Today’s guest post is by Larry Smith, Partner in The Whale Hunters, and CEO of GreenLyne, Inc. Thanks for posting, Larry!
As the owner of a new start-up company that creates software to make manufacturing plant floors paperless, I have used The Whale Hunters Process™ to identify potential clients who can benefit from our product. Our basic goal in scouting is to eliminate many potential whales as early as possible. Since whale hunting is expensive, the sooner the potential whale is removed from the hunt, the fewer resources we have to spend in investigating and researching it. Here are my top five tips to implement your scouting process:
1. Start with a strong Target Filter. We began by creating a target filter that would identify clients who would benefit the most from our product. In our “A” category are manufacturing plants in the Midwest that are privately owned, with annual revenue between $5m and $10m, that are focusing on lean manufacturing, and run 3 shifts. We can easily research the location, ownership, and revenue. The other criteria are located as we build dossiers.
2. Use manta.com for an initial screening. We begin our scouting by going to the free service manta.com .Here are the steps that I used:
- At the bottom of the first page, under “Find US Companies by Category”, I clicked on Manufacturing. That choice leads to a second page with multiple search options.
- Next I clicked on the state that I wanted to research (I started with Illinois)
- Under the company revenues tab, I checked all boxes from $5m to $100m.
- There is another place to check off “privately owned.”
- That gave me a list of 102 manufacturing companies to research
Because 102 is too many, we refined the revenue criteria to $10m or higher, which yielded 54 companies.
3. Be explicit about dossier categories. Next we build short dossiers for these companies–just enough information to score the target filter. The categories come directly from your Target Filter, plus routine contact information, website, and names of key contacts.
4. Build a strong relationship with a university or public library. In my opinion, it is important for you to have built a relationship with a good public or university library. They will have access to free databases that allow you to investigate deeper into the companies that are potential clients. I work closely with a university, and my next step is to go to online Lexis Nexis to see what additional information I can find. Typically, I can find more specific information regarding annual revenues, senior staff, and current news and other information regarding the company. After I have completed this portion of my research, I go to the company website to see what else I can learn there. I then google the name of the company and their executives to see what I can learn from the internet. Any relevant information such as court cases, big news, or any information about the executives is important. If you get stuck in researching privately held companies, a librarian can help you. Typically you can engage in a live internet chat with a reference librarian.
- Be active on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is also an important component of the research because it can assist us in finding a list of contacts–names and titles of people that we need to meet. And once we identify key contacts, we need to find an introduction to them. If you and other employees in your company build good contact lists on LinkedIn, you will be able to find warm introductions to your key contacts.
If you follow my five tips for your initial scouting process, in no time you will have a Whale Chart of excellent prospects, with key contacts identified, and a way to get in the door.