How Needls Plans to Help Small Businesses Find Sales Leads

Toronto service uses social media to connect users to customers with purchase intent

Written by Joe Castaldo

Social media networks can provide untold numbers of sales leads for you company, but finding, organizing, and acting on these opportunities can be difficult. That’s where Needls comes in. Founded last year, the Toronto-based firm uses its machine-learning technology to scour Facebook and Twitter and identify potential customers for small businesses.

Co-founder and CEO Justin Hartzman explains how Needls can bring in customers, and not creep them out. How does your technology work?

Justin Hartzman: Through Facebook and Twitter, we’re watching everything that happens in the public sphere and finding things that indicate an intent to purchase. An example would be someone writing on Twitter, “My toilet is plugged, can anyone recommend a plumber?” We connect people with an intent to buy with our customer, who are small businesses.

So small businesses will be tweeting and Facebook-ing people, unsolicited?

We know through our Facebook and Twitter data, for example, that last night between 3 and 5 am, there were 21 males aged 21€“29 years old who were locked out of their homes in downtown Toronto. So if you’re a locksmith client of ours, those tweets would be delivered to you automatically through email or through a text message. You would get their handle and their tweet, and we direct our clients to respond directly through Twitter, or whatever social network the person is using. Nobody wants to get a phone call at 3 am from saying, “Hi, I’m a locksmith.” It just seems a little bit weird.

I can see this working on Twitter. But on Facebook it might seem intrusive or even creepy.

We’ve done things to eliminate that. We don’t automate a message on a customer’s behalf. This has to be a human-to-human action. It’s about building relationships, and we teach our customers about how to do that. On Facebook, where it might some more intrusive, if you were to post a message on your wall saying you need help with something right now, we don’t deliver that as a lead. You would have to put it into the Forest Hill Dad’s Group or something like that. We monitor specific groups where people are reaching out and asking something, where they’re expecting a reply. So in general, we search fan pages, business pages, and your competitors’ pages.

Why are you focusing on small businesses?

There’s a huge gap in the market for tools that fit a small business’s needs. At the end of they day, there’s 40 million plus small businesses on Facebook and Twitter, and the tools out there for them are too expensive or too complicated, and don’t fit their work style. That being said, we also have an enterprise-level solution. We have a white label version of our product for agencies of any size. So their client might be Volkswagen, and they can find them leads with our technology.

What else are you working on?

Our customers are saying they also want to be pro-active in getting customers. And we have this really good data, so why don’t we do internet advertising as well?

We’ve made a five-question form for clients to fill out, and we allow them to upload pictures. From that, we can produce a thousand different ad variations and do all the optimization for them. There’s no other solution for small business that optimizes while considering purchase intent, which is the data that we have. So that information about males being locked out of their homes–that’s awesome advertising information. As a locksmith, it’s better advertise between 3 and 5 am to males, because they’re looking for your product.

What do you think of Hartzman’s plans for Needls? Share your (constructive) thoughts and feedback in the comments below.


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