Prospecting to IT Buyers: How Nine Data Vendors Stack Up

Buyers of information technology (IT) are one of the most valued audiences targeted by business marketers. Globally, these professionals spend $3.6 trillion on hardware, software and technology services. My colleague Bernice Grossman and I recently investigated the availability of prospecting data available to tech marketers for reaching this desirable group, and we found some surprises.

Buyers of information technology (IT) are one of the most valued audiences targeted by business marketers. Globally, these professionals spend $3.6 trillion on hardware, software and technology services. My colleague Bernice Grossman and I recently investigated the availability of prospecting data available to tech marketers for reaching this desirable group, and we found some surprises.

We asked twenty companies who supply prospecting data to business marketers to share with us statistics about the quantity and quality of the data they have on IT buyers in the U.S. Nine vendors graciously participated in our study-specifically, Data.com, D&B, Harte-Hanks, Infogroup, Mardev-DM2, NetProspex, Stirista, Worldata and ZoomInfo. Our thanks to them for letting us poke around under their hoods.

We asked each participating vendor to report to us on the number of companies on their databases in ten industries, by SIC code. We also asked for the numbers of contacts with IT titles in a sampling of twenty firms in those SICs, ten large enterprises and ten small businesses. Finally, we sent them the names and addresses of ten actual IT professionals (people whom Bernice and I happen to know, and were able to persuade to let us submit their names), and we asked the vendors to share with us the exact record they have on those individuals. The results of our study can be downloaded here.

This is the same methodology we have used in past studies on prospecting data available to business marketers—although this was the first study we have done on a particular industry vertical. Our objective is, first, to get at the question of coverage, meaning, the extent to which a business marketer can gain access to all the companies and contacts in the target market. And second, we want to show marketers the level of accuracy in the data available for prospecting-for example, is Joe Schmoe still the CIO at Acme Widgets, and can I get his correct phone number and email address?

The answers to these questions, in general, was YES. The data reported was surprisingly accurate, especially given how much business marketers complain about the data they get from vendors. And the coverage was wide, meaning there seem to be plenty of IT names in a variety of industries for us to contact.

But the data also revealed some interesting trends in business marketing in general and tech marketing in specific.

  • Prospecting data is being sold these days out of massive databases, which makes it far easier for marketers to select exactly the targets they want, by such criteria as title, company size and industry, irrespective of whether a “compiled” or a “response” name.
  • Company counts by SIC varied widely among the vendors, reminding us that data providers may have their own proprietary systems for flagging a company by industry code.
  • Job titles are getting fuzzier than ever. We found real IT professionals using titles such as Platform Manager and Reporting Manager-which makes it tough to know what they really do.

Given these developments, we urge our fellow marketers to probe carefully on data sourcing and categorizing practices, and to specify in great detail exactly what targets you’re going after, when buying data for new customer acquisition. And we suggest that you source from multiple vendors, in order to expand your market coverage potential. Happy prospecting to all.

How I’m Creating Leads and Sales on LinkedIn

The biggest mistake most of us are making when promoting content within a LinkedIn Group is sharing a link back to what we’ve published. Instead, success depends on your ability to use what you already know works within the walls of LinkedIn Groups and, ultimately, getting prospects off of social media. Yes, I’m serious. I’m living proof. I’ve been using LinkedIn to create leads and actual sales with good success.

The biggest mistake most of us are making when promoting content within a LinkedIn Group is sharing a link back to what we’ve published. Instead, success depends on your ability to use what you already know works within the walls of LinkedIn Groups and, ultimately, getting prospects off of social media. Yes, I’m serious. I’m living proof. I’ve been using LinkedIn to create leads and actual sales with good success.

Most of us believe that setting up an engaging LinkedIn group or attractive profile is the key to success for businesses or job seekers. But it’s just not true. Finding crafty ways to mention your blogs, webinars or new product releases within LinkedIn rarely works—produces appointments, leads or sales.

The key to success is founded in creative thinking about what you already know works and getting your target market off of social media. Here’s proof—in the form of my experience and how you can do the same.

Step 1: Create Content That Provokes
I recently decided to go after a niche: small- to mid-sized kitchen cabinet dealerships who need help using LinkedIn for sales. My goal was to create sales of my book and leads for my social sales training product. My strategy was to get people already engaged in discussions relevant to the pain I can cure to actually leave LinkedIn and register at my site, call me on the phone or buy my book.

First, I created content that I knew would scratch the itch of my market. I baited my hook. I interviewed an industry expert who had something truly different to say about how successful kitchen cabinet dealers are using social media and using LinkedIn for sales leads.

What my expert had to say was contrarian, valuable, provocative and actionable. This part was key. This was the barb in the hook.

Step 2: Locate Qualified Discussions
I then published a handful of stories and audio interviews featuring my guest, Jim, discussing how successful home improvement businesses are using social media to create leads and sales. He didn’t talk about how they should be using Twitter, Facebook, blogs and such. Instead, he spoke on how they are and gave readers/listeners the chance to learn how they can do the same. He told them how to take action.

I then carefully joined related LinkedIn groups, taking care to make sure I was clear about my intent to join. I had something honestly valuable to share—actionable insights on a topic that is of current interest to group members.

I joined and waited. Within a few days I spotted a discussion on a Kitchen Cabinet industry group where I could answer a question in a way that “brought to life” the specific valuable answers my guest expert was offering … but not in the usual way.

Step 3: Tease Prospects Into Action
The biggest mistake most of us are making when promoting content within a LinkedIn group is sharing a link back to what we’ve published. You see, the minute I stopped sharing links and started saying less the more action I got—the more people did what I wanted them to do (visit my site and become a lead).

Ultimately it’s all about getting prospects off of social media (and on a lead-nurturing system). How you go about doing that is critical when using Linkedin. You don’t want to waste time!

Bottom line: The more I’m baiting people—teasing them—the more I’m getting emailed directly through LinkedIn from hungry customers who want to connect, become a lead or buy a product on-the-spot.

Sure, my website is good at selling products and capturing leads—that requirement doesn’t go away. Remember your job is to tease your audience into taking action on something that you already know they want to act on.

I didn’t get paid by “telling a story” or “providing valuable content” or educating my target market. That’s social media guru blather. I ethically bribed my customers into taking action on something that they wanted to take action on to begin with. I then gave them full satisfaction—useful, actionable answers to burning questions they had.

Next up, I’ll explain exactly how I did it in more detail. See you then!

How to Convert LinkedIn Contacts into Qualified Leads

Answering your customers’ most commonly asked questions opens the door for discovery … and for brands to make relevant suggestions. You can offer prospects a friendly tip or useful trick or, if appropriate, outline benefits of taking a trial, downloading a whitepaper or attending your webinar.

Turning LinkedIn contacts or LinkedIn Group members into leads rarely happens using what I call passive engagement. It takes something more than occupying prospects’ time. You’ve got to convince them to sign up for your webinar or download your whitepaper.

Luckily, converting LinkedIn contacts to leads is easy. Just start by solving your target market’s problems in ways they find irresistible. Then plan engagement—carefully map it out to connect your target customers’ questions to the answers your content marketing devices (webinars, whitepaper) deliver.

The Engagement Myth
If you’re like most B-to-B marketers, you’re struggling to turn LinkedIn contacts and group members into leads. But getting it done is easier than you think. After a year of interviewing B-to-B and business to consumer businesses experiencing remarkable success using social media I found the common success principle: Ditching passive engagement—and giving contacts, friends, followers and such a reason to offer more than a “like” or merely consume content.

Many LinkedIn gurus claim awareness, reach and influence leads to conversion. They say, “regular online participation in LinkedIn Groups and with followers on other social platforms can convert them from followers into leads and on to customers.”

Yes, it can but this belief isn’t much different than the “reach and frequency” promise of advertising. Namely, if we beat the drum loud enough (reach) and often enough (frequency) it will cause people to perform an action—register, attend, download. As Dr. Phil likes to say, “and how’s that working for ya?” This is what I call passive engagement.

But there is a better way: Designing engagement to produce actions by solving customers’ problems in places where questions often get asked—like LinkedIn Groups.

Solve Customers’ Problems
You’ve probably heard that posting a certain number of times, on certain subjects, on certain days inside LinkedIn Groups where your target market congregates is the key that unlocks success with LinkedIn. Or maybe you’ve heard that frequent posting of blogs you’ve written in LinkedIn Groups will generate leads. These ideas don’t work. The key to success is solving customers’ problems in provocative ways.

For instance, use LinkedIn to generate questions among customers that your webinar or whitepaper gives answers to. Creatively bait customers to communicate or complain about problems (in LinkedIn Groups) that your content marketing device provides solutions for. Next, provoke actions—exploit those complaints by enticing, “ethically bribing” prospects to register for a webinar, download or perform an action that helps you qualify them as leads. It’s a snap.

Scratch Customers’ Itches in LinkedIn Groups
For instance, grocery store Harris-Teeter pays customers to ask its dietician health-related questions on Facebook. Why would a grocer—or you—do that? Because helping customers put out a fire or scratch a bothersome itch is powerful. It can be done on any social platform where your target audience is engaging, like LinkedIn.

Answering your customers’ most commonly asked questions opens the door for discovery … and for brands to make relevant suggestions. You can offer prospects a friendly tip or useful trick or, if appropriate, outline benefits of taking a trial, downloading a whitepaper or attending your webinar.

Always beware: leads don’t “just happen” passively using LinkedIn. You need to solve problems with a plan in mind. That said, using a question-and-answer technique takes much of the work out of the process. It can even be fun. What do you think about giving this a try?