Smart Answers columnist Karen E. Klein answers questions about expanding your e-mail reach and finding a Web page sponsor
Q: How can we get better contact information for small and midsize aerospace and defense industry suppliers? We need to expand our current database of CEOs and are looking for e-mail addresses in particular. — David Blanco, Irvine, Calif.
A: Company downsizings and anti-spam regulations have made it increasingly difficult to find and contact decision makers by e-mail. But there are several ways to get the information you need.
Perhaps the easiest is to buy lists of senior-level contacts from companies such as infoUSA, ReadyContacts, or Hoover's. "You can segment the data yourself, or we can help do a prospect list and e-mail campaign for you," says Colleen Honan, a senior vice-president at database provider OneSource, whose small business offering costs "a few thousand dollars" a year, depending on the level of detail required. At Hoover's, packages for entrepreneurs start at $845 a year. InfoUSA sells names on a per-list basis, with a minimum order of $475; ReadyContacts sells them for $10 a name before volume discounts.
You can also try trade show organizers or your own trade association or professional organization. They might be able to offer a pay-per-lead program, traditional advertising, a rented list, or an outright purchase, says Tom Barnes, CEO and president of Atlanta marketing firm Mediathink.
A less costly option may be to use a so-called hook in your existing advertising, at trade shows, or on your Web site, suggests Al Lautenslager, CEO of marketing firm Certified Social Media. A hook is any information that's valuable to customers and contacts—maybe a white paper, survey results, or a Webinar. Post it on a custom Web site, where prospects can download it after providing contact information. "By responding, the recipient is opting in to receive further information. By asking for an e-mail address, you'll get the most current contact information," says Meg Goodman, a senior vice-president at U-Marketing in Lombard, Ill.
And, of course, make sure you're well prepared when you do manage to make contact. Says Barnes: "You can burn through leads pretty quick if you don't have your sales communications buttoned down."
Q: As an independent video producer, I've helped a client create a Web series that allows for product placement. How can we find a sponsor? — Kate Hoy, Phoenix
A: Start by developing a following for the Web series. "Asking for money too early makes you look very, very small, and you might get put on the 'stupid' list in the future," says Aldonna Ambler, founder of Ambler Growth Strategy Consultants. If you don't have an audience yet, consider offering your first product placements for free. "Give away a lot at first, if you're looking for a long-term relationship, and see what develops," Ambler says. Any sponsor should be similar to your client's niche in terms of geography, size, and target customer. "If you feel like you're having to change how you talk or learn a new language to accommodate a sponsor, that's not a good fit," Ambler says.
Andrew Lock, who hosts a sponsored Web series called "Help! My Business Sucks," recommends that you search online for companies that sell products appealing to your Web series' audience, then look at the paid ad results. Those companies obviously have advertising budgets and may be willing to spend money to be found by your niche audience.
Call the owner or chief of marketing for each company and tell them that you want to refer your audience to their company exclusively, Lock says. Be prepared to furnish them with audience numbers and any other demographics you can compile, perhaps by doing a survey of your online audience. "You're only looking for one sponsor, so it's very achievable," Lock says.
For Klein's ongoing column series, go to businessweek.com/go/sb/smartanswers
Return to the BWSmallBiz December 2009/January 2010 Table of Contents