Brian Carroll

On building targeted lists for B2B Lead Generation Programs


Would you buy this business card? When you buy a list of names, you are basically buying business cards on a list. But there is no such thing as buying the perfect list, especially if you have a complex sale.

A study by John Coe and the Sales & Marketing Institute showed, “70.8% of business people changed one or more elements on their business cards each year.” My experience has been been around 45%. But in either case it’s a big number.

Let’s say you want to invite, via e-mail, a specific group of individuals in your database to a webinar or webcast. Or perhaps you’d like to do a targeted, direct-mail campaign to a select group of people on behalf of their salesperson. Could you do it with confidence? Most of the time, I’ve found the answer is "no.”

The goal is not to try to buy the biggest list possible, but instead build the most relevant list possible based your ideal customer profile.  The best list is one that you have diligently created and rigorously maintained over time with excellence. So where should you start?

I have found marketers often overlook the lists and data they already have in search of new contacts rather than building upon relevant conversations. 

Companies don’t buy; people do. The goal of a well-developed lead generation strategy, therefore, is to evolve relationships between people through dialogue that positions your marketing effort as a conversation (not a compaign) to identify, initiate and nurture productive selling situations.

Related Article: BtoB Magazine: Unisys gets boost from good data

I recommend you start by collecting all of your existing in-house marketing lists into one place. These are lists that you may already have on hand, from sources such as:

  • Sales team – key accounts and collected business cards
  • Strategic partner or pooled lists (cooperative opt-in)
  • Inbound phone, email and web inquiries
  • Past events – trade show, webinar, and seminar attendees
  • Newsletter subscribers
  • Marketing campaigns, such as direct mail or teleprospecting lists
  • Past customers

Note:  Bring your database administrator in on the list build project as early as possible.  You will most certainly need their expertise in massaging and de-duping the data.

Marketing and sales can also work together to build a list from inactive accounts in your sales team’s CRM data and business cards from industry conferences and networking events.

Utilizing existing in-house lists is the best place to start building your framework. Once the in-house lists are collected and combined, they can be evaluated for compliance with your ideal customer profile (target market). You’ll find at this point that that your list needs further enhancement.

At InTouch, we recommend that clients acquire a basic list that has the main attributes of their ideal customer profile and overlay that with their internally compiled data. Then use additional third party list sources to fill in missing companies and contacts.

There are many external list sources available, and each has its benefits and drawbacks. When buying data from an external source, you need to consider the following:

  • Are you renting or buying the list? Many list companies only rent a list, which means you are only allowed to use them for a specified time period, a specific number of times, or for a specific marketing campaign, such as a direct mail piece. This type of list does not work well for an ongoing lead generation program.
  • What data is included? Lists should include basic demographic data. Some lists, intended for direct mail, do not include phone numbers or contacts. Those lists would have limited value for lead generation.
  • Usually, I have found that the best company level data lists come from data companies like Dun & Bradstreet or InfoUSA. These lists include all of the demographic data typically needed, and have extended contact information. The drawback, however, is that they are general business lists; so in some cases, you’ll need to cast a wide net to get records that fit your ideal customer profile and if your goal is to reach anyone other than top executives you will have to add additional contacts yourself.

Other sources of names or lists:

  • Trade associations
  • Trade shows
  • Trade conferences
  • Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS)
  • Public libraries like
  • New social networking tools or community based contact information sharing tools such as Spoke, LinkedIn and Jigsaw.

Even with these expanding options in list building sources the drudgery of careful research is sill the most productive course of action, because you best understand the nuances of your ideal customer profile.

Your database will become one of your most valuable assets if you treat it like one. Keep your database it current and you won’t have to worry about buying more questionable business cards and you’ll see better ROI from your lead generation investment.

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CRM, Direct Marketing, Lead Generation, Marketing Strategy, Sales Leads

  1. | #1

    What is your suggestion for a tool that helps you store your database AND also allows you to send opt in email newsletters, messages and invitations?


  2. | #2

    great article. I just wanted to mention another site that offers data lista. Its They generate quality sales leads and provide many other services so they are also worth taking a look at.

  3. | #3 is no longer available online since Oct 1 2010…The only way to have access to their free database is to go to St. Paul, MN….bummer-loved the article though….

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