Recently I was asked:
We are just starting a cold calling process and I was wondering if you had any ideas on what publications we could use to track down businesses based on industry, turnover, staff numbers etc.
Here are a few ideas.
One of the most important steps in approaching potential clients is to qualify them. The better they fit your profile of a good client, the easier it will be for you to speak with them and conduct a successful sales conversation.
However, there are only three ways to access lists of prospects:
- Generate your own list from inbound enquiries.
- Obtain an existing list of businesses.
- Get access to someone else’s list by way of a Joint Venture with them where they send your information to their clients.
1. Create your own list
The first approach (from inbound enquiries) contains by far the “hottest” prospects. Because they have already responded to your marketing message and contacted you, they are more likely to continue into your sales process. But sometimes it can take a while to achieve a suitable volume of inbound enquiries. Especially for a new/young business.
And advertising to create inbound enquiries can be expensive. If the marketing budget is thin this can slow the process. So building a list can be frustrating. But it is the best source.
Often you’ll want to contact prospects NOW.
To do this you can either use paid online options such as Google Adwords pay-per-click advertising (to create your own list as above) or buy an existing list.
2. Buy or access an existing list
But make sure you obtain your list from a reputable source. This approach also gives you control over the timing of your contacts, and may be less costly than creating your own list via advertising and promotions. Once you have a list you can proactively contact them now to get the sales process underway. No need to wait.
Like most firms, your business probably serves clients across a number of industries. However it’s often a good idea to focus marketing activities on a specific industry. This way you can present a very strong and relevant message, even though you may be dealing with prospects across a variety of industries.
You can even recycle the same tactic for different industry sectors. Just use a slight ‘twist’, to make it suitable for each sector.
You run a marketing services firm and you have clients in both the graphic design industry and the business coaching industry. Both these sectors are also on your prospect “hit list” – you want more of them. To create interest you could offer an information sheet to prospects. For your prospects in the graphic design industry you may produce an information sheet called “Proven marketing tactics for Graphic Designers”. For your prospects in the coaching industry you would write another info sheet and call it “How Business Coaches can attract more clients”. It’s the same tactic customised for very different industry sectors.
But you still need to identify prospects to receive the information sheets.
There are a number of sources you can readily access from which you can either create your own list of prospects (for direct mail or telephone contact purposes) or generate interest via advertising.
These sources include:
General business lists prepared by media outlets.
This type of list usually includes larger businesses, or fast growth businesses. For example in Australia this type of list if produced by BRW magazine.
These are sometimes available through industry associations, business networking groups, Chambers of Commerce etc. Personal networking and research can also be used to identify potential clients by industry type.
Professional list brokers.
Check for details and currency of list. List criteria often include fields that might help you – e.g. number of employees, turnover, location.
Web sites for exhibitions and trade shows within your chosen industry sectors.
To find industry events, look for links/ad’s in industry journals. Or do a web search for industry name and terms like – trade show, exhibition, conference etc. Also check major venues as they usually have a list of upcoming trade shows and conferences. For example, the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre web site shows all upcoming events. Just look for the “event calendar” link on their home page to access the list of events. Then follow links back to the organisers web site for a full listing of exhibitors. Bingo, you have a list of active companies in that industry!
Industry newsletters and professional journals.
Due to the targeted nature of readership advertising in these publications can be very cost effective. Use direct-response style ad’s in these journals to generate inbound enquiries and create your own list of interested prospects.
3. A Joint Venture
The third approach – a Joint Venture – is more of a strategic decision as you first need to identify a suitable JV partner (a company offering a complementary product/service with a similar client base), and convince them it is a good idea.
Importantly, you need to have something of value to offer them, or their clients, in return. Due to the existing relationship the prospect has with the JV partner you will need to identify the most suitable path for developing these leads. Joint Ventures take time and planning.
No matter which sources you use to find prospects, it’s imperative to plan your initial contact with a focus on what the next step will be.
- Do you want to send the prospect information?
- Will you need to schedule a meeting with decision makers?
- Will you need to provide “proof” of your services by way of testimonials or references?
- Will you need to follow up in 3 weeks time?
Remember: finding prospects is just the beginning.