Thinking about kicking off a new sales and marketing campaign? Here's a quick-start guide to grabbing a list of prospects to start targeting.
Who is your ideal customer?
First things first - everyone is not a potential customer. Figure out what industries make the most sense to target and go after those first. Don't say, "We could work with any industry!" If sales is finding a needle in a haystack, figure out how to make the haystack smaller.
Identify trends in your best customer companies and use these to build a profile for ideal customers. Look for things like employee count, annual revenue, industry, and geography. All of this information can be found using a quick web search or a free tool like ReferenceUSA.
Do you need email addresses?
Depending on what you're looking to accomplish, it may be necessary to invest in purchasing email addresses along with other prospect company information. These usually come at a premium and can be hit-or-miss in accuracy. Be sure you do your homework and investigate what sort of guarantees you can get before providing payment information.
Provide the criteria you identified in Step 1 and acquire your list
If you don't need email addresses, for instance if you are conducting a phone-based sales campaign or a mailer of some sort, you can actually acquire the same database that InfoUSA sells for free using a resource called ReferenceUSA. Check with your local library to see if a library card gets you access to this database.
If you do need email addresses, shop around and find the best price. Some common list providers are Hoovers, InfoUSA, and DiscoverOrg. A web search will probably show you 20 more, but they're all working with more-or-less the same information.
Scrub for internal contacts
Before making any phone calls or sending any emails, be sure your do a once-over on the list you acquired to make sure there aren't any current customers or Do-Not-Call requesters in the list. If someone has previously asked you not to call them, you can get leveled a hefty fine if you call them again.