Prospects and Lead Generation

Searching for SuspectsAny business will only survive, prosper and grow if it has customers. That may seem like an obvious statement but how do you find prospective customers and how do they find you?

I’m talking here about the very first steps in the sales and marketing process, that of generating a list of ‘suspects’ to be turned into prospects, leads, opportunities and, ultimately, customers.

It’s easy to rely on a few ‘tried and trusted’ places to find prospects. However, the fewer you have, the more difficult it is likely to be to find enough to grow your business. It’s also likely that if you have been mining the same seam for some time, the number of prospects you are turning up is reducing.

Here (in no particular order) are some of the places we have used to find likely suspects.

  • General advertising. By this, I mean paid-for advertising. In a B2B environment, this is generally confined to things like specialist publications, card decks (yes, they do work), Google AdWords and so on. Adverts on radio, TV or billboards are usually more appropriate for B2C customers, unless you are a huge multi-national intent on brand building.
  • Trade press. Generally good for targeting specific segments of your likely market but don’t just rely on adverts. Very many publications will give you good rates for advertising if you also contribute some advertorial or editorial content. But don’t just leave it at that. Check out which other companies are advertising to find potential customers amongst them. Also check out the publications your suspects advertise in as their competitors are likely to do the same.
  • Competitor reference lists. Yes, seriously. Obviously, this works best if your competitors produce reference lists but, even if they don’t, you will have a record of sales you’ve lost to competitors. The great advantage of this source of suspects is that they have already identified themselves as people or companies who are willing to buy what you are trying to sell.
  • Competitors of existing customers. This one has to be handled carefully to avoid it back-firing on you. The key thing to avoid is appearing to have a conflict of interest. For example, if your product is giving your existing customer a market-leading advantage, do you really want to undermine that position by giving their competitor the same advantage? And it should go without saying that any ‘sensitive’ information you learn must be kept confidential.
  • Lists. The classic list is the purchased mailing list. Spend your money if you want but, in most cases, don’t expect a great return. You are far better off spending your time and money building your own list from scratch. To help with this, expand your thinking and look at other lists. Some examples of lists you could review are the The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, Chamber of Commerce membership lists, the list of members of any LinkedIn groups to which you belong. You have to be a little ‘cute’ with this last one because LI limits you to seeing 500 members. However, using the Search field will filter the list so you can get quite specific in finding suspects.
  • On/Offline directories. The classic directory is, of course, the telephone directory. If you decide to go down this route, don’t just pick up the phone. Do some research, find out who you should be talking to and why. The same applies to online directories, of which there are many. However, an online directory will often have a link to the company website, making your job a little easier.

This list is by no means exhaustive but we hope it helps! Why not share with us some of the places you have used to find suspects?

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