Interview with Tom Blue Lead 411’s Founder and CEO

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Interviewee: Tom Blue, Founder and CEO at Lead411

Interviewer: Bennett Phillips, CEO at Sales4StartUps


Bennett: What is Lead411 and how can startup sales teams leverage it to grow their companies?

Tom: There are 3 primary ways our clients use us to increase their revenues.

  1. Cold Email Campaigns: Our “Enterprise” solution provides unlimited contact lists which people can use for their email drip campaigns, email newsletters, email blasts and general cold-calling.  Our solution is super easy to use and we don’t limit you like the rest of the big providers do.  This is why our clients get the highest ROI.
  2. Sales Triggers: Specific news events trigger great selling opportunities for sales people.  E.G. When a company gets funding they are spending money like crazy.  There are tons of these types of events that produce great results.  Jill Konrath recently dedicated a chapter in her book “Selling to Big Companies” on this tactic.
  3. We just added an IT Intel dataset to our database that is getting great traction. IT Intel tells our clients which technologies the companies in our database use: Salesforce, Marketo, PeopleSoft, Oracle, etc. There are other providers out there that do something similar, but not with the amount of contacts we have with emails.  We have done some preliminary cold prospecting on this and have gotten great response so far.

Bennett: What is your business model and ideal target customer?

Tom: Our power users come from IT Consulting firms, SaaS providers, sales/marketing services and recruiters. Each group likes us for different reasons. IT/Web Consultants & SaaS Providres like to use our IT Intelligence as they know which technologies their prospects are using.

As for sales/marketing services  our unlimited lists have a real value-add.  They are outbound prospecting all the time so it is nice to have zero limitations on the data they can download.  And for Recruiters they love our news events… e.g. If a company gets VC funding or opens a new office recruiters want to contact them to pitch their services.


Bennett: What approach is Lead411 taking to maintain clean and updated data?

Tom: For contacts, we use crawlers to verify data we purchase from crowdsourcers. The reason why’s data is so bad is because they can’t verify what has been uploaded. We have a community of data providers that we will buy lists from IF we can verify the companies and people exist by crawling valid sources online.

As for our sales triggers we have a team that looks and verifies the news events we add into our database.   The quality of data has improved over the past few years. I think most companies are realizing that crowdsourcing alone or technology alone is not going to get you the best contacts. However when looking at buying a solution like ours I would ask for a large sample first so you can really test the data before purchasing.


Bennett: What 3rd party integrations will you be featuring?

Tom: Most of our Enterprise customers take our CSV exports and import them into an email marketing solution like Clickback or their own system. That is why we haven’t rushed to build a SalesForce app.

However, within the month we will have a Salesforce “push” option where users can push contacts directly into their CRM. Within the next 12 months we expect to have a full-blown native Salesforce app though.


Bennett: What is your professional background and how did the founding team meet?

Tom: My degree is in Entrepreneurship at USC and I have had many startups. The last company I started (previous to Lead411) was a tech recruiting company in California.

We had clients in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. My responsibilities were to find new clients that were hiring. I would scour the outlets every day to find who was getting funded or who just hired a new CTO.

I would then send them an email and call them.  This is how I get ALL of our new customers and I knew other people were doing the same.

I decided to build a site/database that had all this info compiled. That is how I founded the company. If you want to see something hilarious you can see our original site here.


Bennett: How has big data impacted the way we sell today?

Tom: I think big data can definitely help us sell better. Obviously the more knowledge you can get about a prospect the better.

But I would be wary that big data and/or any new marketing method will stop traditional B2B sales methods from working.  See Marketingprofs most recent study.


Bennett: Do you consider yourself a sales intelligence tool?

Tom: Yes, definitely. Sales Intelligence is a broad term though. Lead411 provides Sales Intelligence about companies; tracking news events; what technologies they use; how fast they are growing, etc.

But ultimately we are growing our contact database to supplement the sales intelligence. We currently have a 4M person database and expect it to reach 8M by the end of the year.


Bennett: What has been the most challenging aspects of being a startup founder yourself?

Tom: The most challenging aspect of being a startup founder is finding mentors/advisors that have been in your shoes. Most of the time entrepreneurs are trying to blaze new ground so it is hard to find someone that has been successful at where you are trying to go. That makes it hard.

I would advise going to as many networking events and some of the more intimate tradeshows to meet different people in your space. After that I would just talk to people about what you are doing and mention how it would be really nice to have a mentor in the space.

From there you can probably feel it out and see if the person would be interested.  If they are, jump on it.


Bennett: What advice would you give a startup founder around what mistakes to avoid early days?


1. Get any type of mentor you can that is in a similar space.

2. Delegate early.

3. Never ever forget about improving your product. Sometimes it is easy to get lost in marketing. This year we did a major overhaul to our database and our site. It has increased conversion rates by 2x.