How to build a prospect list

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For many businesses, a prospect list, if built correctly, could be considered the most important “value driver” in their marketing efforts. Creating it takes time and effort, but the benefits pay off. 

Here are some commonly asked questions on how to build a better prospect list, answered by Gareth Mountain, Head of Sales at Olico.

Question: Where do I start?


Answer: Firstly, have a look at the client data you already have. You’ll be surprised at how many good prospects you can find when working through email inboxes, CMS programs and contact lists.

Next up, many companies use digital marketing techniques, such as search engine optimisation and pay-per-click advertising, to draw prospective clients to their website and gather information. By offering clients valuable insights or important documents (such as a free PDF book or whitepapers) you can get them to share their data or subscribe to a newsletter. Competitions are another great way to get information.

One of our medical aid clients provided a shining example of a focused, proactive approach to creating a strong prospect list. The company collected data from everyone who ever requested a quote online or contacted their call centre. This was helped along by a large above-the-line advertising campaign, while social media contacts were also recorded and added to a database.

Question: I’ve got the data, now what?

Answer: The first step is to clean up what you’ve got. You’ll want to be able to sort through your list via name, surname, age, gender, region, contact number and email address. Clean data provides invaluable insight into your prospective clients and allows you to tailor your marketing messages accordingly.

Question: I’ve heard of PoPI. How will it impact my marketing?

Answer: The Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPI) is set to change the South African marketing landscape for good. The most important change is that clients will need to opt-in for further marketing messages (as opposed to the current set-up, where they have to opt-out).

This means that when clients land on your call-to-action page, there will need to be a checkbox they can tick to opt-in for future messages. Marketers will need to place a stronger focus on the benefits for clients if they want them to opt-in.

Question: How can I tell if new prospects will be valuable, or simply waste my marketing spend?

Answer: Test, test and test. The key to success lies in measuring your email delivery and reader engagement (clicks on links, reads, etc.). Knowing if your email is getting traction will help to determine lead or sales value. If sales generated through these emails surpass the cost of your marketing, you’re in the clear. It’s also important to keep an eye on the opt-out ratio. If your list is shrinking, you need to rethink your messages.

Keep in mind that not all marketing efforts will be successful. But just because a client doesn’t buy a product the first time you communicate with them doesn’t mean they won’t do so further down the line. If you are the brand that is communicating, educating and building trust, you’ll be top of mind when the client is ready to buy.

Question: How important is it to revise my prospect list?

Answer: This is crucial. Data is most valuable when it’s managed well, so you need to make sure it’s as up to date as possible. Take note if an email/SMS is not being delivered and remove those to save costs. Keep track of who your engaged clients are, and those who seem to ignore your marketing. Engaged clients may be more receptive for further upselling of products.

You could also get a credit bureau to help update your data – it’s costly, but it may be worth it if your data is outdated.

Let’s face it, building a prospect list is not the most exciting part of your business. But in many cases, it might be the single most important cog in your marketing setup. If your prospect list is relevant, constantly updated and highly detailed, you can then focus on crafting the messages you want your clients to hear. Whether it’s introducing new products, updates on your current range, or upselling at the correct time, a solid prospect list makes marketing your business a lot easier – and more effective.


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