Today we're going to dive into how to find the right contacts for your small- or medium-sized business in Southeast Florida.
Now, one of the most important things when it comes to finding the right contacts is the mindset:
It's all relative, and it's all somewhat subjective.
Different Businesses Have Different Ideal Clients
For example, an electrical contractor in downtown Miami wants to reach very different contacts than a plastic surgeon in Palm Beach Gardens. And a CPA firm in Boca Raton or a yacht broker in Fort Lauderdale wants to find different kinds of contacts.
Each business has different target markets, different profiles of their ideal customers, and different buyer personas.
And even among those that have vastly different businesses, each likely has more than one different kind of contact that are ideal clients for their business or ideal patients for their medical practice.
Favorite Questions They Ask on Shark Tank (For Good Reason!)
Most companies spend years trying to figure out who their best clients are:
- Who the most profitable clients are to service
- Who the most profitable clients are to acquire from a sales, marketing, and promotion perspective
If you ever watch Shark Tank, you know one of the things that Sharks are obsessed about is finding out how you acquire new customers and what it costs you to acquire a new customer.
It's a big deal, especially for a lot of smaller companies that are not at a great maturity stage regarding figuring out their product/market fit.
The Benefits of In-House Financial Expertise
For some companies, it can take hiring a financial executive to instill that mindset, to watch these kinds of metrics like average client lifetime value (LTV) and average cost of client acquisition (COCA).
Sometimes, it can be the controller, CFO, or VP of finance, or an accountant -- if that's your first formal financial hire.
Again, this depends greatly on the size and maturity of your business. In more medium-sized businesses, with at least 50 or 75 employees, with a half-dozen people in your accounting and finance department, these are things that you've nailed long ago.
But if you have a 5 or 10 person company, with only a part-time bookkeeper, you may not have nailed this quite yet.
The Simple Report Every SMB CEO Needs
Now, most small business CEOs in this situation will have the ability to run reports -- even QuickBooks can help you figure out how much revenue is coming from your ten biggest revenue sources in your last 12 months. Or you can just run a report on revenue by clients, export to Microsoft Excel format, and sort in descending order for your highest value clients to your lowest valued clients.
Revenue doesn't tell the whole story either, right? Sometimes people mistakenly chase after revenue, but it can be a whole different story when you start thinking about your profitability and your bottom line. And that can be much tougher to determine.
Most small business accounting applications don't do that quite as readily. And a lot of figuring this out has to do with your revenue mix, maybe your cost of goods sold (COGS) or cash flow issues.
Maybe some of your biggest clients are miserable SOBs when it comes to paying and just totally taking advantage of your laxly-enforced net 30-day payment terms -- so 30 days to them means 90 days. Maybe they never pay on time, and they’re deadbeats.
So think about the quality of revenue: profitability, how easy that client is to work with, or if there are any negative impacts on your cash flow.
Optimize By Greatest Revenue Impact
Another way of looking at this and thinking about who those right contacts are:
Run a Pareto optimization. Ask yourself, “Which 20% of your customers are responsible for 80% of your revenue?”
Maybe it's not 20%. Maybe you do that same exercise:
- Take revenue by clients, sort in descending order in Excel.
- Figure out where your 80% point is. In other words, where 80% of your revenue is coming from.
- Make a list of those customers.
Maybe it's 5% of your customers that are 80% of your revenue. Maybe it’s 50% of your customers that generate 80% of your revenue. But until you do that simple exercise in Excel, you're not going to be able to answer that.
Along the same lines, look at the bottom 20% of your revenue. And figure out which customers contribute the least amount of revenue, in theory, your least profitable customers that you might want to move away from.
Why? Because you realize that for example four of those customers in the bottom 20% of revenue generated are huge pains in the butt. They’re always getting nasty with my staff. They’re verbally abusive. They never pay on time. They're always changing the scope.
Think about these kind of issues when you're looking for the right contacts, to make sure you're looking for the right contacts -- and not the ones that you just think are the right contacts.
Moving Beyond Just Customer Profiles to Buyer Personas
Usually, when people are just getting started with this, they’ll think about customer profiles. But the reality is -- with the way that people research and make their purchase decisions today, customer profiles alone are not going to cut it anymore.
You need to build out full-blown buyer personas.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of one of your ideal clients based on actual research and some educated speculation.
That actual research might be face-to-face interviews, going out to your customers’ offices or wherever they're located, and talking with them for 15-20 minutes about their
- What's keeping them up at 2:00 a.m.
- Where they get their information
- Where they hang out online
- Conferences they go to
- What they search for
- What they want most out of a company like yours
If you can’t do these interviews in person, the next best thing would be having these meetings by phone or video conference. And if you can't do that, if there are too many customers you want to reach, you can always send out a survey.
Finding More Contacts That are Just Like Your Best Clients
Buyer personas are going to give you that research and help you figure out where you need to look to get more clients that are just like your best ones.
You'll also figure out how many different categories, or how many different buyer personas, you have.
If this is your first time through, I caution you not to build more than two buyer personas: a primary and a secondary buyer persona -- based on how profitable they are, the economic value to your company.
You can always take your two or three groups or buyer personas that you think are much less important and put them in the “parking lot” to come back to in 6 to 12 months.
Regarding the “right” contacts, right is all relative and it's all subjective.
To dig into this, your checklist should include:
- A QuickBooks report of revenue by customer exported to an Excel spreadsheet
- Face-to-face customers conversations
The Future of Buyer Personas Automatically Built and Optimized By Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
At some point in the future, you're going to see software, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) giving you some of these answers and optimizing for that.
You already see a lot of that happening with search engines like Google getting smarter, knowing your preferences, and serving you results that you're more likely to click on.
Facebook and Linkedin also do this very well. They're looking at what you are most interested in. And in many cases leave, the social media platforms will even tell you that.
For example, they might serve you certain posts in your social media feeds because you've shown an interest in the Miami Marlins, IBM, Billy Joel, and accounting software. They’re showing you these posts because they know that you’re a lot more likely to click on these kinds of posts.
At some point, you’re going to see CRM software (customer relationship management) and accounting software that can do this for you as well. When we’re already signing the telltale signs on search engines and social media, we're getting pretty close to that reality.
Going Deeper With Buyer Personas to Find the Right Contacts
Again, when you’re building your buyer personas, make sure you understand
- Where their watering holes are
- The blogs they read
- The newsletters they subscribe to
- The podcasts they listen to -- maybe it’s a podcast like this one!
- Webinars that they tend to go to
- If they're active on social media, which social media platforms do they frequent most often
- Which groups within that social media platform there are especially relevant to them
- Which topics or hashtags they find themselves going back to all the time
- Whether they’re using social media for personal reasons, professional reasons, or company-wide reasons
- If they use search engines on a regular basis
- Some of their exact words that find themselves searching for
If they don't remember and if they're not too shy when you're in their office, maybe you can even motivate them to take a minute or two in and show you what's in web browser search history in Chrome, Edge, or Firefox.
But we want to understand their watering holes.
We want to understand their behaviors, struggles, plans, and most of all: what they want from a company like yours.
Once we get consensus on that, it's a lot easier to identify who the right customers are -- and if we're dealing with one kind of customer, that’s very similar to the others, with a lot of consensus. Or are we dealing with two different kinds of “right” customers, ideal customers or clients?
That will help us get our minds around all of this.
Influencers vs. Decision Makers
Especially if your company sells business to business (B2B), we also want to get a better sense of whether we’re looking for influencers or decision makers.
Sure nearly everyone always wants to get to the decision maker as quickly as possible.
You may find that it's an order of magnitude easier to get to the influencer. And then you have a pretty straight path to get from influencer to the decision maker.
But we should understand who it is that we're trying to target.
Key Metrics and Demographics to Track for the Right Contacts
We should track some of those key metrics that I was alluding to a few minutes ago:
- Cost of customer acquisition (COCA) by buyer persona -- what it costs to find more customers like this
- Average client lifetime value (LTV) by buyer persona -- how much a customer is worth to our business over the lifetime of that relationship
We should certainly get a handle on the demographics:
- Age range
- Marital status (see Facebook)
- Highest educational degree attained (see Facebook or LinkedIn)
- Job title (see Facebook or LinkedIn)
- Company size (LinkedIn)
- Who's on their team (LinkedIn)
- Who they report to (LinkedIn)
Again, these are all things in a business to business context that we can usually figure out by looking at LinkedIn profiles.
Ranking Your Most Important Contacts
It's critical to prioritize and rank your most important contacts:
- Your most important contacts
- Your second most important contacts
Because when we're talking about finding the right contacts, there's got to be a way to objectify and put some hard data behind what is a right contact vs. a wrong contact.
Otherwise, we're never going to be able to do things like having marketing qualified leads (MQLs) -- deciding whether a lead is qualified or not.
So make sure you rank by the right criteria that makes the most sense for your business -- perhaps ranking by
- Strategic value -- like this particular client persona is allowing you to get into a new niche or geographic market with a different kind of product or service you haven't gotten into in the past
- Bragging rights -- be able to brag about the “logos” of some of your famous customers or Blue Chip customers (We see this a lot in the technology space.) -- maybe as the official chiropractor of a sports team or the official electrical contractor of a school district
Different company’s leadership teams have different priorities.
All of this should be getting you to a good sense of what your product/market fit is (PMF):
- Who the ideal customers are
- What products and services they purchase from you most often
- What price points
- What quantities they purchase those products and services in
- What durations they purchase those for
All of that will help you figure out how to get to strong demand.
Can You Recognize the Right Contacts When They’re in Front of You?
Another thing to ask yourself when you're trying to figure out who the right contacts are:
Would you know, if you fell over a right contact in person -- well, not literally fell over, -- but would you know that you're talking to the right person if you met that person at an event and you chatted with him or her for a few minutes?
Would you know that you have a right person in front of you if someone like that appeared on your website and filled out a form? Maybe to download an eBook or buyer's guide. Or to register for an event.
Would you know that you've come across the right contact by looking at how they interact with your website content? In other words, did they just look at educational resources, like your blog posts or eBooks? Or did they look at your product and services pages? Did they look at information specifically about your company: your About Us page, your Team page, or maybe your Contact Us page?
All of these give you different insights as to what their mindset is.
Are they're just gathering information? Or the getting pretty serious about wanting to work with your company?
Website Fingerprints and Other Digital Data for Tracking the Right Contacts
You can also look for example at:
- How much session time they have -- how many minutes they’re spending on your website
- Video analytics tracking -- if you sent a lead a 60-minute webinar recording, did they watch all 60 minutes? Or did that person just watch two minutes of it? Or 15 minutes of it? (I know that I certainly look at that myself all the time when I have a meeting with somebody that says they want to work with us. I look at the lead’s contact timeline in the video software to verify that this person has watched the whole thing.)
- Webinar attendance -- how many minutes somebody attended a webinar for. Did they stay for the whole webinar? Or just arrive in the middle and bolt after a couple of minutes? It tells you how serious that person is relative to the average.
- Number of pages viewed our website
- Number of visits to our website
- Number of conversions/reconversions -- where that person filled out a form on a landing page
All of this, regarding finding the right contact, will help us to better define our leads:
- Marketing qualified lead (MQL)
- Sales qualified lead (SQL) / Sales accepted lead (SAL)
This will vary a little bit depending on whether your company is focused on B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer).
On B2B side, regarding how you define the right contact, you probably look for
- Location (LinkedIn/reverse IP address lookup) -- If you only sell in a certain region, state, or country, that's going to be relevant to help you figure out whether you're talking with a right contact or not. In most cases, your email service provider (ESP) or marketing automation software (MA) should be able to automatically do a reverse IP address lookup for you -- and tell you, based on where somebody filled out a form, the city, state, country where they're actually located -- knowing full well that this kind of technology is usually at least 90% to 95% accurate. LinkedIn can help you reconfirm geographic information too.
- Gender (LinkedIn) -- If it's not straightforward from the person's first name, usually Facebook or LinkedIn -- if there's a photo -- can help you figure that out.
- Years experience/age range (LinkedIn)
- Company size (LinkedIn)
- Role within company (LinkedIn)
- Industry (LinkedIn)
- What’s your biggest ____________ challenge? (form field)
Now one of the big things to always make sure that you're asking on a form is an open-ended question -- such as, depending on the nature of your business:
- What's your biggest electrical contracting challenge?
- What's your biggest question you have about plastic surgery?
- What's your biggest accounting challenge?
- What's your biggest yacht problem you're facing?
By asking contacts, in their own words, you can get insight as to what's rattling around in their minds while filling out this form. Then you can see if their words match up with the kind of challenge or problem you hear about from somebody that's a good fit for your company.
If it's B2C, business to consumer, we usually can't ask quite as many questions. And we can't probe quite as much. But we will usually know and can compare with our buyer personas for at least some of the following:
- Gender (Facebook)
- Age (Facebook)
- Location (reverse IP address lookup) -- from the email service provider (ESP) or marketing automation software (MA) with a high degree of confidence
- Highest level of education (Facebook/LinkedIn)
- Owning vs. renting a home -- sometimes from county property tax records, but there are limits on how you can use this data
- Household income -- much dicier to ask for, especially in the early stages of the buyer’s journey.
- What’s your biggest ____________ challenge? (form field)
Think through what qualifies the find contacts. What's the minimum amount of information that you want to have, at the earliest stage? (knowing full well that as they progress into the middle or consideration stage of the buyer’s journey that you can for questions -- and ultimately during the late or decision stage of the buyer’s journey is where you’d want to ask any potentially intrusive questions, what somebody might deem to be a little bit more sensitive)
Bear in mind, as we discuss in more detail when planning lead generation -- and how many forms fields to include:
Generally the higher the perceived value, and the further along they are in the buyer’s journey, the more you can ask. Earlier on, make sure you don't give people too much anxiety by asking inappropriate questions for the stage where they're at
The Bottom Line on Finding the Right Contacts
How do you find the right contact?
It depends on:
- Your business model
- Your target market
- Your product/market fit
- Your ideal buyer personas
- Your goals
But the best way to start:
Look at your existing customer list, your existing client list, and figure out who you want more of.
If you do not have that kind of asset to lean on quite yet, try to iterate faster. Try to speed up your cycles. Test quicker, so you can get to a “Yes” or “No” sooner. Test your products and services offerings. Test your pricing. Test different promotional offers.
In a perfect world, we shouldn't have to find the right contacts because they find us.
If you have remarkable content that pulls your buyer personas in through search engines and social media and converts them into a qualified lead, you're not finding the right contacts. The right contacts are finding you!
And this happens when you have interesting, remarkable, highly relevant content that answers their biggest questions, gives them advice on some of the biggest goals and challenges.
And you’re seen as an educator, a subject matter, and a trusted advisor.
Once that person fills out a form like that, if they're a really good fit, the lead goes right to a sales rep.
If the contact is marginal, you nurture them a little bit until showing enough signs of interest to justify passing along to your sales team.
Remember “right” is all relative, and it's somewhat subjective. It depends on your business model, your target market, your product/market fit (the maturity of your business is often a proxy for product/market fit), your ideal buyer personas, and your goals.
So we've been talking all about finding the right contacts for your small- or medium-sized business in South Florida.
I'm so glad to have had you with us for this episode of the South Florida CEO Podcast.
I'm Joshua Feinberg, and we look forward to seeing you back again next time.
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