Data sourcing: the good, the bad and the ugly

Data A person plugging into a power outlet.

Data collection has become an essential part of running a business. If you want to run a successful email prospecting campaign, data is key to ensure you’re reaching the right people. But there are ways to get data that are… on the shady side of things. 

And we’re not talking shady like throwing shade here (though the library is always open). We’re talking shady like the Real Slim Shady (please stand up, please stand up). And while Eminem’s alter ego was definitely a wrong’un, at least he wasn’t guilty of shady data sourcing, so he’d actually make a better business partner than some of the rogue data providers out there. 

What is data sourcing?

Let’s start with the basics.

Data sourcing is the way that businesses collect and extract data from different sources – this can be internal or external.

Internal data is data that comes from within your business such as your sales data.

External data is data that comes from outside the business. This can be publicly available data or privately owned.

Public data, private data, reliable data

These days, data is a commodity. You can get hold of data in a number of ways, but like buying cheap gadgets from Amazon, the quality can vary greatly.

Private data:

A common approach to email marketing, particularly in years gone by, was to purchase data from a data broker. Then use that list to create your own email marketing campaign.

However, it comes with risks as data goes out of date so quickly. It also means you’ll be doing the hard work when trying to pick the perfect prospects from a dataset containing all the flotsam and jetsam your data broker has scooped up – but we’ll cover that in more detail later.

Public data:

Using public data, such as information available on LinkedIn, can save you money but it won’t save you time. It’s a long, arduous process, reaching out to contacts one by one. Plus, the reward is often small, with outreach often rebuffed out of hand on the platform.

Also, not all the information you’ll source will be true. People lie online – hey, we’ve all seen Catfish – and that means you could get wrong or outdated data.

Maybe Shelly from Sheffield doesn’t work at Sally’s Shells anymore but it still says she does on LinkedIn. At Outbase, we use various data sourcing methods to ensure you’re not still reaching out to Shelly’s dead email account.

You can also use multiple sources to ensure a more thorough dataset, but it takes more time, and it can be difficult to find corroborative data or know which dataset to trust. 

Check out our blog on the impact of poor quality data.

To get reliable, high-quality data, there are two ideal solutions.

  1. Hire a data specialist
  2. Use an agency or online prospecting platform

If you’re a small business, you probably won’t have a data specialist on board. So, what are your options for sourcing quality data?

One option is to use an agency, but the expense can make it as difficult as hurting an in-house specialist.

An online prospecting platform like Outbase gives access to a relevant, searchable dataset. Outbase can connect you to over 230 million B2B contacts – and we are forever checking and analysing our data to make sure it’s up-to-date and accurate. 

Not only do you have access to accurate, reliable, up-to-date, searchable data, but you can run your email prospecting campaigns from the tool too. 

Outbase lets you build your email campaign in three simple steps: define your audience, write the message, and schedule the emails.

Start your 30-day free trial today.

What are the three main challenges when data sourcing?


The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) was set up in 2016 to protect our personal data. Just like with the greats, seven is the key – seven Horcruxes, seven World Wonders, seven…th sense (we tried) – and the GDPR has seven main fundamentals.

  1. Take responsibility for the data that you source (if something goes wrong, it’s your fault!)
  2. Only take what you need
  3. Use the obtained data for the reason you obtained it
  4. Make sure the data you get is accurate 
  5. Only store data you’re currently using
  6. Confidentiality
  7. Keeping up to date with the law – and being honest about it

For more information on GDPR policies, check out GPDR for Dummies.

There are serious consequences if you don’t comply with the GDPR policies. The most likely of which is a large fine, which can be either:

  • Up to 17 million euros (that’s roughly £14.5 million)
  • 4% of the company’s annual turnover

Those are some scary figures unless you’re Jeff Bezos’ (S/O to Jeff if he’s reading this), and we’re not going to sugarcoat it for you – you should be scared! Okay, maybe not scared but vigilant…

If you’re thinking “that would never happen to me!”, take a look at the top 10 data breaches of all time – there are some big names in there.

What does it mean for you?

Being GDPR compliant is your own responsibility. It’s up to you to educate yourself on what’s okay and what’s not – and then implement that. 

That sounds pretty boring, but there are plenty of tools online to help you understand how to be GDPR compliant. This checklist is a great way to get started. 

Outbase takes away a lot of the headache. Our data algorithm has multi-layered cleaning processes. We use a combination of powerful automation and manual checks to ensure data quality. Of course GDPR is still your responsibility, but with great data and an in-app compliance FAQ centre, we’re here to help.

2. An out-of-date database

We’ve touched on this before but having an out-of-date database can be the ultimate time-waster. Let’s do some basic maths… 

From our recent survey, we saw that more than four in five marketers reported that at least 20% of their marketing database is out of date. So let’s say you’re emailing 100 people per day, that’s 20 emails that aren’t going anywhere.

Most of us work five days per week (unless you’re one of the lucky ones on the four-day working week trial), that’s 100 emails per week totally lost. 

To put it another way, it’s more than 5,000 potential customers, every year, that you are missing out on.

Outbase data is so fresh that our clients see up to 99% of their emails delivered to the inboxes of their prospects.

3. Accurate targeting

How you source your data will affect whether you are targeting the right people.

Let’s say you’ve ignored our advice and bought a dataset from a broker. It contains millions of contact details, and while some of them will be out of date, and many will be irrelevant to your brand, amongst them are potential customers. How do you sift through those millions of contacts to find the few thousand that might want to be your customers? 

At Outbase, we’ve done the hard work for you. You start with access to over 230million B2B professionals, but you quickly build your own list of contacts using our advanced filtering options.

Zero in on the people that matter most to you, and create a highly targeted email outreach campaign.

How does Outbase collect data?

There’s no single best way to collect data, which is why we don’t get our data from any one source.

You could probably do that yourself, but we prefer to be more thorough.

We use multiple sources to make sure the data we’re getting is accurate and in-date. Our goal is to map the entire B2B universe to give you an authentic overview of your prospects.

Find out more about how we source our data in this youtube video

With Outbase, we’ve taken care of keeping your data up to date, with built-in compliance features and accurate targeting – so you only need to worry about how to word those all-important emails (and we can even help with that).

We offer a 30-day free trial that gives you access to our real-time data and an extensive prospecting pool. Start your free trial of the world’s most powerful live prospect database.

Skyrocket your sales.

Written by:
Lily Ruaah Content Writer