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How to Build Your Own Customized B2B Prospecting Lists for Free

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • Nine Steps to create your own business-prospecting lists
  • Free Web resources for building a customized database

A customized prospecting list is a great resource for your cold calling, direct mail, and email marketing efforts. If you prefer to "do it yourself," here are nine steps for building a free B2B marketing database for your outbound marketing campaigns.

1. Identify the industry

Start by picking the industry and, if possible, the sub-industry. Some of the resources listed at the end of this article offer free industry lookup, including and You can also conduct a SIC code lookup for the target industries at Build separate lists if you want to cover multiple industries.

2. Identify companies

Define the broad criteria that will help you identify companies within the chosen industry. You can segment by revenue, geography, number of employees, etc. (e.g., software product companies with a revenue range of $100-$500 million in North America).

Perform searches using those free tools I mentioned to come up with the list of companies. This step will help you determine the market size. If you come up with, say, 500 companies on your list but you need more, adjust the industry criteria and run another search.

3. Select companies

You can now select the companies you like. Download or copy the list of companies to a spreadsheet. Keep all the data you get, such as revenue, industry, number of employees, etc., with the company name in the spreadsheet. That will later help you segment and target your marketing campaigns.

4. Identify titles or roles

Build a list of keywords that appear in the titles of your targets. If your decision-makers are not easily identifiable by title, identify the department your target contact is likely to be located in, such as IT, Human Resources, Marketing, Manufacturing, etc. You may have to conduct role-based contact discovery instead of title-based discovery.

5. Choose level

Define what level of decision-maker, user, or influencer you intend to target, such as manager, director, VP, C-level, etc.; also, clearly note the levels you do not want to target, such as analyst, coordinator, assistant, etc. Doing so will help you select or drop those contacts in subsequent searches. It can also serve as a guideline in case you decide to give this list-building job to an intern or to outsource it to a list-provider company.

6. Standardize spreadsheet format

In the header row, write all the data attributes you want to capture (e.g., name, mailing address, phone number, email). Check the import format of your CRM (if you are using one) to make importing easy. A uniform format will immensely help you organize, segment, and analyze the data.

7. Begin Internet research

Internet research is the most important and time-consuming step. Check out (a) the company website (b) LinkedIn (c) search engines (d) industry associations, etc. Do that in the same order of priority to get the most relevant and accurate information.

Keep filling your spreadsheet with information you get on your prospects. In certain cases, you may not be able to fill in all the data attributes of a particular contact. Don't worry; just keep moving through your list.

8. Refine the search process

Note the time you are spending on research. Try to optimize the research time and benchmark it (e.g., 10-12 contacts per hour). That will help you budget your time to build the list for your outbound marketing campaigns.

Determine whether you can build the lists yourself or need more resources. For example, if your goal is to build a database of 1,000 contacts, and your research is producing 10 contacts per hour, you know you will need 100 hours of research.

9. Validate

Start calling to verify the prospect list you just built. Many times, front-office staff or an assistant will be able to validate the information. Remember, you are not marketing or selling to them at this stage. Draft a calling script that'll quickly help you verify the contact information.

Free Web resources for building B2B marketing databases

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Arvind Sehtia is founder of Sales Inside Inc., a B2B lead-generation company that specializes in outbound marketing services. He can be reached via

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  • by Tom - ConnectAndSell Thu Aug 11, 2011 via web

    Say yes to list building! aware that step 9 -- "validate by calling" can easily chew up as much or more time as step 7 -- "begin internet research"...and call validation is an essential key for list building success.

    You can cut way down on the time, cost and effort required in step 9 by using ConnectAndSell to compress a week of connects into an hour or two. You can build bigger, better lists faster when you can phone validate your list this way.

  • by Norma with Thu Aug 11, 2011 via web

    Much of this information and more (targeted contact names) can be gleaned from ReferenceUSA. Many of the large libraries in your area allow you to register for a library card and access this information online.

  • by amit Wed Aug 17, 2011 via web

    Link below doesnt exixt anymore.

  • by Vahe, MarketingProfs Wed Aug 17, 2011 via web

    @amit Thanks for pointing that out. We've removed the link.

  • by Stan Tue Sep 30, 2014 via web

    Holy time consuming, Batman. Seriously, I don't know what kind of jobs you guys have, but I'd rather pay someone to do this level of research for me. Like, you list to look up industry stuff, but you can pay a few cents a record and save yourself time, which you have to place value on, right? How little are you guys paying yourselves per hour that this is worth it? If you have that much free time, use leadferret, because you can look at all the info (same stuff as jigsaw, just a different layout basically), and then just copy over each email address if you don't want to pay anything. Way easier than researching each individual company yourself over multiple websites. Seriously.

  • by Dhan Fri Apr 17, 2015 via web

    Thanks for the list of B2B marketing databases. I would like to add LeadGrabber that many companies use to generate targeted B2B leads by themselves. The tool does deep web searches and gets you the names of your target companies, names of decision makers in these companies, their business email addresses and phone numbers.

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