The Leads, Part One

Follow the Money

Identifying and tracking a lead is like trying to find out the real truth about anything — start by following the money. Does it surprise anyone that one of our planet’s largest depositories of gold and precious metals was housed in the basement vaults beneath the World Trade Center? Or should we be surprised that certain politicians (Vice Presidents, for instance) profit lavishly from war? Or that insurance company CEO’s had a very good decade? Stop me now before Omnicom begins monitoring my content.

You can call me a conspiracy theorist, but that’s what they want you to think.

While there is a dearth of creativity in the world today, there is no dearth of financial news and reporting. Therein lies the gold mine of new business leads. The Wall Street Journal refuses to give away its content for free. Why? Because their stock-in-trade is valuable content/information that most of the business community cannot live without. The business/financial wire services are rife with leads, almost hourly. The trickle down effect from the venerable WSJ to your local business rag is instructively correlative. Most of us (smaller creative agencies) can’t chase every NASDAQ bubble stock, but we can track our local business chronicle for cash infusions, venture capital and newly budgeted product or service launches. And I’ve found that many of these boons are often connected to a larger financial trend in that particular category or niche industry.

So I launch this series with an almost anachronistic notion — go back to basics and study the national and local business journals. Focus on categories that best fit your experience. Keep a folder/binder of financial bubbles and trends in your categories. It occurred to me that if everyone spent as much time on the business news wires online as they do on Facebook — maybe they wouldn’t need to be tweeting for dollars or relying on social media to do their job for them. I’ve found that the majority of leads I’ve generated from social media ultimately became tire-kickers, or worse, underfunded marketers looking for an agency to magically feed the multitudes with fishes and loaves. Wouldn’t you rather follow the money and try to control your fate than be at the mercy of Twitterdom? What appears to be the land of milk and honey may just be a mirage.

I like to hole up with The Book of Lists and a Cuban cigar and play bounty hunter. Every metropolitan market has a Book of Lists published by the local business journal. It may be the most underutilized tool in the new business community. For small agencies, I like the Fastest Growing Companies list. I also like the listings of VC firms. For another angle, try the Best Places to Work. There is a good chance that companies who are good to their employees, are probably good to their vendors and strategic/creative alliances. I like to read the bios of the top executives, because what’s at the top usually trickles down.

A few business development database companies have lead services. I haven’t found them to be completely reliable, but the best of these is Access Confidential ( Actually, what I like best about AC is their combined news wire service. It draws upon tens of thousands of news wire stories and archives them in one handy database. Like LexisNexis on steroids.

There are other services dedicated exclusively to lead generation for ad agencies — these are usually the product of someone else doing this very same homework for you. You could do the same thing for yourself if you weren’t on Facebook telling all your “friends” how smart or cool you are. Or tweeting. Or blogging. Or wallowing in LinkedIn, the land of the unemployed and disenfranchised shill. Most of these agency-focused lead services just comb the wires for press releases of announcements like new CMO hires. But, I’ve followed up on many of these so-called leads from pubs like Pearlfinders and The Delaney Report and usually the “lead” has been so bombarded by agency outreach that they have already retreated to their underground asylum. Think about it, you are paying to share leads with hundreds of agencies. I consider a new hire an okay lead.  But, I’d rather follow the money, it almost always leads to the truth.

Next: Action — what to do with a good lead.

2 thoughts on “The Leads, Part One

  1. Johnny Levy

    Hi Mike, great post. I especially agree with the sentiment that an active, “feet on the street” approach will always get you better results than spending your time on ancillary activities (i.e. tweeting, LinkedIn, FB) that can easily become an end unto themselves. We ought to spend most of our time doing the things that get us the most business, rather than blindly investing our time in a technological fad – unless that “technological fad” is giving us a proportionate and quantifiable return on the investment of our time and energy.

    To that end, I am very interested in hearing more about how to “play bounty hunter” with the Book of Lists. Why is it the most “underutilized tool in the new business community?” I think we could all benefit from specific uses; tips for what to look for and how to capitalize. For example, I know of a guy who would always get both the previous year’s book of lists for a market, and the current year’s. He would then proceed to compare them, looking specifically for companies who had fallen off the list from one year to the next. These were his greatest prospects, because his pitch would be that his services could help these companies regain their status in the local market.

    Any specific tips, tricks, and insights would be welcome.


  2. mikepalma Post author

    Thanks Johnny. Of course you think it’s a great post! I like what your guy did — I haven’t done that. I lay bounty hunter by focusing on the top executives; their initiatives and both personal and company agenda (they are inextricably woven). Then I just do what i do — call them, email them, send them stuff and try not to be too much of a shill. As far as the “underutilized tool” thing — I always see it laying around at agencies, but I never see anyone reading it or even talking about it.


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