When searching for prospects to buy your products or services, you want to find companies that have a problem for which you have the solution. The methods you use in finding and contacting those companies will determine if your business-to-business lead-generation efforts will be succeed or fail.
Begin by creating lists that rank your current customers by three criteria:
• Gross revenue. Place the largest companies at the top of the list and the smallest at the bottom.
• Profitability. List from “most profitable” to “least profitable.” Keep in mind that the most profitable are not necessarily those with the most gross revenue.
• Fit. Which companies represent the best fit for what you are selling? This ranking is more subjective than the first two. It identifies the companies you know well, those whose business you understand, those that are fun to work with, and those with which you have—or could have—a great working relationship. Rank these companies in order, descending from the best fit.
Your ideal customers are those that are at or near the top of all three lists. Then, while reviewing thse existing customers, consider the following questions:
• What industries are they in?
• Are they small, midsize, or large businesses?
• Where are they geographically?
• What is their Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code?
• What are the titles or job functions of their decision-makers?
This information will help you focus your efforts to find similar companies and decision-makers to target. Determine what is unique about these companies so that you can find more like them.
In addition to looking at your current customer base, review your company’s internal expertise and credentials to determine likely prospects for your solutions. If your company is a start-up and doesn’t have any customers yet, think about the kinds of companies you and your team have had success with in previous jobs.
You also can educate yourself on a vertical market (in other words, a particular industry such as residential or commercial construction, banking, or the retail clothing business), weaving the industry’s concerns and buzzwords into your marketing-for-leads materials. This will suggest that you understand the market and its needs. Be prepared, however, to answer the question “Who else in my industry have you served?” It is bound to come up.
If you don’t believe you can successfully sell into vertical markets, consider horizontal markets—those that cross industry lines. For example, if your ultimate goal is to sell to the residential or commercial construction industry, you might want to first target small and midsize businesses in need of material handling equipment.
Another way to look at the marketplace is geographically. In this case, you would focus on targeting companies within a particular area, whether it is a city, state, region, or country.
The next step in targeting your marketplace is to determine to which media the target audience are exposed. What trade magazines do they read? Which newsletters do they subscribe to? Which conferences and trade shows do they attend? Which professional associations do they belong to? Which Websites do they visit for business information?
You have a number of marketing vehicles available, ranging from newspaper advertising to putting your company logo on the Goodyear blimp. Some methods, of course, have proven to be more successful than others for b-to-b marketing. Once you have targeted your audience and developed your marketing database, you are ready to put together a plan using tried-and-true basics of marketing for leads. These include:
• Direct response marketing, which uses direct mail or direct response print advertising to generate inquiries.
• PR trade publications, newsletters, or Websites.
• Online marketing, including e-mail or banner ads with strong offers and easy-to-use response forms to catch searchers.
• Your own Website, once it’s been optimized to be found at the top of search engine results and populated with in-depth presales information that bridges the gap between marketing and sales.
• Relationship marketing to nurture and qualify the longer-term prospects.
• Events and promotions to help move prospects toward purchase.
• Sales tools to help your sales team sell.
M. H. “Mac” Mc Intosh is president of Mac Mc Intosh (www.sales-lead-experts.com), a consulting firm specializing in b-to-b sales and marketing.