As sales become increasingly sophisticated these days, B2B companies everywhere are investing greater resources into outbound marketing. If tailored well, targeted prospecting starts conversations with ideal accounts, generates qualified leads, provides strong ROI, and grows revenue.
Sales research, overlooked by more of us than we’d like to admit at the prospecting stage, has outsize impacts on top-of-funnel velocity. Put another way, your outbound marketing strategy success hinges on the quality of the leads generated. Lead lists must be highly-targeted and aligned to the Decision Makers at companies as defined by an Ideal Customer Profile. Pretty straightforward, right?
Building focused lead lists involve 4 crucial steps. It’s a simple process, but each step is filled with nuance and deliberate decision making. Below, you’ll learn the what and the how of building high-performing targeted lead lists. We draw from our experiences generating qualified sales opportunities for more than 1,000 b2b customers (ranging from seed-stage startups to the biggest global enterprises).
Don’t make the same mistakes others have made before. After the step-by-step guide, we share our 6 insider tips to build targeted lead lists the right way, the first time.
1. Define Your ICP and Buyer Persona
Lead generation starts by clearly defining your best-fit potential customer. Most sales orgs use Ideal Customer Profiles and Buyer Personas to outline such future customers. These documents enable SDRs to not waste time targeting contacts and accounts who don’t project as great-fit customers or those who do not need your service/product.
Both sales intelligence documents are de facto roadmaps for your prospecting and sales team to identify, engage with, and move future customers through your seller’s journey.
It’s likely you’ve already constructed both the ICP and BP. As buyers, industries, and the greater world shift (2020 has taken this to the extreme), it’s critical to update as your business and your buyers evolve.
Ideal Customer Profile (or ICP) is a thorough description of a company most likely to become a business next customer. This document, typically anchored by past customer data) includes your preference on the location, size, titles, and industry of your would-be-customer. Create a specific ICP for every outbound marketing campaign you perform, and use it as a map for finding the highest number of quality leads.
If an ICP shows you where to find targeted leads, a Buyer Persona (or BP) will show you how to communicate with those leads at each stage in your sales funnel. The Buyer Persona includes information on your previous, existing, and potential customers’ psychological traits, behavioral patterns, and buying habits. To generalize previous buyers’ features and create several BPs, include analysis from both sales and marketing teams. Many BPs include analysis of interviews and case studies of various customers – both current and former (former customer interviews can be tricky, for a plethora of reasons).
If you need some more details on how to craft, use, and perfect these sales documents, check out this step-by-step guide.
2. Define Your Type of Research
While an ICP usually contains some necessary information on your perfect customers, you still need to define what type of research you should perform. Whether you use in-house researchers or outsource for specialized research, you have to sort out criteria for your data to create a highly-targeted B2B lead list. You can choose one area of specialty, or you can pull relevant custom data sets for more persona-based decisions and outreach.
- Demographic Data – Includes the basics. Any lead list should contain some demographic information: titles, location, phone numbers, and emails. Only 27% of dials connect, so you have to make every number count. Validated emails prevent bounces from happening and are an important indicator as to the quality of a lead.
- Firmographic Data – Includes a breakdown of total addressable markets. Trigger events that happened in a market that may influence the sales process, such as recent fundings, mergers, or acquisitions.
CIENCE once performed a search of leads with reputation issues for a reputation enhancement and management company. One of the lead gen hacks we found seems obvious now but requires specific and targeted sales research: Which companies were having reputation problems, and how recent are those issues? Read the case study.
- Technographic Data – Includes analysis of web-based technology and apps installed, usually those on a website. This one is a must if your sales depend on the lead’s existing tech stack (like integrations or competitors), or if you are a software-managed services provider.
- Psychographic Data – Includes in-depth social media research into behavioral paths, career trajectories, and professional interests. For instance, if your company’s product is an online course on coping with stress after switching professions, you may focus on prospects who have dramatically changed their specialty in the last few months.
If you are using software to generate a lead list, you probably won’t be able to add more then one research criterion. Lead gen lists through software providers also mean that your competitors have access to the exact same data and contacts. Human-curated lead lists are built from scratch; it’s the best way that combines machine precision but with strategic-backed human decision making.
3. Define Your Target Audience
Wait, didn’t we do it in step one? Not exactly. In step one, we defined a target buyer – a generalized set of qualities and behavioral patterns based on previous customers. Here’s how a target audience is different.
Here’s an illustration, Company X sells marketing automation software. Most of their clients have 200-1,000 employees and yearly revenues of $10M – $50M. To this point, Company X has relied on network and referral sales, with its CEO taking many of the initial meetings.
When getting ready to launch their first Outbound Go-To-Market, the same personas that took initial meetings (referrals from CEOs and CMOs) will be much more difficult to entice without the benefit of familiarity. In this instance, Company X may define their target audience as Marketing Managers, Rev Ops, Email Marketing titles, and a separate cadence for C-suite audiences, including CMOs and CEOs.
A set of characteristics like these define a target audience and, later, will be transformed into the list of keywords for your targeted lead research.
Bonus tip: After you’ve defined a target audience and target personas, you can also make a list of the actual companies you want to target. For instance, if you are looking to target food & beverage manufacturing companies, the most prominent players in the market would be PepsiCo, Tyson Foods, and Nestle. It probably will be a challenge to grab the attention of these giants; however, targeted lead lists will give you the information and roadmap to build orchestrated, account-based sales development campaigns in order to start a conversation.
To find the companies that lead in your target market, you can use various lists, such as Fortune 100, 500, or 1000. For the fastest-growing private companies, you can use Inc. 5000 or The Financial Times Fastest-Growing lists as a resource.
4. Search, Filter, and Сollect the Data
When you know who to look for, where do you find your leads? The most popular and fairly effective tool for targeted B2B lead list building is LinkedIn Sales Navigator.
This platform enables effective prospecting for reps. Every advanced lead research in Sales Navigator starts from a formula. To create a new targeted lead list, researchers create a list of primary search keywords. Here’s an example – Location (United States, California), Titles (CEO, VP of Technology), Company Size (51-200 workers), Main Keyword (Marketing Agency).
This formula may generate two, six, or ten thousand results. Does it mean that all of these contacts can be transferred to your spreadsheet as leads? Not exactly. This is where your researchers earn their keep, filtering the data to curate the best-fit leads. Many opportunities are hidden in advanced Firmographic, Technographic, or Psychographic data.
Let’s say you are looking for VPs of Technology in Northern California. Your company specializes in chatbot technology specialized for b2b conversational marketing. Now your researchers have to filter those 2k results generated by formula and find those who don’t have any chatbot solution in place, and those who have an inferior conversational marketing tool. It is a time-consuming process that requires focus, diligence, and consistency. There are tools like WebScraper and Data Miner, to help scrape certain sites for data, but connecting all these different data sources, and validating the data they spit out, requires a strategic hand.
After data is collected into a spreadsheet, checked and validated, researchers, reps, or SDR managers upload it to a CRM, or sequencer, to serve for outbound campaigns. Now, your lead list is ready for prospecting.
Tips to Create the Most Accurate B2B Lead Lists
- Align Software and Human Resources
The right software is critical for executing just about any stage of sales and marketing, yet making the data actionable and the systems working together requires human ingenuity. During lead research, there are data sets that software tools cannot structure – behavioral patterns, meaningful technological stack, recent mergers, etc. Machine-powered, human-driven research is the best way to extract all the seemingly hard-to-find data and get the most detailed lead lists.
- Analyze the Data You Collect
Every lead that becomes a prospect and every lead that doesn’t is a source of information for your future marketing campaigns and optimization of your future lead lists. Customer Relationship Management platforms have become staples for maintaining huge, complex contact and customer data. Use it, analyze it, and imply the knowledge for the next list building.
- Validate the Data, Always
The lead data that you find on LinkedIn profiles may not always be accurate. Make sure to double-check with some additional resources to be sure that a lead can be reached. A contact’s website or ZoomInfo will help you verify company information. An email verification tool is needed to validate every email your researchers find. Careful here, there are hundreds of email verification tools that are not very accurate. Do your research, read reviews, and feel free to contact us about how CIENCE uses proprietary software to ensure 97%+ deliverability.
- Keep the quality-to-quantity ratio top of mind
Whether you perform research in-house or prefer to outsource, every lead has a price. Quantity doesn’t always mean quality. The cost of a lead includes researchers’ salaries, tech stack, training, and much more. The number of your leads will depend on your resources. The more hard-to-get data you require, the higher the price will be. However, the quality will pay off with a high conversion rate.
- Enrich existing data
Inspect the data you already have. Some of it may be incomplete or outdated. To avoid lead waste, update the ones you already have in your CRM. An optimized CRM should make it easier to identify which contacts need attention or to remove duplicates.
Sales decisions change all the time. Don’t delete old contacts; group them. Some of them were not interested at that moment; some already had a solution in place. However, perhaps a year after, it’s time to ask again?
Implementing and fine-tuning CRMs to scale and sustain growth can be challenging. If you decide to bring in a 3rd-party CRM implementation expert, make sure your outsourced CRM services partner has the certifications to validate their expertise (like being a HubSpot Advanced Implementation Certified partner).
- Ask the Experts
There are many tripwires in building accurate lead lists. A stumble at validation or a lapse at the contact data stage could make any outbound messaging irrelevant. After all, how can you deliver the perfect message, if you’re speaking to the wrong audience?
Because prospecting can be resource-intensive, an increasing number of companies are outsourcing their outbound top-of-funnel to both scale and sustain growth. If you are purchasing a list, it should not have been rented or used by other companies before. Also, before purchasing, dig into how the vendor finds leads and what is the process of validating them.
Outsourcing is a more cost-optimized and more effective alternative to building a lead list from ground zero. Firms that specialize in contact data acquisition provide their customers with fixed costs, high quality, and expertise. With the right contact and company data partner, companies get to have their salespeople do what they do best, create relationships, and close deals.
If you have questions about specialized sales research, what types of data would be best for your company’s prospecting, or to discuss the pros and cons of data subscriptions – CIENCE can help.