7 Steps to List-Building for Cold Email

Strategy, messaging, and infrastructure for cold email can be reused.

However, it doesn’t make sense to reuse the same lead list.

Once you’ve reached out to an outbound lead, they should already be in your campaign and aware of your brand. For outbound email to succeed, you need to consistently add new leads.

List-building is one of the hardest aspects of outbound sales because it’s time-consuming, requires the right targeting, and the data you need varies based on your selling situation.

Without a good process for building outbound lead lists, you’ll struggle to sustain your campaign over time and risk losing momentum by targeting the wrong people with the wrong information.

To help give you a repeatable process for list-building, here are 7 steps you can use to set targeting, source data, build your lists, and prepare them for a cold email campaign.


Step 1: Research

List-building takes a lot of time and energy, so it’s essential that you’re focusing on the best companies, people, and information for your cold email campaign.

Without updated research on buyers and your selling situation, you risk losing touch with your target market, relying on out-of-date information, or falling behind on current market trends.

While you can use past experiences to build lists, it’s best to create your list-building process in conjunction with market research.

For example, a target market that generated success for you in the past could quickly become obsolete if competitors saturate it, budgets decrease, or alternative solutions disrupt it.

With instant access to information, buyers and sellers are evolving faster than ever. To ensure you spend time building the right lists, do periodic research to get up-to-date on your situation.


Step 2: Target Accounts

It’s common for sellers to go straight into building lead lists by only targeting buyer personas like a sales, human resources, or information technology leader.

However, people only have so much influence within an organization. While the stakeholders you target is important, equally important is the type of companies you want as customers.
A Vice President of Sales might be the best lead to contact based on historical data, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be the best persona for every industry, company size, and buying process.

Without a clear understanding for the types of accounts you want as customers, you’ll struggle to generate consistent results and measure the success of your targeting strategy.

Align with your team around an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), which is a description of your ideal customer based on the use cases, attributes, needs, and behaviors found in your research.

With an understanding of your ideal customers and why they’re valuable, you’ll have an easier time organizing, categorizing, and prioritizing your target accounts for a list-building process.


Step 3: Target Stakeholders

Now that you’ve targeted the best companies for your cold email campaign, it’s time to identify the stakeholders at those organizations that can influence the buying process for your solution.

B2B sales can involve multiple stakeholders, departments, and steps before a purchase is ever made, especially for larger deals or longer contracts.

Modern buyers are empowered in today’s digital era and rely on more stakeholders within their organization to buy-in on potential purchases.

These modern buying practices have forced sellers to be more strategic and really understand the organizational structures and decision-making hierarchies behind each account they target.

Without a clear understanding of the stakeholders involved in winning deals, you risk creating longer sales cycles, lower win rates, and losing opportunities with the wrong conversations.

To ensure you target the right leads, use your research to identify the most important stakeholders for accounts in your ICP and create personas that describe their characteristics.


Step 4: Data Sourcing

At this point, you should be well-prepared with research on your situation, an ICP of the accounts you want to target, and buyer personas with the stakeholders you need to contact.

For list-building to be efficient and repeatable, the next step is to identify the best way to access information or personalization about your accounts and leads.

There are countless different ways to source information about companies and people, each one with its own advantages, disadvantages, and processes.

How you source lists will depend entirely on the resources your company has to acquire lists.

For example, you can purchase leads from a data provider like LimeLeads and get instant access to as many lists as you need. If you don’t have the budget but have team members, you can build lists manually through reliable professional networks like LinkedIn or Crunchbase.

Without clear sources for your lists, you’ll struggle to make list-building repeatable, maintain accurate data, and build lists at scale.

To find the best data sources for you, research the options available for the types of accounts and people you’re targeting and evaluate the process that’d be required to use each source.


Step 5: List Prospecting

Once you know where you’ll acquire information about your target accounts and leads, you can move on to the process of collecting that information.

Unless you’re purchasing from a data provider, manually prospecting for information can quickly become the most time-consuming part of list-building.

For each account, you might want their industry, employee size, LinkedIn page, and address. For leads, you might want their title, email, direct dial number, and location.

However, each of these data points require the time to locate and collect them using the sources you identified. To prevent it from getting out of hand, you should decide what data is worth prospecting.

To prospect a list, you can start with something as simple as a spreadsheet and a LinkedIn search or even use software to automate parts of the process. However, make sure you design your prospecting process so that it can be repeated and sustain a campaign over time.


Step 6: List Processing

List-building is about more than simply collecting data: lists should add value to your organization with new information, situational context, and accurate contact details.

In the era of big data, nothing is 100% accurate, covered, or complete.

Without a system for vetting and processing data, you risk losing deals because of out-of-date information, inaccurate contact details, or misformatted personalization.

For example, many industry classifications exist and companies often self-classify their industry, which makes it easy for inaccurate industry information to sneak into your account lists.

To maximize the results you generate with your lists, you should review the data to qualify, verify, and prioritize the accounts and leads you’ll be using for your campaign.


Step 7: List Preparation

You now have a list that’s been prospected and reviewed to ensure accuracy. The last step is to prepare the data points you need to use for your campaign.

Every campaign is unique and uses different data points, contact details, and personalization within a list to generate results.

For example, a common attribute for an account list is the use of a company’s legal name, which would include text like “LLC”, “Corp”, and other text you don’t need within an email. If you use these names in a cold email campaign, you’re likely to come off as spammy or automated.

List preparation is about getting an account and lead list campaign-ready, which means finalizing your lists so all that’s left is importing them into your campaign.

If you have a campaign that is segmented based on the types of accounts or people you’re contacting, you may want to review and categorize the list for these segments.

If you’re using a recipient’s first name or their employee title, you’ll likely want to clean up the text so that they appear natural in an email.

By doing a final review of every list before you launch, you’ll increase the chances you catch mistakes and improve your team’s ability to consistently generate successful outcomes.



In today’s selling environment, information is key.

As data becomes more accessible to sellers, the top-performing sales teams will be differentiated by how quickly, effectively, and reliably they can translate information into revenue.

Even a solid cold email strategy with great messaging won’t matter if you don’t have a reliable process for building account lists, lead lists, and personalization.

With this 7-step list-building process, you can create a repeatable system to continuously find qualified buyers while consistently generating relationships and growing sales pipeline.

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