Sometimes, investing in efforts to reach target audiences can seem like a big gamble, with the odds stacked against you...

Here you are, charged with exciting media buys, and you find that there are literally thousands of data providers who tell you using their insights will allow you to find the perfect audience. But which choice will make you a winner?

Assuming you don't have enough time or money to try them all, here are 10 questions to ask before buying data.

1. Does the data reflect actual buyers, or are they merely look-alikes?

How someone communicates with the US census every 10 years is a far cry from providing a complete picture of how loyal of a consumer that person is.

The data should reflect consumers who have purchased the advertised product/service or taken an action that would instigate a purchase; the dataset should not merely represent a stereotype of people who "likely" will react to your ad because of their age, sex, or income.

Challenge a dataset to reach more than a legacy demographic segment such as "women 18 to 54." Find out whether that dataset actually measures past consumer behavior.

You want to reach an actual consumer of your product or service, not just someone who looks like one.

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image of Adam Paulisick

Adam Paulisick is SVP of marketing and strategy at Nielsen Catalina Solutions, a joint venture of the Nielsen Company and Catalina Marketing, providing a comprehensive view of consumer behavior to help advertisers, agencies, and media companies measure and improve advertising performance.

LinkedIn: Adam Paulisick