New Developments in B-to-B List Acquisition

To reach cold prospects among business audiences, sales and marketing teams often begin by developing a list of prospective targets. Marketers can find just about every target company, title and job function they need from traditional list suppliers. Plus, the Internet has made possible the introduction of some excellent new opportunities for identifying prospects at various stages of the buying cycle. Let’s look at what’s new in B-to-B lists these days

To reach cold prospects among business audiences, sales and marketing teams often begin by developing a list of prospective targets. Marketers can find just about every target company, title and job function they need from traditional list suppliers. Plus, the Internet has made possible the introduction of some excellent new opportunities for identifying prospects at various stages of the buying cycle. Let’s look at what’s new in B-to-B lists these days.

Traditionally, the first step in list development has been working with a list broker who has experience in your target audience category. There are more than 40,000 business lists available for rent in the U.S., plus numerous databases and online data enhancement services to choose from.

Business lists can be divided into four general types:

  1. Compiled files assembled from directories, the Internet or other public and private sources, by such suppliers as D&B, InfoGroup, Data.com, NetProspex and ZoomInfo. In recent years, many compilers have been making their data available for rent via an online interface, vastly enhancing the speed and flexibility of ordering.
  2. Response files created as a by-product of other businesses, like catalog/e-commerce sales, seminars, trade organization memberships, or magazine and newsletter subscriptions. Response files tend to be more current and accurate than compiled files.
  3. Cooperative databases from multiple list owners, offered in either open format, where you pay for what you use (examples being MeritDirect’s MeritBase, InfoGroup’s b2bdatawarehouse and Mardev DM2’s Decisionmaker database), or closed format, where only members who put customer names in can take prospect names out (examples include Epsilon Abacus Cooperative and the b2bBase, a joint venture of MeritDirect and Experian).
  4. Internal databases populated from billing systems, lead management systems, and website registration systems. Many companies today use their marketing automation or CRM systems as their marketing databases, and populate them from a variety of internal and external sources.

A New Direction in B-to-B Lists
The B-to-B list industry has changed considerably in the last decade, with the proliferation of social networks. But the big new development today is the trend away from static name/address lists, to dynamic sourcing of prospect names complete with valuable indicators of buying readiness culled from their actual behavior online. Companies such as InsideView and Leadspace are developing solutions in this area.

Leadspace, created by a team of former Israeli intelligence officers, is a leader in targeted, real-time prospecting data for business marketers. Their process begins with constructing an ideal buyer persona by analyzing the client’s best customers, which can be executed by uploading a few hundred records of name, company name and email address. Then, Leadspace scours the Internet, social networks and scores of contact databases for look-alikes and immediately delivers prospect names, fresh contact information and additional data about their professional activities.

How LevelEleven Took its Prospecting to the Next Level
LevelEleven provides a cloud-based platform where sales managers can create fresh and compelling sales contests within Salesforce.com. For example, the Detroit Pistons recently used LevelEleven to organize a sales contest for skyboxes at their arena, and drove sales of over half a million dollars. In other words, 50 percent of the skybox annual sales target was closed in a mere six weeks.

LevelEleven’s target prospect is a sales manager or sales operations manager in any company that uses Salesforce.com as its CRM system. Today, LevelEleven’s sales team gets leads from four sources:

  1. The Salesforce.com AppExchange, where other Salesforce users search for partners.
  2. Conferences and trade shows, like Dreamforce.
  3. Registrations from content downloads at the LevelEleven website.
  4. Rented lists of prospects.

LevelEleven has tried a variety of list sources over the years, with mixed results. In the first half of 2012, the prospecting sources produced zero in closed sales. In June 2012, they began experimenting with Leadspace. In the second half of 2012, a full 30 percent of LevelEleven closed deals came from this source.

According to Bob Marsh, CEO, the power of Leadspace for LevelEleven is its close targeting based on the LevelEleven customer profile. “Leadspace helps us infer pretty accurately whether a prospect is using the Salesforce platform,” he says. “And they deliver to us a short list of highly likely contacts in the account, like the Salesforce administrator or the sales operations manager. Everyone on our sales team has a Leadspace license, and it is performing for us.”

It’s a good thing that the B-to-B list business is continuing to evolve in new directions. What new developments are you seeing?

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Email Marketing Redefined: The 3 Keys to Customer Retention

Memorable experiences make people more likely to return when they need your products or services again. Memories are made by both good and bad experiences. You expect customers to place another order after a good experience. Yet, surprisingly, they are more likely to return after a bad experience when the issues are resolved than after an uneventful good experience. Solving the problems that contribute to a bad experience creates trust, and the more people trust your company, the more they buy

The best customer retention strategies begin with the first order and continue until the lifespan is complete. Everything that happens from the first visit to completion of the final order is part of the experience of shopping with your company. Memorable experiences make people more likely to return when they need your products or services again. Memories are made by both good and bad experiences.

You expect customers to return to place another order after a good experience. Yet, surprisingly, customers are more likely to return after a bad experience when the issues are resolved than after an uneventful good experience. Solving the problems that contribute to a bad experience creates trust, and the more customers trust your company, the more they buy.

Consistently keeping promises also builds trust. When an order is placed, fulfillment is expected. Simply fulfilling orders will not retain customers because every legitimate business fulfills orders. You have to do more to differentiate your company from the competition. Relationships retain customers. Email allows companies in high-volume business to communicate with people on a one-to-one basis. This establishes relationships. Yes, it is at a superficial level, but it serves the purpose of personalizing the customer experience and significantly improves retention rates.

Most people aren’t fooled into thinking that “[insert name here]” emails are personal. They know that is a form letter, but that doesn’t matter as long as the information included is relevant. People placing orders are not looking for best friends, they are looking to solve a problem with minimal effort. The problem may be not having the perfect outfit for the next party, the best coffee maker, a service that would make their jobs easier, or a variety of other challenges. Whatever the problem, if your company provides the solution, keeps the customer informed, and makes everything as easy as possible, people will keep coming back for more.

There are three key components to an effective customer retention strategy:

  1. Knowledge of the Customer Lifecycle—Knowing how people normally act provides insight into drop-off points and inspires ideas for keeping them from leaving. When you know how each segment of your customer base typically performs, you can recognize when someone prematurely drops out of the buying cycle.
  2. Execution of a Detailed Communication Plan—Good communication is the key to all successful relationships. Sharing information about order processing, special sales, use of products and available services contributes to customer retention because it simplifies the buying and consumption process.
  3. An Automated Reactivation Process—Reactivation must start as soon as a customer reaches the first drop-off point. When you know your customer types well enough to know when they have passed the next order point without making a purchase, you can catch them before they are completely gone. Email automation simplifies the reactivation process. Create a strategy designed to connect with customers before they migrate to a competitor.

Plan your reactivation strategy to start while people are still in the active buying cycle. Every email sent from your business to your customers should have a retention element in it, such as these:

  • Make people feel valued and appreciated
  • Solve problems before people ask for help
  • Provide value above and beyond offering low prices
  • Keep people informed throughout the buying process
  • Provide information on the use of products and services
  • Create a bond between company and customer