I was in Melbourne, Australia, speaking to Cisco’s Channel Partner Marketing Managers at Cisco Live. I love working with channel partners because their marketing dollars are sacred and every dollar they spend has to count. After my keynote “Increase Conversions through Content Marketing”, I had eight one-on-one white-boarding sessions with conference attendees.   Of all the questions and answers we covered, one really hit a core with me. “Pam, I have 30,000 names in my database. How can I find warm leads?” I love that question because many marketers have their massive database, yet they miss an opportunity to actively discover potential prospects.  So, what are some possible ways to uncover warm leads? I offered three suggestions:

Email. Code. AI.

Email marketing and marketing automation

Over the last five years, these tools have become more accessible than ever before. The software that drives email has become smarter and cheaper, so leverage email marketing cleverly to gather clues based on users’ behavior. Do NOT just send out email because you are ‘required’ to send email every week. Send email when you have something to share. The definition of ‘sharing’ is broad ranging from promotion offering, new product launch to relevant and useful trends. But if you want to detect or uncover qualified leads from your existing database, you need to incorporate a sense of urgency into your email campaigns.

Consider to use actionable terms such as:

“Check the 5-Steps to Improving Your :___ TODAY”,

“Limited time only… Free trial to solve :_…”, or

“Are you looking for :_(solution) to address :__ now?”

These titles or content created a sense of urgency.

Your e-mails should be very specific and well-designed. If your recipients do open your email and check out content, you know they may be interested in your offerings or in the process of evaluating different options. This will enable you to narrow down the list of 30,000 to a quantifiable segment that is more likely to engage or buy. Test email subject lines! Test content! When you follow up, tailor your content to those who are most engaged.  The key is to select content that will offer you behavioral clues that certain recipients are interested in your solutions or similar solutions NOW.

Write your own code

Pawan Deshpande, CEO of Curata, shared his way of finding a list of warm leads. Their product integrates successfully with Marketo, Eloqua and Pardot among other systems to measure the performance of content marketing. Based on their understanding of their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), Curata made a hypothesis: companies that use marketing automation platforms and create a large volume of marketing content on a regular basis would be highly interested in their products. To find companies that fit this criteria, their engineering team wrote an application to crawl and analyze marketing automation systems used by over 200,000 company websites. From that analysis, they compiled a long list of companies. Then, they narrowed down that list by analyzing the blog posts and resource pages of these brands had published so that they could gauge the size of their content marketing efforts. The more content they have on their websites, the higher propensity that they are likely to use Curata tools. With that revised list, the engineering team further cross-referenced with over 100,000 leads in their own database and LinkedIn to identify potential prospects based on specific job titles. Then, this company list with associated contact names became the ‘qualified leads’ list that their sales team can use to reach out. Their marketing team can also use the same list for their nurturing campaigns.

Use artificial intelligence

This approach was shared with me by Lead Crunch, a demand gen company who works closely with their clients’ sales and marketing teams to uncover relevant leads using AI-based platforms. They ask their clients to identify their top-25 best customer profiles. Then, they feed the information into an AI-based predictive modeling tool to create an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Lead Crunch uses that profile to find highly relevant and look-alike matches, which becomes the hit-list of key target companies that the sales team can use. With additional cross-referencing of their database, Lead Crunch can also include buyer contact information for each company to help the sales team engage and approach these prospects. You could also expand on this at a lower cost level by creating targeted audiences or look-alike audiences on some social media platforms and run this sort of AI approach with fewer barriers to entry.

In summary, these are three options you can turn your existing database from a long cold list of email addresses into a warm-lead generating machine!

  1. Use email with content designed to elicit a response, and identify the interest of potential customers that are currently evaluating products.
  2. Write your own code based on propensity-to-buy hypotheses. Identify an initial list, then cross-reference with your own existing database and other data sources.
  3. Hire a AI-based demand gen company. Let the AI model identify the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) based on your best top 25 customers. Then, use AI to find look-alike target leads and create a contact list for the sales team.

Now all of this might sound cool, but it does take an immense amount of time and effort. Expect to optimize several times before getting a satisfactory result. Finding warm leads is no long just marketing’s or inside sales’ job. It requires marketing, IT, as well as inside sales, outside sales, and other teams to work together. You will be much more successful once you have determined the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), identified several hypotheses of why customers buy your products, conduct external and internal customer data correlation and creat propensity-to-buy criteria. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut. Do you have any innovative ways of finding warm leads using your existing database? I’d love to write a blog post about your story.

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