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Turning Big Data into Smart Data for Intelligent B2B Prospecting

Intel on B2B prospects and sales leads at home and business.

Gain actionable intel on your B2B sales leads at home and work.

By Maryann Posten

With the vast number of business data purveyors out there, it’s difficult to sort it all out. But one thing is certain — they are all trying to sell you their data. Sure they’ll take your order, but they’re hard-pressed to provide ideas for new, innovative possibilities presented by the expanding amount of data and the evolution of technology to implement them.

My question to business marketers is not, “What can I do for you?” But rather, “What do you want data to do for you?”

Are any of the following “Wants” on your list…

You want to capture the attention of executives who are running and gunning 24/7?

Add Multi-Touch to Multichannel — Reach your elusive prospects at work, at home and on the go. A well-laid plan to break through to time-strapped professionals requires contacting them at multiple touch points and channels. Address them where they live and where they work. Follow up with email. Then follow them wherever they go on the web with digital display and video. Yes, it’s now possible to tie a business contact to his home, email and online contact information.

You want to deliver relevant messaging to the right prospects?

Make it Personal —Your one-to-one marketing is only as good as your intel. Is your business prospect married? Does she have children? Where does she work? What’s her job function? What’s the company SIC? Company sales? Company size? Her personal net worth? Home value? This is the kind of need-to-know personal and business information that can inform creative in order to be hyper-relevant. Yes, you can have both demo- and firmographics now.

You want to reach influentials?

Reach Out to Your Prospect’s Connections — Good executives seek the advice of others. Colleagues, family members, friends, neighbors. Wouldn’t it be smart to include them in your campaign to create some buzz? This works both ways. Once you land a heavy hitter who wields a lot of clout, he will likewise influence those close to him. You need to penetrate your prospect’s inner circle and get the message out to his group of influentials. Yes, you can target a prospect’s personal connections now.

Those are just a few new, smart ways of using data today. There’s a lot riding on the business leads, lists, prospects and data you buy. You need to make sure that your getting good, deep intel and that your data provider can help you put it to smart use.

Addressing the Female Executive

marketing to women and female executive

More women are joining the ranks of female executives.

By Maryann Posten

With the latest update to our Executive Masterfile, we just added over 80,000 women employed in executive positions. This is due in part to onboarding new sources of data, but also to a couple of new major trends:

  1. Women account for a significant percentage of senior management at large companies like Aetna, IBM, Verizon.
  2. Women owned companies are growing at 1.5 times the national average.

Just take a look at 2013 Top 50 Companies for Women as reported by The National Association of Female Executives. You’ll find stats of women earners at many of the most well known corporate brands in the world. No, it’s not close to equal yet, but the ranks of powerful female executives are strong in number and growing.

Then check out the American Express 2013 State of Women-Owned Business Report. It finds that women-owned firms are exceeding overall growth in eight of the 13 most populous industries. In fact, while the nation cannot seem to shake unemployment since the recession, women-owned businesses have provided a net increase in employment since 2007.

Why not test an offer geared solely to female executives?

What a fantastic opportunity for relevant-savvy B2B marketers to speak to a specifically-targeted audience. Easy too. Feature women in the imaging and speak in a language that resonates with them. Sponsor and support women’s causes and let them know about it. Test color schemes that may be more female friendly.

We count over 2.8 million women in management across the nation, thousands of whom now hold positions that were formerly considered male-dominated decision roles such as:

  • Female C-Level Executives – 570+K
  • Female Fortune 1000 Executive – 55K+
  • Female Financial Services Executives – 226K+
  • Female Marketing & Sales Executives – 234K+
  • Female Business Owners – 230K+

As a female executive myself, I tire of the typical male imaging found on direct mail, email, websites and marketing materials. Especially that shot of two men shaking hands in suit sleeves. When I come across such imaging, I just think, “Nope. Not relevant to me!” Perhaps it could be, but I’m not feeling it. I am woman. I am strong. Speak to me and I may respond.

My Big Business Optimistic Outlook

by Maryann Posten

After years of hearing pundits dwell on economic doom and gloom, it was refreshing to read Fortune’s Geoff Colvin opine with optimism in his article, “Lucky 2013: A Case for Economic Good Times.”

In it Colvin paints a rosy picture where increased domestic energy production is fueling national economic benefits. New manufacturing plants are being built around the country. Tax codes and immigration laws are reformed for the common good. “The economy builds steam and hiring picks up,” he writes.

Easy to think, “Yeah right,” but I do see many reasons to be optimistic regarding big business growth like…

  • The Dow Jones average touched an all-time high this month.
  • Tech jobs are reenergizing employment in cities around the country from New York to Charlotte to St. Louis to Phoenix and even Detroit.
  • Employment increased in professional and business services, computer systems design, construction, and healthcare in February 2013

While others still see the corporate growth glass half empty, I see it more than half full based on actual data pouring into ALC B2B.  Specifically in the area of higher salaried executives, counts of executive contacts are climbing across the board reflecting increased hiring trends in big business.

For example, ALC B2B now counts 130,142 executives in our Fortune 1000/Top 2000 Database. That’s a 22% increase over this time last year.

Based on our latest Executive Masterfile update, we see companies adding new positions in many key areas including:

  • C-Level Execs: Up 8% to 3.5MM
  • HR: Up 10% to 667K
  • Information & Technology Officers: Up 36% to 684K
  • Operations: Up 14% to 669K
  • Sales & Marketing: Up 40% to 785K

With rising employment at the corporate management level, come new needs companywide. I predict big business, which has been hoarding cash over the past few years, will return to investing in growth. Now is a prime time to get your brands and offers in front of the high-level decision makers planning to spend this year.


Small Business Owners Share Optimistic Outlook for 2013

By Maryann Posten

When the leading business publication in the world reports that the small business sector expects growth in 2013, that’s serious business. Bloomberg Businessweek, one of the mosted trusted sources for business news posted an article in January stating that “Entrepreneurs Predict Growth in 2013.”

These aren’t just your mom and pop shops the article states, “The survey was conducted by Mainsail Partners, a San Francisco private-equity firm that targets software, business services, and health-care services companies that generally have $5 million to $25 million in annual revenue and haven’t raised institutional capital.”

Nearly 65% of the small business owners responding to the survey project that their businesses will grow faster and over half expect to hire more employees than in 2012.

Gavin Turner, a Mainsail co-founder and managing partner, says small business owners are “worriers by their nature, but they’re also optimists, which is what led them to create their businesses in the first place.” That makes sense.

Other research supports the trend of Rising Optimism Among Small Business Owners. Inc. reports that “overall business optimism jumped 20 points from the previous quarter” according to the quarterly Well Fargo small business survey conducted the second week of January 2013.

Twenty Points. In One Quarter? Wow!

As the article points out, that’s “a dramatic turnaround from the end of last year, when the index that measures business owners’ future expectations plunged to its lowest level since the start of the financial crisis.”

If I was a marketer to small businesses, that would be my cue to immediately get my offer into the hands of decision makers heading up these firms sooner than later. An optimistic entrepreneur is more apt to spring for more services, technology, and products needed to spur the growth of her business than a pessimistic business owner.

Need a few ideas on how to reach the serious small business owner?

Naturally I can recommend lists of the optimistic business owners looking to grow:

The Small Business Selector – 13,000,000 contacts at companies with fewer than 20 employees. Over 3,000,000 email addresses are available.

Licensed Professionals — These are primarily self-employed small business operator who run their own companies.

Let’s get some offers into the mail and see for ourselves that optimism among small business owners leads to higher response rates!

American Manufacturing is Actually Alive and Well

by Maryann Posten

As Inc. reports, “Made in the USA” is back in vogue as manufacturing comes home to improved American technology, lower overall costs, and an eager workforce. This may come as a surprise to most people, but consider these three trending news items:

  1. CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple will invest $100 million to build some Macs in the U.S. this year.
  2. Ford will invest $550 million at its new Flat Rock, Michigan plant to manufacture the 2013 Ford Fusion in addition to its iconic Mustang this year.
  3. “Reshoring” — companies like General Electric are bringing back manufacturing (washing machines) to U.S. plants after offshoring to China.

In fact, according to The Economist, 37% of U.S. manufacturing companies with annual sales above $1 billion are planning or considering shifting production facilities from China to America. Reshoring is being driven by powerful forces like the high cost of shipping, increasing Chinese labor costs, and ease of managing the process stateside from concept to production.

What am I getting at?

American manufacturing is back on the rise and executives ranging from HR to IT are making purchasing decisions to accommodate strategic growth plans. But it’s not like American manufacturing is in as bad of shape as we’ve all been led to believe. Take a look at a few eye-opening facts from the National Association of Manufacturers:

  • The U.S. is the world’s largest manufacturing economy, producing 18.2% percent of global manufactured products. China is second with 17.6%
  • Manufacturing supports an estimated 17.2 million jobs in the U.S.—about one in six private sector jobs.
  • In 2011, the average U.S. manufacturing worker earned $77,060 annually, including pay and benefits. The average worker in all industries earned $60,168.
  • U.S. manufacturers perform two-thirds of all private sector R&D in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector.
  • Taken alone, U.S. manufacturing would be the tenth largest economy in the world.

So you see, manufacturers in the process of reshoring are coming home to a solid base that is doing more than surviving after the recession. Direct marketers that may have seen response decline over the past few years in the manufacturing market should take a fresh new look at this sector.

ALC is continually adding more manufacturing executives to our Executive Masterfile, which is a reflection of the wheels of industry turning in this country. I’m predicting that U.S. manufacturers are going to need a lot of supplies, technology, furnishings, equipment, and services as domestic production ramps up.

A Welcome Recovery in Meetings, Conventions & Seminars

by Maryann Posten

Good news for business event planners and destinations: We have signs of recovery!

Dating back to 9-11, the industry slowed at first because of travel concerns, then because B-to-B companies found new ways of learning, marketing and conducting business online. The third part of the triple-whammy has been the recession.

However, as a compiler and provider of both Meeting Planners and Seminar Attendees, I happily report an uptick in both list sizes and orders for those lists. That got me to wondering if the industry is indeed percolating with better attendance to meetings and conventions. I immediately checked my go-to source for the industry’s leading news: M&C.

Here you go hot off the web: Not only are there signs of recovery, but for the financial industry at least, luxury returns! Budgets are increasing, top tier bookings are up, and there’s a shift from a buyer’s to a seller’s market in the hotel and airline industries serving the industry.

Now get this: Use of technology is surprisingly sluggish meaning that virtual events are not the tidal wave that event planners anticipated. Guess what? People still like to meet their colleagues, clients and suppliers in person.

My company is a long-term member of the Direct Marketing Association. And I would definitely like to meet you to discuss lead generation at our industry convention, DMA20112, in Las Vegas October 13-18. Nothing like pressing the flesh!

Keep Your Sales Funnel Full of Targeted Leads

by Maryann Posten

All business sales consultants stress the importance of maintaining a pipeline of prospects to keep the revenue stream flowing. Many of them offer up tips on cold calling, networking, and presenting. But you do not hear most sales consultants talking about mailing lists (because they don’t profit from this stage of the sales process). “They seem to view the “sales opportunities,” or your prospect list, as some kind of given.

However, Coleen Francis of Engage Selling Solutions covers all the bases of recommending any and all tactics that can fill up the sales funnel, including a couple that fall under my department:

  1. Email Lists — Set up a targeted email marketing campaign to acquaint potential new customers with your company or products, then follow up by phone.
  2. Mailing Lists — For a cost-effective way to keep your name in front of potential clients, send mailings to prospects about once every 6 weeks.

A few operative words here: “cost-effective,” “targeted” and “lists.”

Too many B2B mailers pour unqualified lists of prospects into the funnel. By that I mean they are not reaching the right decision makers at the right companies. In fact, many are not even reaching the right industries.

It’s amazing to see sales organizations disregard such targeting data as type of ownership, sales volume, employee size and job titles/specialties. These and more are the “firmographics” that help you successfully reach deeper and wider into the pool of qualified prospective buyers who need your products and services.

What you get out of the sales funnel can only be as good as what you put into it. The list is the most important part of the funnel process! What you do with it comes next. From licensed professionals to the C-Suite, ALC B2B helps fill sales funnels with real opportunities. Let us show you how to do it cost-effectively.

Direct Mail Engages Business Customers Differently than Web Messaging

By Maryann Posten

I completely agree with King Fish Media CMO Gordon Plutsky who said in a recent interview: “By reaching a consumer through the mailbox, a marketer creates a different type of conversation. It’s more thoughtful. It provides recipients with a designed mail piece for them to look at and make a more considered purchase.”

I’m not saying B-to-B marketers should stop sending email. That’s a truly effective way to maintain an ongoing dialog with customers and bring new ones to your website or landing pages. But a nicely designed direct piece can be more impactful and have a more lasting effect. There’s more room to communicate and inspire. And the inboxes sitting on the desks of business buyers are not nearly as cluttered as their electronic ones.

We’re working with several trade and general business publishers such as Crain’s, Penton Media, and The Wall Street Journal to successfully acquire readers via direct mail with our Executive Masterfile. Continuing education mailers like Capella University and Laureate Education, Inc. are having success mailing to our Licensed Professionals file.

The key is getting your direct mail package past the gatekeepers and compelling business decision makers to read it. Beyond delivering the best-targeted audiences for our marketers, I’d like to share a few creative strategy ideas that can help make that happen:

  • Dimensional Mail and Oversized Envelopes — an unusual sized package is always a great way to achieve objective #1: Attract Attention
  • Send a Formal Invitation — This gets the reader past the attention phase and into the Interest Phase
  • Make Them an Offer They Can’t Refuse — Your goal in B-to-B is to generate the lead. In order to receive a response, you have to give them something

Of course the kingpin in B2B marketing strategy is being relevant. That means sending the right messaging to the right prospects. Today you need to go deeper into a company to contact all of the key players and expand your reach broader across the business landscape to craft targeted messaging that brings in the leads.

Time to Think Small…Business Again

By Maryann Posten

Before the recession, SOHO was the hot ticket in B-to-B customer acquisition. It was widely known that small business owners would spend anything to help grow their companies faster than their slower-moving big business competitors. Price did not matter as much as speed. And the banks helped facilitate their spending with easy loans.

Then came the economic meltdown. Small business lending dried up along with marketing budgets and business capital. But many small businesses have weathered the storm. New ones have started up. And, today, The National Federation of Independent Business Optimism Index stands at 94.3%, the best reading since February 2011 and the sixth consecutive monthly gain. No surprise that small business hiring edged up in February and is expected to remain on an upward trajectory.

With confidence at U.S. small companies climbing to one-year high, more than one in four plan to increase the long-term investments in major assets like machinery and computers in the coming year up to the highest level since 2008.Twenty-eight percent have already increased capital spending in the past year.

Now lenders are jumping back in to support America’s perennial growth engine and small businesses are taking advantage by securing financing at very low rates. SBA loans are returning to pre-recession levels, which is priming the pump for long-term growth in years to come.

Over the past couple of years, business marketers have been hesitant to focus on the small business sector, but I advise any one who hasn’t revisited this sector in marketing strategies to reconsider. It represents a massive business opportunity. The ALC Small Business Selector and Executive Masterfile reach deep into this market to present the American entrepreneurs and small business owners who are investing in their growing businesses. Both files include matching business email addresses for multi-touch campaigns. These are the small businessmen and women who are re-energizing our economy as they have done time and again.

B-to-B marketers — I say it’s time to think small again!

Licensed to Buy

By Maryann Posten

Many occupations require licenses to prove competency on the job, including architects, optometrists and psychologists. While licenses are no guarantee of the service you can expect to receive, they do guarantee that a licensee has fulfilled a governing board’s requirements to serve the general public in certain professions.

A license to practice a profession is more often than not, also a license to make decisions for the practice. And licensed professionals are one group of the workforce that generally remains dutifully employed during good times and bad.

Take cosmetologists for example. The number of barber licenses in the U.S. is 250,000 and rising. According to the Maryland State Board of Cosmetologists the number has risen 60% in that state alone since 2008. The Census Bureau reports on the state of the profession as well as other licensed professions at its Bureau of Labor Statistics website. The Bureau expects the number of personal appearance workers to grow much faster than the national average for all occupations.

Other professions forecast to gain in employment through 2018

  • Architects: Up 16% — 21% are self-employed
  • Veterinarians: Up 33% — 80% work in a private practice.
  • Chiropractors: Up 20% — 44% are self-employed
  • Psychologists: Up 26% — 34% are self-employed
  • Physical Therapists: Up 30% — Increasing demand from rising elderly population

It’s refreshing to see that many professions are registering growth in this tough economic climate. It’s not only good news for those working or aspiring to work in a licensed profession, but also for B2B marketers targeting small thriving businesses.

At ALC our Licensed Professionals Database makes it easy for marketers to reach them profession-by profession from Acupuncturists to Real Estate Agents to yes, cosmetologists.

Oh, that reminds me; I am off to my hair appointment. I may forgo some things in this economy, but not my hair!