It's simple. A data card is the marketing document that describes a mailing list.
A quality data card does not guarantee a quality mailing list, but you can have a top quality list that is neglected from a marketing perspective (i.e. a poor quality data card). First impressions count, and the data card is most often the first impression that a broker or mailer receives when researching new test lists for a direct marketing campaign.
To be blunt -- you wouldn't serve a T-bone on a trash can lid, would you?
I'm not sure everyone thinks this way when it comes to data cards. The t-bone steak represents a quality mailing list with an exceptional test-to-continuation ratio. The trash can lid represents a neglected data card for that same mailing list. Think about this analogy from the perspective of a list broker or mailer.
You select a mailing list of active subscribers that matches your customer profile. The mailing list is marketed by a credible list manager with industry knowledge, a proven track record for customer service, and a diverse portfolio of quality response list titles. Futhermore, the mailing list you selected is known for its success in delivering above average response rates and lifetime value. You are ready to add this list title to your client's new test recommendation.
Not so fast! You notice that the data card has not been updated in over 6 months. Furthermore, you are ordering a monthly hotline so you have no idea what range the counts will be in.
Needless to say, you're likely to question the validity of the information. You may wonder if the mailing list is still available for rental, or you may find out that the owner of the data card is no longer the list manager because they lost the business to a competitor and never deactivated their version of the data card. That's obviously not something the former list manager would want to promote in the public domain, but it happens.
What's the take-away in all of this? It's simple. Keep your data cards up-to-date with quality information on all of the list research channels, especially in the public domain where your content is most visible.
A ranking of list managers by data card quality is published quarterly.