Beyond Google: How to Find Your Prospects Online (Part 1)

Beyond Google: How to Find Your Prospects Online (Part 1)
Michele Linn - Thu May 14, 2009 @ 08:38AM
Comments: 45

How to find your prospects onlineIn my recent post, Eight Things Your Prospects Wish You Knew, I noted that prospects want to easily find information about you. Sure, it sounds nice to say that you should be where your prospects are, but where exactly is that?

This week and next, I'm going to give you some ideas.

Knowing where your prospects hang out online has a number of benefits:

  • You know where to focus your marketing efforts.
  • You can follow conversations to see what people are saying about you.
  • You can find out what interests your prospects and tailor your message accordingly.

Of course, the best way to find out where your prospects congregate is to ask them. Are there certain websites, forums, associations, blogs, etc that they are drawn to? Do they spend time on Twitter or do they perhaps use certain social bookmarking sites?

However, if you don't have access to your prospects, you can also do some digging. This two-step process takes some time, but I guarantee that you'll uncover new ideas. In fact, this is the process I used a few weeks ago when I was trying to unearth some topic ideas for a client, and it worked great.

Step 1: Identify keywords

As luck would have it, Kate wrote a great post this week about how to create a good list of keywords. This is a fantastic place to start, but for these purposes, you want to broaden your scope. In addition to understanding which words and phrases your prospects search on, also record:

  • Title of prospect
  • Industry (if there are specific ones you target)
  • Your product/solution name
  • Competitors
  • Key influencers (think of analysts, authors, speakers in your niche; by searching on people you know who write about your topic, you'll find out where they are writing/speaking, which will likely give you more ideas).

Note: It's likely that you have different people you focus your marketing efforts on, such as the users vs decision makers. Focus on one group at a time.

Step 2: Start searching!

Once you have the list of keywords in hand, it's time to start searching. Of course, search engines are a great start, but there are a lot of places to consider beyond that.

Forums and message boards

Message boards are a fantastic place to find out what issues are on your prospects' minds, but they are not the place to be promotional. While it is great for marketing to monitor what is being said, consider asking a subject matter expert to participate in the relevant boards.

How to find: I suggest checking out the site BoardTracker where you can run searches for key terms across many message boards.

LinkedIn groups:

LinkedIn groups are akin to message boards, but I wanted to call them out specifically. I've recently started participating in LinkedIn groups and have really found them useful. There are discussions you can participate in, and you can post your "news" (articles, blog postings, white papers, etc) in a separate section.

How to find: Go to the LinkedIn home page and select "Search Groups" from the drop-down on the home page ("Search People" is the default) and then start searching on your list of terms.


It is absolutely worthwhile to follow the blogs your prospects follow. Again, it is great to monitor the conversation and comment as appropriate (being genuine and helpful, not promotional).

How to find: There is a good post called from ReadWriteWeb that identifies some good places to search for blogs that are relevant to your prospect. I'd recommend the entire post as it provides a useful pro/con synopsis of each site, but here are the six blog search engines it recommends:

Next week, I'll share additional ideas of how you can find out where your prospects are hanging out online.

Have you had success with the process listed above? What additional suggestions do you have for finding your prospects online?

Read more Savvy B2B posts from Michele.

Comments: 45


1. Jamie Lee  |  my website   |   Sun May 17, 2009 @ 06:16AM

Michele - great tips and resources. I'm so glad you called out to people that forums and other existing communities are not the place to do your marketing - they are the place to get a pulse of what's happening in your market and in the minds of your peers and prospects. Too often companies see social media as a way to jump into a virtual room full "targets" and blast a marketing message out with a megaphone. Can you imagine doing this with a real room of people? Security would be hauling you out within minutes!

Anyway, great tips on how to find and listen in on the relevant conversations. For better or worse, the technologies in this area are always evolving. I've recently been checking out a company called EveryZing that transcribes audio and video content to make it searchable beyond meta data - may be another avenue for keeping your ear to the ground.

2. Michele Linn  |  my website   |   Sun May 17, 2009 @ 03:28PM

Jamie: Thank for the greta resource; I'll have to check out EveryZing. And, I couldn't agree with you more about mointoring conversations vs. being promotional. As mentioned, I have really found LinkedIn to be a great resource, but there are certain groups I am a member of where most of the "discussions" are promotions of webcasts, articles, blog posts or people's services. I want to join conversations on B2B marketing, and I often find myself overlooking any of the discussions if there are too many threads that are promotional. As you mention, the same holds true for forums and message boards (as well as other social media venues). The best way to promote yourself is to be share your ideas.

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5. darlin   |   Mon Mar 10, 2014 @ 09:56AM

It`s great that now it is possible to follow the blogs your prospects follow and find the posts related to the products you sell. I found out about a place that has the best guitars for sale after reading a post about the website on LinkedIn groups, all the user reviews were great and I liked that there were responses from the company`s marketing team that explained every detail about their products.

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Of course, the best way to find out where your prospects congregate is to ask them. Are there certain websites.

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