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Oct 31, 2006
How To

How to Flesh Out Your B-to-B Sales Lead Database: Better House Lists in 7 Easy Steps

SUMMARY: Most B-to-B marketers privately lament the state of their in-house lists and prospect databases. Are your names outdated? Are you missing decision-maker names for some of your target market?

In this exclusive MarketingSherpa interview with expert Bernice Grossman, you'll get step-by-step instructions to help you improve your database and house lists immediately:
25 years ago when Bernice Grossman, President of DMRS Group, started out as a young marketing database designer, she decided that B-to-B lists were far more exciting than consumer lists.

"A consumer address is three lines, but a B-to-B address can be as many as eight lines from a data point of view. B-to-B lead databases are extremely precise because you have to know precisely what you want and then you need to know how to ask for it. The complexity really interested me."

She admits, however, that this makes her a strange bird, indeed. "For most people, this is so boring that they hope if they talk really fast it will just get done."

Want to make your job easier? MarketingSherpa picked Grossman's mind for the advice she's given clients, such as Microsoft and Epson. Here are our seven easy steps based on her practical wisdom:

Step #1. Start with the in-house database

"If you talk to most marketers, they'll tell you their data is garbage," says Grossman. "I don't know the definition of garbage. I'd rather take a look at your data and see what will be useful for you. Remember, the customer database wasn't designed for marketing."

Your initial goal is to scope out the territory. See what you have in terms of job titles, industry verticals, age of record, SIC codes, etc. You're looking for data holes to fill, such as key decision-maker names or user names (Grossman notes that some customer files only have accounting and shipping addresses.)

You're also looking for trends -- doing a rough regression analysis. Which industries, regions or job titles do you have a lot of traction in? What parts of your database are working well for your sales?

Step #2. Convince sales to help you

Sales reps tend to keep their own private lists of prospects, customers and users. Naturally, you'll want to pry this data from them to add to the main database. Why pay big bucks to acquire names that your company already owns?

Also, naturally, the sales department will resist this. They don't like the idea of anyone touching their cherished files.

"They have absolutely no interest whatsoever in giving me their data," Grossman laughs. "The only thing I've ever found that works is to make an honest deal with them. They like money, but I could never give them as much as they're earning. So I offer the one other thing I have that has some value to them: to clean up their records and make them more accurate and then send the records back to whatever CRM system they are using."

She warns that you'll have to set expectations. Some reps may expect you to be able to append prospect's birthdays or pet's names or whatever they use to build the relationship.

Step #3. Append SIC codes & other useful data

Who should pay for appending? "At the first meeting, usually with the VP Sales and Marketing, we explain that it's more likely that marketing will pay for the initial clean-up. Then we're going to set up some systems to automate the cleaning process and it will either be corporate overhead or costs will be shared by both departments."

What should you append? It depends on the definition of the perfect lead or renewable customer record that you and the sales department (and perhaps even finance) have agreed upon. Common appends include SIC code, corporate ownership, number of employees at a particular location or globally, etc.

Of course, you'll also want to append any additional executive names that you didn't already have in the database.

However, be aware that while appending email address is legal in the US, it is generally frowned upon as permission-to-email is impossible to append. Without permission, using those emails is extremely risky and cost future accounts. In addition, MarketingSherpa has anecdotal evidence showing that appending email addresses does not respond nearly as well as permissioned names.

Which companies are best at appending for B-to-B lists? Grossman says you'll need to run a test campaign with several of the biggies (Donnelley Marketing, Experian, Equifax, D&B, etc.) to find out which is right for your own database. She can never predict ahead of time which will win.

Give each company that agrees to the test the same 5,000 records, including 20 records that you already know the correct answers to. "The test should be totally objective to see hit rate and accuracy. Only after that, look at price."

Yes, you can often convince the vendors to run your test for free, as long as there's a guarantee of ongoing future business if they win your account. Look at how many leads you get per year from marketing campaigns, along with possible marketplace extensions and the average job tenure of prospects, to figure out how much appending you'll need later.

"When the test is done for free, I give them several weeks," notes Grossman. "Later, once you've set something up and fit with their existing processes, it will take about a week."

Step #4. Fix your registration forms

Also, based on your agreement with sales and finance about what a perfect sales lead looks like, you'll want to tweak the questions on registration and "contact us" forms. Key: you don't want to add all the questions up front, which might dissuade prospects from joining your list. You can use surveys, telemarketing and other touches later to learn more.

Just include the critical data now. Grossman's biggest tip: Instead of (or in addition to) giving a free-form box for job title, offer a drop-down menu or checklist of titles. That way, you will be able to sort leads much more easily.

Let's face it, so many companies have weird titles these days (Chief Sherpa, for example) that title info isn't useful unless you can sort it into piles.

Step #5. Try a soft-offer title slug mailing

Don't have enough penetration into key accounts by job title? Grossman advises a title slug postal mailing. In this case, instead of the person's name, you use the job title you're looking for. It may work better than you would expect. "You can't use titles, such as thought leader or director of intelligence. The mailroom will throw those out," she says.

However, other mail will often be sent along via company channels to the right person. And business execs are often less picky about what's on the ad,dress label than you'd think (consider mailings you may get with your predecessor's name on them.)

Since the goal is to gather more names for your database, make your offer super compelling and super soft. In other words, it's something most execs would love that's quick and easy to respond to get.

Give them a choice of mail back, fax back and online forms. Even in this Web-loving day and age, many execs find it easier to mail back a printed form than to go online in the middle of a busy day.

Step #6. Telemarket current clients

Grossman advises that it's getting tougher to make cold calls to companies asking for executive names. Switchboards and administrative assistants are trained not to give out that information.

However, if you call a current or new account and ask, “Who else works there so we can help them, too," you'll probably have much better success. So, set up a telemarketing project to touch new accounts soon after signing.

Step #7. Job-changers project

You may also want to set up a telemarketing project to call accounts automatically when you have noticed via email, vcard or press release (sign up to be pinged about your client's brand names at Yahoo or Google News) that someone's changed jobs.

Job changers can be your best evangelists at the organizations to which they move. Plus, you'll want to turn a new exec into your fan before they start bringing their old vendors into the building with them.

Useful links related to this article:

Study Data: Easiest Way to Build Your Opt-in List With Targeted Business Prospects

How to End Sales Lead Neglect & Make Sure Every Single Lead is Followed Up On Appropriately

DMRS Group

See Also:

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