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The worldwide web and social media are a treasure trove of free data on customers and companies: LinkedIn profiles, public records and statistics from the authorities, white papers, public timelines on Facebook and Twitter…

The problem is: treasures often hide dragons or at least poisonous snakes. Free data always come at a price, for instance: handling costs. But more importantly, there are serious privacy issues. There’s the risk of losing the trust of your customers due to including wrong data or using sensitive data without permission.

The difference between smart and free data may be the difference between winning or gambling away the trust and loyalty of your customers.


1. Use free data on the ‘bird’s-eye view’ level, not on the personal level.

There are lots of valuable open data resources to enrich your market intelligence with a wider perspective. For instance:

  • The National Institute of Statistics (NIS) offers valuable insights on consumer behavior.
  • Febiac publishes information on vehicles sold.
  • The Belgian Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (BCE/KBO) gives access to key facts about registered companies, including annual reports. You can even subscribe to receive updates. For free!


2. Avoid open data risks and traps

  • Be aware that the search for relevant free data is time-consuming. Not in the least because they need to be double-checked.
  • Open data often contain old, incomplete or even mistaken information.
  • It is risky and labor-intensive to integrate open data in your existing CRM database.
  • The abundance of open data creates an overload of unstructured and disconnected information.
  • When you rely on web crawling robots to collect data you can end up with mistakenly linked data: e.g. the wrong photo connected to the wrong person.
  • Some free data aren’t free at all in the end. Often you need to supply personal and company information to log in. They may try to persuade you to buy an expensive license on smart data.


3. Be extremely careful if you intend to use open data in marketing campaigns

There’s a big risk that you damage or totally destroy the bond of trust with your customers. You may come across as very intrusive when using your customer’s private address. Especially when you include personal photos or use sensible information about family members. Everything starts with obtaining the consumer’s permission to collect and use personal data.


4. Data are an investment. Smart investments lead to durable results.

With data it is quality that counts, not quantity. To build a solid future for your company you need a sound foundation: the enduring trust and satisfaction of your customers. Data intelligence is a vital tool to earn this trust. You need correct, relevant and fully updated information to delight your customers and satisfy their needs. This cannot be achieved manually, merely based on open sources. It is only possible via an intelligent and automated connection with diverse reliable sources from a professional data supplier. That’s the way to bring smart data into your business. It enables you to send your customers better targeted and more relevant messages. It results in higher response and customer loyalty.