An essential part of any business development program is finding the right prospects. There are many ways to identify potential companies and marketing decision-makers. Finding the right candidates, whether you are adding to your current list, expanding into new territory, or trying out a new vertical, can be challenging. Doing it yourself means endless Google searches, LinkedIn lookups, trade association membership research, and countless other activities that take you away from prospecting. You end up with too many dead ends, incomplete information, missing emails, and other frustrations. At the end of the day, your mind is Jell-O, and you walk away with ten to fifteen new prospects. Oy vey!
Or you can buy a list. There are many kinds of lists available from legitimate companies and list brokers. And even more from unscrupulous people claiming to have the best lists; high quality, guaranteed to buy, money back if they don’t. I’m sure you get emails, ads, and phone calls from many different list providers on shore, offshore, and no telling where. Finding a good list can be challenging. Using a bad list has painful repercussions. A good list is a valuable asset that opens the door to many new possibilities. The first consideration, if you’ve got list experts in the agency, seek their help. If you don’t, buyer beware.
There are two kinds of list categories; opt-in and cold. Legitimate opt-in lists are people who have explicitly agreed to receive content from specific companies or similar subject matter. And then there are so-called opt-in lists of people who skipped over the fine print and agreed without agreeing. Think Facebook, for example, and their 25-page user agreement. We are all guilty of jumping to the end and clicking yes. Maybe it’s your life insurance policy or copier lease, gym membership or credit card – you agree to allow us to use or sell your information for marketing purposes. Guess what? You are opted-in.
As far as I know, there aren’t any legitimate opt-in lists of marketing executives with agency hiring authority. Let me know if I am wrong. I’m sure you’ve seen such claims though. I have investigated a few and quickly realized there are no details or maybe vague assertions about how permission occurred, who the people are, and other essential criteria for proper vetting. As enticing as the concept is, I’ve restrained from actually trying any. If you have used such a list, please let me know. If you haven’t, stay resolute. I’ve got a better idea.
Cold lists are the only affordable option for agency business development, and honestly, there are only a few good choices. The more targeted and specialized, the more money it costs. Agency business development budgets aren’t typically big enough so, depending on what you choose to do, you are going to have to spend time on almost any list you buy. When considering how much to budget, you have to take into account the value of your time. At $100 per hour, a bad list can steal $1,000, even $10,000 of your time away from winning new clients. You would be better served spending that money on the quality of the list rather than being sidelined for days fixing a cheap list. Believe me. I know.
Don’t do what I did
I wanted to add 5,000 new prospects to my database and had pretty specific criteria. B2B companies with annual U.S. revenue of $500 million+, marketing executives, CMO, VP, Director titles, in particular states. I shopped around, got quotes, and choose the least expensive broker. (I know what you are thinking) What seemed like a legitimate, well-established, BBB rated, list supplier with good reviews, robust double-verification processes, a money back guarantee, wasn’t. His lists were complete garbage. Yes. You really do get what you pay for.
After three attempts at compiling the list according to my specifications, I was fed up and asked for my money back. Out of 5,382 records, I actually received about 150 that looked like they fit my criteria. The rest were garbage, wrong titles, and functions like HR, Shop Supervisor, Admin, everything but marketing. It was very old with companies that no longer exist. Many people had moved to other companies, some associated with a company they left over six years prior. Just imagine the time and effort it takes to verify 100, 1,000, or more contacts.
The broker agreed to a refund, stating that ‘customer satisfaction is his number one priority.’ Right! It took me four months to see a credit on my card and only because I had to get AMEX to exert their influence. I was months behind after spending countless hours wasting time researching to prove how bad the list was and doing it over and over again on every redo, not including the time I spent chasing a refund.
I thought I learned my lesson. I tried a more expensive resource, and after reviewing some sample leads, bought that list. After vetting and qualifying the contacts, I ended up with about 460 legitimate contacts out of 3,000, a 300% improvement but still far short of my goal. That was the difference between 15 cents and 50 cents per contact. But wait, there’s more. What started out as a 50-cent contact ended up an outrageous cost for a few qualified leads.
Do the math
That’s only the smallest expense in the equation. The time I had to invest vetting each contact added 20 hours of billable time researching people, revising titles, verifying contact info, and weeding out those who had changed companies or responsibilities. In the end, the real cost per lead reached around $10 per contact. At an industry average email open rate of about 25%, that’s about $31 per lead. At a click rate of 5%, that’s about $583 per qualified lead, not to mention all my time. At this price, I would have saved time, money, and have a lot more prospects if I had subscribed to a database rather than buy a list. Another hard lesson learned.
There used to be a variety of good list sources specific to ad agency new business. Companies like The List, AccessConfidential, and Red Books were the leaders. They were well-researched with the right people and titles and the choice among aggressive agency new business pros, many of whom subscribed to all three. Today, those databases have all consolidated into one, Winmo. I’m sure you’ve heard of Winmo, formerly TheList. Winmo is now the most extensive collection of marketing decision-makers. They have no real competitors anymore. There are other companies like D&B Hoovers, ZoomInfo, and LexisNexis, that have bigger databases and I’ve tried them. They are bigger because they include too wide a range of companies, titles, and other information. I had inconsistent results and very little sales intelligence to make the right kinds of ad agency prospecting decisions. Each time I strayed from the most reliable resource to try something new or different, I’ve always come back.
I use Winmo
My goal is to spend as little time researching as possible, so I have more time to prospect smartly. With D&B Hoovers, I found company information and a decision-maker or two but little else. With Winmo, I get key decision-makers, budget, potential timelines, everything I need to know to reach out, and what to say, all in one place. Unlike LexisNexis, Winmo often predicts possible opportunities months in advance. I know when to strike and how to get on the on their list. I can develop a smart strategy to move my agency to the top of the list during the time leading up to a change. I also get daily alerts and an enormous amount of intel, articles, analysis, and opinion all focused on the prospects that I’m after.
Of course, I’ve got apps in my browser to find emails on LinkedIn profiles and apps that search for contact information across the web and continuously try new tools to improve my research efforts. Still, I always start with Winmo. To be honest, they don’t always have everyone at every company in their database but, usually have someone at a company I am researching. If I can’t get the exact person, I get the company details and the email structure, so when I find the right person through LinkedIn or other sources, I’m two steps ahead. It is pretty remarkable how accurate they are considering the constant state of change in our industry.
If you are looking for local or smaller regional companies, Winmo might not be the right solution, although I would check them out because, depending on the category, they may have coverage. They are not nearly as comprehensive as they are with larger companies. I can’t wait until they roll out a ‘Winmo Local’ version. But that’s a topic for another post. Until then, local company research is mostly pick and shovel work.
As mentioned earlier, I’ve tried to go cheap, and it cost me dearly. I tried to find alternatives but never satisfied. I’ve tried many different so-called innovative or breakthrough products, and yet keep coming back to the one that does it best. Let my experience save you time and money, frustration, and headaches. If you are looking for decision-makers at thousands of brands and trying to assemble a prospect list that fits your agency vision and expertise, you are going to want to try out Winmo. Don't waste your precious time on any thing else.
Want a demo
If you want to take a look at Winmo or want to see how I use it every day, I would be happy to give you a demo, real time, with my ad agency prospecting platform. I’ll share my screen and my process with actual prospects and companies. You’ll see exactly what it is and how it works so you can decide if it’s right for your agency. If you are concerned about the price for a year’s subscription, it is far cheaper than working without it – the cost in lost time, worthless list purchases, missing information, lack of sales intelligence, and most importantly, a lost client you could have won.
I’ve got a lot of advice on how to make your business development efforts more effective and would enjoy sharing what I know. If you like this post, sign up for my new business newsletter. Find me on Twitter and LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. And, please share this with the rest of the agency. #LetsGrow!