B2B lead generation basics for startups
How should you source your leads for your outbound sales campaign? I see a lot of people getting this wrong—they take the most obvious, easiest and least intelligent way, and it hurts their business.
There are several providers that will sell you lists of names, emails, titles and other contact information and business data:
- D&B Hoovers (fromerly Hoovers)
- D&B (formerly Avention, formerly OneSource)
- [retired] Netprospex.com
- data axle (formerly Infousa.com)
- [retired] Data.com (formerly Jigsaw)
Highest quantity/lowest quality: Buying lists
If you buy from these providers, you should expect that a certain percentage of that data will be outdated. (It's been a couple of years since I last use any of these companies, but back then about 30%–40% of the data I bought was outdated).
Consider this will cost you twice: once the money you spend acquiring the bad data, and then the money (time/resources) you invest in reaching out to those unqualified leads.
High quantity/low quality: Web scraping
An alternative to buying lists is to make your own list by scraping websites, which means you extract contact data from a website with a little program/script.
It's a bit of a gray area, and you should check if the website you want to scrape allows that.
If you target a very specific niche and there are highly targeted websites, this can be a successful approach.
Low quantity/high quality: Outsourced lead gen team
Hire a company that manually finds leads for you, based on the criteria you establish with them.
Lowest quantity/highest quality: Create customer profiles
Look at your current 5 most successful customers. Successful in this context means: a) they get the most value out of using your product and b) you profit greatly from them being a customer. (Look for the strongest win-wins between you and your customers).
And then try to identify the core DNA of your most successful customers. Ask a lot of questions about these companies and look for common denominators:
- How big is the company?
- How many employees do they have?
- What other software tools do they use?
- What are the titles of all the employees?
- What kind of social media platforms do they use?
- Where are they located?
- What's their average deal size?
- How long have they already been in business?
- How did they hear about us? How did we acquire them?
You'll have to ask a ton of questions and then filter out those that they have in common and that are most relevant.
Based on that you'll then create a very specific customer profile.
And then you go and find another 5 to 20 businesses that have the same core DNA (sometimes you can start with their closest competitors. ;)
There are many ways to then reach out to prospects working at these companies, whether via LinkedIn, using an email guessing tool or an email finder, or via other means. Tools like ReachHub make it easy to extract contact data directly from LinkedIn and enroll them in an email campaign with just one click via their Chrome extension.
You don't need thousands of shitty names. You just need a handful of really great ones. [Tweet this!]
Reach out to those and strive to create high-quality sales conversations. Try to maximize response and conversion rates. Gain deep market insights that you can then leverage to make more sales and close better deals.
Find out what works best for you
You can probably tell from my answer that I personally prefer the highest quality, lowest quantity approach. But I encourage you to experiment for yourself. In some industries, for some businesses, the "spammy" high quantity/low quality approach works best.
In addition to that, the most valuable source of high-quality leads you have is your current customer base. Check out our B2B Referral Sales System post for specific advice.
- Read Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross. Talks in-depth about how to develop a sustainable lead generation system, and how to make it work with your overall sales process.
- Six simple steps to getting started with cold sales emails
- 5 cold email templates that will generate warm leads for your sales team!
- Cold calling conversion funnel metrics and benchmarks
- How to create a sales phone script (free template)
- What is lead generation? (How to do it well) on the Albacross blog
- Bonus: How to Create Online Quizzes That Generate Leads on the LeadQuizzes blog