Use Data to Acquire New Customers

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Finding valuable, long-term customers has always been a staple of a successful business, but in today's less-than-lucrative sales climate, finding new customers may mean much more than improving the bottom line. It may be the bottom line.


Too often, sales professionals rely on the notion that a higher quantity of sales leads will, in turn, produce better results. The math seems simple enough - leads plus leads equals more sales.


Unfortunately, generating highly qualified sales leads is far more difficult than simple arithmetic. Producing a successful direct marketing campaign requires not only a strong sense of whom you think you want to target but also a complete understanding of the customers you already have.


Like a good education, locating the best potential customers begins at home.


It is important to examine your existing customer base closely and analyze telling demographic factors such as standard industrial classification code, location and revenue stream. It is also important to compare these traits to determine which characteristics your best customers have in common - as this is the information that will help you target prospects more effectively moving forward.


Another point to keep in mind is the lifetime value of those customers. While you may have a base of more than 10,000 customers, the 500 or so who are repeat buyers are the ones who provide the highest return on investment and the clearest understanding of your best prospects.


Once you have identified the common characteristics of your best customers, the direct marketing campaign should take on a centralized, common-sense approach. Begin by building a new list that closely matches the traits of your best customers.


Obtaining targeted lists and getting your message to the market quickly are crucial to a marketing campaign. Fortunately, weeding through the dizzying array of consumer and business lists has become less time-consuming because of the powerful list selection engines that allow marketers to get immediate access to leads and an unprecedented level of control over the specific information about those leads that they purchase.


This combination of speed and control is crucial for marketers that need the ability to react quickly to changing market conditions and competitive situations.


The benefits of a highly targeted list go far beyond the improved morale of an eager sales force with hot leads tucked neatly in their briefcases. A highly targeted and prioritized list can save money in printing, production and mailing costs and in the time needed to qualify those lists through telemarketing. The qualification process already has been done in one easy step by building the list based on the characteristics of the best, most profitable customers.


Following the identification of the best leads, marketers then can focus on getting their sales message across to the interested parties. By prioritizing the leads, even the sales message can be tailored to each targeted group within the list.


This method of lead prioritization can extend far beyond the list-building process.


Whether the leads are generated at a trade show, via a Web site or through an advertising campaign, the process of qualifying and prioritizing leads is paramount. A list of 1,000 visitors to a trade show booth may result in 500 qualified leads, but if a time-pressed salesperson is able to call on only half the list without having a qualified list as a blueprint, who is to say whether the appropriate 500 will be the ones who are contacted? The golden egg may lie in the 500 unturned leads.


Many marketers are not willing to discard information completely even though it clearly does not match up with the strong characteristics identified while analyzing current customers.


It has practically become taboo to discard such information, because so many marketers think that more contacts and sales leads make for better results.


Therefore, by prioritizing the leads, the most time and effort can be spent messaging to a small, highly targeted list of the best potential customers. Then, lower-cost fulfillment programs are sufficient for the remainder of the leads.


Knowledge is power, and marketers that have an understanding of their customers possess the key to successful lead generation. As a result, marketers can arm their sales force with qualified leads, many of which will lead to sales, and increase their marketing ROI.
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