When it comes to business, Cherryl Macalino isn’t the mingling type. She says her time is too valuable to waste on unproductive meetings, mixers and social sites because she needs real leads, not fly-by friends. But for the past 16 years in sales, Macalino kept finding herself in groups that gave her a minimal return on her investment.
“I would join these networking groups, and there’s a dentist there, somebody in real estate, a landscaping artist — all great professions, but how does that help in my business?” Maclino points out.
As the chief product manager of the Agate Group, Macalino sells technology and staffing services to big corporations. In these motley groups, she struggled to meet professionals with referrals she could use. She joined Nortech, part of the Meetup.com networking portal, thinking she would find leads for her market. She thought wrong, she says. Her frustration became so great that she volunteered to be co-administrator and mandated that members couldn’t get information if they weren’t willing to share information. It was a success, she says, but too time-consuming.
However, this one-to-one lead-sharing concept became the seed for her newest product, LeadCliq. Slated for public release this month, LeadCliq is a referral generation portal, where members share relevant leads within exclusive circles. Members earn a certain amount of points for leads they post. Points allow them to bid on the leads others in their circle post. The key difference between LeadCliq and database companies is that nothing is recycled, and the leads appear and disappear in real-time, similar to the bidding process on eBay.
“Our system is an ecosystem,” says Macalino. “It runs on reciprocated effort. Many people just want to take, take, take. LeadCliq flushes them out. You have to put a lead in to get a lead out.”
FusionStorm, an IT solutions provider based in San Francisco, has already started using a closed testing version of the product. Account executive Dylan Bunfill says the online platform has helped the company expand its reach. His job entails delivering solutions to companies by connecting them with FusionStorm’s vendor partners. He usually deals with local companies, but often needs to drive to Southern California to promote the business. LeadCliq simplifies that process.
“You can get your name all the way down to San Diego or Los Angeles without having to actually drive down there,” he says. “I’m already driving in the Bay Area and Sacramento Region, so I can have this working as a third-party app without making a large amount of effort.”
The product would be even better if he could access it on his phone, he says. Macalino plans to release mobile features in December. Rather than launch everything right away, she wants to expand in phases. To that end, the initial launch will cover two regions: the Sacramento Region and the wider Northern California market.
Macalino says the “significant amount” of seed money has been mostly out of her own pocket, from savings and from family members. She plans to approach investors once the full process is in place, but she believes that will be soon because LeadCliq fills a niche.
“If you want to maximize networking, this is the platform for you,” she says. “It’s not a mixer, where we care about wine and cheese and mingling. It’s not a social site, it’s a transaction site.”