Informed Prospecting Enables Targeted, Purposeful Outreach

Simple ways for WDBs to achieve more effective, targeted outreach


Workforce development boards (WDBs) support the economic vitality of the businesses in their communities. Therefore, it is critical for WDBs to keep pace with the changing economic dynamics in their local and regional community, so they can do more effective, targeted business outreach.

Prospecting, business outreach, and messaging, when done right, are key to any WDB’s success. But WDBs are either challenged by too little or too much data, data that is out of date, or worse, not having the right data to know who to reach out to first. Additionally, they are always running against time providing rapid response services, layoff aversions or disaster recovery efforts to businesses. These urgencies require the ability to rapidly and accurately assess the current state of a business prior to contact. Understanding the business health of a community – is a business growing, stable, or contracting – offers the right context for a conversation with a business. Bottom line, workforce development professionals are not data scientists or marketers and struggle to do both. This is where informed prospecting comes to the rescue.

Informed prospecting is a data-driven approach that allows WDBs to thin the haystack and flip the prospecting funnel by pivoting from a wide net of random prospecting calls to a narrow field of top priority target companies. It allows WDB business representatives to not target every single business in one’s community, but rather quickly identify top prospects and reach out to the top 5, 10 or 25 companies first.

There are four simple ways to conduct informed prospecting – from understanding what you are trying to accomplish, who are you going to target first, what are you going to say upon first contact and how to build a long-term engagement strategy.

1 Clearly define and articulate your outreach strategy

2 Pinpoint your target market with predictive, forward-looking business filters

3 Craft a purposeful message for more effective outreach

4 Engage early and often with your top prospects

Informed prospecting results in targeted business outreach with a purposeful message – which is a far more effective and efficient than random acts of outreach.


Clearly define and articulate your outreach strategy

What is the WDB’s purpose for the outreach?

The first step for any WDB is the clear definition and articulation of your outreach strategy. Forming the right questions upfront will help define the business characteristics and the data required for your outreach analysis. Different use cases require different questions. Ask yourself, what is your WDB’s purpose and goal for outreach? Some examples include:

    • What are your top five priority sectors?
    • What businesses have employment opportunities?
    • What businesses could benefit from training/upskilling programs?
    • What businesses are growing and offer engagement/collaboration opportunities?
    • What businesses are experiencing financial stress and in need of intervention?
    • What businesses are impacted by a disaster and are in need of rapid response?
    • What businesses with less than 10 employees are still struggling due to COVID?
    • What minority or women-owned businesses could benefit for our services?

WDBs that take the time upfront to formulate the right question are able to better predict and target the right businesses open to a specific message – and will yield greater success.


Pinpoint your target market with predictive and forward-looking filters

Who should WDBs call first?

The U.S. business universe is over 17 million strong – and depending on the city, county or region, that number varies from 1,000 to 5,000 to 50,000+ businesses. Even with those local numbers, traditional prospecting is a daunting task. This makes it very counterproductive for WDBs to call all the businesses within your jurisdiction for a meager 1% response rate and a few leads. Simply put, no WDB has that kind of time. That is why informed prospecting has emerged as the more effective and purposeful way for targeted business outreach and developing a proactive business engagement strategy.

Informed prospecting relies on a high-quality business database, such as Dun and Bradstreet, and includes filters such as predictive, forward-looking indicators of individual business stress, failure risk and/or significant business change. Using such an approach, WDBs are able to thin the proverbial haystack – and quickly filter by target area, business size, sector, business health, diversity classifications, or other designations.

The funnel diagram below shows the key business filters available for informed prospecting. This dynamic use of filters allows WDBs to quickly refine a universe of 5,000 businesses down to a targeted list of 100 prospect businesses, complete with up-to-date contact details for each of those businesses.

Funnel data through several filters to create targeted prospect lists.WDBs work with urgency and have a prevailing need for a rapid assessment of a community’s business, workforce and sector data for targeted business outreach.


Craft a purposeful message for more effective outreach

What should WDBs say when you reach a prospect

A good messaging strategy stems from your overall outreach strategy, but is further shaped by what you know about the current state of the business you are calling. Different strategies call for different messages, depending on what stage the business is in.

As you start to engage with a business, listen carefully and pivot the conversation as necessary. Sometimes a business has done a lot of hiring and appears to be growing, but they’re not growing, they’re just churning employees. Probe as to why, listen, and offer a solution. In another example, a business had a medium financial stress score and appeared to be contracting, but when speaking with them, it was discovered the stress was actually due to growth and what they really needed was more space and capital.

With that in mind, here are some messaging strategies for a growth business, a stable or stagnant business and a struggling business. Remember, always listen, probe, recommend a solution and pivot as necessary.



      • We see you have a lot of employment opportunities.
      • We can help eliminate costs by prescreening and sending you the most qualified candidates.
      • Is that something that we can do for you?
      • Our solutions are at no cost to you – we leverage dollars already paid for with federal taxes.
Probe, as appropriate
      • If so, what’s the most essential skill in the workforce that you’re looking for?
      • Is it education based? Is it experiential? Is it workplace experience?
      • Do you need to upskill your existing workforce, train new employees, or both?
      • Can we build a recruitment program here locally to create a better pipeline closer to you?



      • We work with businesses in our community that have a similar profile.
      • Are you aware of all the business solutions offered through our partnership?
      • Our solutions are at no cost to you – we leverage dollars already paid for with federal taxes.
Probe, as appropriate <pick best option>
      • Can we help you upskill your existing workforce?
      • Can we help you expand, reach new markets, and go to the next level?
      • If that’s something you’re interested in, we can help you do that.
      • If there is churn, how is this workforce churn impacting your business?
      • We have been looking at your company and you are the kind of business we work with and want to retain in our community.
      • What type of help do you need? In-house training?
      • If so, we can help with that and eliminate your training costs.
      • What’s your supply network look like?
      • Are you experiencing challenges in it?
      • If so, we can help identify new partners who are financially sound.



      • We see that you’re struggling from the recent notice <or headlines>.
      • Are you aware of all the business solutions we offer through our local partnership?
      • Our solutions are at no cost to you – we leverage dollars already paid for with federal taxes.
      • We work with business owners to keep quality jobs and opportunity in our community.
Probe as appropriate
      • If you’re working to retain your workforce, we can certainly help with this strategy through upskill training or other strategies.
      • Or if you’re beyond that point, can we help your employees transition to new work?


Listening to what is going on with a business and offering solutions at zero cost to them, is a great way to demonstrate the value WDBs can deliver to their constituents.


Engage early and often with your top prospects

How do WDBs build a lasting relationship

Every strong relationship starts with listening – and understanding their business needs. While you may have a high-level understanding of the current state of a business at first contact – whether it is expanding, stable, or contracting – you may not understand why.

Every touchpoint is an opportunity to learn more about the business, deliver value and build a stronger relationship. Such interactions include but not limited to:

    • Follow up after every employee hire
    • Do quarterly check ins as business situations can change quarter over quarter
    • Share insights from Dun & Bradstreet or the Department of Labor with your businesses
    • Host quarterly business roundtables with experts to discuss auditing, tax or employment law, etc.
    • Send quarterly newsletters with tips for your local community
    • Conduct regular surveys to be more responsive to their needs


Be Successful by Not Targeting Every Business in your Community

Workforce Development Boards can benefit greatly by adopting an informed prospecting approach – that is, pivoting from random acts of calling to that of targeted, purposeful business outreach. WDBs that apply informed filters to a business database to thin the haystack get a fast start to informed prospecting. Whether you are targeting businesses in emerging industries, micro and small businesses, or under-represented groups such as minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses, always start with your short list of top prospects first and reach out with purpose.


Photo Credit: “Woman Business Photo” by Direct Media is licensed under CC0 1.0