LeadVine is a social networking site which aims to generate leads online by enlisting the help of the general public.

Rather than spending time cold calling, businesses can post their requirements on the site and wait for members of the public to provide useful leads and earn themselves a referral fee.

The site was launched in August, and we have been talking to co-founder Allan Margate…

How does LeadVine work?

  • Business owners and sales people (listers) list the sales leads or hard to find information they are searching for and posts a referral fee.
  • The community (connectors) then reviews the list of referral offers and finds postings that they have the information for. The connector contacts the business owners or sales person who posted the referral offer in LeadVine.com.
  • The lister and the connector discuss the details of the potential sales lead.
  • The lister pursues the referral, the sale closes, the sales person / lister gets the sale, and the connector gets the referral fee 

How do you ensure the quality of the leads on the site?

Firstly, we have an eBay style ratings system which people can use to see how useful the lead they have provided have been, or whether or not they are trustworthy to deal with. People can leave comments, so any unreliable users will be quickly picked up.

We also encourage our users to upload their LinkedIn profiles to the site for others to see. These profiles give some useful background. 

Where did the idea for LeadVine come from?

The concept behind LeadVine was started around 2002, after I became tired of unsuccessful cold calling for the accounting temp agency I had started. My business partner, Bobby, got business through contacts who had information about a company who needed accounting help.

We got the job and paid the contact a 20% finders fee. Bobby eventually got more business when he met a contact at a barbeque. Again we got the client and paid a 10% finders fee. 

We found that we were were able to contact the right people who had the right information at the right time. Altogether, we gave out more than $25,000 in finders fees, which was easy money for the contacts.

I did think that there could be a business model behind this but couldn’t think of the specifics to facilitate transactions.Four years later, after the popularity of Web 2.0, I put the business model together and contacted Ben, with the hopes of helping companies easily find qualified sales leads and helping people with information make easy money. 

How is the site funded? 

The site is funded by co-founder Ben Thomas and myself.

How does LeadVine make money?

We currently do not make any money. 

Do you plan to charge for use of the site once you have built up your userbase?

We plan to have the site’s current features free as long as possible. We do not plan on adding a subscription fee, though we might charge for additional features in the future.

How do users profit from their input?

Users of the site can earn referral fees for providing leads, fees range from $50 – $50,000.

How many users / members does LeadVine have at the moment? How many leads have been generated via the site?

Since our launch on August 14 we have over 230 members and over 40 connections. We have generated over $170,000 in leads.

Can you tell me about your background in business?

I’m a CPA from San Francisco and started WageExchange.com before working on LeadVine. Co-founder Ben Thomas is an IT SOX Manager from Louisville, KY. He founded SalaryScout.com, PoliticalCrunch.com, and MacMeter.com.

We started out as competitors. I contacted Ben Thomas about working together to start LeadVine. We learned that they have a lot in common; both of us are Sarbanes Oxley auditors, and we both started a salary website. Ben liked the idea for LeadVine and we quickly became allies rather than competitors. 

How big is the team behind the site?

At the moment, the just Ben and myself.

Is it exclusively US-focused at the moment?

Anyone in the world can use our site. Anyone can list a sales lead need and earn a referral fee.

Related research:

Online Lead Generation (B2C) Report 2008

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Challenge of measuring online lead generation ROI