Forget about zombies, aliens or vampires. A bigger danger is much closer at hand and can haunt you for years to come: the unspeakable tragedy of handing your precious email database to the wrong vendor.

We understand how easy it is to be led astray by boogeymen who lurk in the shadows and offer a tantalizing list of services for free or low cost.

The vendor who offers to clean and validate your data for free could end up performing horrific experiments on the data your customers have entrusted to –

Wait! What was that eerie sound? A neighbor’s dog howling?

No! It’s the call of the werewolf offering you a wide range of fancy-sounding services for a low, low cost. It’s tempting, but beware: You could end up sacrificing quality and reliability and set up yourself, your marketing program, even your company, for trouble for years to come.

How to tell if you’re dealing with Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde

Use our master checklist of questions to ask about your potential data partners. Think of it as virtual sunshine – and we all know how much scary things hate the light of day.

1. Reputation and trust

  • Does the vendor list a physical address for the company office, or is the address merely a Post Office box number or shared workspace?
  • How long has it been in business?
  • Does the vendor provide customer testimonials, references and case studies using client and company names?
  • Are the vendor’s principals respected industry leaders? Have they been quoted or published in curated industry publications or spoken on the topic at conferences? Does the company website list their qualifications and experience?

2. Guarantees and assurances

  • Were you offered a written contract?
  • Does the contract outline guarantees in writing?

This is important because you should never pay to have your data cleaned without a promise that the output will be useful to your company. If you are paying for enhancements to your database, such as email and postal appends, you need assurances that your new data is clean and accurate.

3. Security

  • What are the vendor’s polices for data privacy, data destruction and protection?
  • Do these policies comply with regulations such as GDPR?
    • One good high-level test is to check out the vendor’s own web forms. If they don’t take the time to make their own public-facing assets compliant, the odds that their back-end processes are aren’t great.
  • How do they handle data transfers? They might talk about protection and vigilance, but if they collect your data via email transfer, run away fast. That’s just plain creepy!

4. Capabilities and partnerships

What does the data-cleaning service promise to troubleshoot? Even a vampire with a spreadsheet can spot malformed addresses with “gmial.com” in them.

  • Look for trouble spots such as these:
  • What partnerships or integrations does the vendor have with ESPs and other brand-name technology firms?

Don’t get tricked by shady vendors

You have many options for cleaning, updating and enhancing your data. Some have long track records of reputable service. Others do not. A little vigilance ahead of time work better that a crucifix or garlic necklace to keep the creepy-crawlies far, far away.