After the 2008 financial crisis brought his brief stint as a loan officer to a halt, Chris Smitley pivoted to a new role as a sales manager for a debt consolidation company in Florida. The transition turned out to be an important steppingstone, because it wasn’t long before the need to keep nearly 50 account executives busy with well-qualified leads revealed his true talent — lead generation.
Smitley’s entrepreneurial career took off when he started ClickSmart® in 2011. Initially, the company was primarily focused on its own internal lead-gen efforts, and Smitley’s background as a sales manager made selling qualified leads to buyers at local small businesses a great fit. As his experience grew, volume increased, and those small business clients made way for larger companies (some of them publicly traded) with insatiable appetites for leads.
To make sure tens of thousands of leads wound up in the hands of the most interested buyers, Smitley and ClickSmart® needed a trusted, easy-to-use lead distribution platform with the right mix of features and value. Despite a plethora of options on the market, that combination turned out to be a tall ask. “We had another lead database management system, but it really didn’t have all of the capabilities we needed. Other options were more like Ferraris — expensive, complicated to use, and oftentimes bloated with things you’ll almost never use. We really needed something more like a Lexus or Mercedes Benz — reliable, inexpensive compared to a Ferrari, and it just gets the job done. After looking around at a bunch of other options, a friend recommended Lead Prosper without hesitation. The day we did the demo with Ross and Raul, we quickly signed up.”
Reaching the Platform Pinnacle
What’s life been like with Lead Prosper? “Anything we throw at them, they handle it. They’re always on Skype, which means anytime you have a question, you have an answer a few minutes or sometimes seconds later. There’s no 1-800 number where you have to wait on hold for someone who has no idea how to help you beyond password resets or the most simple tasks. With Lead Prosper, on the other hand, no matter how complicated your situation is, they fix the problem immediately. They’re also willing to get on the phone or a Zoom call if they can’t do it via chat, no matter what time of day. If they are available, your issue is almost always getting resolved immediately, at the very latest the next day. If you have a feature you want to add, they listen, and if it’s something that makes sense, it’s going on their roadmap.”
Smitley knows how much hard work it takes to start a company. Building a successful product is itself a battle but delivering it with top-notch customer service is even more difficult. “It’s very rare in this business to have an experience like we have. I’ve been an entrepreneur in the sales and marketing business for going on 20 years now, so I’ve used and learned my way around hundreds of SaaS platforms. To come across fellow entrepreneurs who have put together such a polished early-stage product that works as well as it does while they’re always eagerly available — that’s rare these days, you’ve got to respect it.”
Keeping the ClickSmart® Machine Humming
ClickSmart® is largely focused on the mortgage refi space, and low interest rates have kept the company incredibly busy. When he started the business, Smitley recalls that 5-6% would’ve been a great rate for a borrower. With current rates hovering at half that or even less, it’s a great time for lenders to be buying leads. ClickSmart® has grown revenue for some of its list management clients by 5-10x in the last 12 months alone, and the company’s own growth shows no signs of slowing down.
Moving forward, Smitley has big plans for ClickSmart®. In particular, he’s built a machine learning tool that maximizes the efficiency of the lead monetization process. By looking at metrics including EPC, open rates, and short-term trends, the algorithm can help decide which marketing strategy makes the most sense for each lead. The tool is in the early stages, and while the first goal is a polished proof of concept for internal use, ClickSmart® may someday look to license the resource to agencies. No matter what Smitley and ClickSmart® unveil, the team at Lead Prosper is looking forward to supporting them with their endeavors in any way they can.