Comparing B2B Cold Prospecting Strategies

Every salesperson or marketer worth his or her salt understands the value of a solid cold prospecting strategy. Inbound marketing is fantastic, but it can only go so far in many B2B industries. Proactive outreach is increasingly critical in 2019.

Of course, understanding the need for a cold prospecting strategy and actually implementing one are very different things.

The days of being able to cold call from a Rolodex are pretty much finished. Prospects move around too often, rendering contact information rapidly moot … and nobody wants to pick up the phone, anyway.

And forget about just showing up in person. You’re not going to get past security, and accounting will definitely not like that expense tab.

So how can cold prospecting work in 2019?

In two words, the folks doing outbound demand gen right are embracing technology. They’ve perfected their ability to acquire good data, then reach out to qualified buyers at scale.

Here are three ways smart salespeople and marketers are deploying technology to reap the rewards of cold prospecting in 2019.

1. Data + Drip

The simplest way to embrace technology for cold prospecting is to combine a data broker with an email system.

At its most basic, this is pretty simple. The company signs up with a vendor like DiscoverOrg (which just bought ZoomInfo, by the way), searches for prospect by job title, industry and other criteria, then exports a list.

That list makes its way to an email application or marketing automation system, where the sales or marketing team kicks off a “drip” series. Some vendors connect to CRMs and automation platforms via APIs or native connectors; other require you to transfer data via a CSV.

This is the tack a lot of marketers and B2B marketing agencies are taking, and for good reason; it can yield really nice results.

Unfortunately, “Data + Drip” is not without its pitfalls.

First is the cost – good B2B cold prospecting data is expensive (figure $1/name for high-end vendors), and the email or marketing automation system comes with its own bill, often by the contact.

Second, this approach technically violates the terms of service of most reputable email platforms. Third-party contact data is not opt-in data. Using it at scale runs the risk of raising the ire of the email provider – or, worse, harming your sender reputation and deliver ability rates.

2. The 'Old-Fashioned' Way

What about eliminating the cost of data with an intern or low-level employee, and the TOS violation by using an individual email platform? This isn’t exactly uncommon.

The problems, of course, should be evident to anyone who values his or her hours. Scraping data from the web is extremely time-consuming – figure 15 minutes per contact, minimum. Even if an intern is doing the work, that adds up.

Once the data is acquired, sending via Outlook or Gmail – even with a template – takes up yet more time. Every email takes at least a minute or two, and janky alternatives like a massive list of BCCs just don’t get responses.

At a standard cold prospecting hit rate of 0.5%-1%, this strategy doesn’t make much sense.

3. Automated Email Outreach

A happy medium – and one of our favorite cold prospecting strategies – is automated email outreach.

The key here is that data and actual outreach are combined into a single platform or service offering. Ideally, there’s no exporting and importing to worry about, nor per-contact fees on the automation side. Criteria is set up, and the system reaches out to qualified prospects automatically, with responses flowing into your inbox.

If this sounds like a magic bullet … it pretty much is. But you do need to be very careful about picking an automated email vendor. What’s the cost? (Some run past $5,000/month quite quickly.) What’s the data quality? Is it simply blasting out emails, or are there controls in place for deliverability and sender reputation? The last thing you want to do is be a spammer.

(Some systems allow for automated social prospecting and outreach, too. That’s a great plus – the more channels, the better.)

Conclusion: Making Cold Prospecting Work in 2019

There are plenty of options for cold prospecting in the B2B world. Whether you choose to work with a third-party data provider, scrape the web by hand or automate the process entirely, adding a layer of outbound demand generation is a highly effective way to drive leads and grow your business.

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