Your company is planning a major new business development initiative and everything’s ready to go…almost. The marketing message, email and collateral are ready. Your goals are established and your sales team is on-board and committed to doing their part with follow-up.
There are a number of ways to go about generating leads, but you want targeted and well qualified sales opportunities. The “promise” is there, but the missing ingredient is the prospect list. It’s the most important, usually the most expensive and frequently the most challenging to find. List vendors often promote accuracy rates exceeding 97%, but the reality is often far less. As the marketer, how can you make sure you’re getting a quality list and your money’s worth? Consider these 5 tips:
1. Establish Clear & Realistic Campaign Goals
Establishing clear campaign goals is a critical first step. Typical and acceptable direct mail response rates run from .5 %to 1.5%. Email campaign rates are usually better with reports in the 7%-15% range. Consider setting goals with a longer view and an realistic target lead conversion rate (Example: 20%-25%). Give some thought to your typical sale and profit margin. You can then set a profit goal by using the following formula: List size x Response Rate x Conversion Rate x Margin= PROFIT! Plug in values that fit your products and business.
2. Clarify Your List Criteria
Buying the right B2B lists requires solid knowledge of existing customers including SIC/NAICS, revenue by size, geography, and the buying influences known to be involved in the purchase and/or approval of your products. Any other factors known to influence the purchase of your products should be considered.
3. Choose the Right Vendor
There are many list vendors – Hoovers, D&B, and Lexus-Nexis to name just a few well known ones. Naturally, you want to get the best data for the best price, but that requires knowing the origin of the data you’re buying, testing the data, and getting some guarantees.
Generally speaking the closer a vendor is to the data source the better. Publications manage and update their own circulation lists. D&B (Hoovers) and others compile their own lists. If you want accurate B2B lists, look for vendors that compile and update their own data.
Brokers & Resellers
Although many brokers and resellers offer web based tools for searching and downloading data, they typically aren’t involved in their vendors’ data cleansing, updating or verification processes and have no control over the data accuracy. You’ll often pay a higher price to these resellers, so they can make their profit.
B2B List Aggregators
The biggest benefit or convenience that comes from buying from aggregators is that they typically consolidate data from a large variety of sources. That can also be the biggest drawback. The large amounts of data can include outdated, duplicate or conflicting records from the different sources. Which of their data sources provided the most accurate, up-to-date data? It is usually impossible to tell. While aggregators can make purchasing convenient, questionable quality can result in reduced campaign success.
Trade publications with specifically targeted audiences are solid sources for qualified lists and often offer email campaign management services to solicit their audiences. Learn how and when the publications verify their circulations, however. Publications with both paid and controlled circulations have audited circulation statements known as “ABC” and “BPA” Statements. (See paragraph 3B on BPA statements for 1 year renewal rates) Check these statements and other sources to verify that the numbers touted by the publication are real, live, verified individuals. Avoid publications with low 1 year renewal rates, or purchase only those names verified within the past year.
Trade Associations & Trade Shows
Trade associations often have membership lists for sale and trade show promoters will often sell lists of their registered attendees. Search the web for associations and trade shows that serve industries and job functions important to you and see what lists are available. These can make for well targeted campaigns.
4. Sample & Test the Data
Once you’ve found your preferred vendors, here’s how you can make sure you get the most out of their data:
- Obtain a sample B2B list and make sure they have all the data fields you need for your campaign (i.e., name, title, address, email and phone).
- Run a small “test campaign” to sample lists from various vendors and compare results. Consider buying from sources that guarantee minimum results.
- Know what the vendors are willing to do if results fall short of the minimum results like email bounces and other delivery or quality metrics.
5. Make Your Purchase
Taking the above steps require patience, but these same steps will lead to greater long-term success. Acquiring the right B2B lists and partners and keeping an eye on metrics and continuous performance improvement will enable you to zero in on your best available lists.
Five years with Thomas Publishing and over 25 years in this business have taught me a lot about how lists are built and maintained. Some do it well and others not so well. How do you qualify your list providers? It’s an ongoing challenge and your fellow marketers would love to know what works for you.
Some B2B List Sources:
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