Before you ever get on the telephone, send a marketing piece or
set up an appointment with a potential customer, you must first
identify whom that customer might be. To do that, you will need
to create an “ideal customer profile”–a profile of who would be
the best possible prospect for you and whatever you are selling.
Be very specific. You are creating the model to which you will
match all prospects. The more specific you are, the easier it
will be to find those prospects. Look at the entire demographics, location or target region, revenues, number of employees, specific industries and, especially, the title of the decision-maker. If you are in the consumer market, look at age, income level, marital status, interests… whatever might be relevant.
Once you have an ideal customer profile (and, by the way–you
could have several different ideal customer profiles with a
different approach for each), go to the library and tell the
librarian exactly what you are looking for. She can probably tell you exactly where to find it–for free. At the library they have association directories, trade journals, business directories…
You can also join associations in related industries where you
might find prospects. This will provide you with valuable
networking opportunities, along with a membership directory. If
you do not want to join an association, contact them anyway;
sometimes associations sell their membership directories. You can do the same thing with trade publications in related industries. They sometimes sell their subscriber lists.
Your local chamber of commerce is also a good place to look for
leads. And one of my favorite resources is the telephone book!
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neighborhood? Open up the business yellow pages. There are online resources as well, such as although there is generally a fee associated with these.
The last resource for finding leads is to rent a list. Find a
broker with whom you are comfortable–someone who listens to your needs, is knowledgeable and helpful. And be specific about your parameters. The list broker acts as a liaison between you and the list owner. The broker works for you. You can also rent lists from list owners (i.e., companies or organizations that own their own in-house lists) or from list managers who are hired by list owners to manage and market their lists. Lists are generally rented on a one-time basis. If you rent a list and turn a prospect into a client, that client then becomes part of your in-house list or database (which, later, you can rent out!).
Because I almost never rent lists, I have asked Amanda Puppo, CEO of MarketReach, Inc., a New Jersey-based company focusing on appointment setting, list qualification and surveys, to give us her advice on renting a list. Amanda says:
1. Shop competitively on price, but remember that you want a
source that will deliver what’s promised and a broker that will
be resourceful in helping you target your list.
2. You should (affordably) get the following “selects” on each
“record”: owner/president, address, phone number, fax number and often the staff size and sales volume, if you are going after businesses. If you are targeting individuals, you can get
information like homeowner/renter status, marital status and
3. A good list company updates their lists at least once a
quarter. The best ones do so once a month. People move. Companies go out of business. Situations change. A good list allows you to spend your time productively on qualified information. A company that only updates records once a year (especially in the personal/individual market) may not have the most recent information, which will limit your success.