8 Top Tips to Building the Perfect Prospect List

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8 Top Tips to Building the Perfect Prospect List

There are no two ways about it.  You have to find new prospects if you want to start or stay in business.  But with so many obstacles in your way, how can anyone even begin to get their business moving when you can't even get to first-base and have a conversation with a decision maker?

As you may already have found out, cold-calling in all of its forms is a waste of time, simply because of the odds.  Any promoter of cold calling always adds that cold calling is only part of the marketing mix and that the most effective method to make contact is based upon multiple efforts, i.e. combining mailshots and telephoning.

Trouble is, if everyone is attempting to do the same, your efforts appear as "noise".  And, like the noise in social media (Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn etc), you have to find a way of rising above it to get noticed.  Strangely enough, waving a flag in the middle of the street can be more effective!

1. First things first, ask for permission to market to them!

Did you say please when you started marketing?  Why is spamming so annoying?  Well, apart from 99% of it being total crap, the 1% that might be remotely valid is still unwelcomed simply because we didn't ask for it in the first place.

There's a bit more to this feeling of intrusiveness that can be explained.  The bottom line is that the spammer didn't, wouldn't and couldn't be bothered to ask for permission.  According to author Seth Godin, our purpose, when it comes to marketing our respective businesses, is only to ask for permission.

That’s it!  Permission to market to a select or group of people or businesses.  Think about it.  What more can you do, especially if you're in the B2B market.  It's rare that you would buy anything the first time you landed on a site.  You normally take your time and build up a picture of who or what you're considering.

So, how can any sort of relationship start if you haven't had the manners to say please in the first place?  If your attitude is polite and your manner is genuine, you're more likely to endear yourself to a prospect and encourage them to accept your marketing material if you asked for permission first.

Think about how you feel when an unwelcomed email arrives in your Inbox.  It's no different when messages are sent to your prospects.

Even when you do obtain permission, you still need to ensure that your content is relevant.  By obtaining permission, you stand more of a chance of ultimately selling your product or service to a prospect than any other approach.

Don't worry about the best way to approach this method.  Simply ask in plain English - and then automate the process. If you have the facility, activate the double opt-in option on your email registration software.  Personally, I think that the GDPR is being implemented because too many people didn’t ask for permission.

2. Next, acquire your database

Buy a list from a reputable list broker like Dun & Bradstreet.  The cost is about £100 per '000 and they have a minimum charge of about £300. Basic information is standard, however, if you want the name of the managing director or any senior management, then the cost increases.  It is possible to obtain lists from publishers, so, if your target market has a publication, it may be worthwhile speaking to the publishers to find out the cost.  They normally have the relevant contact details.

3. Clean up the list

This will entail telephoning the company and confirming that you have the correct names and details.  It is generally accepted that 30% of the names on databases are incorrect after six months of cleaning them up (because of people moving jobs etc). so, you need to make sure that your names are correct.

You could do this yourself or appoint a telemarketing company to clean the data up for you.  I’d go with the latter as they normally have plenty of people who are happy to do this.

4. Identify what are your marketing assets are?

If you want to attract new business, what are you going to use as "bait".  I like to fish, so bear with me on the analogy!  What is it about you and your company that is attractive.  Why should they consider you at all?

To begin with, prepare a list of assets that you already have or need to create that you can give to your prospects over a period of time.  These can include:

  • White Paper
  • eBook
  • Videos
  • Toolkit
  • Multi-Part Email Series
  • ROI Analysis Calculator
  • Webinars
  • Seminars
  • Demonstration
  • Free Analysis or Review

If you are a reseller of another product, speak to your dealer or area manager and ask them for anything they have that you can use.  The point here is to create a list of marketing assets that your customers can really use and benefit from.  Based on these itams, you can build them in to the offerings to establish "what's in it for me'.  No one does anything for nothing, so give them a reason and something tangible in the process.

5. Vlogs vs Blogs

It might seem like a tall order, but video is part of the overall strategy and a necessity if you don't want to waste your time cold calling and walking the streets!

It might not seem ideal but using your Smartphone camera can have just as much impact for a small business as all the bells and whistles for a large company.  Prospects want to see you, know you and find out what your business is about, so in many cases having a full production team can be a bit overkill (and really expensive!), unless you’re Gary Vaynerchuk.

There are a number of smaller companies setting up that offer a walk-in video service at a very reasonable cost like www.businessfilmbooth.com .  In their recent survey, the found that video increased engagement on LinkedIn by up to 400%.

To give an idea of the video duration, use the following as a guide: -



30 sec to 1:30

Company Intro


2-3 mins



2-15 mins



2mins - 3 hrs

Case Study


2-3 mins

Animated Explainer


1-3 mins



5-30 mins

Landing Page


5-30 secs

Some ideas for business videos or vlogs are as follows:

  • Product highlights and demonstrations
  • Interviews
  • Funnies
  • Events
  • How to...
  • Advice
  • A day in the life of...

When it comes to blogs, i.e. the written article, they’re not dead in the water!  but it’s important to understand what intellectual assets your company has in terms of business intelligence.  This intelligence is then transposed in to writing accompanied by diagrams, tables and graphics.

It is accepted that long-form articles hold more weight than short articles.  The real issue is readability.  Firstly, is the article any good?  It’s far better to output engaging short articles than rambling long one’s.  The point is, keep writing, keep the content coming and don’t worry too much whether you think it’s good or bad, let your readers decide as you can’t please everyone all the time, and let’s face it they’re all different personalities anyway.

6. Getting the show on the road – The 334 Content Plan

One of the big problems most companies have is getting to first base.  The big question is “How do I get our company’s name out there, almost from scratch.  We have no real social presence, so how do we get traction?”

You must understand this whole marketing ‘gig’ is a show, it’s an act.  Yes, I know, we are all supposed to be authentic, but the reality is, especially in the B2B arena, we must prepare what we want to post out in advance and therefore it cannot be spontaneous and appear like all the content is ‘off-the-cuff’.

Here’s the 334 Content Plan; three pieces of content, posted three times per day over four weeks

  • Prepare No.30 articles with engaging title graphics that include your company logo and branding and post these to your blog. Ensure that your blog page has the facility for someone to provide their name and email address to receive further notifications and or they can access the same freebie you’re giving away as mentioned below
  • Prepare No.30 adverts that will link to a variety of landing pages. Offer something of value in return for their name and email address.  And don’t forget the stipulations of the GDPR
  • Prepare No.30 vlogs/videos Create branded graphics for the beginning and end of the 30sec-1:30min videos including the call-to-action url’s pointing to landing pages

Post one of each of the above content pieces every day for No.30 days on LinkedIn and Facebook and repeat for up to three months

I mentioned earlier that B2B selling was an act, you’re putting on a show.  This method means you can prepare everything in advance, post consistently for up to three months and significantly raise awareness and your profile on the social sites.

But it doesn’t stop there…

7. Connect & Follow on LinkedIn

After the first week or so of posting the articles, adverts and vlogs, instruct your sales team to connect on LinkedIn with the identified audience on your database.  This can be a bit ‘hit-and-miss’, but if you have a subscription to LinkedIn you can send Inmail inviting the companies you’re targeting on your database to connect with your team on this platform. 

The effect is that they will see you’ve already posted consistently over the past seven days and will continue to see what you’re posting over the next month or so.  This exercise is all about presence and getting noticed.

8. And finally, prepare a direct mail campaign

Nothing too grand, just a single page letter, unless you already have brochures printed.  The point of this is that too many marketers opt for email.  We’re all flooded with copious emails every day, so a short brief letter introducing your business and offering a link to a landing page is all that’s needed, and it may well be a welcomed change.

The ‘letter’ approach is also GDPR compliant as you are inviting the reader to engage with you.

Get planning, get writing and get shooting

The logic of this approach is you’re able to prepare everything in advance and importantly read, critique and review everything before it gets posted online.

You want to present a consistent ‘tone-of-voice’ for your company and the most organised way to achieve this is to prepare in advance.  If something doesn’t fit or flow, change it.  No drama and no perceived embarrassment.

Good luck and most importantly, enjoy...

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About the Author

Nigel Maine

Nigel Maine

Nigel is the Founder & Managing Director of salesXchange and has been helping SMEs for over 25 years to develop their marketing, technologies and infrastructure to generate more profits, more efficiently. His recent book book "Integrate! The Essential Business Technology & Marketing Handbook" can be downloaded from Amazon.

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