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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