There’s no point looking for leads where you aren’t going to find any but you’d be surprised how many campaigns start off in this self-defeating direction. Okay, sometimes you might have to go on a ‘fishing’ expedition but then it needs to be made clear up front that its a target research project – being done in the absence of any good data.
Effective lead generation on the other hand depends on a good understanding of who you will be targeting, what they care about, where their pain points are likely to be and so on. Knowing your audience and its challenges makes for a much better chance of developing empathy and giving people a reason to listen to what you have to say.
At a more basic level though, there first of all has to be a list of names and contact numbers for someone to go to work on, ideally with some background information available to the agent making the call.
So there are two fundamental aspects of a profile: first the target community and second, how its members are likely to feel about buying – who you want called and how to handle any conversation with them.
Starting with your target community, you’ve got to define it clearly before you can go looking for new blood. Exactly how you define it depends on your products and your position in the market. As an established incumbent for example, you could start by profiling your existing customers – who are they they and why did they buy – what do they have in common that you could use as a criteria to try and find more of the same? It could be obvious factors like geography or business sector or turnover but its just as likely to be something less obvious or more involved, such as who their other delivery partners are or what technology strategy decisions they’ve already taken.
Alternatively, if you’re launching into a new market where you have no customers but where there is an established product or service space – your choices are either to profile your competitors customers or look for the un-served customers: ones your competitors maybe ought to have sold to but didn’t buy.
The hardest case is to (correctly) define the profile of an ideal customer for a radically new product or service – maybe in the evangelizing phase for a new company. In this case your only option may be to create some hypothetical behaviour/spending patterns and try to find matches but in general you’ll be looking for risk-takers or those who’ll find a massive opportunity-cost saving in your solution. Prospects like that are usually thin on the ground but often in a way that can make them easy to find – sometimes by reputation.
Once you’ve got a handle on what your new customers organizations might look like, getting a list of names and contact numbers to call then means either buying that data or paying for it to be originated.
Buying is the more straightforward option if you can find a database owner or broker who has data (a ‘list’) that matches the profile you’ve just created for your target community. This presents another, fundamental reason for accurately profiling target customer communities and characterizing them -so you can find the right list. Lists are normally categorized by business sector in SIC Codes  and then subdivided by location, turnover, headcount and so on. Then for each organization there’ll be contact data (or not) based on job titles.
Creating your own list or having it originated for you will be time-consuming and potentially expensive compared to buying a list but for some it’s the only option and it does give you complete control over how you use and develop the data. But it also makes it even more important that you know exactly what you;re looking for – so costs and time-scales don’t spiral.
Moving on to think about how members of your target community are likely to feel about buying, you can often generate all the information you need from any exercise you go through to figure out who your potential customers are – why do they buy? What environments do they work or operate in, what challenges them? Who do they talk to, who do they turn to for advice? What professional communities do they move in.
Be careful of doing this in a vacuum though – and of making too many assumptions based on your perspectives rather than the prospects. And don’t miss the opportunity to get the information from the source – either customers or sample prospects directly, or from the sales team if they’ve already got relevant experiences to share.
The end product should be a sales-tool for anyone looking to break the ice with a potential prospect (i.e. your outsourced lead-generation partner), ideally as a one-page document of issues that prospects are likely to resonate with and that will provide opportunities to introduce appropriate sales-messaging.
 SIC Codes
The Standard Industrial Classification (abbreviated SIC) is a United States government system for classifying industries by a four-digit code. There’s also an International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities used by the United Nations as a system for classifying economic data and in the UK, starting in the 2007, The United Kingdom Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities uses the same top-level categories as Revision 4 of the United Nations system. There’s a complete list of the individual UK classification on the website of the Office of National Statistics.