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The Seven Basics for Success Using B-to-B Lists

By Sep 15, 2010

Think you know just about everything there is to know about using business-to-business lists to generate new customers? Maybe you do. But some marketers, in their enthusiasm for implementing the most cutting-edge tactics, might be overlooking the basics. With that in mind, here are seven elements essential to successful use of b-to-b lists:

1) Segment contacts for more relevancy. Evaluate your list to determine how contacts can be grouped into smaller lists making them easier to target and providing meaningful tracking. You can group contacts by industry, title, revenue range, location, or other factors. This allows you to develop messages that are meaningful to specific segments, instead of sending one generic message to the entire list. Smaller lists also make campaigns more manageable. When it comes time to assess the results of your campaign, segmented lists will provide valuable information, such as whether you’re targeting the right individuals or industries, that would be difficult to discern with one large list.

2) Clean up the details. No list is perfect. Data become outdated quickly, and some may not even be accurate to begin with. The cost of direct mail and email targeted to a poor list will add up quickly in hard costs, reputation damage with ISPs, and wasted time. Likewise, sales reps aren’t likely to delve too deeply into a prospecting list once they find that the data haven’t been updated recently.

3) Create list-specific messages. Reference selling—using customer testimonials, references, and the like—is very effective. Make sure you develop messages with references that are relevant to your list segments. For example, if your segment your list into subsets targeting teachers, school counselors, and school administrators, make sure your messages to teachers include referrals from other teachers and your messages to administrators feature testimonials from administrators. If you’re including company or personal references in a direct mail or an email, make sure you have permission to use their names. When making a phone call, you can take more liberties by mentioning peer companies with whom you’re also talking.

4) Determine the proper campaign cadence. Will your contacts respond best to an email or direct mail prior to a phone call? Or should you call first, then follow up with an email if you are not successful after a few calls? Should you call every day or stick with the best practice of adding a business day between each subsequent call? One company marketing to the healthcare industry decided on a different cadence for different job titles. The CIO cadence included four touches, while the vice president of IT and director of clinical applications received eight touches.

5) Measure what’s important. Determine the best system to measure success and capture important information. Results you want to capture include activity volume, connect rates (such as what percentage of calls reached a live person), and conversion rates. Also look beyond these measurements to gather value-added information about why someone is not interested. Use each contact to find out about competitors, purchasing schedules, or company environments that will help you target contacts more specifically in the future. For example, if you sell solutions that complement enterprise resource planning solutions, ask contacts which ERP vendor they use. This information can provide the basis for a very targeted follow-up campaign.

6) Gather boardroom-level insight. Spend time analyzing how your list performed. Evaluate list segments and apply strategic thinking to understand which segments are performing best and why. Looking at a whole campaign simply justifies the campaign, but analyzing segments can provide boardroom-ready data about which markets are most responsive, which messages are most targeted, and what changes in marketing are needed in order to succeed. One software company recently embarked on a new-business campaign believing financial services was its strongest market for sales. After looking at lead generation results by industry, it was clear the healthcare industry was more receptive and could be a ripe opportunity for the company’s message.

7) Nurture the list. Often campaigns are tabled once completed. Instead, to get value out of every call, place those with a “no” response into a nurture program. For example, if you find out that a segment of your list is just not ready yet to purchase, set these contacts aside with a reminder to touch base with them again at a predetermined date. A lead scoring program can help you think through scenarios more likely to appeal to these still-relevant prospects.

Jenny Vance is president of LeadJen, a business-to-business lead generation company.