Amidst the many engaging events at the 2023 edition of Lead Generation World in San Diego, our very own Nima Hakimi, CEO and Co-Founder of Convoso, assembled a panel of Inc. 5000 recipients, featuring leaders from some of the fastest-growing lead generation companies including:
- David Stodolak, President of Solar Direct Marketing
- JC Redero, Founder of Quotestorm
- Penny Lee, SVP of Partnerships at What If Media
- Eric Gilbert, Chief Revenue Office of Quotestorm
Check out highlights from the insightful Q&A below, and watch the video to view the full discussion. Lead gen leaders talk about their biggest drivers of success – the culture, positive failures, and best technologies.
Question: What’s the biggest driver of your success?
Eric Gilbert: What’s changed over the last 10 years is the level of collaboration. We used to hate our competitors. It was very cutthroat. And now it’s more about the idea of how we can work together. It’s like a collectivism that’s developing, and that really drives innovation—and really drives you to go [events like these] and to communicate.
David Stodolak: Growth and collaboration popped into my head as well. My partner is in the audience here, and one day I said to him, “You know, we should be chiropractors because all we do is create alignments.” I’m a really big believer in partnerships. Life is short—I want to have people on my team. It’s not all going to be peaches and cream. There are going to be ups and downs. But it’s like a marriage—through thick and thin you stick to it, you make things happen, you communicate, and you get that big growth.
JC Redero: One of our core values is an acronym, CANI, for “constant and never-ending improvement.” It’s like building a Formula One car. You can’t just build [your business] with a “set it and forget it” mindset. If you’re not tweaking all day long, constantly trying to improve the product that you put out there, you’re going to get smoked.
Penny Lee: I’ve been in this industry for about 20 years and have taken on every job possible. When I think back on the success and where I’ve seen the most growth, I’m looking around this room and the number of women that are in this room. I remember at one time going to an Adtech event where there were three women—one was a booth girl and two of us were in the industry. Now, that’s grown significantly. And it comes down to friendship, and growing and helping each other; looking for ways to be kind and helpful. And good things happen to good people.
Question: In the history of our company, we’ve failed so many times. We rebuilt our dialer three times. We were ready to give up countless times. But there’s a determination to keep going and going. I’d love to understand how the big failures at your business were game-changers and helped you get where you are today.
David Stodolak: When we started our company in 2016, I think I was trying to do everything myself. I’ve always been a hard worker. But I was working hard; I wasn’t working smart. I’d look at our cash flow and I was like, I can’t afford to hire someone right now. And I think that set us back. We started to grow tremendously in 2019 and 2020 as we started to add people to the team that could take things off my plate or other team members’ plates.
Nima Hakimi: You learn and earn a lot more from your failures than your successes, right? Like, that’s where the magic happens. And I feel like a lot of people just either get stuck in that failure, and they don’t get out of it. So, that’s one of the things I’ve learned over time is that every time there’s failure, you should get excited. You should say, “You know what, this is a great thing. There’s something good that’s coming out of this.”
Question: How have you viewed investing in technology? How have you leveraged technology and data, and understood what tools to use and not to use when there is an endless number of options out there?
Eric Gilbert: If you’re not using ActiveProspect or Jornaya, you’re setting yourself and your partners up for failure. They’ve gone to a lot of trouble to build something that really tightly bundles in compliance with what we’re doing. So that to me is the most useful tool that we have, bar none.
David Stodolak: There’s a big increase in lead fraud, where you buy leads and 3-4% are bots. That’s where a solution like Anura comes into play, to catch that stuff. 3% might not sound like a lot, but if you’re selling 500,000 registrations per day, that’s 7500 leads—and that’s a lot. You could wind up with a TCPA lawsuit. Crazy stuff can happen. That’s why it’s important to protect yourself and have those tools in place. Eventually, you weed out that [fraudulent traffic] and you revalue your actual traffic. So, say, if you were selling for $1.50 a click, it might go up to $2 because now it’s better traffic.
Hakimi: That’s what it’s all about, right? With technology, we view it as “you get what you pay for.” And it really is true. Having done this for so many years, everybody is always asking if you can do better on the price, saying it’s too expensive.
But you have to look at the bigger picture of how much you are spending on your leads. How much are you spending on your call center and your agents? How much is that worth? Everybody wants to save money on everything and I get it. Everybody starts out scrappy and tries to find every way to make their business grow. But as you grow and scale, that [cost-cutting] mindset doesn’t work anymore. We see it time and time again: companies that have grown significantly trying to save thousands of dollars, but not going with the best technology ends up costing them tens of thousands or more.