Nicole Bouchard, RSW/US’ Director/List Operations, shared a blog post of 5 Steps to Developing a Solid List Building Strategy. Her tips are valuable, but the idea of sitting down to actually build a new business list from scratch is still intimidating. So here are some additional thoughts on beginning to build your new business prospecting list.
Don’t do it alone. Gather a group from the entire agency and ask them to bring some ideas to the table to start the list discussion. They can suggest actual businesses they’d like to work for, industries they believe your agency can serve, or specialties/core competencies the agency could grow.
List and categorize suggestions. White board everyone’s ideas and discuss which ones might be moved to your A-List—those prospects you most want to work with, and/or believe you have a strong shot at winning. Move others to your B-List for development over time.
Elevate core competency prospects. Give special focus to prospects in industries or categories you already have experience in. You can leverage existing knowledge and research to win those accounts more quickly.
Choose a few “hot” prospects you want to immediately target. Hot prospects are those about which recent news suggests there may be an opening for strategic marketing, or industry challenges you are aware of may be impacting on their business. As Nicole suggests in her blog post, consider geographic location (in your local/regional market area) and look also at revenue range; companies in a similar range to your current accounts may be a good fit.
Research contact names and critical contact information. Assign this to one individual, or spread the load across your group. Interns or junior account coordinators can develop phone skills while doing this. Start with hot prospects, then the A-List, and finally build contact information for the B-List. Call the company directly to add possible contact names and phone/email information. Ideally, collect C-suite names as well as their in-house marketing director where available.
Qualify each prospect. Don’t skip this important step. Set some criteria for what makes a prospect “choice,” i.e., worth pursuing. This saves you from wasting time on prospects that won’t pay back the time and costs expended to win them.
Network with business connections and look for introductions or referrals. While the group is building the list, the principal or new business developer should explore how to make connections with your hot prospects. Who do you know who can introduce you informally to a prospect connection? Reach out and start the engagement process.
Start working the list. As your list takes shape, you can begin a regular new business pursuit process with your A- and B-Lists. The sooner you get the new business pipeline flowing, the quicker you can start winning new business.
List building, like everything else in the ad agency business, requires one thing: taking the first step. Don’t succumb to procrastination because the job looks too big. Break it into smaller steps. Before you know it, you will have a good working list.
Make sure you add new business goals into your agency business plan and track your success along with other planning goals.
If you need help with list building, keep RSW/US in mind.