Building a Contact List From Scratch: 4 Different Approaches

Building a Contact List From Scratch: 4 Different Approaches

Almost every business or startup created starts at the ground level. It begins with an idea or concept that needs to be created and shared with the world. There are a multitude of strategies for doing this, but a similarity between almost all companies is that they normally utilize a database of contacts in one form or another for the purpose of reaching out to other companies or those interested/potentially interested in their product or service. But how do new and emerging companies get a hold of a list of contacts?

This is a question that many people managing companies or startups ask themselves, as the answer to this question isn’t very straight forward unless you have some background knowledge on the nature of acquiring large amounts of useful data. In this article, we will be exploring why your business should acquire and maintain a contact database, why this is important, and how to go about acquiring these contacts in four different ways depending on what makes the most sense to your business. Lets explore this topic together.

The Importance of Maintaining A Database of Contacts

The most basic answer to this question is that it is always good to maintain a list of individuals with whom you had made contact with in the past, along with any contact information you come across online that you may want to utilize in the future. Any good business thrives on keeping information organized in a way that can easily be found by anyone who needs to access it, so creating a database of information such as this will only benefit a business going forward. Some of the primary benefits are that a contact database can

  • Keep all your contacts organized (Preferably in one place)
  • Allows you to more easily maintain customer relationships with those you have previously had contact with.
  • Increased productivity overall due to the time saved searching for information
  • Allow separate teams to more easily unify data

Any good business can find numerous benefits by simply organizing their contact in a way that anyone within the company can easily access and utilize it for whatever use case where it is needed.

Good Data Versus Bad Data

Having as much contact data can only benefit your company. But it’s important to distinct data that is helpful for your company between data that is unnecessary to keep as it only will add to the clutter of your database and increase your overall storage usage (which can add to maintenance costs if you have too much bloat). What I define as ‘Good data’ in this context is

  • Contact information of those you have worked with in the past
  • Contact information of those who you haven’t made contact with, but either work within an industry or business that would potentially be interested in your offerings

These are contacts that you already either have a history with, or can potentially be converted into customers/clients based upon their background. As for what bad data means in this context, I essentially define it as

  • Contact Information that you would never need to utilize (non connected personal emails, role emails not specific to an individual, things of this nature)
  • Contact information of individuals or businesses that are outside of your target audience
  • Incorrect or out of data contact information

Discovering Your Audience

Every business should have some type of idea who ideally would need/get use out of what you offer. This is a critical aspect of having a well performing business and resources should be utilized for zoning in on knowing which people have the highest potential of being converted to customers. This is especially true when acquiring a contact list for your business.

There are a multitude of ways to figure out which businesses or individuals are your ideal audience. Usually this is pretty straight forward as any business offering some type of product or service would be aware of who uses what they offer, but you can always hone in further to get this precise information. So manners of this include

  • Breaking down all your current/past customers and gathering metrics on who they are, what they do, and any other relevant information you can gather.
  • Utilizing a market research service such as Market Joy or Durkan Group that can assist your efforts in figuring out the right audience
  • Utilizing analytic services to see who is searching/visiting for your business site. Defining the ideal audience for your business can be done in a multitude of ways. As each industry and business can vary wildly based upon what they do, there is not one method that works best for everyone. This CoSchedule blog post is a great reference for those really looking to dig more into performing this.

Approaches for Acquiring Data

Once you know what your ideal audience is and what you are looking for with a contact list, now is the time to plan out how you are going to go about acquiring this data. I have broken down this process into 4 separate methods, as each approach is dependent on what your needs are specifically. I’ll specify which of these methods are the most quick or straight forward approach as I explore each area further, but the primary dependent on which tactic you choose to follow comes down to how much money you want to spend and how quickly you wish to acquire this data. Sometimes time or money isn’t an issue, but for many businesses and startups, having excess funds to pursue this task isn’t always a reality. The bright side is that each of these methods will essentially yield the same results as long as you take the proper steps beforehand. You can also utilize all these methods in conjunction with one another in order to rapidly build up your database with the information you need. Let's explore these methods.

1: Purchase A Contact List

Sometimes the quickest solution is to simply purchase a list outright

This is the most straightforward and quickest method of acquiring the initial data you need. The biggest downside of this method is that depending on your budget, this potentially might not make sense. The brightside however is that we at Companywell specialize in exactly this type of service, offering quick and accurate people and company data at extremely low costs per request compared to our competition. The biggest advantage of simply just utilizing a service to buy a list is that you know exactly what you are getting from the start and do not need to spend the time attempting to gather these contacts yourself.

The types of services you will primarily want to utilize are lead generation services or platforms. As I stated above, we specialize primarily as a platform for easily allowing users to just create an account, search through our database for the exact type of contacts they need using all the filters we have set in order to hone in on your audience, and simply just export it. The entire process can be completed in about 5 to 10 minutes if you already know exactly what you need, which can really save time in the long run if you want to hit the ground running with an email campaign or want to get your CRM filled up from the start. Sometimes however, you may want to go even further with your focus on a contact list, so sometimes a lead generation service might be the better option if you want to really ensure that you are not mistakenly targeting the wrong audience.

2: Manually Research/Assemble a Contact List

Act as you would performing any type of research

This method is usually the cheapest option for new companies or startups looking to acquire contact information. Unless you are utilizing the time of employees, you normally will not need to pay outside of dedicating manual time towards this pursuit.

Going about performing manual research on building a contact list can vary depending on the industry and your needs, but generally there are plenty of resources available online that can assist you with finding the names, emails, and phone numbers of those you are looking to hold onto for the future. Some of the best sources I have utilized in the past are

  1. Linkedin
  2. Google
  3. Facebook
  4. Business Websites

These are free resources with plenty of information to pick through and accumulate in order to build up a contact list by hand. One of the biggest advantages to gathering data this way is that you can be 100% confident in the data you are saving, as most likely you will be able to grab additional information such as past roles, current roles, businesses they work for or have worked for in the past, and any additional information on their backgrounds. Many professionals tend to link contact information somewhere on public facing profiles for people to reach out to them. Even if they do not list their contact information, there are manners in which you can acquire this information that I will cover later down this section.

Whenever I have taken the time to manually gather contact information, I followed a basic workflow to streamline the amount of time that I am taking towards acquiring such information. This is a rough outline of what I usually will do.

  1. Identify the types of contacts I need.
  2. Perform a force search through Google to find profiles on Linkedin of those who match what I need.
  3. As an example, say if I were looking for contact information of Chief Marketing Officers in Philadelphia, I would search “Chief Marketing Officer” “Philadelphia” “Linkedin” , This will yield profile pages on Linkedin that contain these 2 phrases
  4. Begin going through Linkedin profiles and organizing this information in an excel/Google sheet file.
  5. Go through related profiles on Linkedin as I find them.
  6. Repeat from step 2 except replacing “Linkedin” with “Facebook”

This is generally what I will normally do in the past and it works very well as long as you are verifying that each of these profiles fit into what you are looking for. Going back to Linkedin, if you have a premium membership on the site you can also utilize Linkedin Sales Navigator If you want to make this process much more straightforward, as this feature allows you precisely search through Linkedin profiles while setting extremely specific search criteria to narrow your results. There are also additional services you can use in conjunction with sales navigator such as Dux Soup or GetProspect to further expedite your efficiency in gathering this information, but we want to stress that these tools go against Linkedin’s terms of service so use them at your own discretion since it can result in your profile getting banned. If you are paying for Linkedin and one of these crawler tools for the platform, this can make manually looking up contacts a more costly endeavor, but for some businesses they prefer to do the leg work themselves in this manner. In general, utilizing a lead generation platform is cheaper in the long run if you are going with a service such as Companywell so it comes down to what you prefer to do.

3: Utilize a Lead Generation Service

The skys the limit when choosing the right service

Services such as Leadroot will work closely with you in order to get the exact type of contacts you need at the cost of overall time, as many of these services are manually gathering this information themselves. The factor of time in this method is only referenced as being slower due to it not being something that can be completed as fast as lead platform. For some businesses it might make more sense to do this as opposed to another approach but this route will not require you to put in any work outside of communicating with these service providers, unlike the manual research method I discussed before.

The primary benefit of this approach is that overall, lead generation services are extremely thorough about what data they provide back to you when the job is done. They can include a lot of additional information about the business of the contacts, provide additional services to work with you to expedite your outreach efforts if you are choosing to use this information for a campaign, and clean up this data in a way that can allow for easy importing into whatever database you currently have set up.

4: Develop an Inbound Lead Generation Strategy

Plan your strategy accordingly 

An inbound lead generation strategy is by far the least time efficient process for most new businesses and startups gathering inbound leads, but can benefit you in other ways outside of assisting you with building up a contact list. An inbound lead generation strategy essentially consists of creating some type of content that will drive users to your website that can be indexed by google so it will show up in search results or through sharing this content through social media to drive traffic. I personally consider this to be more of a search engine optimization strategy, but you can easily adapt this to potentially gather a large amount of contacts as well as boost the exposure of your business.

The type of content you can create can be anything that can exist on either your site, a blogging site paired with your main site, or through other social media platforms. The primary thing this content must incite in those who view it is some type of call to action to visit your business website and either provide their email address or fill out some information to submit to you. This can be quite a difficult task as it is difficult to win the attention of those viewing your content and take the time to find out more, but overtime due to the nature of creating content this can compound into consistently acquiring new contacts to add to your database with no additional effort past creating more content. This is normally referred to as evergreen content, where once something exists has some type of use or appeal that will always be there it will continue to generate traffic and results.

One of my favorite aspects of gathering contacts through this manner is that there is no question about if these individuals are interested in your product or services, since they would not have given you their information if they weren’t. Sometimes these users might not be a good fit, but generally they will be. The amount of time and effort to takes to yield results from this strategy might seem daunting at first, but in the long term I feel that this is a strategy that almost every business should utilize to build up an initial database.

To Wrap Up

Obtaining a contact list when you are a small business or startup can seem incredibly daunting at first. There is a lot of preparation and information you need to get in order before setting out on acquiring this data, but know that almost every other business has started out in the same place where they had a vision and no one to share it with. The effort needed to put into this is well worth it long term and thankfully, you have many avenues for acquiring such information depending on how much time and money you have to spare. With all the different manners of acquiring this information, there is no excuse to take the initiative and get started on building up that database.

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