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Your List – If You Build It, You’ll Be More Effective

imageThe inimitable and immortal words of Shel Silverstein say it best:”Sandra’s seen a leprechaun,Eddie touched a troll,Laurie danced with witches once,Charlie found some goblins’ gold.Donald heard a mermaid sing,Susy spied an elf,But all the magic I have knownI’ve had to make myself”Nowhere is this more true than when you are talking about obtaining a list of high quality prospects (This is also more evidence that all I need to know I learned in kindergarten ). Lists are the heart of your direct marketing efforts and it takes work to effectively develop and manage your direct marketing list. In an earlier post about list procurement, I offered up 13 rules for working with lists. As a follow up to this, I wanted to provide some very tactical recommendations and ideas specifically around how to build your own list. In B2B marketing, the very best mailing lists are the ones you build yourself. Self-compiled mailing lists are created by combing through public sources, like trade association member directories, web sites, industry directories and your own company’s prospect databases.

How to assess a list?:

Your list is a representation of your market. Before you execute any direct marketing campaign, assess your list(s) by asking yourself the following questions -- and, by the way, this goes for any list:

  • Where did this list come from?
  • How can I trust the quality and selection of the names that are included?
  • What is the underlying qualification of the contacts on this list that would give them a higher propensity to buy the products/services my company sells?

Elements of a Winning List:

The best prospect lists share these 4 characteristics:Previous buyers: Next to mining your own customer list where you know the purchase history, the best prospects are those who have previously purchased products/services like the ones sold by your company or other products that are closely related to those your company sells. This information can be difficult to come by, but when you have it, it’s like gold.Qualification: First from a target market perspective, do the companies on the list meet your market criteria? There’s no sense in marketing to companies that don’t match with your criteria for specific vertical markets, company size, etc. Second, the makeup of the specific contacts on the list are of critical importance. Are the contacts on the list people likely to be qualified to make and/or influence the decision to buy your product/service? This question can most likely be answered by looking at your company’s current sales experience e.g. if your current customers are VPs of Technology, you should seek mailing lists with these and similar job titles. Accuracy: Are the individuals on the list still with the companies indicated? Are the addresses etc for the companies current. Has the company been acquired, merged with another or simply changed it’s name? Accuracy is very important in minimizing dead records. This is largely a function of how frequently the list you are evaluating has been updated.Cleanliness: Different from accuracy, cleanliness refers to the completeness of each record on the list. Is each field completed? Are there simple data entry mistakes, like misspelled company names. Some of these errors can cause significant problems in the execution of your direct marketing campaign.

Compiling Your Own List:

To develop your own marketing list, start with the following sources:Your Internal Prospect Database: Your company’s own customer and prospect database is your best choice when you need a list for a marketing campaign. This includes your main customer database, sales prospects, and prospects that have recently responded to an earlier marketing activity. Your selection of contacts from this database will be based on the subject and goals for your current campaign. Are you looking to cross-sell or up-sell existing customers, move prospects further down the consideration funnel etc.?Your Companies Business Relationships: Joint ventures and other business relationships can be an important source for list procurement. For example, one action item in a joint marketing venture may be marketing to your new partner’s customer and prospect list. Trade Associations: Many trade associations serving your target industries freely publish their member directories on their web sites or make them available at a modest cost. Trade association membership directories are a valuable starting point for developing a net new prospect list. Once you identify the associations that best match with your target customer, you can get more information on list availability by calling a trade association’s research department. Cisco has compiled lists of associations which can be accessed through our SMB Association Toolkit. Don’t be fooled by the term “SMB”, the associations listed here cover all market segments. Also, see some additional ideas for garnering association member contact information below.The Internet: The Internet is the absolute best thing when it comes to compiling your own list. By entering keywords for the companies and industries your are trying to gather contacts for into Google, you can easily locate the most relevant sites. Additional information including the company’s top managers can also be found easily on the Internet.

Finding Quality Source Lists:

For any direct marketing list, you will want to know the company name, the first and last name of a contact meeting your criteria, phone number and email address. You may also want to gather other relevant information about the company or contact so you can personalize your marketing message to them.Here are some specific examples that I might tap into to gather this information.Company Information:

  • Deloitte’s Fast 500 List and other such lists -- This provides basic company information, revenue numbers and the name of the CEO. Once you have this you can look up the URLs of your target companies from this list and find the complete address and more. Often you can find similar local based listings if you are targeting specific geographies.
  • Industrial Quick Search-- If you are targeting the manufacturing vertical this site provides a list of approximately 200 American industrial manufacturing companies including address, phone information and a link to the companies URL for more info. This is just an example of the data you can find online by doing a Google search. I found this site by typing in directories industrial manufacturers. You can find similar sites for other industries in the same fashion.

Contact Information:

  • Company Web Sites -- The most obvious place to look for contact names for the companies you are targeting is in the “About Us” or “Company Info” section of the company’s web site. You’ll most often find a “Management Team” or similar section, which will contain the name and title of the CEO (or whatever executive you want to target) and on some very rare occasions, the email address. If you can’t find the executive’s name there, look in the press release section of the site. The vast majority of press releases include some manufactured quotation from the CEO or President of the company. If you still can’t find it, go to Google and type in the company name and “CEO”.
  • ZoomInfo-- Sites liked ZoomInfo or Jigsaw can help you locate contacts within specific companies and/or companies meeting your target criteria. For the most part these are pay to play, but can be well worth it if you are committed to developing your list in house.
  • LinkedIn-- LinkedIn can also be a valuable resource, not just in terms of locating contact names at target companies, but in finding ways of potentially leveraging your own network to reach them.
  • Telephone Outreach -- Lastly, never underestimate the value of picking up the phone. To find contacts for your self-compiled list, you or someone in your company can call the main numbers at the companies you would like to include on your list and ask to speak to someone in IT (or any other generalized function). It may take you three or four tries to get the name and phone number of the right person in the company, but once the contact is obtained, it’s an extremely valuable addition to your direct marketing list database. Note that there are many companies that will do this kind of teleprospecting on your behalf. It can be costly, but the payoff may be worth it.

Obviously, self-compiled lists are created as a result of laborious, time consuming, detailed research and telephone contact. Can it be painful? You bet. Does it work? Absolutely. Is it worth it?You bet it is.

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