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PART 4: Trigger Data Sources

In prior blogs in this series on data, we explored compiled and transactional databases that provide access to large populations. These tend to be lower in cost, provide insight to past purchase behavior but usually less specialized in terms of how they shine a light on a prospect’s motivations to buy.

Sometimes important determinants of purchases can be a lifestyle change. And that’s where this discussion takes us.

Triggered Databases

We all remember major life events, and often the expenses associated with them. If you’ve ever bought a house you know that once you’ve moved in another financial spigot opens up as you settle in. Many of those expenses are predictable, such as new furnishings, appliances, homeowner’s insurance, and construction needs.

Every month, “new movers” files reveal who moved, where from, where to, and when. In this case, thank the USPS and their trusty change of address form. Some databases will even track escrow activity for new homeowners so mailings can start before the move to influence moving company and insurance selection.

A more general description is that trigger prospect data refers to data that relates to a specific event or lifestyle change. Compiled databases are typically the source of this data and often specialize in one or more specific trigger events based on a unique strength of their own data sourcing.

Besides new movers and new homeowners, other examples of trigger data include households that are expecting a child, households that recently had a child, car buyers, kids going to college, marriage or divorce, and a dramatic change in household income. On the business side, there are similar triggers such as new business openings, moving business, added locations, changes to headcount or revenue.

Trigger data should be purchased with a strong caveat emptor warning. Trigger lists need to be reputably sourced and data recency is a key determinant of success. Six-month old escrow data is of little value if you are a moving company. We spend a long time researching and vetting trigger list sources for recency and accuracy.

Here are some other pluses and minuses of triggered lists:


  • More responsive. Good quality trigger data can bump response by 10% to 15% versus a compiled database with just straight demographic or survey data selects.
  • Offer relevance. We have a pretty good sense of what trigger prospects are likely to purchase. So, we can make better offers by coinciding with prospect decision timeframes.
  • Renewable data. There is a fresh group of people moving, having babies, getting married, etc. every month. If a trigger program is successful, it can be renewed on a regular basis to provide new data for direct mail campaigns.
  • Testing options to allow broader targeting. Different products can perform well at different times in the lifestyle change implied by a trigger. For example, consider the different products you may offer to a household with a newborn in month one, two or three.


  • Quantities are limited. Typically, the quantity available for mailing a specific trigger is smaller than other list sources. That’s why they typically are part of a larger effort as opposed to a standalone program.
  • It is costlier. Trigger data is highly specialized and generally comes at a premium versus straight compiled data.
  • Variable quality. Two new mover files can yield very different results. Check sourcing, how often refreshed and references if you can.

In summary, trigger data can play a valuable role in extending a direct mail program to highly motivated buyers as they deal with lifestyle changes that are sure to impact purchase behavior in the short term.

Read our other blogs in this series on data types:





Gunderson Direct is one of the largest independent full-service direct marketing agencies, providing strategy, data, creative and production expertise to B2C and B2B clients across the U.S.

Gunderson Direct does not own or compile data. We have a deep knowledge of data sources and the tools used to analyze their effectiveness. The goal is always the same: Deliver the optimal mix of prospect files to cost-efficiently test, learn and rollout programs to meet our clients’ business needs.

All our data sources are members of the ANA (Association of National Advertisers). As such, they are required to respect data privacy laws, have proper data privacy certifications and maintain a solid reputation in the direct marketing industry.

Alexa Sundberg

Alexa has over 30 years in Direct Marketing experience – B2B, B2C and government. From direct mail catalogs to marketing CRM databases, she has always believed in the power of targeting the right audience in the right way. She partners with clients in data strategy, measurement and stewardship. She is passionate about connecting marketing investments to a positive impact on sales.

When she is not digging into a new challenge, she likes listening to live music, practicing her short game, exploring the new marketing technology advancements coming out of the bay area, and visiting her family.

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