Guggenheim rotunda, to signify a sales funnel
PHOTO: David Cruz

The B2B market of any industry is finite. And, as is the case in any other market, the Pareto principle applies: No matter whether you sell directly or through a partner channel, 20 percent of your top business customers or partners will account for 80 percent of your revenues.

You know your best customers well, and you know how your target group will shift as your business strategy shifts in the future. But do you know the companies that aren't yet your customers but are very similar to the top 20 percent of your customers? You need to identify those companies and get them on board to accelerate your business.

Here’s a look at how to build a prioritized list of the most promising B2B prospects that will be your next unicorns.

Merging Organic Competitor Reports to Find Prospects

Digital marketers should use advanced SEO tools that also include so-called “organic competitor” reports (SEMrush, Spyfu, SimilarSites and others offer this feature). A typical use of these reports is to add the URL of your own website, and then get a list of companies that compete against your business in Google’s organic search results.

But what if you used that tool to find the names of companies that your top partner/customers (your unicorns) are competing with?

Using the URL of one of your unicorns will give you back anywhere from 10 to 2,000 URLs of the companies they are competing with on search engine results pages. You should repeat that exercise for each of your unicorns. You will probably find that some of the competitor URLs come up again and again — and some will be repeated more often than others. You should then put the results in order based on frequency.

If the input data also includes the revenues of your unicorns, use that financial information as a predictive tool — estimate the revenue you will generate from a prospective customer by calculating the average revenue of all the unicorns the prospective name was generated from.

Related Article: 5 B2B Touchpoints You Can't Afford to Ignore

A Real (Almost) Data Example

Let’s see how this works in practice, by trying to generate a list of B2B prospects for Kentico, a well-known content management system (CMS) vendor. Kentico has more than 1,000 partners, more than 300 of which are based in the United States. Because the U.S. also generates the highest profit globally, I picked Kentico’s 20 top U.S. partners — from BlueModus to Imedia. Using publicly available revenue data for Kentico, I tried to rank these 20 top U.S. partners based on the amount of Kentico revenue each one is responsible for. Then I used SEMRush to generate the URLs of competitors of each unicorn and combined the results and calculated the estimated revenue as an average of the revenue of the companies they originated from. I ordered the final data based on the frequency with which URLs appeared, and below is the final list ordered by frequency (as frequency shows the proximity to your unicorns), showing also the estimated revenues and organic traffic to their sites.

Domain

Average Revenue (1,000s of U.S. Dollars)

Organic Traffic (1,000s)

MercuryNewMedia.com

233

14,951

Siteinspire.com

233

14,827

Orbitmedia.com

223

31,443

Apterainc.com

221

4,195

Wsol.com

220

2,372

SeerInteractive.com

218

8,676

PaperStreet.com

218

10,696

BlueFountainMedia.com

217

26,260

BlueCorona.com

216

36,070

ScnSoft.com

216

10,137

Cygnet-Infotech.com

215

2,522

InteractiveStrategies.com

213

671

NorthWoodSoft.com

212

218

Portent.com

212

17,814

r2integrated.com

212

2,428

Perficient.com

211

19,581

Valtech.com

210

2,383

Wiliam.com.au

208

2,037

CodeHouseGroup.com

208

156

BoxUK.com

198

937

The range of data could have been much wider (the table shows only the top 20 of hundreds of prospects) and more accurate because I used only around 1.6 percent of all Kentico partners. Again, the revenue is based on my personal estimate.

Related Article: Why Personas Matter in B2B Customer Journey Mapping

With Potential Customer List in Hand, What Now?

The strategy here is precise targeting to multiply your top 20 percent revenue-builders. Your marketing and sales teams know the best way to start onboarding these companies, but here are some tips:

  • Organize a local event physically close to the top prospects. It could be a business breakfast, a hot-topic evening seminar, etc.
  • Attend the same events as employees of key prospects to network with them.
  • Use LinkedIn to connect with employees of the prospects.
  • Contact the prospects by mail (physical mail) with letters that say, “The numbers show that we could do X number of dollars worth of business together, and with your partner discount/sale, there is an XYZ business opportunity waiting for you.”
  • Try cold-calling the prospects (outside of the EU).

Is the Process Replicable for Your Business?

The process described here is based on linking the proximity of search engine results with the proximity of actual businesses. Does it really work? The best person to answer this would be the vice president of sales at Kentico after looking at the list above. However, because the web is already the main source of information about products, and is always at least a contributor to B2B-purchasing decisions, I strongly believe so.

You might challenge the results by pointing out that the customers of CMS vendors are usually web design agencies that are, by their nature, strong in website presence and SEO.

Recognizing that weakness in the Kentico example, I decided to test the same approach on the data of my current employer, Sewio, a vendor of a hardware product (an indoor positioning system) that has key customers outside the website industry and operates in a much newer market (the internet of things, real-time location systems) than Kentico does.

Below is the list of key prospects for Sewio showcasing that the approach also works well outside the internet industry (only the top 10 companies are showcased).

BarcodesInc.com

NXP.com

Cema.de

Infosys.com

CGI-Group.co.uk

HDS.com

Solcon-Systemtechnik.de

Citrix.de

IdentiSys.com

Identpro.de

The Process’s Efficiency

Creating the lists and combining them was a time-consuming task. However, all of the SEO tools I mentioned have APIs you can work with to automate the process via script. Furthermore, the vendors of the SEO tools can easily add this feature to gain a competitive advantage. And finally, the best-equipped are vendors of customer relationship management (CRM) systems such as Salesforce, Microsoft or NetSuite.

All of those tools offer an easy way to generate a list of top prospects based on whatever criteria you choose and whatever strategic direction you want to take in the future (for example, you could find companies in the manufacturing industry with sales of more than $1 million in the last three years that are based in the U.S. and have at least one subsidiary in another country). Naturally, this data will include revenue figures and other important metrics that could also be helpful.

This process also represents a potential opportunity for CRM vendors, which might want to establish technology partnerships (or acquire companies with the right technology) and start offering customizable “predictive pipeline builder” tools for B2B companies.