My Top 5 Prospecting Apps for the Lean Start-Up


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As a start-up, we at Akita are always looking for ways to game/hack standard processes to minimize cost and maximize results. Below I list and describe five cheap or free services we utilize and you might find useful in identifying, researching and managing potential customers

Builtwith (Paid)

The first app we need is one that will identify companies using the applications, or combinations of applications, that we integrate with. We are looking for companies that use the likes of Salesforce, Zendesk, Google Apps, Intercom, Microsoft Dynamics, Xero, Mailchimp, etc.

BuiltWith allows you to see what technologies a company are using, so long as those technologies are connected to that company’s website. This allows us to run and export a report of all companies using specific technologies. We can then target our messaging to companies we know we can add significant value to. Importantly, you can also create lists of your competitors customers!

So why go with Builtwith and not another similar service like Datanyze? Well, cost. We’re in bootstrapping mode, so although Datanyze is a great tool, you need to commit to a minimum annual contract of $12,000. With Builtwith you could sign up for a premium account for $300 per month, extract the data you need and cancel at the end of month one.

LinkedIn (Free/Paid)

Now that we know the companies we want to target, we need to narrow our focus to decision makers. LinkedIn is the obvious tool for this job. If you are working in business development this is one of the main weapons in your armoury – be an expert in it!

Do you need a premium LinkedIn account? The answer isn’t automatically “yes”. The savvy bootstrapper will probably be able to get by without spending the €500+ per year if requires.

You may be forced to upgrade if you run a significant number of searches (once you hit LinkedIn’s “commercial usage” thresholds for search (60 and 100 searches per month), they will limit your searching for the rest of that month). However, if you know your Ideal Client Profile then you should set up laser targeted “advanced” searches, save them and you will receive weekly alerts with new leads, which should prevent you breaching limits.
Which license should you get if you do have to upgrade?

I’m not sold on “Sales Navigator” (€708 p.a.) yet. It’s expensive and actually has some restrictions that the free profile and other premiums don’t have:

You can’t see and send free messages to shared group members from searches,
and you don’t have full access to introductions.
Finally, implementing the “Sales Navigator” would add an additional tool and step to a growing prospecting stack. At Akita, we’re not ready to take the leap.

With the recent changes made to the LinkedIn profile, really you’re best off to either use the Free profile or add the Sales Navigator tool. The premium profiles don’t have enough value any more.

IPFingerprint (Paid)

We love warm leads. If we could have a list of the names of all of the people visiting our website, wouldn’t that be great. Luckily, there are ways of finding out some of this visitor information.

You can invest in re-targeting campaigns with Google or AdRoll, but costs can stack up. What I want is some insight into the identity of our visitors, so a reverse IP lookup service is invaluable. These platforms track everyone that visits your site and if the IP address for a specific company is recognized, they provide you with the details. Bingo! A warm lead.

As with Builtwith above, IPFingerprint provide a great service without having to sign up to a 12 month contract (unlike their competitors e.g. LeadForensics). It’s comes with a lower monthly price (from ~£120 ). If you don’t see the value, close your account at the end of month one or the two-week free trial.

Mailtester (Free)

I am a fan of LinkedIn but I’m still convinced email is better for a cold introduction than a LinkedIn message. But how do we find correct email addresses?

There are plenty of services that purport to automatically source a person’s email address once you have their LinkedIn profile open. e.g. Free Chrome extensions like Connectifier and Prophet or expensive prospecting tools like Salesloft or Datanyse. The results from the free apps are a bit patchy but I do use Connectifier sometimes.

My favourite though, is a free app with a very old school UI: You may need to try a few combinations before you get a positive result, but it works really well. Sometimes your prospect’s email server won’t let you validate the email address, in that case perhaps add another app, Rapportive, to your email client. Rapportive will validate any email addresses that have been used to set up social profiles.

Salesforce (Paid)

Yes, I know, these guys are the big beast of the CRM world. How can this be an app a bootstrapping start-up would use? In my humble opinion it is a false economy choosing a cheap CRM and having to migrate to Salesforce at a later stage. (And if you’re asking the question, you definitely need a CRM).

Putting a huge effort into lead generation only to lose track of your opportunities is reckless at best.

Salesforce is the best platform on the market but you don’t need to invest in their premium accounts to get the kind of value you need as a start-up. You can purchase up to 10 licenses of Salesforce “Group Edition” (Now called ‘SalesforceIQ CRM Starter’) before you are required to upgrade to the more expensive ‘Lightening Professional’ Edition (€70 per user per month). ‘SalesforceIQ CRM Starter’ will give you everything you need to manage your data, reporting, activities and sales pipeline for €27 per user per month. As an added bonus, Group Edition integrates perfectly with Akita!

As your prospecting efforts grow, you will need to standardize and invest more heavily in your business development tools, but for now, it’s about being smart and maybe a little cheap!

Barry Devon
Barry has always embraced new technology in the search for better results, both personally and for his clients. His career has developed in parallel with the evolution in computing, from 'on-premise' with Microsoft through the development of cloud computing with and into Social Media with LinkedIn. He is Co-Founder and Head of Customer Acquisition with Customer Success platform, Akita, as well as running social selling consultancy, Devon Consult.


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