Distilling opportunities Featured

6:18am EDT May 24, 2005
A client recently supplied me with six lists of potential customers. The lists came from a costly data resource and included massive amounts of information from about 150 businesses.

My client needed to distill this data into a more manageable -- and useful -- resource.

It didn't take long, and the results were good, yielding 25 prospects that are being approached. The likelihood of turning these prospects into clients is greater than if the client had simply used the initial, unfiltered list. Here are the steps to narrow a list of prospects.

* Know your value proposition. This isn't always as easy as it seems. It took my client several attempts to very clearly and precisely say what his company does and how it makes money.

* Get data. Information is available from many sources. Beyond data resource centers, consider trade associations, chambers of commerce and professional associations for your data requests. Not all groups will part with this information, but a surprisingly large percentage will be happy to provide you the data, sometimes for a fee, while others require membership.

* Set your inclusion and exclusion criteria. First, determine whether a particular market vertical will benefit from what you offer. If not, cull that vertical without a second thought. If your company is local or regional, stay within your geographical footprint unless you intend to expand it.

Evaluate the size of the target. Then choose only those companies that fit within your ability to profitably service.

* Pick the best candidates. Even after going through the screening process, you can end up with a great many potential customers. Instead of diluting your efforts by going after all or a great number of them, select the five, 10 or even 25 that you believe represent the best opportunity. Concentrate your efforts there.

This technique requires no brilliant technology, but it does require that you know your value proposition very well and that you invest the effort to distill a large number into one that is manageable and serviceable.

Erwin Bruder is president of The Gordian Organization. Reach him at (216) 292-2271 or ebruder@gordian.org.