How to Build Scalable Lead Lists at Startups

If you are a seed-funded startup with a validated product-market fit, building a lead list is often an incredibly valuable asset to take your team and customer outreach endeavors to the next level.

A lead list is a collection of names, associated contact details, and the medium in which they can be contacted (email, cell phone, LinkedIn URL, Twitter handles, etc,) but these contact details are only as valuable as the sourced candidates themselves. 

How you source your lists will also make an enormous difference in your list’s overall value. At MGV, we’ve gotten an inside look at what it takes to build high-quality sales teams, and the design and execution of lead lists processes are paramount. After understanding your Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Personas, you need to build lists in preparation for systematized outreach.

B2B List Building Best Practices

First, use your Ideal Customer Profile to structure your list to obtain the maximum amount of leads with all applicable attributes for the cheapest amount of money. You should have a clear understanding of your buyer persona– what industry are they from? How large is their organization? What is their role and what responsibilities do they have? What are their challenges?

Once you’re clear about who you want on your list, you can proceed to the list building. Here are a few strategies to get you started.

List Buying Plus: Start with a list buying company or broker such as Dun & Bradstreet, Zenprospect, Leads411, etc. The “Plus” comes from the next part: run the list through a list cleansing application like NeverBounce to weed out incomplete or dead email addresses. Replace bounces with new verified qualified leads as necessary.

Pros: Cheap (~$.75 per lead), easy, fast.

Cons: Can be inaccurate, the entire list could be a poor fit for your offering.

Custom data: Instead of buying an existing list, you can use a list-generation software such as LeadGenius, Cience, GrowBots, or DiscoverOrg/ZoomInfo. These services generally use custom data to build a list around your specifications.

Pros: Accurate, nearly unlimited data enrichment

Cons: Slower, expensive (~upwards of $3000 per month depending on the lead volume)

Scrapers: Scraping is a fairly popular option because it takes very little to get started. Tools such as LeadIQ + LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and to some degree, mTurk, will help set you up with a tool or individual that will find contacts that match your specifications and organize a list.

Pros: Fast, cheap (~$120/month for hundreds of leads)

Cons: Can be inaccurate and tedious.

Conferences: Conferences are a very hands-on way to build a high-quality list. COVID-19 is likely to impact person-to-person contact, but that shouldn’t take away from building effective business relationships. Build a playbook and prepare in advance by establishing a post-event strategy for contact, further qualifications, pitches, and automating follow ups.

Have a reliable and flexible process for collecting information from your conversations, plan to interact with relevant booths, and meet as many people as possible.

After the event, rank connections in terms of their viability as a prospect and follow up in less than two weeks.

Further, organize meetups to increase your exposure to new qualified leads.

Pros: Highly targeted audience, opportunity to build a mega pipeline

Cons: Time-consuming, conference-hopping

Virtual Assistant Playbook: Virtual assistants are an easy, affordable, and scalable way to build lists, as long as you screen effectively on the front-end and provide proper guidance as needed.

Define your target accounts, target profiles, and titles. Do your own research by using your virtual assistant playbook yourself on LinkedIn to get a baseline for the time it should take.

Go on a site such as UpWork to source virtual assistant candidates and set them on a list building challenge. Compare your data with their data and see who did the best job the fastest. Sift through multiple candidates to find the best work, and hire them full-time. Most virtual assistants will cost between $3 and $7 per hour.

Pros: Accurate, cheap (an effective playbook can bring lead costs down to as low as $.25 per lead), scalable

Cons: Time-consuming, potentially needs management

Final Thoughts

Any of the above routes can be used to build a scalable B2B list. Orient your lists around Ideal Customer Profiles and Buyer Personas to ensure you’re sourcing the most relevant potential customers.

Automating your list building process can supercharge your sluggish sales initiatives by tapping into an ocean of prospects.

Building a list is an ongoing process, as databases can get stale with outdated information fairly quickly. An ineffective list will only decrease your team’s efficiency, and the time they would otherwise be spent contacting qualified leads would be wasted on wrong numbers and dead emails.