How to Build a B2B Prospect List with Web Scraping

Discover step-by-step how to build a B2B prospect list with web scraping. Import data into your prospect list template with Captain Data.

How to Build a B2B Prospect List with Web Scraping
Guillaume Odier

Guillaume Odier

Co-Founder

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At Captain Data our mission is to make data accessible and actionable for sales and marketing teams.

In this article, we’ll explain how to build a highly targeted prospect list with web scraping.

Because no matter what type of business you run, you can build a powerful lead generation machine by following these steps:

  1. Defining your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) - the type of company most likely to want to buy from you.
  2. Figuring out which data points and signals will help identify the target company
  3. Identifying the most relevant data sources to build and enrich a prospect list (e.g. Google, LinkedIn, Yellow Pages, etc.)
  4. Using tools like Captain Data to extract the data and enrich your prospect list

There’s a lot to do, so let’s dive in.

Step 1: Identify Your ICP Before Building a Prospect List

Working in sales, you want to have as much information about a prospect as possible.

The more you understand their current situation and needs, the easier it is to forge a connection.

But one of the hardest parts of building a sales prospect list is figuring out where to get this information from.

That’s why creating an Ideal Customer Profile is such an important first step.

Once you have the ICP guiding you towards the right data sources, it becomes a lot easier to find scraping tools like Captain Data to extract the data into your prospect list template.

Let’s look at how to make your ICP as actionable as possible.

Describing your target customer: Be specific

The ICP is the type of customer you want to win over; the one most likely to need your product or service.

Of course, your “ideal customer” can change over time and according to business objectives.

The ICP can be tweaked and adapted to reflect this.  

Prospect List ICP

When defining the ICP, be as specific as possible. What type of company are you targeting? What’s the sector of activity, size, location, etc.?

Basically, what do you need to know to be able to sell to them?

Tip

As we see it, 90% of a campaign’s success depends on the message and targeting. A solid ICP is the foundation of a successful prospecting campaign.

Step 2. Find the data points that lead to your target

So you’ve put together a detailed description of your ideal target customer. Great!

The next step is to define specific data points (or signals) that’ll help identify the target.

Let’s look at an example to see what that means.

Aircall is a company that offers cloud-based phone services.

Obviously, their ideal target customer is one that uses the phone a lot.

Of course, there’s no database of “companies who use the phone a lot” so this information is pretty much impossible to obtain (at least not without getting into some very illegal practices).

But it’s ok because they can identify their target through other signals, such as:

  • Number of employees - A good indicator but there is one catch to be aware of.
    A lot of large companies don’t actually have many phone sets for employees. In this case, phone services aren't a high priority (and anyway, selling to this kind of organization isn’t any easier - the larger the company, the longer and more complex the sales cycle)
  • A phone number listed on the website

When a phone number’s available, you’re typically dealing with one of two types of business:

  • A self-employed individual/small business owner who can be reached directly. In most cases, a phone number will be displayed on their website or Google profile
  • A larger business with its own hotline. Here, you can assume there are a number of full-time employees managing the hotline. This is where it becomes interesting for a company like Aircall.

A phone number on the site, together with the number of employees, will be a solid clue as to whether phone usage is significant or not.

We can even narrow the search to target smaller companies (more likely to have shorter sales cycles).

But it doesn’t end there. We can go another step further and look at who’s doing the calling.

In general, customer support and sales teams spend the most time on the phone.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator has a handy feature to filter company data according to the size of different teams and their growth.

Sales Navigator Accounts Growth Filters

So what can we take away from this information?

Going back to the Aircall example, let’s say you discover a company that’s recently doubled its sales headcount.

This means more employees need to use phone services.

Not to mention pain points such as having to onboard and install a phone for each new arrival.

Jackpot! We’ve found a strong candidate to add to our prospect list 🥳

Ok, let’s recap.

Our starting point was pretty vague: companies who use the phone a lot.

Then we narrowed it down to the mid-sized companies with expanding sales teams.

And now, we’ve three clear data points to identify our ideal prospect:

  • Number of employees in the sales department
  • Growth in the number of employees
  • Phone number on the website (or not)

Tip: You can also use Captain Data to monitor business signals. Book a demo to see it in action.

Choose accessible data points

The above approach assumes you already have an idea of what’s possible and accessible in terms of data sourcing.

You can, of course, dig deeper to find less obvious data points.

But keep in mind, not all data points are as easy to assess or extract.

For example, we could have investigated sales team growth by looking at companies that are hiring.

But getting data from here isn’t as easy. Job offers are all different, which makes them harder to process automatically.

We’d really only use this approach as a last resort.

Tip: Keep the process as simple as possible. There’s no need to overcomplicate things.

Step 3. Identify the relevant data sources for the prospect list

So we know which data points are needed to build the prospect database.

Now let’s find the corresponding data sources.

Later on, we’ll use an automation platform like Captain Data to pull information from these sources onto our prospect list.

Sticking with our previous example, we identify the following data sources:

Identify Data Sources

Here, we got lucky. Linkedin Sales Navigator is easily accessed, the same goes for website data.

Selecting the right data source really depends on the type of business you’re looking for.

Imagine you're looking for a carpenter or plumber.

Well LinkedIn won’t be of much help - small business owners typically aren’t that active there.

But their Yellow Pages and Google Maps profiles will have a lot to tell you.

The best data sources and when to use them

So you’ve got a list of companies you want to target.

It’s a good start, but you’ll need more than a list of names to nail your pitch.

Your prospect list should also include background information to help paint a clearer picture of the opportunity.

Here are some of the best sources to enrich your list with additional insights:

1. The company website

A company website will give you contact details, links to social media profiles and a ton of contextual information.

With Captain Data it’s easy to enrich a prospect list with social data.

As we’ve seen on LinkedIn, social data gives powerful insights into things like company growth.

Enrich domain names with LinkedIn

And it doesn’t stop at LinkedIn.

Enrich your sales prospect list with data from Facebook, Instagram, and other networks.

For example, the number of fans or followers can be used to highlight rapidly growing B2C products.

What’s more, it’s easy to extract contact details from a website.

The email address and phone number displayed on the website are usually the best ways to contact small business prospects.

For larger companies, use tools like Hunter and Dropcontact to find the email addresses and contact details of certain employees, starting from a website URL.

2. LinkedIn (great if your target is active there)

Note the word “active”.

As mentioned, not everybody uses LinkedIn.

Imagine you’re targeting medical doctors.

Sure, some doctors use LinkedIn.

But the majority don’t. Ultimately, this channel won’t hold a lot of value for you.

But if your target customer is on LinkedIn, it’s a treasure trove of useful data and insights.

This is mainly due to Sales Navigator. Its powerful search filters let you do things like:

  • Separately sort through people profiles and company profiles
  • View potential prospects based on a keyword search
  • Eliminate the profiles you’ve already viewed, saved, and contacted. It’s also possible to search for saved profiles only.

And don’t forget to refine your search with these handy Boolean filters:

  • Type NOT (all caps) just before a search item to exclude it from results. For example, type “Illustrator NOT Web” to view Illustrators who work for media other than the web.
  • Type OR (all caps) to get results that contain one or more items. For example, type “communication OR advertising OR marketing” to find communication, advertising, and marketing agencies.
  • Type AND (all caps) for results that include all items listed. For example, enter "content AND marketing AND manager” to only see results that contain the words “content marketing manager”.
  • Use parentheses to search based on multiple criteria. For example, “accountant AND manager NOT (finance OR executive)”.
  • Use quotes to search for an entire group such as “web project manager”.

Check out this 2-minute video shows you exactly how to optimize LinkedIn searches.

Tip

Another option is to filter employees using account-based marketing. Captain Data lets you implement intelligent workflows to extract different types of profiles from the same company and get more accurate data.

3. Google Maps: a goldmine for small businesses

Google has made huge strides in improving online visibility for small businesses over the years. The Google My Business profile has become a must-have communication channel.

The result is a goldmine of information, especially for the likes of:

  • Store owners
  • Tradespeople
  • Service-based businesses (accountants, plumbers, hair salons, etc.)

A local search on Google will usually show an address, phone number, and website.

All this can be used to enrich a prospect database.

For more standardized data, you could also use an official public database like Companies House in the UK or Sirene in France.

Tip
You can also grab data from the Yellow Pages and TripAdvisor. Be careful with the Yellow Pages though, it’s not always up to date. TripAdvisor, on the other hand, is a marketing platform so there’s a good chance the information is updated regularly.

Business directories and other "tailor-made" entry points

Depending on the type of business you’re targeting, business directories can be a good data source.

Certain sectors have their own directories, e.g. WeddingWire for wedding suppliers, Autotrader for car dealers, etc.

This kind of data can be easily extracted with Captain Data.

What’s great about professional directories is they’re usually quite thorough, easy to use, and inexpensive to scrape.

But of course, it all depends on the quality of the data. Unfortunately, some directories haven’t been updated for years.

In this case you should run a few manual tests to check the data quality before scraping the entire directory.

Step 4: Finding the right tools to automatically extract prospect data

So we know where to find the data.

But how do we add it to our prospect list template?

The last thing we want to do is manually copy and paste. That’ll take forever.

This is where a web scraping tool like Captain Data will help you save loads of time.

It has ready-made workflows to automate different data extraction processes - no coding required!

Let’s say you want to find the contact details for a decision maker in a large company (because let’s face it, you’re not going to reach them by calling the front desk).

Well guess what? Captain Data has a workflow to find decision makers and their emails, starting from a website URL.

Find decision makers from website input

The above workflow works by:

  1. Retrieving social profiles and contextual information from a website
  2. Finding the LinkedIn URL of the target business via Google. We can do this manually with site search queries (e.g. linkedin.com/company [Company name])
  3. Getting company information from the LinkedIn page (and in particular its Sales Navigator ID)
  4. Running a Sales Navigator “leads” search (i.e a people search of the company employees)
  5. Finding a contact’s email with Dropcontact or Hunter.

This might seem complicated, especially as there are several tools to manage, but you can set the whole thing up in just a few clicks.

Want to try it out? Start a 14-day free trial with Captain Data and start automating your lead generation today.

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And that's it from us.

Stay tuned on our blog for more of the best automation tips and techniques.

This article was first published in French by our friends at Salesdorado. You can read the original publication here.

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