Marketing Sherpa released its 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, reporting that the #1 marketing challenge reported by survey participants is generating high quality leads. 78% of respondents named is a significant issue.

When we teach The Whale Hunters Process™, we turn “lead generation” on its head.  Instead of focusing on how to get your message out to your market, we focus on three key steps:  (1) refine your brand promise; (2) define the ideal customer to value that brand promise; (3) research specific companies that meet your ideal target.  Lead generation then becomes a process of learning all you can about those targeted companies and finding relationships that can help you get in the door.

Once you’ve defined your Target Filter (a free download from our site), you need enter your criteria into one or more business research databases to locate the companies that will be your best fit.  My favortie research site is, a free service that currently includes entries on 60 million companies in the US and internationally.

Manta launched its search site in 2005 and within six months had reached 6 million monthly visitors.  Today that number has grown to 10 million!

How does it work?  Basically, you can choose multiple simultaneous criteria to get a list of companies that meet those criteria.  Then you can click on links to those company names to get key information about them.  Fast. simple. reliable.

Here’s an example.  I wanted to find privately-held software development companies in Arizona with annual revenues of $10 to $50 million.  I can choose “software development” as an industry, Arizona as a location, “private” as ownership, and both $10 to $20 million and $20 to $50 milllion as annual revenues.  That search yielded 33 companies–each one meeting my key search criteria.  Those are now “leads.”

When I click through to any one of the companies, I find contact information, detailed company information including years in business and an estimate of annual revenue and number of employees, and possibly the names of key executives.  This database is especially useful as a research tool for privately-held companies.  Once we have a targeted list of companies, we use additional research tools and social media sites to find relevant connections and relationships.  My “lead generation” process so far has cost me about 10 minutes of time and no money.

Manta encourages companies to “claim” their Manta profile, updating it and adding relevant information.  I did that for The Whale Hunters, and I recommend you do that as well for your company so that you can be found.

What are your favorite tools for generating leads?  Love to have your comments!