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New customers and where to find them.

My business needs a steady supply of new customers. Yours does too, probably. Customers leave and go with competitors. Customers go out of business. Customers fall away without a word of explanation. So I need—you need—a regular supply of new customers to replace the ones that disappear each year.

The challenge in business-to-business direct mail is knowing where to look for new business. You need a source of potential new clients that is reliable and affordable. A source that will give you the contact information you need to send a direct mail package to prospective customers who need, want and can afford what you offer.

At a minimum, any source of names should supply the following for each lead:

First name, last name
Job title
Company name
Address (sometimes on two lines)
Province or state
Postal code or zip code

Other details that are nice to know:
SIC Code (Standard Industry Classification)
Industry by name
Size of company (in number of employees or sales volume)
Telephone number
Email address
Business type (manufacturing, services, consulting)
Job function (engineer, owner, purchasing, management)
Purchasing authority
Geographic region (international region, country, state)

Where to find names of potential customers:

There is an Association of Legal Administrators. There is an association for social workers who specialize in helping people with cancer (Association of Oncology Social Work). There is an association for manufacturers of fasteners in the mid-west of the United States (The Mid-West Fastener Association).

If your target audiences is a niche market, the first place to look for potential customers is trade associations. These associations (local, regional, national, international) often rent lists of names of their members

Trade publications
Most industries have a trade journal. You are familiar, of course, with Frozen Food Age, Industrial Hygiene News, Eyecare Business and Waste News. These trade publications and most others also rent the names of their subscribers.

Trade directories
You could look in the phone book. Or you could look in the Organic Export Directory, a compilation of contact names for companies that export organic food products. The more narrow the field, the more likely it is to have its own directory of companies in the industry. Some of these directories are in print, and some are online as well.

List brokers
List brokers are specialists who help one company use the list of another company. Their services include research, selection and recommendation of lists. A list broker, for example, would search on your behalf for lists that meet your unique criteria. There is a Hospitality/Travel Professionals list. And a Firefighters Bookstore list (people who have purchased from Firefighters Bookstore). And a Federal Student Aid Schools list (28,994 schools that provide federally financed aid to their attendees).

House list
Your best source of new business is your database of current and lapsed customers, otherwise known as your house list. Getting business from a current customer is always less expensive than getting business from a new customer.

For some products and services, another excellent source of potential clients is the government. I have a number of clients who buy mailing lists from their state governments and use them to mail offers to businesses that are in their target audience. One client buys the names of dentists and dental hygienists whose licenses are about to expire, and mails those prospects a direct mail piece that promotes the client’s continuing education courses (which prospects need to take and pass to renew their licenses). Another client buys the names of garages in his state who conduct state-mandated vehicle safety inspections. He mails them direct mail pieces that promote his software product, which is designed specifically for these inspection stations.

Keep in mind that the most important part of any business-to-business direct mail lead generation campaign is the list. You can have a great product, a terrific offer and the best timing, but if you mail to the wrong people, well, you know what happens. So make sure you get the best list you can.

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Alan Sharpe is a B2B direct mail copywriter and publisher of “Sharpe & Direct: The B2B direct mail marketing e-newsletter.” Receive a free report when you sign up. Alan can be reached at 1 877 SHARPE COPY or at

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