Rob Boguski

Engineers know a snow job when they hear it.

Dear Mr. Christ,

Knowing you’re a busy man, we’ll cut to the chase: Our firm is offering you an exclusive list of the five million attendees to your recent motivational speech on the mountain. Our proprietary Digitaldisciple algorithms identify those most receptive to your message, broken down by district in Judea, so you can focus on the finer points of conversion, based on leaders and laggards, attendance-wise. We’ve done the work, so you don’t have to, for a very – dare we say it – revelatory price. Others promise salvation in the form of prescreened customer lists, but only we deliver. Accept no substitutes! Click the link at the bottom of this email, and a customer service representative will contact you soon about how we can make the Beatitudes work for you!

You know those lists? Of course you do.

They’re the ones whose salespersons relentlessly appeal to our inner greed, breathlessly promising delivery to the recipient of a complete roster of attendees to one’s favorite trade show. Or equipment users’ group. Or industry association annual meeting. All guaranteed.

The unspoken and alluring premise is a name on a list is simply a customer you have yet to contact. Who doesn’t want a new customer? Better yet, a complete list of vetted customers? These services furnish the list. All you have to do is follow up.

Their pitch probably lands in your inbox or spam folder regularly. For many, that means weekly. For a “privileged” cohort, daily. Usually deleted upon arrival. Too good to be true.

Is it?

Ever wonder how they work? I tried an experiment.

Beginning Feb. 7, 2022, and ending Jun. 10, 2022, I saved every email appeal for list services. In those 88 business days (no holidays included), 206 unsolicited pitches arrived in my inbox. That’s 2.34 per working day, a sample size sufficiently large to assess the range and depth of what is being offered.

So, what is being offered?

Not much range and very little depth.

Like this:


I am following up to confirm you are interested in acquiring the Visitors/Registrants List.

Space Tech Expo
May 23-25, 2022
Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, Long Beach, USA
Registrant Counts: 4,280  
Each record of the list contains: Contact Name, Email Address, Company Name, URL/Website, Phone No, Title/Designation

Seems tempting. But wait, there’s more:

I am following up to confirm if you are interested in acquiring the Visitors/Attendees List.

Space Tech Expo
May 23-25, 2022
Long Beach, California, USA
Registrant Counts: 10,000

Different ads on different days but almost the same script. Different company (allegedly), same speechwriter. Probably the output of one server in someone’s bedroom in a remote corner of Sumatra. Bigger registration count. One highlighted a battalion, the other a regiment. This is a business model with a decidedly dim view of human nature. Bigger numbers mean bigger appeal. Don’t forget that greed thing.

These are inflationary times, after all.

One of those 10,000 might hold the key to my retirement. (Then again, so would the lottery.) Except I have many other competing pitches for Space Tech, with projected quantities of attendees ranging all over the map: 2,000; 3,842; 11,000; 13,445; and 20,099. (Why didn’t they just round that last number up to 20,100? Does 20,099 somehow look more authentic?) The regiment has grown to a brigade, even a full division. Which to choose?

Another Space Tech cold email badgered me 26 times in a one-month span, gradually reducing its price as I remained nonresponsive, from a starting $800 to an ending $400. Endure an extra month of digital harassment, and, by projection, it should fall to the quite-affordable rate of zero.

Another sample from the inbox:

Dear Exhibitor,

I am following up to confirm if you are interested in acquiring the Attendee List.

Houston Expo & Tech Forum
Mar. 24, 2022
Stafford Centre, Stafford, USA
Counts: 2,560

Each Record of the Attendee Includes: Client Name, Business Name, Title, Email Address, Phone Number, Web Address, etc.

Let me know your thoughts, so I can send discount cost and additional information.

And this:

Hope you are doing well!

We are following up to see if you would be interested in the Attendee list of:

Houston Expo & Tech Forum
Date: Mar. 24, 2022
Stafford Centre, Stafford, USA

Are you interested in acquiring the Attendees’ info? (19,300+ Attendees)

Attendees’ information fields: Company Name, Company URL, Contact Names, Title, Phone Number, Email Address

Let me know your thoughts, so I can send the cost and additional information.

We have a Special 50% Discount offer for this month.

We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Six identical pitches, each requesting my thoughts (thank you very much), received on the same day, two each from three different companies. Supposedly. All of them equally wrong in their attendance projections. The 2022 SMTA Houston Expo and Tech Forum, held on one day, Mar. 24, had attendance considerably south of 19,300, a small city. Actual attendance resembled a small neighborhood.

Then there’s this:

Thank you for showing interest in our listings, and below are the details for list acquisition:

Project Details:

Show Name: Automotive Testing Expo Europe 2022
Total Counts: 20,000+ opt-in contacts
Discounted Price: €1,300

  • Data Fields: Contact Name, Title, Phone Number, Fax Number, Physical address, State/City, Company Name, Company URL, and verified email addresses
  • 90%+ accuracy and deliverability on all data fields
  • Data will be provided in an Excel spreadsheet for unlimited list usage
  • All the contacts are permission-based and authorized to receive the third-party information.

Let me know if you need more details, and I await your response. Thank you!

It’s reassuring the process is permission-based (what’s the alternative, coercion-based?) and that it’s 90% accurate (relative to what?). Pity the 10%, banished to Inaccuracy Purgatory.

Samples sampled randomly, and thus enticed, time to bite. So, I took the plunge and replied to a handful. The response was like blood sprinkled on a shark-strewn sea. Except some sharks are more discriminating than others.

For example, this is the five-figure approach:

  • Target List of prospects based on your specifications (zip codes, counties, etc.)
  • A fully managed multi-touch, multichannel lead management program
  • Dedicated Sales Development Representative who will be making the calls
  • Client Success Manager who will be your point of contact
  • Quality Assurance Analyst to qualify every lead submitted meets your criteria
  • Script, email templates, social and website marketing setup, which you will pre-approve prior to the start of the program
  • Access to our web-based lead management platform, where you can monitor and organize, in real time, all the leads that have been qualified for you

I’m sure this is what Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk use every day before breakfast, once the rich zip codes are fully saturated with sales. A bit beyond my pay grade and budget, but nice to know this service is available once I make my first billion.

Back on Earth, here is the more prosaic, poor person’s approach:

It’s a half-price sale!

We are offering a 50% discount.

You can now acquire the info at $400.

Maybe they offer a payment plan.

Or there’s the middle-of-the road, semi-tailor-made approach, filling space with words, revealing little:

What we do for each client is customized, so it really depends on exactly what your objectives are. However, based on what your website says, I think we would probably look at our automated outbound systems to very targeted prospects that would be a good fit for your business, using our process of rapid sales communication testing, combined with your experience, to identify the best messages to communicate to your buyers. Ultimately our objective is to set up a steady flow of new high-quality sales meetings for you each month.

Let me know if that resonates with you, and we could look at trying to find a time for a quick chat.

Automated outbound systems?

Soundwaves generally resonate with me. Businesspeople have conversations. They don’t “chat.”

Here’s the thing: AI-inspired attendee databases are a mass-marketing approach that is unsuitable for small engineering businesses like ours. Our sales pitch is too technical. It can’t be faked. Engineers know a snow job when they hear it. Test parameters, specifications and detailed requirements like power-on testing, JTAG, 4-wire tests and 1149.1/1149.6 rules don’t lend themselves to a spreadsheet with 20,099 potential contacts. There may not have been that many JTAG users in the whole of human history. Nor does an x-ray inspection requirement stipulating resolution, focal length, scan energy, field of view, area of interest and desired pixel/voxel size find clear expression in a shotgun approach to marketing. At our level, one needs to listen to the customer. After listening and digesting the need, you either provide the service or you don’t. This includes supporting nontechnical customers who crave honest guidance on prudent use of their test dollars. A superficial, cold-calling approach to sales risks being more off-putting than enticing. Reputational risk is real. Our clients tend to have specific problems in need of very specific solutions. Test and inspection parameters, and their results, get scrutinized; often they’re second-guessed once the data are known. A high degree of customer contact and handholding is essential. One can’t afford to be dismissive or reluctant to explain (often repeatedly). Antagonize such prospects for any reason, and you’ll never hear from them again. Thank you, database and list folks, for your time, attention (a lot of that, once interest is shown) and education. Not now, but maybe in the future, as your systems get smarter, better defined and more focused. Obviously some small single-digit percentage of your cold calls succeeds; otherwise, I wouldn’t get 206 inquiries in 88 days. It’s just that you and my company aren’t a match. Yet.


Do all those spam emails offering huge contact lists that don't exist come from the same group?

Until then, the imagination still wanders and wonders:

Senator McCarthy, your recent speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, would have had a more accurate list of communists in government had you taken advantage of our Commienet services. Why be satisfied with only 205 names? For one low fee, our patented statistical analysis would have given you a list of 5,280 embedded subversives in the State Department and elsewhere in Washington. Consider the advantages of one-stop shopping and make technology your patriotic ally.

Mr. Haldeman, our Paranoiacom custom database will significantly expand your enemies list, virtually and literally, overnight. Why limit your outreach to The Washington Post and certain precincts in Manhattan? Data, like grudges, can be driven anywhere, and all the world’s fair game. Fortunately, for your sake, there’s us. Our firm provides the numbers – every name a prospective enemy – you can simmer over.

For us, refined application of the technology would appear to be in its infancy. Of such developments is progress made, knowing full well that infants’ adherence to a script is, well, unpredictable.

And the folks who offer the declining balance? (See above.) This morning they renewed acquaintances with yet another discount offer: 28 days left for no fee. 

Robert Boguski is president of Datest Corp. (; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. His column runs bimonthly.

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