Posted April 14, 2020

Build your Business: Dig through data to find new customers

Build your list and enhance it with third party data; then find “look-alikes” to discover new customers.

By Dan Roglin

W. Edwards Deming famously said: “Without data you’re just another person with an opinion.” However, to many small to mid-sized industrial dealers and distributors it may sound more like: You’re just another person with an opinion about data. Everywhere you look there seems to be a story about data, big data, data-driven strategies, data analytics and so on. It’s easy to get snowed under with tech-talk, complicated and expensive solutions.

So, let’s make it simple: First, the reason data matters is it helps determine who are your best customers, what makes them different, where to find more of them and most of all, how to keep them.

Some will say they already know who their best customers are and they are right. Data analytics often tells you what you already know, it just makes it quantifiable and actionable. A distributor may know that Bob from Bob’s Concrete is a great customer. But, how do they find the next Bob? How many Bobs are there in their trade area? What’s the best way to reach and attract them? And, how do you keep Bob coming back?

Define your best customer(s)
It starts with creating an ideal customer profile (ICP). Sounds complicated, time consuming and expensive, but it doesn’t need to be.

By taking Bob’s contact information – called Personal Identification Information (PII) – such as business name and address, you can match him to a national business database of millions of businesses. You can do it for free using your local library if it has access to Reference USA, a division of InfoGroup. This third-party data draws from hundreds of sources and continuously verifies and updates its database on businesses and consumers.

Reference USA provides basic information on more than 25 million businesses and over 270 million consumers in the United States and Canada. Business data includes company name, location (address and geolocation coordinates), industries, size (sales volume and number of employees), year established, names of owners and executives and more.

Look up some of your best customers in this database and create an Ideal Customer Profile. then, then do a search for ‘look-alikes’. This may take a little exploration and adjustment (that’s actually the fun part). Try various ‘what ifs’ and see what it produces in terms of counts. Too many? Tighten the criteria. Too few? Loosen it.

A distributor can also explore different customers and segments of their business such as landscaping, construction, painting, drywall, for example or different types of customers based on recency, frequency or monetary value (RFM).

Next, use the third-party database to find those valuable prospects. The process is simple.

Gather customer and prospect data wherever available electronically. Look at rental contracts, contact request information, delivery addresses, online data and inquiries, email addresses, phone numbers; anywhere there is PII data. Think names and addresses and go through your entire business find where you capture and save valuable PII data. Look in accounting, service and sales departments as well as your CRM and customer support systems, your online and website efforts, and your email lists.

Periodically, send the list to the third-party source and append it with new and missing data.

‘Enhancement’ means adding data to existing customer data - things like NAICS code, other firmographics like revenue or number of employees as well as other contacts, phone numbers and email addresses where available. (The match rate can vary greatly depending on the quality of data.

Once you get the data back, load it into your CRM, Contact Management System (CMS) or customer database. If you don’t have one, create one.  Excel spreadsheets can be used. Some popular third-party business data are:

  • InfoGroup (InfoUSA, Reference USA)
  • Dun & Bradstreet (aka D&B)
  • Zoom Info (formerly
  • Aberdeen Group
  • True Influence
  • Demand Base
  • ALC
  • Stirista

Once you have a good idea of the types of customers you would like to find, these providers can provide a list of look-alike customers.

Not all of B2B buyers are businesses. Recent customer analyses of end-users for manufacturers of industrial tools and equipment found that almost half of all their buyers used their personal address, email and/or phone number instead of their business contact information.

There are many reasons for this: transferability from job to job, convenience of using their personal cell phone or computer, businesses that operate out of home, or, they practice their profession at work, at home and as hobby (think of a mechanic who works at a dealership in the day, does side jobs at home on the weekend and works on his Roadster at nights in his garage).

It is for these reasons the major data providers are continually improving Identity Resolution Solutions to a achieve a Single Customer View. What this means for a distributor is that even personal (home) information can be linked to businesses with increasing levels of success.

Putting data to work
So, then what do you do with all this? Times have changed. A buyer now expects a business to know more about them than they know about the business. This means a distributor’s customer expects them to know not only what they rented before, but what business they are in and what products are relevant to them.

According to a SalesForce survey of over 6,700 consumers and business buyers globally, costumers said these points were important if companies wanted to win their business:

  • 84 percent wanted to be treated like a person, not a number, .
  • 70 percent want companies to understand how they use products and services.
  • 59 percent say tailored engagement based on past interactions is very important
  • Customers are more than twice as likely to view personalized offers as important versus unimportant.

Talk to customers and prospects often
The biggest reasons customers go somewhere else is because they were ignored. Out-of-sight equals out-of-mind. At the very least you will want to cross-sell, resell and upsell based on their past behavior and profile. Other ideas:

  • Act on event triggers such as seasonality, changes in industry regulations or compliance requirements, promotional offers, local events.
  • Announce news and changes. This can range from new hours to new and tool equipment arrivals.
  • Make it personal. The use of personalization is so basic, important and effective, but it is one of the most neglected areas of B2B marketing. Often, the reason is that the contact’s name was never captured or properly archived.
  • Tell them you love them. You don’t need a sophisticated marketing matrix to let customers know you appreciate their business. You don’t need to send them flowers. Just tell them you love them using email, text, direct mail, social media or phone.
  • Ask them. Customers and prospects want to be talked to in relevant and worthwhile ways They will provide information if they know it is going help them.
  • Give them what they deserve. Not all customers are created equal, so invest your time and efforts accordingly. You may already know your customers well enough to reward the profitable ones. But, what about the ones that are most likely, but not yet profitable? Also, cross-selling or reselling an unprofitable customer usually makes them exponentially more unprofitable.

Dan Roglin is an independent counselor who helps companies gather and interpret data to assist in their marketing efforts. He can be reached at or at 312.513.3816.

This article appears in the May-June 2020 issue of Pro Contractor Rentals magazine. ©2020 Urbain Communications LLC All rights reserved.