Is Social Media Making Prospect Databases Irrelevant for New Business?

How will you obtain and connect with prospects?
by Todd Knutson

A client asked me recently, "How will the rise of social media sites impact how I obtain and use prospect information?"

To me there are two ways you need to consider the issue:

  1. How will social media impact how I obtain contacts at companies?
  2. How will I contact prospects once I've put them in my internal database?

I'm thinking about this from the perspective of how agencies and other marketing services firms will do business in the future. I also encourage you to consider how this will impact how you obtain and use data for your clients' campaigns, if that's something you get involved with.

How will I obtain prospects at companies? Today, you can purchase a list for single-use; you can purchase a subscription to an online data provider; or, you can go it alone and use social media sites to try to identify companies and contacts you want to reach out to. At the moment, I believe that a blending of purchased information and use of social media sites is appropriate. Here's why:

  • Social media sites are not list-friendly. Trying to create prospect lists by industry, title, and geography is difficult.
  • Social media sites are populated by users, not by a research team looking for contacts that are relevant to clients. With these sites, you get who's registered, and can't ask someone to find a certain title or email, or to research a new company.
  • Social media sites are self-updated. There is no "cleaning" process to validate information. If someone chooses not to update their profile, or creates a duplicate profile, you have bad information. If someone dies, they're still alive on the site. Try this with companies you know well (or your own): watch people you know or former employees - what percent regularly update their information? You may be surprised by the results.

How will I contact prospects at companies? If you load your prospects into Act!, Goldmine or Salesforce.com, social media presents a challenge. Here's why:

  • You can't send communications to prospects directly from your database (e.g. you can't use LinkedIn's internal email with Act!).
  • Social media is true one-to-one communication, and often through a mutual contact. A large direct mail or email campaign is completely inappropriate.
  • While database tools like Act! and Salesforce.com will continue to be relevant for a while, if they don't evolve to become helpful and to save time in a social media-connected world, they are likely to lose market share to those that do.

Social media is about starting a conversation, and how you communicate is critically important.

I'm certainly thinking about this issue as an information provider, as that's what my company does. We also reach out to prospects on a daily basis using a traditional CRM platform. So, we are experimenting, just as you are.

Given the pace of change and the experimentation taking place, I'd love to hear from you: what are your challenges with obtaining information about prospects from social media sites? How are you connecting? Is your internal database tool useful? Becoming irrelevant?


 

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