How to Design a Strategic Contact Discovery Plan


Part 2 of a 2 Part Series

In my previous post, I spoke to the methodology of a successful contact discovery plan.   As you may recall, the contact discovery strategy contained three pieces.  In this post, we’ll review each piece in more detail and share best practices that you can start applying today.

Lets begin with the audience definition, since it serves as the foundation.  Most clients will define their target audience based on job title, job level, company size and industry.  This is certainly a good starting point, but with social media you are now afforded the freedom to describe the audience in much greater detail.  Like in many situations, more options can increase complexity.  With that said, you might consider establishing macro and micro audience definitions.

Develop Macro & Micro Audience Definitions

The macro definition serves as the “big picture” view of the target audience.  The micro definition, and in most cases more than one, are tailored to specific audience segments.  Just think about job title for a moment.  The target job titles may vary based on the size of the organization or industry.  A CEO in a company with 50 employees is very different than one in a company of 1,000 employees.  In addition, industries such as government, healthcare and education often present non-traditional titles.  These micro audience definitions provide the flexibility to customize rather than a one fits all mindset.

 Think “Buying Team” When Defining the Audience

When organizing the audience definition(s), keep in mind the “buying team” and consider segmenting your audience into influencers, decision makers and end-users.  Also think creatively when you describe the audience(s).  For example, at the account level you might find value in software installs a company has in place or trigger events such as new construction, venture funding, or executive moves.  At the individual level, you are presented with even more potential attributes.  Below is a short list of the common ones to get your wheels turning:

  • Job Roles & Responsibilities
  • Interests
  • Skills
  • Certifications
  • Group Memberships

Get a Picture of Your Database Condition

With your audience definitions in place, you’re ready to run a Contact Gap Analysis.  This solution takes the audience definition and compares it to the house data to gain visibility into the contacts you have and those missing.  It reveals the “gaps”; the target contacts missing at each account.  It also highlights if a third party contact record is available to fill the gap.  To learn more about Contact Gap Analysis, please reference the following success story:

Establishing the Contact Discovery Strategy

With a clear audience definition and the gap analysis results, you have the insight to design a strategic contact discovery plan.  You basically now have the architect’s fancy blue prints, but you still need to build the house.  So, what do you do next?

Review the Gap Analysis Results – Prioritize both the accounts and job title combinations that are the most important ones to close.  You might think of it as finding a needle in a haystack just repeated across hundreds or thousands of accounts.  This one-on-one approach, although presents challenges, is scalable.

Determine Data Capture Methodology -  To be successful, it requires querying multiple third party databases, performing social media research, and sometime employing advanced web discovery. So you say to yourself this all makes sense, but can I actually do this on my own?  To answer that question you must ask yourself the following questions.  If you find that you lack the experience and resources to accomplish the tasks, you might consider partnering with a consulting firm that specializes in this area.

Which third party databases are best for my audience?

  1. Can I evaluate them based on a series of data quality metrics?
  2. How do I work with the providers to purchase only those contacts I need at each account?
  3. Do I have the capability to research social media to find the target contacts?
  4. If I find someone on LinkedIn, how do I build their contact record (including email addresses)?
  5. Based on my current marketing resources am I able to continually perform and scale these activities?

In summary, marketers much change the mindset of sourcing greenfield contacts randomly, since it’s clear that not all contacts are created equal.  With pressure fierce and everyone seeking to stretch more from their budgets, you need to be smarter to gain that competitive marketing advantage.  The opportunity that marketers can pounce on is to increase target audience coverage within their CRM/MPA systems.  What we have found is that the majority of house database have only captured 35% of their true target audience. What if you could increase that to 50%, 60% or 70%?  The results are oblivious; you would be exposing your messaging to an audience twice the size!  The time and money invested in marketing automation, content development and messaging would be applied to an audience twice the size.  How would this affect each stage within your demand waterfall?

To find out how smarter data can lead to a better marketing automation system and more revenue for your organization, contact Brian P. Hession, President & Founder at