Clients are important to every business owner, and to the small business owner most of all. These owners realize and value the importance of getting the right client to subscribe to their services or products. So exactly how does a small dog chase after a big dog when it comes to securing the next contract?

If you’ve got your eyes set on getting a certain company’s attention and pitching to them, then you’ll probably want to know everything there is to know about that company. Unfortunately a Google search alone doesn’t cut it; you’re going to need the real scoop on the company and that information isn’t always available on a company’s website or through an internet search. Cream of the crop companies often don’t even list their physical addresses, executive info or contact information.

Gathering this data is time extensive, which also means cost intensive when you consider that time is money. What you need is a corporate information directory that lets you search addresses, phone numbers, business profiles, earnings, top executives and email addresses. There are a ton of corporate information sites, but Hoovers is hands down one of the best around.

Having developed their services considerably over the last few years when I first discovered and began using the portal, Hoovers now also offers products crafted for small businesses. With their Hoover’s Essentials (through subscription) and Lead Builder (on demand) packages, Hoovers drives to “deliver value to small business” by giving you the data you need to build successful marketing and sales campaigns.

Hoover’s Essentials, a $89/month subscription based service, allows small business owners to have preliminary industry research done for them; this is tremendously useful for sales calls, market research and proposals. Clients can also be privy to company or industry specific news alerts sourced from 2000 outlets. Aside from news and alerts, Hoover’s Essentials allows you to track your personal selection of contacts, interact with this list in real time through annotation and tagging abilities and display a leads list of over 5000 records.

Their Lead Builder service, on the other hand, allows you to go in and either hand pick or have Hoovers generate a direct mail marketing list, telemarketing list or email marketing list based on your given parameters. You can even request reports to help understand relevant companies, “fine-tune your business strategy and product position with Competitive Landscape Reports” and get a better understanding of a targeted industry through Industry Reports. With their reporting tool, small business owners can conduct market research and develop a marketing campaign, understand and analyze their competition, prepare for sales calls, help with product and strategy planning.

Hoovers offers valuable business solutions and industry information that can be used by small business or direct information sourcing, researching and marketing. Hoovers’ well-organized directory can be filtered for a search alphabetically, by geography or by industry. The site also lets you create lead lists that you pay for by any filtered category or an extremely affordable a la carte per business list based on your needs. You can even purchase a complete company profile for just one business at a rate of just over one dollar – making Hoovers the most affordable and relevant business directory for any budget.

You could spend the time and effort to gather this data yourself. As someone who’s been there and done that, I can’t stress the amount of time, energy and resources you can waste – not to mention that you have to account for outdated information yielded throughout your own personal search. Be smart and connect yourself with an affordable directory; it’s worth its weight in gold.

The alternative can be found at NetProspex, a free crowd-sourced directory that allows you to find and trade contacts. The NetProspex benefit is that it’s far more integrated into social media, but the drawback lies in the relevance and accuracy of crowd-sourced information. Small business owners wanting to connect with directories will likely lead with NetProspex but tap into Hoovers from time to time. More strategic business owners with no time to waste will likely go directly with Hoovers and have their assistants play with NetProspex.