Many distributors put time, dollars and effort into prospecting, but often are disappointed in the results. It’s easy to get frustrated with the quality of prospect records and write off Hoovers, Dun & Bradstreet (which now owns Hoovers), InfoUSA, Equifax … whichever business database provider you love to hate.
The truth is that all commercial databases have their relative strengths and weaknesses that simply need to be managed as best as possible. MDM Analytics licenses and resells D&B data, which we add value to through our market models in a number of ways.
Older (and I like to think smarter) marketers tend to build higher tolerances and thicker skins around the foibles and inevitable inaccuracies of data, but still manage to extract the gold from the gravel. Here are a few steps to plan and execute a prospecting plan that will have a higher chance of success.
1. Start with your own customers first. The grass is not always greener elsewhere. Too many companies go after new accounts rather than mine current accounts with high potential in relation to current sales. Consider appending your customer list to add D&B/Hoovers (or other provider) fields to each record, including industry classification (NAICS/SIC code), number of employees, revenues, square footage, etc. Then compare your trailing-12-month sales into that account with the appended data fields. If there are a lot of employees or high annual revenues compared to your sales, there's likely opportunity for you to grow there.
2. Narrow the choke on your shotgun. When targeting new accounts, most companies start with their own top segments, but still try to boil the ocean under the premise that more prospects are better. In fact, fewer, higher quality prospects are more valuable. Be selective in cutting off small accounts, especially those in the 1-9 employee range. They tend to have the most noise in terms of inaccuracies. Typically, the larger the customer account, the better quality of data because of their stability and reporting consistency.
3. Ready, Aim, Build a Prospecting Plan. Most companies don't create a project plan for this type of customer acquisition activity; they buy a list. Even fewer put metrics to goals for the effort. To set a realistic new revenue target for a territory, first determine the size of the universe. What’s the size of the market and what’s your share? How big are the ones you’re not selling to? You can set more realistic revenue goals by first getting better visibility – through data – of the complete market profile and where your best opportunities are.
With back-of-envelope revenue potential calculated, you can prioritize the segments and territories to attack. Based on the size/potential of prospects, divide the target list to your field sales, telemarketing and direct/email resources. Set a realistic completion deadline with milestones and check-ins. It may sound obvious, but the dollar value of bought but unused/abused prospect lists in this world is mind-boggling.
4. Triangulate, triangulate, triangulate. Refine your prospecting with more data. Third-party resources, including MDM Analytics, can help you focus your efforts on accounts with the highest potential. We append customer and prospect lists with D&B fields and add our estimated spend by specific product category at each account. It effectively ranks the prospect list by potential dollars matched to your product portfolio as closely as possible, providing a shortcut to qualify and probe high-yield potential. For customer lists, it’s a great way to measure how much wallet share you have at an account and to prioritize accounts to penetrate deeper.
Depending on industries you target, Industrial Info Resources (www.industrialinfo.com) might help with listings and maps of manufacturing/petrochem facilities, for example. We have no connection, and I can't vouch for their quality, but I know clients who have used them to refine targets in oil refining and chemical plants along the Gulf Coast.
The other part of triangulating is to not overwhelm your sales, telemarketers or others who will be executing this research. The more you can focus on the highest-potential accounts, the better chance for success. It only takes one or two wins to get everyone excited about making prospecting projects a habit. Set weekly or monthly call/qualification requirements that are reasonable on top of normal activity.
Obviously, I’ve simplified some of the processes here. Please call me directly at 303-440-3857 if you’d like to talk in more detail about ways our customers over the years have made their prospecting efforts more effective or any of the points here.