Prospect Lists: Hamster wheel or stairway to success?

Do you feel like you’re winning less share of deals than you expect? Does it seem like you’re going in circles, trying to find more of the right prospects?

It might not seem obvious, but the key to overcoming these challenges lies in how you manage prospecting data.

Here’s what can hurt more consistent growth:

  • Not documenting over time which lists and what offers worked with various segments
  • Sourcing from too few or too many lists

Lists are the default prospecting method for many marketing and sales teams. They’re often the starting point for start-ups. They can get you going. Revenue rolling in.

But then, leads and revenue plateau.

Hamster Wheel of Lead Lists

The lists that once propelled you forward have now turned into a hamster wheel.

Why did this happen?

Because only buying a series of lists over the years eventually brings diminishing returns.

They don’t let you:

  • Consistently see what worked and didn’t work
  • Identify the overlap across lists, resulting in duplicate efforts
  • Scale faster by refining your ideal customer and building on that

The result is a lot of activity, without enough forward movement.

Fleet Database for Revenue Growth

If lists aren't giving you the performance you need, it's time to graduate from how you work with lists.

You've outgrown this.

List Performance in CRM Database

What can you do differently?

We’re not saying don’t ever get lists. This article is about thinking differently about your lists and data.

There’s a shift in mindset and how you use lists.

First, gather performance of every list over the past 12 months in one place.

Performance can include:

  • Deliverability – confirming the message reached the recipient via email or call
  • Response – behavior of the prospect if they are interested or if not, and why
  • Conversion – getting an order and tracking response rates

When you capture all of this information in one place, the result is a database that will give you the insights you need for even greater success.

What's the difference between a database and lists?






Snapshot one-time view



Prospects & customers

Campaign by campaign analysis

Revenue-driven analytic insights



Where do you stand?

Sales and marketing teams are using everything from paper print-outs, to Salesforce outfitted with advanced analytics. There is no judgment here. They’re doing what their resources allow, what their organization will support, and what they have time to create while focused on selling.

It’s important to know, though, that there are trade-offs. Gaining time or saving budget today will cost later. Many tend to kick the can down the road until they can’t anymore, and performance takes a hit.

When you’re ready to implement or improve a database, you would take different next steps, depending on where you fall on the spectrum of database vs. list.

Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Level 4
Level 5
What are you currently doing with lists and data?

Excel spreadsheets and printed lists marked up on paper.

Gather list data in a CRM, and using it mostly to house prospecting lists.

Attempting to keep up with customer and prospect data in CRM.

Using CRM to manage data for campaigns.

Analyzing trends and segments. Institutionalize lessons learned.

What does your data and IT team look like?

No assigned data owner. Excel and Google sheets created by many.

IT builds CRM. No standardized data stewardship to manage what’s in it.

Has an IT and data team. Data is ad hoc, no repeatable processes.

CRM is maintained, data is updated, and used across multiple campaigns.

Complete team of IT, data and analytic owners. CRM is source of truth. Wins and losses captured.

When you acquire data, what's the focus?

Emails for the next campaign. Basic company data, little or no fleet data.

Emails with limited segmentation, for multiple campaigns and channels.

Acquire net new prospect data. Low match rates due to missing data.

Filling in blanks. Enrich with fields like industry, fleet, size.

Attempt to “clone” best customers and emerging segments within CRM.

Acquiring accounts for entire, relevant TAM.

ICP segments based on strategy and opportunity analysis.

How to get to the next level? *

Consolidate all lists and create one master dataset.

Evaluate CRMs to see what best fits your needs.

Assign a data owner to clearly define your data assets.

Identify metrics for data quality.

Apply lessons from campaigns, to see which sources are most valuable.

Prioritize the prospect market.

Build a well-defined TAM, ICP and contact personas.

Align CRM between sales and marketing.

Align data, technology, people and processes.

Create long-term metrics of success.

Measure contribution to enterprise value.

* When strengthening how you use your data and lists, don’t try to skip across too many levels in the above table. To increase the likelihood of successful adoption by your sales and marketing teams, focus on improvements one step at a time.

How to get started?

First, stop buying more lists. Take stock of what you already have.

These next steps can help you get going:

  • Explore a database or CRM software you’re comfortable with.
  • Collect all your lists and data in one place. If you already use an ERP or sales order management system, capture rich data and keep it up to date.
  • Designate one person in your company who is responsible for the entire data lifecycle, from sourcing to analysis.
  • Encourage a culture that values the benefits from a database, and the long-term strategy that a database can support.
  • Schedule meetings involving leadership to share insights and learn from results.
  • Acknowledge that it takes time to get everybody on the same page.

What are tangible results of a database?

For one, you’re no longer on a hamster wheel!

Now your database can give the insights to get on the “stairway to success” trajectory.

When you acquire more data in the future, you’ll be able to apply learnings. Possibly spend less and get better results.

You can identify early on, which customers are more likely to churn, and avoid acquiring such low-value customers.

In summary,

  • Reduce customer acquisition and list costs
  • Grow more consistently quarter to quarter
  • Enable robust testing and tracking results
Fleet Data in CRM Database