Most of us can remember the days when we went into the local store or supermarket to find those colorful ranges of Pick ‘n’ Mix. There were so many options that most of us also ended up with a bag that was way too full and cost way too much! The sensible thing to do was to then get the scoop back out and put some back (these were usually the ones we weren’t too sure about)… Then we’d buy our favorites and get stuck in!
It all looks good – but what’s it made of?
How is this like buying B2B data you might ask? Well – it’s actually very similar. There are so many choices and methods of choosing data that if you don’t know all the details of the ingredients, you could end up making the wrong choices or choosing too much! Either way, that could leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Do you play it safe or try new flavors?
Many of us kept going back and making the same selections of sweets because although the others might taste good – we weren’t sure about them. The same applies to B2B data. Many Companies select the same criteria time and time again and never learn about other possible options that could work well or perhaps even better for them. To make matters worse, the situation becomes self-perpetuating i.e. if you keep selecting the same types of prospects, your bag of sweets – or customers will of-course continue to look very much like that selection you made: The few exceptions will be the small amount of new flavours that were offered to you by a Friend or the smaller proportion of organic, incoming business that has naturally occurred.
New choices with the least amount of bad taste?
If you really want to explore all the richness and color of your B2B World, you firstly need to think about why someone would want a) your services or solutions and b) which companies could benefit from your very unique qualities. Not only that – you need to know ALL the options open to you in finding these gems amongst the millions of pick ‘n’ mix.
Colors, shapes and sizes
When looking at which sweets or companies to choose – there are so many different things to consider. Let’s look at some of these elements and explore how they could be helpful when selecting prospects to target:
How will you want to contact your prospects? Although most records within a dataset will have a full address on them – not all of them will have a telephone number and not all will have an email. Therefore you need to decide if you want maximum coverage of your market by opting for mailing records with telephone numbers and emails – where available. Or whether you simply must have an email on every record because your primary contact method is an email broadcast. Most data providers will give you a ‘site telephone’ number as opposed to a direct dial. In a sense this is positive because site telephone numbers tend to change less often than DDIs so the decay rate is slower (in becoming invalid). With emails you will have a choice between personal emails and generic department emails such as info@ / contact@ etc. Although generic emails get a bad rap, they can actually work pretty well sometimes; especially within smaller organizations where not everyone has a contact email. Needless to say, it’s worth thinking about taking generic emails for certain organisations where no personal email is present.
Industry Sectors & Classifications
The type of industry or business category can be selected in a variety of ways and at various levels. The most common method of selecting these industry types would be via SIC codes. These are ‘Standard Industry Codes’; a method of classifying businesses that was first introduced in 1948 in the UK, and has been incrementally undated ever since. Most UK B2B data companies are currently using 2007 SIC codes. Sometimes SIC code require a bit of lateral thinking as their descriptions aren’t what you may logically expect; for example, the word ‘recreation’ is used as opposed to leisure. Some B2B data providers may also have their own ‘free-form’ or user friendly description that they have appended to their records from their own research or other methods. These can be invaluable when hunting for very specific types of companies where the SIC code is far too broad. Quite often the SIC codes aren’t specific enough which means that even at the 5 digit level you could be purchasing a lot of irrelevant data… So, ask if the data company has their own categories.
Depending on your industry, you may want to cover the whole of the UK or you may only want to target very specific areas: For example, you may only want to speak to companies who are based within a certain mile radius of your company’s postcode(s). The location of the data can be selected in many ways such as economic region, county, town, right down to postcode area / district /sector. It all depends on what type of service or solution you’re offering and how far you can stretch this geographically. Also note that a ‘company industry code’ may not be the same as a ‘site industry code’. Think about Marks and Spencer; at one site they may sell food and clothes whereas at another it may just be homewares. There is an argument that could suggest either option but if you’re being geographically specific in your search then site level industry codes are probably your best bet!
Company size, like geography, may not always be an issue, but in some cases it can be very important. It is also a very subjective matter because what means ‘small’ or ‘large’ to one person could be completely different to another. The number of employees in an organisation doesn’t always directly correlate with the net worth (turnover) of the company. Just like a high quality chocolate truffle that costs £1 compared to a penny sweet – you might find that a business with just a few employees could be turning over millions! With this in mind, think carefully about whether to choose your prospects by employee bands or by turnover bands. Perhaps you could use a combination of the two? Or you could have the best of both worlds by opting for a ‘minimum employee band OR a minimum turnover’ in your criteria, instead of ‘And’.
In many cases, data companies have mostly ‘Senior Decision Maker’ contacts and a smaller proportion of the bespoke roles to choose from. To be honest, if you’re contacting smaller companies (with 30 employees or less) – it may be best to contact those Senior Decision Makers anyway. Even so, the best way to get maximum coverage of your chosen industry sectors is to make your contact selections using ‘job functions’. These aren’t the same as ‘job titles’ because many people have multiple responsibilities – but they will still lead you to the relevant person. Think about the people in your company and how many different roles some of them have. On the other hand, a campaign might be very specific to certain types of people i.e. ‘Training’ managers. In cases such as these it is best to select contacts based on a keyword in their job title i.e. training / quality / apprenticeship. Finally, on the subject of contact volumes – be wary of receiving more than one contact at a company if you don’t require them. Some data providers might quote a volume for either ‘multiple contacts per company’ or ‘1 contact per site’ – both of which would give you more than 1 contact at each company for multi-site organisations.
Head Offices, Branches & Sole Sites
It is important to consider not only who you want to speak to, but where that person is based! If you’re looking to speak to a senior person in marketing – the chances are that they’re going to be at the main office and that means the head office of a multi-site organisation. So, if you’ve asked for ‘1 contact per company’ it could also make sense to select your site type as either a ‘head office or sole site’. This means that you wouldn’t receive any less relevant contacts based at branches. There are so many different options and there is no ‘one size fits all’ which is why it’s so important to know what’s available and talk it through in detail.
Other things to think about
Now that you’ve made your main selections and have whittled your pic ‘n’ mix down to a more palatable, manageable bag, - you can spend a bit of time thinking about the other things that may be relevant. There are lots of other ways to select data, too many to mention really! It might be that you own a finance company and you ideally want to help companies who are in financial distress. In which case – make selections by ‘Credit Rating’ and / or ‘Credit Limit’. If you have a bespoke requirement, don’t be afraid to talk about it and describe your ideal ‘sweet spot’. Some elements simply may not be, but on the other hand you may be pleasantly surprised!
When selecting B2B records there are also a number of things that you need to think about excluding from your bag of goodies: Firstly, it would be any current customers, or prospects that you have any kind of regular / recent correspondence with. This level aspect is very important as a site level suppression will only remove the one matching site of a multi-site company. Secondly, if you’re contacting companies via telephone you will definitely want to exclude any telephone numbers that are listed on CTPS (Corporate Telephone Preference Service). You may have also heard of TPS (Telephone Preference Service). The difference with this is that it is a service offered primarily to consumers. Still, if you’re contacting smaller businesses with say, less than 5 employees then you may want to remove any TPS registered numbers from this segment of your data as TPS can be a grey area with sole traders, homeworkers and smaller businesses.
Ways to find the ‘sweet spots’
Think back to those sweets that you weren’t sure about. They looked good but you weren’t sure whether to risk trying something new. Now think about your current customers. It might indeed be that most of them look just how you expect them to look and you have always picked prospects that look like the majority of them. But hold on! There are a few that stand out… They generate a lot of revenue but they look different to the others. They’re the exceptions to the rule so to speak. This could be an untapped pot of gold and it could be worth you including some of these profiles in your data selection. These company profiles might be harder to win and take longer to convert in to customers, but if they’re ‘big wins’ it’s worth including them. Conversely, maybe think about including some of the customer profiles that generate smaller pots of revenue, but are pretty easy to win. These can be your bread and butter while you’re working on the more difficult, but ultimately more rewarding prospects. It’s all a balance, just like mixing up your sweet selection with your trusted favourites and new discoveries. The important thing is to keep analysing what works and what doesn’t until you get your selection exactly as you want it!