StackLead vs. Humans

How much time do you spend looking up new leads and signups before you contact them? Some entrepreneurs and sales teams might use sites like oDesk, Elance, and TaskUs to find an inexpensive virtual assistant for tasks like web research. We wanted to quantify how StackLead’s automated research compares to human virtual assistants, so we ran an experiment to find out.

In the end, the automated system was not only faster and covered more data than the human researchers, but also 43% more accurate.

If you’re looking to automatically qualify your sales leads, you can register here. Read on for the complete results of our science experiment.

Experiment setup


We took 100 of our own signups’ email addresses and used a few different services to research the following information about each lead:

  • First and last name – What’s the person’s name so that I can write a personal email?
  • LinkedIn URL – What’s their professional background?
  • Role – What’s their buying authority for my product?
  • Company name – Where do they currently work?
  • Employee count – How large is the company and does it have headcount relevant to my product?
  • Company website – Where can I find this company online (even if the lead signed up with a Gmail address)?
  • Company industry – Do I sell into this vertical?
  • Twitter handle and follower count – Does this lead actively use social media?
  • Location – Do I sell into this region?

We chose these fields because they include a good mix of person and company details that help qualify a sales lead. We’ll break down lead scoring in future posts, but we actually prioritize our leads by looking for job titles that include “CEO” or “director” and then sorting by company size. And when contacting a lead, everyone loves that you took the extra effort to call them by name and mention something from their Twitter profile. This research data is also easily available via our Google spreadsheet integration.

Since we were using real leads, the data was a good representation of web traffic for a B2B SaaS company. Roughly 30% of the leads had email addresses we marked as “personal” (e.g. Gmail or Hotmail). Also, we had already reached out to each signup, so we had a good idea which ones were legitimate, engaged leads. In total, about 2/3 of the emails had information available online and were legitimate leads.

We rated the performance of StackLead and the human freelancers based on 3 criteria:

  • Coverage – Of the 100 leads researched, how much information was found?
  • Accuracy – Of the information found, how many had the wrong data?
  • Time – How long did it take to process the list? The sooner a lead is contacted the more likely they are to engage and convert.

Choosing a researcher

The quality of researchers on oDesk varies greatly, and finding a good one is a topic worth a whole other blog post, but we followed some best practices to get the best researcher we could:

  • Clearly defined the job post in the listing and invited some strong freelancers with experience to apply.
  • From a pool of over 40 applications, we selected 3 researchers with over a 4.8/5.0 rating from different regions and over 100 previously completed jobs.
  • We gave the finalists clear and explicit instructions for how to search for information and a list of tools they could use.
  • We asked each to research the first 10 emails in the list and selected the the applicant with the best performance on the sample set.

Results

Ultimately, StackLead won in all 3 categories versus the virtual assistant. As you might expect for an automated computer algorithm, StackLead was considerably faster (actually faster than writing this breakdown!) than the outsourced assistant. To verify the results for accuracy, we checked 3 fields (LinkedIn URL, company name, and employee count) by hand. Diving into our experiment criteria:

  • Coverage – StackLead had 64% coverage, while the researcher had 54% coverage. StackLead wins by 20%.
  • Accuracy – Across the 3 fields we manually verified, StackLead was 99% accurate and the researcher was 70% accurate. StackLead wins by 43%.
  • Time – The oDesk freelancer spent 8 hours researching, which was split over 2 days due to considerable back and forth to fix problems with the initial results. StackLead returned all of the results in 17 minutes. Only considering the time paid to the freelancer, StackLead wins by 2,724%.

The oDesk researcher’s poor accuracy was a little disappointing. Having so many inaccurate entries made it difficult to trust any of the results without manually checking first. We felt like we were on a terrible online dating site. Lots of profiles for potential partners, but no idea who’s fake and who’s real.

Although the freelancers did a good job communicating, we still spent a lot of time managing the whole work process. Between defining the job, writing up instructions, choosing the researchers, and checking in on their progress, we easily spent 2 hours managing the process. We wanted to spend $10 (or 10 cents per lead) on this experiment, but we had to give the researcher more time to fill in as many of the company datapoints as possible. Factoring in the additional prep work and communication would’ve further hurt oDesk’s performance based on time.

The virtual assistant’s poor coverage, particularly for company data, highlighted another issue: freelancers are pressed for time and the results suffer with additional fields. Beyond the data in this test, StackLead returns company details like funding status and leadership, as well as domain information (Alexa Rank, software vendors, and WHOIS records) without needing any extra time. Machines excel at layering on this additional information instantly, while humans require the same amount of manual work for each additional field.

StackLead saves you money

In addition to covering fewer email addresses, returning less accurate results, and taking far longer, the human researchers were also quite a bit more expensive than our automated solution. We spent about $27 to research 100 leads in this experiment. Per lead, that’s over three times as expensive as StackLead’s Startup Plan.

Are you spending time and money outsourcing lead research and qualification? Get started today with the faster, more accurate, and more affordable solution from StackLead.

its-science-anchorman

Two API Improvements

StackLead’s customer intelligence API lets you programmatically research all of your customers and leads (whether it’s 5 or 5,000 each day). We just launched two improvements to make it more secure and reliable:

  • Webhook tokens
  • Lead created timestamps

Webhook tokens

When you make an API request with delivery_method set to webhook, we POST our lead research data to your configured webhook URL. In order to verify that the data comes from StackLead, you can include a unique token parameter in your request and we will return it as part of the JSON response to your webhook URL when we finish researching the lead. This lets you ignore responses that don’t include the unique token, increasing security when using the StackLead API. Find out more in the documentation.

Lead created timestamps

If you use StackLead to research new signups, you might find it tricky to differentiate between existing users you had before integrating with StackLead and new users that just signed up. You can now set the created parameter to the Unix timestamp when a user’s account was created. When this parameter is set, we will only send you an email research report if the account was created less than 24 hours ago. This is particularly useful if you use a third party service like Segment.io with StackLead since you may have many Identify calls throughout your application. You can read more in the docs.

Thank you for helping us improve StackLead – both webhook tokens and created timestamps came directly from your feedback. Please feel free to reach us via email or Twitter with any questions or comments!

New Feature: Custom Subject Lines

If you use the StackLead API or StackLead.js to get email research reports on new leads, then you might find that emails from our research account all thread together in email clients like Gmail:

threaded_emails

We know this can be frustrating, so new StackLead accounts have subject lines based on the email address we research like “StackLead Research – rebecca@blueocean.com” that prevent the messages from threading together. For existing accounts, you can login to the API settings page to configure this option:

api_settings

Customized subject lines are just a small way to make our lead research emails more useful. Any questions? Email us at team@stacklead.com. Ready to get started with automatic lead research from StackLead? Register!

Qualify leads on your website with StackLead.js

When someone signs up on your site, do you get an empty email that looks like this?

internal_email

We used to waste lots of time with Google and LinkedIn searches to figure out who signed up with a random Gmail address. Even worse, we’d sometimes skip this research and new signups would slip through the cracks. To avoid this hassle and help you close more sales, StackLead rapidly qualifies your inbound signups and sends you a research report based off their email address:

ted_research_report

We just launched a new way to start qualifying your signups and sales leads. Our JavaScript snippet (available on Github), is the easiest way to send leads straight from your website to StackLead. It monitors forms on your site and automatically sends the lead’s info to the StackLead API. Using a signup’s email address, and optionally other details you capture, we gather all the research you need to figure out if the lead is a good fit for your product.

You can read about how to add StackLead.js to your site in the docs. You’ll need to register and grab your client key from the settings page.

Lead research with the flick of a switch

StackLead automatically researches your sales leads. If you collect email addresses on a custom landing page or as part of a user onboarding flow, you’ve already installed code on your website to capture new leads and potentially push them to your CRMSegment.io is a powerful tool that lets you easily turn on analytics and marketing tools on your site with a single click. Using Segment.io, you can enable automatic StackLead research for new users with the flick of a switch.

By enabling StackLead, you’ll receive a complete research on each new lead when they enter their email address. Segment.io will call the StackLead API the first time you make an identify call for a new user. You can easily flip on StackLead on your Segment.io settings page and enter your StackLead API ID (available on the settings page):

Segment.io and StackLead

Enjoy instant lead research with StackLead and Segment.io!

 

 

Qualifying Leads in Salesforce with StackLead

If your sales team lives in Salesforce, it’s easy to integrate StackLead to improve your lead qualification process. Sales reps using StackLead save 2-5 minutes per lead and use our research to only contact the highest-value prospects. If you’re interested in our automated lead analysis (e.g. number of employees and fundraising details) in your Salesforce installation, please reach out at team@stacklead.com.

1) Professional Edition Only – Enable API Access

Salesforce Enterprise edition and up includes API access. With Professional edition, you’ll need to contact your Salesforce account executive and purchase the API add-on.

2) Professional Edition Only – Create the StackLead Data field

If you’re not on the Enterprise edition or higher, there’s a bit of extra setup because the API cannot modify the fields on your leads.

First, create the StackLead Data field for your leads. Click Setup, and then go to Build > Customize > Leads  > Fields. At the bottom of the setup page (by Lead Custom Fields & Relationships), click New. Create a Text Area (Long) field. Set the Field Label to “StackLead Data” and Field Name to “StackLeadData” (note that there’s no space). Set the # Visible Lines, which controls the amount of research data we can display for your leads, to 10.

3) Authenticate Salesforce

Once we’ve enabled Salesforce for your account, go to the user settings page and click Connect Salesforce:

connect_salesforce

You’ll be prompted to authorize StackLead to access the Salesforce API:

salesforce_allow

4) Configure StackLead Data field

Depending on how salesforce is configured, you will likely need to add the StackLead Data to the Lead page layout.

First, make the new StackLead data field visible. Go to Build > Customize > Leads > Page Layouts. Click Edit and drag the StackLead Data field anywhere on the page layout.

Saleforce Add fieldScreenshot 2014-06-17 19.25.15

Screenshot 2014-06-17 19.27.19

Screenshot 2014-06-17 19.29.04

If you don’t see the StackLead Data field as an option, you may first need to edit the Field-Level permissions. You can do that by going to Build > Customize > Leads > Fields. The URL should look something like:

https://na15.salesforce.com/p/setup/layout/LayoutFieldList?type=Lead&setupid=LeadFields

but with the leading na15 replaced with your Salesforce server. At this URL, you can see the StackLead Data field under “Lead Custom Fields & Relationships”. Click on the field, then click on “Set Field-Level Security”. Select the “Visible” box to make the field visible to all users and then click Save.

Screenshot 2014-06-17 19.36.22 Screenshot 2014-06-17 19.36.46 Screenshot 2014-06-17 19.37.01

5) Run on your leads

Go back to the StackLead settings page and click Research Leads. We’ll automatically add our research data to your most recent lead.

Screenshot 2014-06-17 19.44.38

Here’s an example of a lead before and after:

salesforce_before

 

salesforce_after

In just 5 steps, you can have customer intelligence data inside your Salesforce installation. Please reach us at team@stacklead.com with any questions.

Connect to StackLead with Zapier

Zapier is a great service that lets you easily connect the web apps you use. In this blog post, we’ll show you how you can use Zapier to integrate StackLead customer intelligence with over 200 apps! Zapier does a pretty good job explaining their service on their site. Here are a few ways people have used StackLead with Zapier to integrate with other services:

  • Email Forwarding – Detect incoming emails from new customers and send them to research@stacklead.com. We’ll reply with a detailed research report. Zapier will monitor your inbox so you don’t have to set up forwarding.
  • Email Marketing – MailChimp, Sendgrid, Mailgun, Intercom, and others. We use Zapier to get StackLead research on every new  subscriber for this blog.
  • Database Updates – Monitor new signups in a MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, Firebase, or other database. Lots of people use our API to to get email alerts for interesting new freemium signups.
  • CRM – Salesforce, Pipedrive, ZOHO, and others. We’ll show you how to populate new Salesforce leads with information from StackLead.
  • Online Forms – Wufoo, FormStack, SurveyMonkey, and others may already be capturing your new signup info. Zapier lets you send it directly to StackLead.

MailChimp Example

You can use Zapier to send all new MailChimp subscribers to StackLead. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Connect to the StackLead Zapier App. We’re waiting for the app to be published by Zapier, but this link gives you early access now.
  2. Create a new Zap!
  3. Select MailChimp as the Trigger app on the left and choose “New Subscriber” as the trigger action.
  4. Select StackLead as the Action app on the right and choose “New Lead” as the action.
  5. Connect your MailChimp and StackLead accounts to Zapier. You can get a free StackLead API key by registering.
  6. Select the Email field from MailChimp under “Match up  MailChimp Subscriber to  StackLead Lead”.
  7. Set your StackLead delivery method. Leave as the default “email” if you want to get an email or change to “webhook” to have us POST the data to your configured webhook.
  8. Test, name, and launch your new Zap!

Here’s a screenshot of what the Zap looks like:

stacklead mailchimp zap

That’s all there is to it. Enjoy using StackLead with hundreds of Zapier apps like MailChimp. We’ll follow-up soon with a post on some new ways to use StackLead in the pipeline. Please let us know how we can help your sales process in the comments (or get in touch on Twitter).

Hacking the Email Spreadsheet

Update: StackLead spreadsheet research is now available in the official Google Add-on store. Please read our updated guide here.

After collecting a bunch of emails during a big launch or conference, we’re often left wondering “who are these people?” and “what’s the best way to get in touch?”. Buying a list of email addresses or a lead database presents a similar challenge. The easiest next step is to create a generic email campaign and get the average 2-3% click rate.

Since we launched StackLead on GrowthHackers and Hacker News, we’ve spoken with many salespeople and growth hackers with lists of email addresses that they want to contact, but don’t have a scalable way to personalize their outreach. Rapportive works well for understanding someone you’re about to contact, but can’t support researching and prioritizing hundreds or thousands of leads.

Researching a batch of email addresses is simple:

1) Open this Google Spreadsheet and click “Make a copy…” under the “File” menu.

make_a_copy

 

2) Copy and paste the list of email addresses you want to research into the “Email” column.

3) If you don’t already have a StackLead account, register and copy your API key. Back in the spreadsheet, click “Preferences” under the “StackLead” menu.

prefs

You’ll be required to authorize the spreadsheet so that we can fill in the research data. If you’re having issues, please try logging out and logging back in with the correct Google Drive account (shown at the top right of the page).

auth

And then you’ll  be able to paste in your API key.

api_key

 

4) Click “Run StackLead” under the “StackLead” menu.

run_stacklead

 

5) Wait for us to fill in the StackLead research data (we’ll mark processing or finished addresses in orange).

finished

 

Note that this last step might take a few minutes depending on whether or not we’ve seen the email address(es) before. If you’re researching up to a thousand emails, it’s best to check back in 4-6 hours. For larger jobs or other custom requirements, please reach out at team@stacklead.com.

Enjoy email spreadsheet research powered by StackLead. We’ll follow-up soon with a post on some useful ways to use this research data. Please let us know how we can help your sales process in the comments (or get in touch on Twitter).

Hello world!

StackLead automates all of the research you need to understand the new signups on your website. When an anonymous visitor signs up on your site, someone on the sales team has to manually search LinkedIn, Google, etc. to try to identify the person based on their email address. We crawl the web and gather all the pieces of intelligence required to understand a new lead and their business.

Please contact us at team@stacklead.com with any questions or follow us on Twitter.