ‘Do Not Call’ field
  • Able to monitor how data is being used (B2B vs. B2C)
  • Trusted in my target market(s)
  • Reliable language translation
  • Other

Questions to Ask a Data Provider

When evaluating data providers, ask the following questions to uncover more details about what you’ll get:

  • How do you measure how trustworthy your data is? Find out if they have the most current information possible. Ask how they measure the completeness and correctness of the data being offered.
  • How do you gather and verify data? A reputable data company should be able to tell you details about how they capture information. Be ready to ask questions when you hear terms like artificial intelligence, algorithms, proprietary processes, or search aggregation. 
  • What types of integrations do you offer? What tools will be available on a regular basis? While many vendors offer integration, the capabilities are not often the same. For example, the ZoomInfo integration allows you to map and set individual fields to “Complete if Missing” or “Overwrite Data.” This gives you control over which information goes where and at what time. You may not need that much control over the integration process, but if you do, ask.
  • How can I ingest your data? The ability to onboard data in a systematic, efficient way is critical for your company to expand its reach in the market. Make sure the data vendor offers customizable ways to enrich data directly into your tech stack and standardize data across multiple sources.
  • How often is your data refreshed and how do I know when something changes? Business data is prone to frequent changes. To get the most out of sales and marketing intelligence, it’s got to be up-to-date. Beyond data being current, it may also be important to be alerted of what’s changed in real-time when it happens. 
  • Can you share some recommendations for using data based on my goals? For example, ask how the provider can help you get the highest email deliverability from your campaigns.
  • What are your privacy practices? Ask the vendor what resources they can share with you to help maintain compliance. This is especially true if you are prospecting into a market for the first time. If a data provider has spent a considerable amount of time and energy on compliance, you are likely to find their data meets the same rigor.
  • Why is your data priced as it is? The pricing offered by a data provider can often give hints about how trustworthy their data will be. This is not to say you should always buy the most expensive option, but rather, consider the cost as a measure of value. You may have the tolerance to deal with low-quality data. If that is the case, perhaps a low-cost tool is the best option for you.

FAQs About Purchasing Third-Party B2B Data

What is third-party data?

Third-party data is data purchased from an external data vendor to make prospecting for new customers more efficient and productive.

Why do companies buy business data?

Companies buy business data to reduce the time spent lining up quality leads. With good data, sales teams can more easily identify and contact prospective buyers and then close those deals faster.

How do you determine the quality of third-party data?

Data quality can be determined by performing a data quality test using the formula: Match Rate x Fill Rate x Confidence Level. Some data providers will offer a free data test to compare results from different data sets, to help you feel more confident with what you’re purchasing.

Where can I buy business data?

You can buy third-party B2B data from a data provider. B2B data providers sell a variety of data types for improving sales and marketing efforts including contact and account information, buyer intent data, fit data, and signals about company news.

How much does it cost to buy business data?

The cost of third-party business data will depend on the quality of the data. For certain, the data you purchase will fuel your business-growth engine. Therefore, working with a reputable vendor is essential.

Buy Global Business Data You Can Trust

At ZoomInfo, we’ve built the world’s best B2B data and intelligence platform to support your go-to-market strategy. Access the data you need to expand your business around the globe.

Learn more about the ZoomInfo Global Data Passport