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How do you know you are hitting the correct Target Audience?

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Sales lead generation means finding people who you think could be potential customers and connecting with them to see if they will buy what you are selling.

In our experience about 70% of the success of a lead generation campaign is down to who you target, and the other 30% is down to what you say to them (your messaging).

So, if you want to succeed at lead generation, you need to put effort into searching for the right people.

Why Is Accurate Targeting Important?

Better response rates

Firstly, if you target the right people, they are more likely to respond.

For example, if you are selling accounting software and try contacting every C-level executive at a target company, you are not going to get a response from a lot of those people because (obviously) they don’t need your product.

If you instead focus mostly on Finance roles and people who hold P&L responsibilities, the response will be better.

Better sales conversion rates

Lead qualification is an important part of the sales process. It happens after you generate the lead and give it to the sales team. They have to qualify the lead to ensure the person has a real requirement for your product or service and, just as importantly, can access the money to pay for it.

If your sales team is spending more time disqualifying leads than qualifying, then you are targeting the wrong people and wasting your sales team’s time.

If you are careful, ensuring you are targeting the correct audience, you will generate more qualified leads than disqualified and your sales people will make better use of their time.

Shorter sales cycles

One final way to know if you are hitting the correct targets is the length of the sales process. If your sales cycle should normally take 4 months but you notice it is taking a lot longer with new leads, then you could be targeting the wrong audience.

Defining your Target Audience

Your target audience is a specific group of people you want to target because you think they are most likely to buy your products or services.

A target audience is a subset of your target market.  For example, your target market could be financial services companies, but your target audience could be IT managers at mid-size banks.

It is important to define who your target audience is, understand what their needs are, and how your product or service can fulfil those needs.

Finding Contacts That Match Your Target Audience Profile

The first step in defining your target audience is to look at your existing customers to create an Ideal Customer Profile. The Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is a simplified description of which companies you sell to most successfully.

Which sectors do you sell to, within those sectors, what roles do you typically sell to and what size of company?

You can get this information by looking over your sales for the previous 2 years and categorizing the companies by sector and size, then identifying who was the main point of contact during the sale.

You can expand this Ideal Customer Profile by researching your industry and competition to identify other promising target profiles that you don’t currently serve.

For example, targeting a new sector, or a new company size, or a new country.

Once you have a clear understanding of who you want to target, you can identify contacts that match that profile, and then create messaging tailored specifically to them and their needs.

How do you know your target profile is right?

One way to know if you are hitting the correct targets is to analyse the level of engagement – how are they responding when you try to connect with them?

Do some groups respond at a higher rate than others? Do people with certain roles or industry sectors or company sizes respond more often?

You can measure engagement across each of the channels you use to connect with target customers.

For outbound email your first measure of engagement is “how many positive responses are we getting – are we generating sales calls”? You also look at open rates to see if some groups open at a better rate than others. And you check if some people are opening multiple emails in a sequence, which indicates some interest in what you are saying, even if they have not responded yet.

For social media, you can use the analytics dashboards on LinkedIn, Twitter and other platforms to measure engagement using metrics like likes, comments, shares, followers etc.

For your website, you can cross-check the impact of your outreach activities against your website analytics data so you can see if you get visits from people you are targeting.

But note that while shares, comments and site visits are all welcome, the real measure of successful targeting are responses – a reply from a target contact saying “Yes, I’m interested in what you are selling and I’d like to talk”.


Targeting is 70% of the success in lead generation.

Follow the simple steps above to make sure you are targeting the right people.

We also provide some related articles on How to select a target market and How to write Outbound Emails when reaching out to your target audience that you may find useful.

Written by Michael White

Michael White is co-founder and CEO of Motarme, the Sales Technology and Services vendor. You can find him on LinkedIn .

How to Write Outbound Emails

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Writing Outbound Emails

“Outbound email” means reaching out systematically to people who fit your target customer profile using email. 

You can be more effective if you follow these tips and guidelines.

Note on the overall approach

  • Outbound lead generation is based on sending a succinct email with a clear call to action to someone who matches your target profile.
  • Outbound sales is a well-established approach among B2B technology companies – it is used by 75% of US tech companies according to a Gartner survey on sales technology usage.
  • That means there is lots of data to show what works in terms of email structure, content, length etc.
  • Outbound emails are more like the ‘direct response’ ads you see in newspapers and magazines than typical marketing or web marketing copy.
  • The language you use is usually shorter and more direct.
  • It should also look like an email you would send to a work colleague or friend – not like a marketing email you are sending to thousands of recipients.

Be careful about who you target

  • As a rule of thumb, we tell clients that about 60% of the success of outbound sales campaigns is based on the accuracy of who you target, 10% on your subject line and 30% on your messaging.
  • So think carefully about who you will target. Have a clear idea of your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Your ICP is a summary of who you have been successfully selling to e.g. “Plant Operations Managers at Food Manufacturing firms with 100 to 200 employees”.
  • A good Ideal Customer Profile is one that, if we had 10 people matching that profile in a room, you’d expect to have serious sales interest from at least 5 of them.

The subject line

  • People will never get to hear about how great your product or service is if they don’t read your email in the first place.
  • The subject line is what people use to decide whether to open your email or not.
  • Some general rules for subject lines include:
  • Length – keep it to 10 words or less
  • Not too specific – do not try to summarize the content of the email in the subject line as that is likely to cause a percentage of recipients to think they can ignore it. 
  • Clear about purpose – recipients should not be surprised that you are seeking to make contact with them, so it’s best to signal that in the subject line
  • Don’t “bait and switch” – do not suggest one offer in the subject line and then either ignore it or contradict it in your actual email copy.
  • A/B test different subject lines – send one subject line to half a list, and an alternative subject line to the other half, and see which gets opened more often.

Think about the person receiving the email

  • “Bad first date syndrome” is when you talk too much about yourself, and not about the person you are with.
  • Well, that’s true for sales emails too. They won’t work if you talk too much about yourself or your company or product.
  • When we open an email most of us are thinking “WIIFM” – “what’s in it for me”. You need to answer that as quickly as you can.
  • The StoryBrand framework recommends that you make your customers “the hero of your story.”
  • The framework recommends that you ask yourself
  • What does the hero want?
  • Who or what is preventing the hero from getting what they want?
  • What will the hero’s life look like if he or she gets (or does not get) what they want?
  • Now try to create a first draft email focused on your potential customer (“the hero”) addressing these points.

Time is a factor – keep it quick

  • Because these messages are email based, time is a key factor.
  • Recipients decide to read or delete a message within 3 to 6 seconds.
  • And when they decide to read the message, time is still a factor – most recipients are looking for a quick reason to delete or ignore your message.
  • This means you need to communicate “What in it for me?” (WIIFM) very quickly – ideally by the 1stor 2nd  paragraph.

Ideal email length

  • Industry studies suggest that shorter is almost always better than longer when it comes to emails.
  • Marketing email vendor Campaign Monitor suggests the ideal length is between 50 and 150 words. Constant Contact found that it was about 200 words.
  • We are not that prescriptive – longer emails can work, if the additional text provides valuable information.
  • But as a rule of thumb, we try to stay at around the 200 word length or less.

Structure, sentence length and sentence complexity

  • For business communications, especially outbound emails, simple short sentences work better.
  • Simple short paragraphs work better too.
  • Sentences and paragraphs should communicate a key concept, not multiple concepts.
  • A study by Boomerang found that emails written at a “third-grade reading level” had the highest response rate.
  • They performed 36% better than those written at a college reading level.
  • This isn’t because recipients are stupid, but because shorter sentences are easier to scan, understand and respond to, no matter how smart you are.
  • We recommend an average sentence length of 15 to 18 words.
  • Complexity is when you have complex phrases separated by commas, or complex terminology that is unexplained. Avoid complexity in your emails.
  • You should keep sentence structure as simple as you can.
  • One of the simplest ways is to break long, complicated sentences into shorter, simpler ones.

Use of ‘You’ and ‘Your’

  • We recommend that you use the words ‘you’ and ‘yours’ in the first sentence and frequently throughout the email.
  • This is because it creates greater engagement with the recipient.
  • It also helps you avoid writing sentences that are too abstract or disconnected from the recipient’s needs.

Getting to the point

  • Put the important stuff up front. Whatever people see or read first, they will assume that is your primary focus.
  • Put the most important facts, information and observations at the start. Try to order this by what is likely to be important to the recipient.
  • Readers should understand what you are trying to communicate to them and ask of them within 2 paragraphs. If they are confused, they will not respond.
  • Emails should explain “What’s in it for me?” really quickly. Make it clear why should they respond, and how will they benefit.


  • Your message should persuade the recipient;
  • that they have a need that is worth addressing
  • that is is worth addressing now and
  • that you can address it.
  • The first part is important – people may be aware something is a problem, but they may not think it’s a big enough problem to actually do something about it.
  • You need to overcome that inertia.
  • Use the Need-Outcome-Solution-Evidence (NOSE) structure to persuade them.
  • NOSE means:
    • briefly describing their need and why it’s a big deal,
    • explaining the outcome if that need could resolved,
    • describe what your solution looks like, and
    • provide evidence you can deliver.

Call to action

  • You need to make it clear what you want the recipient to do in response to your email – this should be crystal clear.
  • If you want to have a phone call with them, say so, explaining how they will benefit.
  • Make the call to action “low commitment” – something that is easy to say yes to.
  • So instead of asking if they are free for a physical meeting or hour long phone call, ask instead if they are free for 5-minute web call.
  • Do not have more than one call-to-action in any email.
  • For example, don’t ask for a phone call and then also ask that they download a brochure.
  • Every additional call to action dilutes the overall impact through confusion (“what do they want me to do?”) and reduces the response rate.

Active / Passive voice

  • Passive voice is where you say, “a solution was delivered”. Active voice is where you say, “we delivered the solution”.
  • For email, Active voice is always better.

The Tom Sant Checklist

As a final piece of advice, we have adapted a checklist from Dr Tom Sant’s “Persuasive Business Proposals” that we think is useful

  • Have I accurately identified my audience?
  • Do I understand what they need?
  • Do I know what their likely decision criteria will be?
  • Have I used the words ‘you’ and ‘yours’ at the start and frequently throughout the email?
  • Have I kept my email short?
  • Have I avoided cliches and jargon?
  • Have I used active voice?
  • Have I expressed myself clearly?
  • Are my sentences short and simple?
  • Have I eliminated jargon?
  • Have I eliminated unnecessary detail?
  • Do I have a clear call to action?

Written by Michael White

Michael White is co-founder and CEO of Motarme, the Sales Technology and Services vendor. You can find him on LinkedIn .



Quick Guide To Outbound Lead Generation

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Outbound Lead Generation

If you are a B2B technology or software company, there are 2 main options for lead generation:

  • Inbound lead generation (aka online lead generation)
  • Outbound lead generation.

Inbound should be a source of 30% or more of your leads.  But there are times when Inbound Lead Gen isn’t enough – that’s when you also need to use Outbound Lead Generation.

Quick Recap – why Online Lead Generation is important

Online lead generation is really important because today when anyone starts searching for a product or solution, they look online. According to a DemandBase report, 4 of the top 5 sources of leads are online.

According to a Savo Group research study, 58% to 70% of the B2B buying process is completed before a buyer speaks to a vendor.

b2B buying process completes before vendor

Also according to a DemandGen report, 25% of B2B companies said they only initiated contact after they had already established a preferred list of vendors.

So for all these reasons, you need to make sure your prospective customers find you online or they’ll find your competitors. And when they do find you, you need to capture their contact details – that’s online lead generation.

When Do You Need Outbound Lead Generation?

If your product category is mature then potential customers will be searching for it online. For example, CRM is a mature category. People who want a CRM solution will search online for relevant terms. There will be a lot of search traffic. So CRM vendors should concentrate on inbound marketing for online lead generation.

But if your product category is new, or you operate in a highly vertical/niche market then potential buyers may not be aware of or searching for your type of product. There will be a low volume of search traffic looking for terms related to your product and you won’t be able to generate enough leads online.

In that case you will have to reach out to prospective customers in a targeted, efficient and cost effective process – Outbound Lead Generation.

And sometimes Outbound Lead Generation can  produce faster results for early stage technology companies who are only beginning to establish a presence online.

How Does Outbound Lead Generation Work?

Outbound Lead Generation involves a set of clear phases, managed through a well defined process and supported by automation.

The main steps are:

1. Define Target Customer Profile

Clarify who your ideal target customers are. This definition should be clear and focused – type of companies, roles at those companies, territories, sectors etc.. Looking at your best existing customers helps with this definition. The output of this step should be enough for an intern to use as a guide when searching for prospect names and contact details.

2. Value Proposition for Campaign

Clarify what your pitch will be for this campaign. This step helps when preparing the draft emails in step 3. You can start with some bulletpoints covering what value your product provides, how quickly do customers obtain that value, why it’s better than alternatives, why it’s better than doing nothing.

3. Build Targeted List

This is the second most important step after defining your ideal customer. The more effort you put into producing a good list the higher the likelihood your campaign will produce results.  You should try to sell high, so it’s important to get C-level / Director level names on your list.  Confirm that every name and every company on your list is genuinely relevant – they meet your target profile and you have good reason to expect they will be interested in your proposition.

4. Draft Emails

Draft the text for your outbound emails. There should be a number of emails for follow-ups. The emails should be simple, direct and text based, and should look like they come from a specific named individual at your company, not the marketing department.

5. Prepare Follow-up Material(s)

When prospects respond they may not be ready to engage, or they may want some information to assess whether your proposition is relevant to them. You can send follow-up materials to prospects as a way to maintain their interest. Example materials include presentations, case studies, white papers and industry news or analysis. The goal is to have 4 to 5 items of content that you are sure will be of interest to your target customers.

6.  Send the Emails

Send emails to blocks of your prospect lists. About 50 to 80 per day, 3 days per week for each sales person. The goal is to generate 5 to 10 responses per day. Sales people won’t be able to deal effectively with more than that number of new responses per day (as each week progresses, the total number of prospects to manage quickly increases).

7.  Manage Responders

As a percentage of prospects respond, handle those responses consistently and record what’s happening. Typically the first interaction will be by email (the prospect emails you back). In some cases the prospect will call you – make sure you can access their details and know who you’re speaking with if they do call.

8.  Schedule Call

If the first response is by email then your next goal is to schedule a call. You are not trying to sell on this call. The purpose of the first call will allow you to gauge whether the prospect is genuinely a good fit. Are they interested? Are they the right person to talk to at their firm? Are they ready to take a next step? The key point is to focus on their business to ensure you have a clear understanding of how they view the world. Then your objective is to (a) get agreement to have another call or demo or (b) get introduced to the right person to talk to.

9.  Send Follow-Up Materials

In many cases the prospect is interested but not ready to engage e.g. they are in the middle of some kind of project, or under pressure to complete quarterly or annual reports. If the time delay is likely to be 6 to 12 weeks then send follow-up materials over that period to maintain contact.

If the time delay is likely to be significantly more than 12 weeks then the lead can be put in a Lead Nurturing track.

10.  Schedule Demo / Meeting

For most technology companies part of the sales process will involve an online or in person demonstration of your product. If that is the case, then in this step we schedule and then execute that demo. This means an email exchange and, when the date and time is confirmed, immediately putting this in the client’s calendar. Other steps include confirming the client can take a web demo / Skype video call / Google hangout.  The demo format should include a short intro presentation (‘tell them what you’re going to tell them’); the demo itself (‘tell them’); and a wrap up (‘tell them what you told them’).

For other companies the goal will be to schedule an initial meeting. The format of this meeting will differ, but the key rule when meeting a new prospect is to gain further insight into their needs – “listen before you talk”.

11. Hand Off to the Sales Process

If the demo has proceeded well and we have confirmed genuine interest then the prospect can be added to your sales automation / CRM system as an opportunity and it should be passed to a named sales person.

This handover is very important, so closing this step should only be allowed when the sales person confirms they are happy to accept the new contact as an opportunity. If not, then the reasons why not should be recorded.

Useful Outbound Lead Generation Resources

Aaron Ross has written a great book on Outbound Lead Generation called “Predictable Revenue” – you can find out more at www.predictablerevenue.com.

Brian Carroll, author of ‘Lead Generation for the Complex Sale’ wrote a detailed guide on building an Outbound Lead Generation team for OpenView Partners – you can access it here (registration required) 

And David Skok of Matrix Partners has a good introductory presentation on Outbound Lead Generation here.

How to Automate B2B Lead Generation

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A quick overview of how to automate B2B Lead Generation including:

  • what problems are we trying to solve;
  • how can you generate leads in B2B – inbound and outbound;
  • most effective lead generation methods;
  • why you should automate as much as possible;
  • which tools you can use to automate Inbound Lead Generation;
  • which tools you can use to automate Outbound Lead Generation.
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