How to Acquire and Refine a High Quality List of Leads

Mike Langfordfinserv Marketing | June 2017


One of the most common questions I’ve received from ISOs in the Pearl Capital community over the last year is about finding the best resource for a list of leads. This makes sense, most ISOs make their living by working a call list and/or email list.

While it’s understood that cold calling and cold email outreach have relatively low response rates, an ISO with a long list of high quality leads is usually feeling pretty good about his chances of success. This, logically, is why the question of how to acquire a list of leads is so popular.

So how do you go about acquiring and refining a list of high quality leads?

Buying or Renting a List of Leads

Let’s start with buying or renting a list since most of the ISOs who have asked framed the question with this process in mind. A quick Google search reveals a seemingly endless “list” of sources to buy or rent a lists. As you might imagine, not all providers are equal and a healthy dose of “buyer beware” is advised.

What to Look for in a List Provider

Niche Markets – As I covered in the “Niche Marketing for ISOs” webinar having a target market for your business is much more efficient than targeting the general small business community. Once you’ve narrowed your focus down to a specific niche, like auto repair shops, you can search for providers that are selling or renting high quality lists of business owners in this niche.

Flexible Usage – Your list needs are going to evolve over time. There a few things more terrifying to a sales professional than when you reach the end of your list of leads and you have no idea where to go next. Fortunately, there a many providers who offer subscription plans that allow you to continuously revisit and refine your list.

Customer Service, Guidance, and Resources – It’s probably safe to say that you aren’t a data scientist and “querying lists like a boss” is not listed on your resume. The best list providers have great customer service, stand behind their lists, and offer a host of resources like tutorials and webinars on their websites.

What to Avoid

Low Cost Providers – If the price seems like the deal of the century there’s probably a reason. High quality lists cost money to acquire, curate, and maintain. $399 for 60,000 names may sound great but chances are you’ll be disappointed with the quality of the leads.

Killing Your Email Marketing Provider Relationship – Most email marketing providers, like MailChimpMarketoInfusionsoft, and others have policies against using purchased lists to adhere to CAN-SPAM Act. Be very careful when adding a purchased list to your email platform. You don’t want your account shut down or worse you might have your domain blacklisted as spam by Google, Yahoo, and other email services.

Reputable List Resources

Below is a list of companies that sell or rent lists. What you’ll notice is that each of these providers offers you the ability to zero in our your target niche. They’re also all reputable providers that have been around for a long time. And the icing on the cake is most of them offer free trials or sample lists.

Bonus: Sign up for Hunter. It’s one of best tools for finding the email addresses of people at specific companies. If you add the Chrome browser extension it will automatically search for the email addresses of company domains and people on LinkedIn.

Alternative List Sources

There are other sources of lists that may require a little more work but have the potential for higher yield.

Chamber of Commerce – Just about every city and town has a local chamber of commerce. And most publish their membership lists online for free. If for some reason the list is for members’ eyes only, you can join most chambers for a relatively low annual fee.

Industry Associations – If you are focused on a specific niche market you should explore industry groups like the Automotive Service Association. Every industry has some sort of association and they often welcome vendors who specialize in serving their members..all of whom they have on a list.

Industry or Professional Conferences – In similar fashion to industry associations there is a conference for every conceivable niche. Increasingly, conference organizers are using social tools that allow conference attendees to connect with each other. Additionally, it’s usually common practice to offer sponsors some sort of access to the attendee list. If you know that a conference is going to be well attended by your target customers, it might make sense to buy your way in via the conference.

Refining and Cultivating Your List

Few people on your list are going to do business with you on the first call or email. Remember, you are a cold caller and in order for a cold call to work the timing has to be just right. That’s why it pays to start playing the long game when it comes to working your list.

Below are some suggestions for refining and cultivating your list.

Get Social – Every time you acquire a list you should load it up to your social networks. Most have tools that match emails and phone numbers to network profiles. Once loaded you’ll have the option of connecting with people from the list or using the list for the social network’s advertising offering.

Segment – All members of your list are not of equal value. Some are likely small deals and others are big game. It probably makes sense to prioritize staying in touch with the high value targets more than the low value ones. And it also makes sense to consider segmenting contacts based on industry and their receptiveness to your message.

Add and Delete – Your list should be a living thing. Think of it as one of your business’s vital organs. Like your body’s real organs your list needs the nourishment of new contacts and it also benefits from the removal of waste. Keeping a dead or bad contact on your list is a waste. Develop a system for deleting dead ends.

Regular Engagement – There’s an old saying that every sales professional I have ever met knows by heart. “People do business with those they know, like, and trust.” The only way to make that axiom work for your business is to work at building relationships with the people on your list. Too many ISOs want to close on the first call or email. But talk to any ISO who has been in business for years and he will tell you that working his list consistently is the key.

But Wait! How Big of a List Do You Need to be Successful?

List size does matter but there’s no magic bullet. In most cases the quality of the list is much more important than the absolute size of the list. That being said below are a few high level guidelines.

Elephant Hunter’s List – If you are going after large deals, for an MCA that would a deal of $50,000 or higher, you should have a list big enough for you to pursue several leads per week. So, maybe it takes 100 quality connections to yield 5 legitimate leads. With that math you would want a high quality list of 5,000 or so to get you through a year.

Niche Focus List – If you are targeting a specific industry with average size deals then you might want to scale up your list a bit since you’ll need to close deals in volume. Here a good starting point would be 10,000 – 15,000 highly targeted names. The assumption is you will want to connect with 200 to 300 people per week to yield 10 to 15 leads.

General Small Business List – You are going to need a big list to go after the mass market. The reason why you will need a bigger list is your message is likely to be hit or miss because your aren’t targeting a specific niche with the solution to their unique problems. As a result you’ll need a lot more room for error. Consider a list of 30,000 – 50,000 contacts to yield 200 to 300 genuine connections per week and the same 10 to 15 leads experienced with the niche focus list.

None of the above is an exact science of course, but it should give you a sense of the approach to acquiring and refining your list and what the math might look like for your chosen methodology.

As always, if you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to share them. Especially if you feel like I have missed something or you have a success story with your approach to list building that you would be willing to share with the Pearl Capital community of ISOs. Be sure to read more of our Pearl Capital newsletters here.

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