Small Business Guide to Lead Lists & Generation

If you think a leads list is a one-off approach to getting new leads for your most recent email or direct mail campaign, you have a lot to learn from this guide. A leads list is virtually worthless if it doesn’t contain quality leads, which means not only complete and accurate data but also the right data for your needs. If your leads list doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the prospect, like their firmographics, demographics, industry, job title, years in business, phone, email, address, and more, there’s a good chance you won’t get the results you’re hoping for. Without the right information, you may not be targeting your ideal customer – or you may have the right targets but their contact information is inaccurate or altogether incorrect. Learn more about your options for getting the best leads list for your company and how to start building your own list. Tweet This

Three Ways to Get Leads

When it comes to leads lists, you can rent, buy, or build, and there are pros and cons to all three approaches.

Renting a list can be a wise option for small businesses that may not have the budget or employees to drive their own lead generation. It allows a small business to quickly acquire a leads list from a larger company that’s already grown its organic lead base.

In this case, however, the small business may face a challenging open rate for emails. Customers who opted-in to receive emails from the original company may not be happy about receiving emails from the business renting the leads list. Emails may go unopened and many people may unsubscribe from all emails, including those from the larger company. At any point, the larger company may decide to stop renting their list, in which case the small business will have to quickly find another alternative.

Finally, when you rent a list, you’ll have to work with the list provider to send your emails, because you don’t actually have access to the contact information (as you don’t own the list). And you’ll have to have a well-thought-out method to collect prospect information and pass it on to your sales team, if a target opens your email and then clicks through to your site.

When you buy a leads list, you enjoy the same pros of renting, with the added bonus of owning the list and being able to send your own emails. Here, too, you may face some challenges. Generic leads lists that are for sale generally don’t have a lot of high-quality leads. Plus, top email marketing vendors usually frown on customers using paid lists and generally require that customers use opt-in lists, to ensure that those receiving the messages actually chose to receive them. And again, as with renting a list, you’ll face a challenging open rate and may even harm your reputation as a business by appearing spammy to your prospects.

To maximize a purchased list, work with a company that will let you customize your list and that can provide you with all of the information you need to target your messaging appropriately: firmographics, demographics, industry, job title, years in business, phone, email, address, etc.

There are some huge pros to building your own leads list – the most obvious being that it’s completely tailored to your specific needs and you can alter it at your will. Another pro to building your own list is that if you choose the right services to build it, you can continue to grow and change your list over time by adding new forms of data. For instance, if, for your first campaign, you were targeting a general audience and needed to know only years in business and the company’s phone number, building a simple list gets the job done. But later when you run a more targeted campaign and need to know industry data, family-tree data, emails, and addresses, having access to that information will allow you to build a more robust list. If you choose a provider with the right capabilities, you may even be able to find your ideal customer and build a list based on look-alikes.

There are cons to building your own list, as well. If price is an issue for your business, you may not immediately see the value in buying a subscription to a lead service that could run you thousands of dollars. You may also put a lot more time and effort into building a list than would be required when buying or renting. If you don’t have the time or marketing manpower to do all the necessary customer research and analyses necessary for building an ideal list, you may be more drawn toward buying or renting.

Once you’ve decided which approach will be best for your needs, you’ll want to research which lead services will be able to serve you best. Things you’ll want to consider are:

  • The types of data the service provides (Do they provide phone numbers but not addresses? Do they have firmographics and industry data?)
  • How the leads were obtained (Are these people who have purchased a product? Or did they enter a prize contest? Depending on how the leads were generated, they may not all be high quality.)
  • The quality of the data (How often do they cleanse their data? Will the contact information you receive be the most accurate and up to date?)
  • How you can grow with the service (Can you only rent with them or can you build, too? Do they have dedicated employees to help you find your ideal customer and build your ideal list?)

Benefits of Building Your Own Leads List

Generating contacts, converting contacts into leads, and converting leads into customers are the primary functions of a marketing operation in the digital world. The way most organizations approach getting new contacts is with inbound lead generation. The principles of inbound lead generation are simple:

  1. Build proprietary assets
  2. Market proprietary assets
  3. Trade content for contacts

A proprietary asset is a piece of content provided for free in exchange for contact information. Informative e-books are often gated in this manner to build inbound lists, and private videos or even applications can be similarly bartered for contact information. If your company sells software to help web designers, for example, you might offer a free instructional PDF with tips about web development. In exchange for this free content, you collect an email address from the interested party and the opportunity to pitch this person your products in the future.

The major values of inbound lead generation are:

1) Inbound leads tend to be much cheaper to generate than those available for purchase or rental.

2) Inbound leads have already interacted with your company’s content on a volunteer basis. This tends to make them more likely to complete a future sale.

If the marketing for the free content and the content itself are creative and high value, a bond can be forged with the prospect which will make a sale more likely. However, using content for lead generation can be demanding. As technology continues to evolve, new marketing avenues open almost daily, rewarding companies who can be nimble enough to embrace new tools and let go of older ones. You’ll need to keep pressing to find new ways to grow your inbound leads and to frequently come up with new free-content offerings. Plus it’s helpful to continually learn more about what your existing inbound leads need and want, so you can address their concerns in better and better ways. This will, in turn, help you attract more leads.

The Importance of Quality Leads

The quality of your leads can be a significant factor in how much revenue your sales team brings in. If you’re going to pay for leads, or charge others for them, you should make sure you’re buying/selling quality leads, not just collecting data.

What Makes a Quality Lead

There are a few things to consider when determining whether a lead is a quality one for your business. Detailed demographics (name, age, etc.) allow you to know who to contact; firmographics (company size, revenue, etc.) enrich your lead data to help paint a holistic view of the potential prospect; buying signals and multiple contact touchpoints (email, phone, social media, etc.) can inform your sales outreach strategy and should be included.

According to The 2017 B2B Marketing Data Report from Dun & Bradstreet, in the next 60 minutes, 271 businesses will move, over 1,200 telephone numbers will change or be disconnected, 767 CEO changes will occur, and 673 new businesses will open. You’re only as good as your data, so all this information needs to be accurate and up to date. A lead with all the necessary aforementioned information should arm a sales rep with just about everything needed to qualify and convert the lead into a customer. Then it’s up to the sales rep to close.

Why Quality Leads Are So Important

Quality leads are crucial to growth, and bad leads can actually cost companies time and money. Businesses lose approximately $20,000 per sales rep per year on bad leads and are estimated to lose even more in missed opportunities and undelivered direct mail. But, with robust lead data, sales teams are equipped with the arsenal to help them identify whom to call, what to say to help close the sale, and how to address each prospect’s specific pain points.

Quality leads mean more viable prospects can be reached – and sold to! – saving sales wasted time from calling invalid numbers or speaking to uninterested individuals. So if your business ever finds itself needing to choose between an abundance of mediocre leads or a few high-quality ones, remember: quality over quantity.

How to Start Building Your List

Examine current customers

The first thing you should do is take your existing customers and build a profile. What does your best customer look like when you add firmographics, contact info, credit data, socioeconomic data, etc.? This profile is what you’ll base your leads lists on – look-alikes of your best customer.

Choose the right lead service

B2B business marketers tend to think that if you know a prospect’s industry or field, then you know all you need. But you would actually be missing key information: How long have they been in business? What are their business credit scores and ratings? What’s the state of their industry? If you choose the right provider, you may be able to get all this crucial data and more from one source. If not, you may find yourself going to multiple providers trying to gather all the data you truly need to build a robust and helpful profile of your prospects and customers.

Use data to build the perfect list

All this data you’re collecting will come in handy for your salespeople, who need to know not only who they are speaking to,  but also how to speak to them to make a sale. For instance, knowing that the person they’re communicating with is in a struggling industry allows the salesperson to speak to that issue and provide specific selling points to that individual, which they may not have been able to without key industry data.

Other factors will help you decide who to sell to as well. Depending on your product, how long your sales cycle is, and what you are trying to accomplish, you may be looking for a very specific type of customer. The more data you have available to you, the more you can tailor your leads lists, and the more information your salespeople have before they even pick up the phone or send an email.

Consider your future needs

One thing most marketers or small business owners fail to consider is the difference between what needs to be known right now and what might be helpful to know in the future. When thinking short-term and only considering what needs to be known to send out an email campaign next week, you may choose an approach or provider that doesn’t meet your long-term goals. But when thinking long-term and considering what you may want to know about prospects down the line, you can choose the approach and provider that will be able to serve you as you grow and go further in your sales cycle. Often the right long-term approach will be building your own lists, and the right provider will have all the data you need in one place.

5 Untapped Resources for Lead Generation

Businesses and marketing are ever changing. As the popularity of social networks and mobile use grows, marketers and advertisers must adapt their approach to fit customer responses to new trends. Those who fail to do so tend to get left behind.

Every year there are new tools and software that can help generate new leads and attract new clients to your business. Are you making the most of them? Here are some resources you may not have thought about when planning your marketing strategy:

In recent years, mobile search advertising has been showing better results than paid search. An Adobe Report from 2014-2015 shows that paid search is going down 75% percent year over year while mobile ads are up 23% year over year. Mobile ads now account for 37% of all search engine marketing (SEM) and mobile browsing has risen to 41% of all website traffic. This is good news for businesses since the cost per click for mobile is currently less than for desktop.
The average open rate of a text message sits at about 99%, while email ranges from 28-33%. In fact, SMS is the perfect communication platform for time-sensitive messages. This case study of media and entertainment company JJMM shows how they used SMS to promote tours and radio and TV performances. Their sales increased by 20% and awareness increased by 60%.

Texting can be used in a variety of ways to increase awareness of your brand and build relationships: you can offer discounts, promote events and training, and run contests. It’s also easy to incorporate an SMS marketing program into your existing marketing channels, such as email, websites, social media, TV, and radio.

In 2015, Google included mobile-friendliness as part of its ranking system. That’s because the growth of mobile has been phenomenal and has already overtaken desktop use. The popularity of mobile apps is easy to explain: They’re easy to access and quick to open, allowing your customers to have better access to your services when they’re not at their desktops. The easier you can make it for them to engage with your business on their mobile device, the more likely they’ll be to do business with you.

This case study for the airline ticket search company, which created a mobile app where customers could complete ticket purchases, is a perfect example of how well mobile apps translate into sales. It was so successful that 25% of their bookings and 21% of their profits came from the app.

If this wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when you consider lead generation, no one would blame you. It’s not a traditionally popular route to build a following. Even podcast guru Tim Paige admits it wouldn’t be his first line of action to start building a robust client list. But he does give it one big plus, which is that professionals who do sign on through podcasts are some of your most engaged clients.

They’re the ones who open the emails that no one else does, have the highest click-through rates and respond most frequently to calls to action. Even if podcasting isn’t your main platform or service, the clients you reel in through podcasting can go right to the top of your VIP list.

You may have overlooked this lead-generating channel in the past, but here’s why you should give Pinterest a try:

Pinterest is a highly visual platform, so make sure your images can keep up with the competition. Use special tools to produce professional images: create stunning infographics and create boards for your videos. Video content is gaining momentum and sharing it on Pinterest won’t hurt.

Managing Your Leads List

Leads list management is still the key to boosting ROI in an increasingly inbound marketing universe. How should you measure the value of purchased or rented leads? Here are five of the most important dimensions to consider (the first three work just as well for measuring inbound leads).

  1. Conversion
  2. Call to Close
  3. Clicks From Email
  4. Cost per Lead
  5. Time From Lead to Close
Conversion – The obvious way to measure how and whether a lead is working out is to ask the simple question: Did this lead result in an opportunity to make a sale?

In answering the conversion question, not only can a company judge the value of its marketing, but it can identify segments of the market that respond to its goods. This information about what’s working and with whom can lead to better, more targeted campaigns.

Call to Close – This conversion data begs the next useful question: How many of these opportunities resulted in a sale actually occurring? (How many “calls” before one close?)

Here, too, the data can be more valuable even than the lead conversion. Knowing what kinds of leads are converting to close, and which are struggling, can be invaluable to creating and maintaining an effective sales strategy. Robust communication between marketing and sales departments is essential and Calls to Close is one of the  key metrics spanning both.

Clicks from Email – How many clicks did each email earn, per lead?

Emails sent from any department can be a good source of data for sales and marketing. Analysis of click-through helps identify both responsive and challenging markets and the building blocks to craft an increasingly clear message. You can compare your rates in various parts of the market, and across diverse industries and customer bases, to start to home in on your ideal customer.

Cost per Conversion – How much did each sale cost?

Because outbound leads tend to cost more to generate than inbound leads, it makes sense to focus more on the quality than the quantity. To judge the effectiveness of a lead source, or the interest of a market segment, consider the price per conversion (sales opportunity), rather than merely judging the price per lead.

Time from Lead to Close – How long did it take the average lead to convert to an actual sale?

Again, since outbound leads tend to be more expensive, it is beneficial to align them as closely as possible with the target sales cycle length. Use the time it takes to bring a given set of leads all the way to sale to help determine the value of those leads. As much as possible, try to shrink the time between lead and sale to below your overall cycle.

What Can I Do with My Leads List?

The short answer is: as much as you can.

Within the bounds of propriety, and avoiding consumer annoyance, the goal is to use your leads lists to make access to your company’s products and services as easy as possible to as many prospects as can be reached. A full spectrum approach to lead generation and management requires, by definition, both inbound and outbound tactics. To maximize sales and marketing potential, nurture a homegrown list while also curating a collection of external resources.

Most importantly, cleanse and update your lists frequently, as broken and unprofitable contacts will diminish your overall success and make closing harder for your salespeople.

Based on an analysis of nearly 695 million contact records, the Dun & Bradstreet report noted the following:

On average, contact data was rated either “unreliable” or “questionable” on a five-point scale in the areas of email deliverability, record completeness and “phone connectability” – in other words, whether an individual is connected to a phone number and whether that number is correct. Less than 10% of all records were ranked “optimal” in any of these categories.

When key contact information is unavailable or unreliable in more than three-quarters of data, B2B sales and marketing efforts can’t reach their full potential. And unreliable data can cause bigger problems:

  • Incomplete records can impact the ability to score, route, and segment leads in effective ways.
  • Incorrect or incomplete data involving emails can notably reduce the efficacy of email marketing. In extreme cases, it can even damage the reputation of the sender.
  • Incorrect or incomplete information about telephone numbers wastes time and other resources spent calling the wrong numbers or individuals.
  • When they are not identified, duplicate records lead to extra costs due to redundant marketing efforts.

With a free Data HealthScan, you can help identify incomplete or outdated leads in your lists and then take the necessary steps to fill in the blanks or update contact information. Routine scans like this one will help you manage your leads lists and can help make your salespeople more efficient.

Photo Credit: vegasworld, Twenty20