How to Build B2B Email Lists

Below is a detailed guide of how to build B2B email and call lists via outbound marketing and inbound marketing.  List building and management are absolutely critical steps to delivering predictable pipeline and revenue.  A detailed strategy to build initial lists, as well as ongoing list development is important – very, very, important!      

B2B List Building & Management

List building is a fancy way of referring to the act of gathering people’s contact information, and gathering contact information is the first step in lead generation.

List management involves planning what to do and how to market to individuals once you have their contact information. If you are going to be great at one thing as a marketer, be great at list management and list building. If you can consistently find new people or companies interested in your services, you will always have a chance to scale.

I consider list building to be specifically the gathering of email addresses and phone numbers. I wouldn’t consider recruiting followers on social media to be list building, because the social media sites own the content and relationship. If you got kicked off Facebook or if your follower on Twitter went out of business, how would you reach all your fans? You need to have their emails or phone numbers in your list.

Having a great list is important for many reasons. Your list is made up of the individuals who have shown interest in your organization and therefore are more likely to buy from you in the future. Nurturing that list until the people on it are ready to buy is the tough part. The better your list is, the higher your customer lifetime value will be.

Imagine this: you release a new product each year in your niche. If you have a list of dedicated subscribers who believe in your products and services, they will most likely be the first to sign up for your new product each year. If you continue to provide value to your list, over time the people on it will keep buying and buying and buying. It’s not good enough to convince someone to subscribe and then send them an email once a year asking them to buy your new widget. Use the list to build trust and value to the point where your subscribers almost feel obligated to buy from you. That’s how much value you should provide.  

As important as they are to a large business, list building and list management are absolutely critical for a small business trying to grow. A lack of focus on list building and list management can easily put an organization out of business.  

Let’s start at the most basic level, defining two different types of lists for your organization to focus on: opted in and not opted in. Each list is a little different and should be marketed to in a very different way.

Opted-In Subscribers

These individuals have provided their contact information to your organization, usually through your website. This could be from your “Contact Us” page or some other marketing funnel on your website. Opted-in subscribers can also come from social media through following your account or page. These lists are your “gold.” These individuals have given you permission to market to them directly. One way or another, they found your information and showed enough interest to provide you their contact information.  

Many times, marketers will use a double opt in, meaning that even after they get contact information from a prospect, an email is automatically sent to the prospect to confirm that the prospect is okay with receiving future contact from this company. Most marketers think that using a double opt-in will ensure that the list has better quality, because the prospect has actively approved future communication.

List of Potential Prospects (Not Opted In)

These are individuals who, in your opinion, are a good fit for your product or service but have not given you the “okay” to market to them directly. They may or may not be aware of your organization, but they have not opted in to your list. For B2B companies this can be a list of individuals with specific job titles. For example, if you sell HR software, pretty much every VP of HR could be a possible prospect. You may have a list of 500 VPs of HR to whom you should be prospecting, but that doesn’t mean they are interested – these are regularly referred to as marketing leads.

Later, we will get into tactics and ways to build this list (cheaply and without you doing administrative work).

In addition to these two types of lists, there are two very distinct ways to build your list: outbound and inbound marketing.  

Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing is the act of actually reaching out to individuals about your product or service. Email and cold calling are the two most common forms of outbound marketing, but there are many other outbound tactics including social selling and paid advertising.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing involves driving individuals to your site or landing pages through marketing tactics to gather their contact information.

Inbound marketing is usually built on a number of factors, including website content, search engine optimization, and blogging. For example, let’s say that you sell HR software and you write a blog article about the benefits of using HR software. People find your article about the benefits of using HR software, show interest in your website and organization, and eventually provide their contact information and opt in to your list. Inbound marketing is typically a longer-term strategy to build authority.

List-Building Tactics—Outbound

I want to focus first on outbound marketing tactics and the most effective way for sales and marketing to fully grow a solid list of possible prospects. As discussed earlier, new business is absolutely critical to a small organization’s growth, and there are very easy ways to build a list of possible prospects.

In almost every instance, I recommend outsourcing the initial list-building process to someone else. As the head of sales, you might outsource that list to your inside sales team. Or, if you are a very small team and don’t have inside sales, I recommend outsourcing the list to an administrative assistant or outsourcer.  

I can’t think of very many instances where the individual closing the deals should be spending time on list building. Aaron Ross, the author of the book Predictable Revenue, is a sales and marketing genius. He recommends that closers should close. You won’t find (and don’t really want to find) someone who is responsible for every part of the sales cycle. It is almost impossible to scale without clear definition of responsibilities within the sales group.

If you do outsource your list building, you will probably have to spend some time massaging the data you get back, but overall you will save a lot of time and money by outsourcing your initial list build.   

Who Will Build Your List?

The answer of who exactly will build your list really depends on your industry, your financial resources, and the time you have to invest. Once again, list building is pretty much the definition of an administrative task. Building an initial outbound list should almost always be outsourced, unless of course, you have nothing better to do. You need to find a balance between cost-effective solutions and the quality of someone’s work. Usually, when someone really undervalues their work from a price perspective, the results you get back are underwhelming as well. Here are a few easy options to consider for list building:

Elance (now Upwork)

Elance is a marketplace that connects people from all around the world. You can hire a business or a freelancer to do almost anything. I have used Elance for graphic design, website development, administrative tasks, virtual assistants, logo design, graphics, and list development.

Elance provides a portal where you ask for bids on specific projects and field proposals from qualified suppliers to help with your task or project. You will be surprised how cost-effective outsourcing can be through Elance. In addition, all of the suppliers work off of client rankings, so you can see how they have performed on other projects and the quality of their work. Most suppliers also provide a sample of their past work, so you can get a sense of what they have experience with.

Usually, the suppliers will provide an overview of their cost structure, which can be an hourly rate or a minimum bid for a project they will work on. The process is very safe as well. You can set up specific milestones and pay the supplier as the work is completed. So, if you hire someone to do list building, you could set up a payment schedule so the contractor doesn’t get the full payment up front.

All of three of these sites are similar to Elance in that you can find suppliers to complete your tasks. The following Web site provides an overview that discusses the differences between freelancer/odesk/guru/elance:

Assistants or Office Managers

Does your organization have assistants or office managers who handle all types of different tasks? When they have extra time, have them work on building your list for you.

Virtual Assistants (VAs)

If you don’t have assistants on site, you should really consider getting a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants can be found both in your country and overseas.  There are so many benefits to having a full or part-time virtual assistant.  A virtual assistant will allow you to spend more time on key priorities instead of the day-to-day remedial tasks. You can use to find great virtual assistants who will cost you next to nothing.

As discussed earlier, outsource what you can and spend time on your most important tasks. I recommend everyone try a virtual assistant for a few hours a week. Eventually, try to work yourself up to a part-time VA. Once you realize the benefit of having a virtual assistant you will move to a full-time VA. In their down time, have them work on list building. It’s something that can always be worked on.

Part-Time or Temporary Workers

Hire a college kid or someone technically savvy to come in and help with list building. For the most part, they will search the Internet (I will get into details shortly of where they can search) to build the list. Having a part-time college student spend ten to fifteen hours per week on list building is a great use of time. In addition, this is a task that can be done remotely. Part-time college students or stay-at-home parents are really great for these types of tasks.

Inside Sales

As discussed before, if you have inside sales staff, they should be focused on constantly building out a list of new prospects. A quality inside sales team is the easiest way to scale quality leads (if you are in the right niche and have an expensive enough product).  How to find contact information and prospect is a critical task and needs to be taught in inside sales training.  

Outsourcing Companies

There are full-service outsourcing companies that handle list building. The real benefit of companies versus individuals is they can handle a heavier workload. If you need a list of 10,000 built in the next two weeks, a company can throw four or five individuals at the project. Many of the suppliers you will find on Elance will be companies with fifty or more employees. After you hire them on Elance and get comfortable with their work, you can start working with them directly. Most of the outsourcing companies I have worked with directly handle payments through PayPal.  

How and Where Do They Build Your List?

So now we have a bunch of websites and places to search for companies or freelancers willing to help you build your list. The next obvious question: how do they build the list for you? There are many different ways, but for the most part outsourcing companies and individuals will lean on your industry expertise to figure out where your potential prospects hang out. Going back to the HR software example, let’s say the director of recruiting would be the person interested in your product and the VP of HR would be the person signing the contract. Once you connect with an outsourcer, you would tell them that you are targeting the following:

  •       Companies in the United States
  •       Companies over 1,000 employees
  •       Any individual with the title:
    • VP of HR, Vice President of HR, and Vice President of Human Resources
    • VP of Recruiting and Vice President of Recruiting
    • VP of Talent Acquisition and Vice President of Talent Acquisition
    • VP of Sourcing and Vice President of Sourcing

For a B2B-type search there are a few easy places like LinkedIn or a professional database that the individual could search. I will get into a few additional examples below of where you could search for specific contacts. You want outsourcers searching wherever these people hang out or wherever there is a list of their names.


As I mentioned above, for B2B LinkedIn is the best source for finding individuals. You can search by title, location, group, or other fields to find the right contacts.  

After you have built trust with the outsourcers, you can provide them your login information to LinkedIn so they can search from your account. Letting trustworthy outsourcers into your profile is important because you are more intimately connected with your specific industry. They will be able to see more names in the search results because you are a member of LinkedIn Groups or connected with others, specifically in that niche.

If, however, you are not a member of LinkedIn Groups, become one immediately. Join industry-specific groups and connect with influencers in the space. The more connections you have, the easier it will be for you or your outsourcer to find potential leads.

LinkedIn works well for all sizes of organizations. For example, my dad is a project manager at a local roofing company in Lincoln, Nebraska. He was interested in anyone with the title “Facilities Manager” within a seventy-five-mile radius of Lincoln. I outsourced a list on LinkedIn for his search and it returned 250 people with the title of facilities manager. Best of all, the list cost $25 to outsource. Just imagine how long that process would have taken if he tried to do it manually or via cold calling.

Industry Websites and Associations  

Many industry websites and associations have member directories. You can give the outsourcer your login information and have them pull the contact information for specific individuals, titles, or companies out of the directory. LinkedIn will most likely be the most up-to-date, so be wary of directories with old information. People regularly take jobs at new companies, so gathering their contact information from past jobs is useless., Hoovers, Zoominfo, and Similar Databases

There are hundreds of different databases full of user contact information. For example, I use, which is directly integrated with Salesforce. You can search by title, company, industry, company size, company revenue, etc. Once you find individuals you can email them directly from, or you can copy their email addresses and email them from Outlook or Gmail. For $100 per month you can export up to 300 contacts out of their database.

Be careful when you select a service. Make sure you go through a demonstration and have the service search for your specific titles or industry and see how many results they have. You will find services like this are not great for local companies. They work well for larger B2B companies, though.

You can also use at outsourcer to log into your or ZoomInfo account and manually pull contacts into a spreadsheet.  This will be much more affordable than paying for each download.

Local Associations, BBB, and Professional Groups

If you sell locally, having an outsourcer go through either the Better Business Bureau or a local association to find contacts can be very beneficial. Once again, almost all organizations will have some type of directory. Even if that directory doesn’t list specific individuals, you can at least have the outsourcer put the company names, websites, phone numbers, and emails into an Excel sheet. You can also have outsourcers search the Yellow Pages.


Having outsourcers perform basic Google searches and organize the results can be a huge time saver. Google can work for B2B companies, selling globally as well as to local companies. Maybe you want to build a list of possible global partners. Have the outsourcer research the key types of companies you want to partner with and organize all that information in Excel. It is much easier to have a list of 100 companies in Excel to target with their emails, phone numbers, and websites as opposed to starting from scratch and doing the research yourself. Be creative. You can find almost anything on Google.

Outbound Process

Here is the basic outbound process to try to follow.

  • Determine the exact types of individuals you want to target (location, title, company, demographics, or other factors).
  • Research where these individuals hang out (hopefully, if this is your industry you already know where to focus).
  • Outsource the list through Elance, interns, outsourcing companies, VAs, or similar resources.
  • Tell the outsourcing company where to look and, in some instances, provide them your login info (be safe and do this only after building trust) for industry specific directories or LinkedIn.
  • Have the outsourcer provide you with a sample of ten to fifteen individuals, confirm that the list looks good, and research the rest of the list.
  • Set up an outbound marketing campaign to your list
  • Set up consistent multi-touch (email, calling, social selling, etc) outbound campaigns (with a goal of over fifty emails per day scheduled out).
  • Drive individuals to dedicated pages within your site or to landing pages to try to get them to convert into a subscriber or reply to your email.

Every outbound process is a little different, but the process listed above is a great way to provide information about your company to potential customers.

List-Building Tactics—Inbound Marketing

As discussed earlier, inbound marketing is focused on capturing the contact information of individuals who are visiting your site. You are getting traffic to your site somehow. Now your goal is to capture the visitor’s’ contact information and get them interested in your services.  

You can capture their information in a bunch of different places on your site. It could be your home page, your blog, your “Contact Us” page, or any other page on your site. Many websites now use pop-ups that happen after a given number of seconds to gather the individual’s contact information. There are lots of ways to gather the information, but the absolute key is that you get them to agree that they want to receive information from you in the future.  

So how do you get them to provide their contact information? Provide value and provide relevant data depending on what they view on your site. For example, let’s say you are an online marketing consulting company and you offer the following five services:

  •       website development
  •       search engine optimization
  •       social media marketing
  •       paid advertising management
  •       conversion rate optimization

Contact Us

At the very least, you can have a “Contact Us” form on each of the five service pages. The “Contact Us” form asks for the user’s first name, last name, phone number, company, and email. People who are interested in your services fill out the “Contact Us” form, and you reach out to them. Afterward, they are technically opted in and become part of one of your ongoing campaigns. So this is one way to approach inbound marketing, though not necessarily the ideal way.


A better way to approach inbound marketing is to come up with a giveaway for every service you provide.

For example, on your website development page you offer a promotion on the page that says “Five Easy Tips to Implementing a Mobile Responsive Website—Provide Your Contact Information Below and We Will Email You the Tips.” In addition, your form could request additional information, such as first name, last name, email, phone number, company, content management system (CMS) platform, and industry. Now, when the lead fills out the contact information you have additional background on the industry they are in and the platform they use. At a later date you could send an email to all of the people who are in retail and use the WordPress CMS so your campaigns are more targeted. I will get into segmentation shortly, but segmenting your opted-in prospects is critical to ongoing campaigns.  

Every single page on your website should give some type of compelling reason as to why the user should give you their contact information. Blog posts, for example, should have some type of giveaway or way to capture information. If you write a blog post about the top ten search engine optimization (SEO) tips to consider, you should have a giveaway that someone interested in SEO would enjoy. If they found your blog post they obviously have some interest in that topic, so now convert them into an opted-in subscriber.

Take a look at your current website and come up with some type of compelling message or giveaway for each page that would increase the likelihood of converting a passive visitor into a subscriber.


Segmenting your new subscribers up front (the first time they opt in) will save you a lot of time and headache on the backend when it comes to managing your list. Gaining additional insight into your customers allows you to market to them in a more specific way. Rather than sending out mass emails, you can send specific content based on answers the subscribers provide. Once someone has opted in it is very difficult to get them to segment themselves, so do the segmentation up front if possible.

In the scenario I mentioned above, we discussed gathering additional information on people who are opting into your marketing from a specific page on your site. For each form on your website, determine what type of information about a potential subscriber you would want to gather. Keep in mind that just because you want the information, you shouldn’t necessarily try to get it up front. Have you ever tried to fill out a “Contact Us” form that asked for way too many fields, and you just stopped filling it out and moved on? In many cases, long forms will not convert as well as short forms. In some instances, long forms convert better. You simply have to test conversion on your site and see which works better for your organization.

Managing the List

There are very cheap and inexpensive services out there to manage your list of incoming subscribers. The two major services I have used are MailChimp and AWeber, both of which are especially good for smaller businesses. Both services allow you to create lists as well as lead capture boxes that can be implemented on your website. In addition, you can mass email with either service, and the software lets you build templates to make your communications look more professional.

Both services offer free trials, so test which one you prefer. I don’t think you can go wrong choosing either MailChimp or AWeber, especially if you are new to list management. In addition, you can set up email sequences for all of your lists. For example, when someone opts in to your website development page and you give them five free tips on implementing mobile sites, you can configure the services to automatically send out the emails “X” number of days apart. The first tip could go out right after the website visitor opted in and the next four tips could go out every two days until the sequence is complete. Rather than manually setting up the emails, you just set up the template once, and the systems will automatically send each email for you. Using AWeber and MailChimp for email marketing sequences can really save you time and money.

Once you actually have your lists set up, you can determine the frequency with which you want to reach back out to these individuals. Your industry may determine how often you should reach back out, but whatever you do, try to be strategic. Don’t just add everyone to the same list and send out a quarterly email giving an update on your company. If they signed up for a list on search engine optimization, send them periodic emails about SEO and let them know you are a leader in the space. You can also add individuals from specific lists to one overall master list where you focus on producing a message with more of a newsletter-type look and feel that updates them on your organization.  

As a rule of thumb, try to keep the total number of lists you have to under five. Within each list you may be able to segment the list further, but you don’t want to try to manage twenty or thirty small lists.

For larger companies, there are better tools to manage lists, such as full marketing automation tools. Companies like Marketo, Act-On, Pardot (Salesforce), HubSpot, and Infusionsoft all offer more customizable solutions than AWeber or MailChimp. The larger enterprise solutions not only help you with the list but can also help with creating landing pages, email campaigns, and full inbound marketing capabilities (marketing funnels, what-if scenarios, and similar features).

Social Media

The final area to focus on is social media. There are great books out there about social media and how to convert people into followers or grow your email list. I will try to keep it as basic as possible because I am by no means a social media expert. I recommend you read the book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk. In addition to reading the book, follow his blogs, work, podcasts, past work, and anything else. Gary is absolutely brilliant regarding social media, and you will learn a lot from him quickly.

Most of what I have described above deals with email marketing. Even though rates of email marketing conversion continue to drop year over year, it is still widely regarded as the most effective marketing program. There’s a reason Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest still send you emails: because emailing works.  

Another great way to get people to opt in to your marketing is getting them to “follow” or “like” what you do on social media sites. Social media sites love interaction, and the more people who “like” or “follow” your content, the more it is going to get shown. Be very thoughtful on how you manage social media and spend the time and money to do it effectively.

You can’t “somewhat do” social media; you have to jump all the way in.

If you send out weak updates or comments, fewer people are going to “like” them and the Facebook/Twitter/Instagram algorithms are not going to share your contact as often or with as many people. There are thousands of social media strategies to try to gain followers and likes, including paid and many non-paid options.  

Don’t hesitate to reach out for more information – At OutboundView we have various consulting and training solutions to help your organization grow pipeline and revenue.