Outbound Lead Generation & Sales Revelation For Early Stage B2B Startups. Part I
It all started quite a while ago.
I was in the middle of my latest research on Quora when I suddenly realized I couldn’t take it anymore.
Somebody has to stop it. Seriously.
The questions seem to raise pretty much the same old issues, as if there weren’t enough posts, ebooks, guides, whitepapers, AMA sessions, podcasts, videos, SlideShares and Infographics. Unfortunately, no matter how large and detailed your answer is, you still might not be able to cover it the way you wanted on a Quora page.
Market Segmentation, Target Audience Research, Customer Analytics
Not that those questions would bring up something but being a part of a Lean Startup usually means that you have no budget for testing, in-depth research and sorting irrelevant info out of proven data. I decided to take a shot and share my answers to some of those questions within certain structure.
Before launching your outbound lead generation machine, you first nFeed to define your general target audience, then sharpen it to Ideal Customer Profile (or ICP) and then – to buyer persona. That would automatically give enough segmentation criteria to choose from. You can pay attention to most distinctive verticals when doing primary lead sourcing and then narrow down your search.
Suppose, you already have your first 20-50-70 customers due to word of mouth and referrals. Building an inbound lead generation base usually takes at least several months so it’s a perfect time to test outbound sales efficiency yourself. That means knowing your potential customers in the first place.
If you’re like me, you probably have a general idea of your target audience – when I was going through this stage I seemed to know who might need our product but once I needed to actually search for outbound prospects, my head went completely blank.
“So… let’s see. It should be a company. A company that has… uuuuh….sales managers. That’s it!”
“Whatever, I’ll just do a research” – that was my next thought but it seemed like the more questions I had.
And more, and more of them… I’ve even tried some of those tools that had free trial but (no wonder!) I couldn’t generate any decent outbound leads without understanding who they are and where they hide.
How To Define And Target Market And Buyer Persona Lile A Pro [Backed With Tears And Tons of Coffee]
1. If you’re still on your way to product-market fit or have too little or inaccurate customer data to start with, feel free to use anything: forums, community blogs, Reddit, Quora, your competitors’ “Customers” page to come up with initial concept. Luckily, a relatively wide target audience range is just what you need at this stage.
In my case I ended up with this list:
– small & middle businesses (software? No? )with at least 1 key sales role
– fellow startups regardless to industry/segment/niche (now it sounds very funny!)
– teams focused on B2B cold emails with no current sales automation
– teams focused on B2B cold emails that may currently use sales automation and consider switching to a more flexible tool
– recruiters! IT professionals recruiters, that’s exactly what we need!
Target Market definition: done!
2. Once you get to at least 40-50 deals closed (in a perfect world it would be at least 100), it’s time to research your in regards to B2B market segment which entails focusing on corporate profiles, not personal. After you analyze all data, you’ll be able to split your customers into several groups according to their most representative common points.
Find out more data including both on company and end users themselves: their position, being a decision maker, function, seniority level etc.
When I did this, I ended up with 2 distinct customer profiles that represented 35% and 30% and the third group of customers that didn’t have much in common.
Ideal Customer Profile: done!
The next step would require much more thorough research: research best possible use cases for a product or service (yours or similar to yours) and this time focus on your end user’s personality. Reach out to them and ask for their feedback – actually, surveying end users coming from companies that match ICP the most would be perfect. This time, switch your focus to personality traits. Those are sample data fields I once covered during customer interviews in regards to an end user:
Job title and key responsibilities, professional benchmarks/KPIs to achieve, emotional reaction to changes in workflow as a result of product usage, most and least valued features, area of work-related interest, basic demographics (I still feel uncomfortable asking questions that seem too personal, what a wrong trait for a marketer, huh?) including professional and educational background and consumer behaviour pattern (e.g. importance of voice/face-to-face contact, having a deal-breaker precondition etc.)
Buyer Persona: done!
Outbound Prospecting – Sourcing Leads
Not only LinkedIn can be a B2B data source, but it also can provide opportunities for establishing relationship with potential partners, investors, meet new people that could contribute to your life or simple build your name and business reputation – especially, if you’re new in the game. And it’s still a nice place to build highly targeted and accurate outbound lead generation list-in-a-box that match your very own requirements.
Plus, it’s free and lets the old school data mining get under your skin – in a good way, I mean. Once you’ve got the basics, it’s about time to explore the alternatives including latest B2B leadgen automation tools and platforms (you can always make use of free trial prior to any commitment). There’s plenty fish in the sea including lead sources like CrunchBase, Twitter, Pinterest and even ProductHunt (thanks to new API, yay!), Slack Channels, role- and industry-based social media groups and community hubs.
P.S. Whichever lead source you are going to use, remember the “Divide and Conquer” rule:
Nurturing & Qualifying Outbound Leads
After you’ve done with prospect list building (or sometimes meanwhile you’re working on it) you need to nurture your leads with data that could be used for their further qualifying and reaching out via cold email but warm message. This be as well outsourced (and when it only goes about copying and pasting certain data field, no wonder people hire virtual assistants for this) – just make this data research wouldn’t go beyond…
There’s a huge difference between “aawww, we both hugged the same racoon this year!” or “wow, he did read my blog before decided to reach out” and that moment when you start wondering – “Am I being stalked?” “If yes, does online stalking count?”
Here are several approach ideas, feel free to try these or come up with something different:
- feel free to refer someone you both know
- mention a hobby you have in common
- ask for expert advice in the field they’re particularly keen on (that’s the best)
- include your new custom variable into the email automation tool and enjoy “effortless super targeting”
One more thing.
BEFORE you reach out, consider connecting to your prospects’ account in social media or leaving a comment to a blog post they’ve published
Contact Data Mining & Validation
Feel free to test any tool from the list (or all of them):
1. Name2Email.com – a Chrome extension that helps find out the business address
2. SellHack.com – an online service for locating b2b contact data
3. VoilaNorbert.com – a super efficient plugin for social media account data
4. EmailHunter.co – a plugin for corporate websites and LinkedIn, also shows a confidence percentage
5. DatanyzeInsider – a tool from a famous lead generator
6. FindThatLead.com – another good plugin to search for emails
You can use any or a combination of them – sometimes it pays off. As a matter of fact, there’s always one more tool you can use anytime and it’s free of charge – Google. Make sure you try all means before you give up, including this one. Try the most common patterns such [email protected], First, Last name + @ + domain.com, site: domain.com + First, Last name, etc.
Before you look at anything to do with open and reply rates, you have to look at deliverability. Incorrect emails carry danger as they result in bounces. The more bounced emails you have, the worse your server reputation is. Not to mention the more emails that bounce, the less replies you have.
That’s why here’s the list of email address checker tools:
1. MailTester – one of the best services out there to verify if your email address is correct
2. FreeBulkEmailVerifier – a service that can validate a entire set of email addresses at once
3. FreeEmailVerifier – another service for email verification
4. Verify-Email.org – another free email verifier
5. Email-Checker.net – validate any email online for free
6. Kickbox.io – paid email verification service
7. Proofy.io – pay-as-you-go instant email check
Having your email data found and collected to complement your prospect list is only half of your success. The other half of it depends on how correct your data is. To make sure your email campaign works for, not against you, you need to verify email addresses. This is one of the key factors to your cold sales.
…TO BE CONTINUED…