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Stephen Gossett is a former Built In senior staff reporter covering technology trends, design, UX and data science. Prior to joining Built In, he was a digital editor at the design-focused Sixtysix Magazine and associate editor at Chicagoist.
Stephen Gossett is a former Built In senior staff reporter covering technology trends, design, UX and data science. Prior to joining Built In, he was a digital editor at the design-focused Sixtysix Magazine and associate editor at Chicagoist.
To outsource or stay fully in-house? That’s a common question for startups and enterprises alike when considering how to generate more quality sales leads.
Cost is, of course, a factor. The average annual wage of a sales representative ranges from around $60,000 to north of $100,000, depending on the sector, with tech sales often landing closer to the higher end. So the ability to supplement lead generation without taking on more salaried employees can sometimes look appealing.
Time is also a point of consideration. Too much research, outreach, coordination and scheduling can leave reps feeling like they’re spending more time on administrative upkeep than actually closing deals.
Beyond obvious questions about return on investment, outsourcing also requires a reputational leap of faith. Any time a company asks an outside party to represent its interests — and even speak through its email domain — some risk is baked in.
But companies that decide to leverage lead generation services, either as a stopgap ahead of larger sales-team development or as strategic rented muscle, will still eventually need to stock their toolkits with the most intuitive, integration-friendly lead generation software and platforms available. With that in mind, we put together some of the, um, leading third-party services, plus a few notable platform providers to beef up internal operations.
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
What it does: Salesloft is not a lead generation service, per se, but this sales engagement platform merits mention due to its utility, quick inroads and impressive funding. The platform has gotten high marks from sales professionals for its intuitive UI, customizability, sales cadence simplification and A/B capabilities. At the same time, Salesloft has pursued an aggressive growth strategy, buoyed by not-insignificant VC contributions, which total more than $245 million since 2012.
Location: Waltham, Massachusetts
What it does: Since combining with DiscoverOrg in early 2019, Zoominfo has further cemented its reputation as a go-to provider of B2B sales contacts. (It went public in June of 2020, becoming the first tech company to do so amid pandemic tumult.) Some 300,000 users leverage the subscription-based business, which is known for giving access to up-to-date contact information, plus less readily available details like company headcounts and tech stacks.
Location: Bellevue, Washington
What it does: Another leading option for contact sourcing and sales prospecting, RocketReach allows users to search for personal and professional emails and phone numbers across a variety of criteria: name, of course, but also location, job title, skills, years of experience, and employer industry and revenue, among others. Additional available features include a browser extension, bulk lookup functionality and an API. RocketReach touts its precision (85 percent lookup accuracy, according to the company), reach (450 million profiles) and who’s-who client base (Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon) as selling points.
Location: New York, New York
What it does: Lusha, another contact-sourcing contender, builds its B2B contact database through a combination of crowdsourcing, partnerships and automation. Community members post contact information, while the company also licenses data from affiliate partners and crawls the web for publicly available information. Investors, and some high-profile clients, have liked the results: Lusha recently hit unicorn status when it announced an eye-popping $205 million Series B funding round in November, and tech leaders like Google, Dropbox and Uber are among Lusha’s clientbase. Curious reps can try the free version, which allows five no-cost look-ups per month.
Location: Venice, California
What it does: System1 blends advertising and content marketing to steer clients toward ready-to-purchase customers. The company serves up ads on search engines and social networks, which direct users to personalized content on one of System1’s media pages, which include HowStuffWorks, Forkly and CarsGenius, among others. Then it sends user intent data to clients, who can pursue tailored outreach, while also feeding data back into System1’s machine learning algorithms to continually optimize the next rounds of ad placement and personalization tweaks.
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
What it does: With Leadpages, old-school lead-capture website design meets the newer frontiers of no-code and targeted data movement. The platform lets its customer base — primarily freelancers and small businesses — build professional-looking home pages and landing pages that steer data to a host of supported platform integrations in analytics, customer relationship management, email marketing, e-commerce and more. A conversion toolkit lets users add pop-ups, alert bars and checkout forms to their pages, while a resources library includes webinars, podcasts, guides and other media to help maximize site-based lead conversion.
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, and Scottsdale, Arizona
What it does: All companies want to know who’s visiting their site in hopes of using that info to target interested leads. But no one should run afoul of privacy regulations in the process. To that end, Lead Forensics uses a process called reverse IP tracking to determine which businesses are visiting clients’ sites without resorting to individual user-tracking. Essentially, it queries the DNS associated with an IP address to uncover what business hosts that IP. Then it culls a database to find contact information associated with that business, which is then passed along to the client.
Location: San Francisco, California
What it does: Countless lead-generation services are built upon the promise of massive prospect indexes, stuffed by the millions. Apollo — another Y combinator graduate, formerly known as ZenProspect — sells itself on bringing its voluminous database straight to your CRM. Integration as a whole is key to Apollo’s appeal; it syncs with Salesforce, LinkedIn, Marketo and other sales-arsenal standbys. Other aspects of the engine include a lead-scoring platform, an analytics suite and customizable process flows.
Location: Solana Beach, California
What it does: One of the fastest-growing sales and marketing companies in the country, CIENCE provides three main offerings: CRM migration, inbound and outbound sales development help, and sales research outsourcing. Assisted by natural language processing, CIENCE researchers look beyond demographic basics, scouring firmographic data, social behavior data, tech stack info and more to build targeted lead lists. The firm claims a database of tens of millions of up-to-date records. Notable clients include Uber, Square, SAP and Microsoft.
Location: Berkeley, California
What it does: This Y Combinator alum, formerly known as MobileWorks, combines artificial intelligence and human help to generate demand and build leads for a client base that has included Snowflake, eBay and DoorDash, among other tech notables. The company’s crawlers scrape the web for lead-friendly data, and researchers verify the data and assist with email outreach campaigns. At the same time, the company — which employs hundreds of independent contractors across a few dozen countries — aims to leave behind the gig economy’s uglier tendencies by instituting fair wages and career tracks.
Location: Dover, Delaware
What it does: This B2B lead generation firm is perhaps best known for its appointment-setting services. After Belkins reps learn about a client’s business and campaign model, draw up customer profiles and launch tailored outreach, they put each call or face-to-face meeting they generate on clients’ calendars and prep reps with any must-know details. The agency also sells an email product, called Folderly, which checks DNS settings and scans email content for spam-filter red flags to improve outreach deliverability.
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Location: Encino, California
What it does: Callbox pairs clients with industry-specific consultants to better customize outreach. Tech features prominently, but the firm also services telecommunications, healthcare, advertising, HR, finance, and manufacturing and distribution. The company emphasizes its multi-channel approach, using email, outbound calls, social media, SEO, landing pages and webinars to rope in prospects. Clients are also outfitted with Callbox’s Hubspot-linked contact management platform, which lets them keep real-time eyes on the lead pipeline.
Location: San Francisco, California
What it does: This Bay Area company dates back to the 1990s, so the fact that its webinar-based approach dovetails with both the experiential marketing trend and the pandemic-necessitated virtualization of everything speaks more to its prescience than any perceived bandwagoning. ON24 lets users host virtual events and webinars, which can give rise to much so-called behavioral data — degrees of receptivity, interest and engagement — that are frequently more difficult to quantify than demographic data — and harder to come by.
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
What it does: There’s no shortage of companies that monitor social mentions to flag potential sales leads, as N3 did for partner Microsoft back in 2015. What differentiates N3 is its familiarity with complicated sectors like cloud computing, cellular networks and software. It also has some head-turning machine learning capabilities. (N3 was acquired in 2020 by consulting powerhouse Accenture.) The firm offers a host of inside sales and consulting services to help turn digital interest into sales opportunities. Other prominent enterprise-tech clients include Qlik, Cisco and SAP global.
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Location: Miami Beach, Florida
What it does: This B2B agency offers reinforcements for customer support, customer success and, of course, sales. Clients can opt for traditional lead generation assistance or get full-blown sales, sales chat and sales administration teams. The firm’s sales partners include Apollo, Chorus, Aircall and HubSpot.
Location: New York, New York
What it does: Fluent promotes its own CRM and programmatic marketing tools, but the crux of the operation is its proprietary network of lead-generating websites. According to the company, those sites attract some one million daily users, generating a plethora of data, thanks in part to opt-in surveys within those properties. Aside from gleaning targeted data, the sites can also serve as launching pads for ad campaigns to further generate leads.
Location: Denver, Colorado
What it does: This growth agency is perhaps most noted for its account-based marketing services, but it also offers sales enablement, customer nurture and creative strategy. The company boasts well-rounded B2B and B2C lead generation that encompasses strategies ranging from paid search to snail-mail outreach. Notable campaigns include a lead generation initiative for Kaiser Permanente, which drew some 21,000 quality consumer leads for the health insurance provider.
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Location: Austin, Texas
What it does: This long-running Austin outfit has led sales and marketing growth campaigns for many of the most noteworthy tech heavies who have a footprint in the Silicon Hills, including Oracle, VMWare, PayPal, eBay and IBM. Available services include lead development (upping clients’ digital profiles and expanding a client’s existing prospect list — or building it outright) and appointment scheduling.
Location: Provo, Utah
What it does: This lead generation veteran focuses on the mortgage, lending and finance sectors by hosting a two-sided bidding marketplace: sellers and purchasers can bring or buy voice and data leads, with prices dictated by supply and demand. According to LeadPoint, the company’s in-house algorithm applies a score to each lead, and interested buyers can filter options along a variety of criteria.
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
What it does: Founded in 2009, Launch Leads caters to software, big data consulting, healthcare and other specialized sectors. Household-name clients range from enterprise retail (Nike, Walmart) to technology (Oracle, Yahoo!, VMWare). The firm promises targeted lists, rather than firehouse volume, plus dead-lead revival and, when available, a strong trade-show presence. It’s all driven by an in-house data platform that monitors and prioritizes options based on factors like email opens, time of day, previous outreach attempts and more.
Location: San Diego, California
What it does: Lead generation outfits tend to fall into one of two camps: service or platform. That is, clients either outsource some portion of lead development or sign up for a new tool to assist. Rev, formerly known as LeadCrunch, is something of a difference-splitter. The company’s sales platform hoovers up data to create an ideal customer profile, which uses artificial intelligence to evolve and update over time. Rev then sources and prioritizes prospects based on that fluid profile. Notable clients include Google, Salesforce, IBM and Adobe.
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Location: Waltham, Massachusetts
What it does: This tech-focused generation firm has helped develop outbound sales operations for companies in cybersecurity, edtech and healthcare technology. It also offers inbound development and a temp-to-hire pipeline for companies just getting started with sales. But its bread and butter is outbound, where it promises a higher bar for qualified leads than comparable outsourcing companies.
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
What it does: Leadium claims to have produced more than 10 million unique leads for a client roster that ranges from direct-to-consumer wine brand OneHope to data infrastructure standout Segment. In-house strategists work with clients to hammer out what constitutes their vision of a quality lead and an ideal customer fit. Customer data goes deep into psychographic, technical and other non-demographic detail, all of which is validated by dedicated researchers.
Location: Oakville, Ontario
What it does: Firms that help companies to outsource lead generation sometimes outsource themselves, driving down costs by using far-flung contracted researchers. Martal Group, on the other hand, points to its entirely North America-based staff as proof of at-attention availability. The firm — which touts a contact database of 50 million — specializes in software, IoT and other tech vendors. It focuses heavily on intent data, a metric that identifies prospects that are likely close to making a purchase, based on digital behavior and other factors. The agency has closed deals with Pinterest, Samsung and Honeywell, among others.
Location: Helsinki, Finland
What it does: Leadfeeder promises new sales potential by essentially shining a light on who’s visiting your website. Its GDPR-compliant software lets users know what businesses are clicking on their sites and the paths through which they reached it — intel that would’ve otherwise been anonymous. That’s coupled with the company’s own database of contact information, all of which can be piped into standard-use CRMs, email marketing platforms and analytics dashboards.

Affiliate Marketing As A Business

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