7 Elements of A Successful Marketplace or Community

7 Elements of A Successful Marketplace or Community

You have a website where people come together. You might not think of it as a community because users don’t interact in forums and discussions, but make no mistake, if you are providing the place for buyers and sellers/renters/etc to come together it is a community.

I’m talking about sites like eBay, Outdoorsy, Airbnb, Inbound.org, Cloudpeeps, Remote.com, Uber, Upwork, and many more dual sided marketplaces. There are hundreds of them, and more are started every day.

I’ve seen several that have the innovation to offer a great marketplace, but fall short and the world loses the opportunity to grow from them.

There are a variety of reasons why this happens so I won’t assume that it is only about how sites work with members. But I’m going to share my experience in hopes it helps founders build more successful platforms.

Offer A Better Outcome Than Any Competitor

You are competing with Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist and virtually anyone can offer anything on these sites for free and reach thousands of others, so you have to offer a better option.

You have to be one of these options:

  • Better
  • Faster
  • Easier
  • Lucrative
  • Effortless
  • Personalized

How does eBay do this? They have millions of users, it feels certain that if I put a popular item on eBay someone will be searching for it, and they will find it. They have the categories and intuitive search that directly connects my product with people who want to buy.

Getting Sellers For Your Market

It is often easier to get sellers than it is to find buyers because they are happy to list on a site where someone else is working to get the ad in front of likely buyers. But this is only when they know the site exists. Additionally, this needs to be very easy, think of how Airbnb made it easy to post listings on Craigslist in addition to having them on Airbnb.

What you can do is find related ads on Facebook and Craigslist and message them to let them know you have buyers on your site. Be sure to follow terms of service when messaging.

Getting Buyers For Your Market

Why would a buyer come to your site? They can easily search for similar items on their favorite sites. So your marketplace needs to offer something better, it needs to have cheaper options, it needs to offer them a discount for trying the market, it needs to have a wider selection, offer protections for the purchase, etc.

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Make Members Feel Important to Real People

This goes beyond a sales call after someone signs up for a software, it goes beyond an automated email saying how happy you are they joined. People want interaction with people.

At Inbound.org people liked me because I responded to their comments, I went out of my way to talk to them and I often asked for their thoughts.

I wasn’t a bot that was fake and made them feel like someone was pretending to care. I was a real person taking a minute of my day to say Hello, I care that you are here and I want you to know that.

How can you do this efficiently? You can hire people for $10 an hour to send personal messages. You can easily set up your company email to work with Groove, and possibly integrate other tools so that there is an efficient way for people to email members and say:

Hello Greg, I just saw that you posted your RV on our site for rent. I noticed you didn’t post many pictures, can I help you with that? I’m available on the site in chat right now to assist…

A Tool To Help- With a tool like Intercom you can easily integrate chat messaging with people and start conversations. Intercom has in-app messaging as well, that will initiate conversations with visitors. If you need help with these, please contact me, I will get you set up.

Nurture Both Sides of the Marketplace

You have to spend time building both sides of the market. You can’t just provide things to buy if you don’t have people who will buy, and you can’t just have people with money and no products to buy.

Marketing/Business efforts need to be split and that can be a new and difficult obstacle for your team. You are doing double the work.

For example: Cloudpeeps is a relatively new site for contractors to get work with cool companies who pay decent rates, etc. As a ‘peep’ I can see 10-15 jobs that are available and I often see marketing efforts for people to join and find work.

I rarely see anything for companies to join or buy a package to offer work. Perhaps they have a sales team for this, but it’s something that needs to be considered to keep the jobs coming in.

Personal experience: When I worked at Inbound the job board needed both jobs listed and people applying. If jobs didn’t get applicants we couldn’t convince them to pay to post for jobs in the future, and if people couldn’t find positions they could apply for, they wouldn’t visit again.

I would seek out companies with job positions on their sites and ask them to add their job to our site (usually for free the first time). Then, I would advertise the position on social media and in email newsletters, as well as seeking out people in our community that were listed as open to opportunities.

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Help People Get Quick Wins

 

We live in a NOW economy, people want results now, they want money now, they don’t want to wait to see what will happen. Basically, they don’t want to take the time to figure out how they can be successful on your site, they just want the success.

They don’t want to wade through onboarding that annoys them, they want a thoughtful wizard that concisely explains what is going on, what it means to them, and what they need to provide.

Make your platform stupid simple to use. Make it easy to understand what’s going on, and constantly test your interface with new users to see what their feedback is.

Chameleon is one option for improving the onboarding experience. They offer an easy-to-use template that allows you to optimize the process.

For example, eBay sometimes offers money for items without making users wait for a sale. This is a great approach to helping people be quickly successful. Image how Upwork could use this to help people who want to hire RIGHT NOW.

In your marketplace, this means helping people sell quickly and helping buyers find items quickly.

For job sites or other communities, it means helping people making connections with new people quickly, such as getting an interview or getting expert advice.

Stay In Touch & Build A Relationship

 

One of the easiest ways to stay in touch is email. And you should definitely use it. But let’s talk about how often your users need to hear from you because a lot of companies go overboard and write EVERY SINGLE DAY when it isn’t necessary.

Certainly, if the person is listing their RV for rent, they don’t need to come back often, and if a family goes on vacation 2x a summer they don’t need weekly emails after renting an RV on Outdoorsy.

Your industry and the customer’s needs should indicate the best schedule for the contact. I recommend 1x a month at the minimum, and weekly at max unless you are offering a course that requires daily notifications.

Again, Intercom has the functionality to see all of your customer-facing messages in one platform. Consider using their service for a full view of your messaging efforts.

For marketplaces, here are some ideas for messaging both sides of the market.

Emails for Marketplace Sellers:

  • Tips for Selling: How to take better pictures, How to write the best descriptions.
  • Tips for managing rentals of vehicles, RVs, home, rooms: Adding amenities, Buying products in bulk for stock, Getting someone to clean in between rentals.
  • Tips for pricing their rentals: What the average charge is per room or sleeping/seating space in a vehicle in their area, What the average charge is for the age of the home, vehicle.
  • Tips for getting reviews: Sending follow up emails, leaving notes at the residence, being available for communication.

Emails for Marketplace Buyers:

  • Seasonal Vacations: It’s summer here are the hottest destinations, Spring break reservations, Offseason destinations. Winter vacations.
  • Saving for vacations, where to take kids on vacation, where you can take pets on vacation.
  • Camping with kids, seniors, or pets.
  • Promotions for off season sales.

For job sites, here are a few ideas that will help with messaging your users:

Companies who post jobs:

  • Tips for going through applications
  • Underused features on your platform
  • Tips for hiring local or remote
  • Ways to lower turnover
  • How to improve onboarding
  • How recruiters can help
  • Other places to promote job ads

Applicants applying for jobs:

  • Similar positions just posted
  • Lists of other job boards
  • Free dashboard to see all applications through your platform
  • Jobs in your area that are open
  • Remote jobs all over the country in an industry
  • Articles about how to write cover letters
  • Articles for better interviewing

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More than anything, your members are the most important part of your marketplace. Listen to them, make them feel important, make them feel heard, and do your best to make them successful. If you need help, send me a message http://mary-green.com/start

29 Actionable Startup Marketing Lessons From Drift

29 Actionable Startup Marketing Lessons From Drift

Drift, the site sales messaging tool, is everywhere. They are kicking ass in SaaS marketing their product, and their chat boxes pop up on a vast majority of the saas sites I visit.

So, today I’m taking a look at their marketing to see what we can all learn from their approach.

I’ll be honest, from the get go I’m expecting it to be top-notch. David and Dave know what they are doing and at least one of them worked at HubSpot, who is also fantastic with marketing.

Let’s dig in…

SaaS Marketing Lessons From The Drift Website

I’m not at all surprised to see how much I like their website. While researching for this post this was my first visit, so I got the full first-time awe.

1. Using a simple and clean design gives visitors a more enjoyable experience.

Customers can easily get to the point of what Drift does for them without worrying about ‘pretty’ design options getting in their way.

 

2. Using a benefit driven headline helps readers identify what’s in it for them.

I cannot stress how much I love this, I write about doing this in several of my posts. The headline means is massively important.

 

3. A supportive subheadline should be indicative of what the software does.

This is another example of what I try to tell companies. I did wonder after reading the subheadline what Drift’s secret sauce is. There are so many messaging tools, what makes theirs better? I think it would be worth it to get that answered in the subhead, but if they are doing things right they’ve already tested this.

4. Start gathering leads immediately.

“Let’s Go” Finally a CTA that isn’t “Sign Up, Register, Submit”. The email field is nice and simple, with a green CTA that draws attention, wonderful job here. I wonder if they’ve used “Start Selling” as their sign up CTA in testing.

5. Calming signup fears before they are an issue. 

“Free Forever. Set up in minutes. No cc required.” They just took care of all of my objections in 3 super short sentences. Why wouldn’t I sign up?

6. Show people what they are buying.

Normally I encourage companies to show a screenshot of their product but Drift does even better with an actual conversation with their tool.

This image shows Drift engaging customers, which is amazingly powerful. So few SaaS tools have actually been able to portray the success of using their tool. This picture is perfect. I’d be amazed if they didn’t put a ton of thought into this image.

7. Show off your popularity with social proof.

“Powering Millions of Messages for Over 10k Businesses”- That statement quickly says people trust and depend on Drift to help them succeed, you can too.

8. Use social proof people can recognize.

These are companies that Drift customers recognize, an important part of using social proof, if I don’t recognize the companies you brag about using your software it virtually does nothing for your brand.

9. Use benefit-driven headlines throughout your entire site. 

Almost all headlines on the site are benefit driven because they wrote the copy for the prospect. This is a perfect example of what I say in my teardown/analysis of product marketing, it isn’t about what you want to say to users, it’s about what they need/want to hear.

10. Show more visual evidence. 

The images throughout the rest of the homepage help you envision what it’s like to use Drift, and how easy and effective it can be.

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11. Restate your Calls To Action.

 

 

The last section on the homepage invites you again to get started. “Let’s Go”. It’s important to make it super simple of your visitors to take action. Restate your call to action every 3-4 sections, simply having it in the navigation isn’t enough.

 

12. Use simple navigation options.

 

With few options in navigation, eaders can easily find their destination. Simple language makes it even easier for people to use the site, double win!

 

  • Features
  • Pricing
  • Blog
  • Learn
  • Sign In

13. How to Write A Great Feature Page

 

 

I’m used to feature pages packed with features and conveniently forgetting to continue using copywriting and conversion practices, but not at Drift, of course.

 

Right at the top of the features Bot page, they explain with a subhead what Driftbot is all about. Then again, they hit you with the email field to get started, brilliant.

 

Again you see copy and imagery that makes it easy to want to sign up. They’ve left no opportunity untouched. The images show you exactly what can be done, and make you want to play with it. Their conversion rates must be high.

 

14. How to write a pricing page

 

 

When I got to the pricing page I was so happy to see a headline other than “Pricing”. “Find a plan that’s right for you.” Perfect. Then another description/subheadline that motivates you to take action- Choose a plan.

 

There is an easy option to choose annual or monthly billing although once you’ve clicked there is no real indication of what length of plan you are looking at. I’d prefer to see paid annually under the two prices when I’m on the annual option.

 

I love that they remembered to add more social proof on the pricing page.

 

 

I did find it odd that the Team column says “Contact us”, then “Upgrade Now” underneath. But, this could just be a fluke.

 

15. Adding FAQ’s Helps Pricing Pages

 

 

In addition to the well designed and written price prage, they include FAQ’s underneath the pricing. This is something I’ve seen more companies doing and I love it. It helps take care of any questions or concerns and makes it super easy to sign up.

 

16. Blogging still works.

 

 

 

 

It’s common for startups to have a blog to share news of their features, and other important information from the company. Drift goes even further though adding content that educates the startup world. Everything they are doing in their company can be turned into content, and because they are willing to share it, companies are eating it up.

 

There are several posts on the site that are specifically written to help other startups. From describing the publishing of their book, to the new Drift brand book, they deliver quality.

 

17. How Important It Is For the CEO to Play A Role in Marketing the Company.

 

Another aspect of their marketing that I really enjoy is the close relationship the CEO plays with the marketing team. You can tell he takes marketing seriously and is willing to make contributions through the book, the blog, the podcast, and more. He can clearly see the connection between being active in SaaS marketing and the success of the startup.

 

18. Self-publishing

 

 

Writing a book is a great way to showcase your expertise. And, since they wrote about a topic that is so popular this book will probably give back to the company for years to come. What’s great is that in addition to writing a book, they use a post to teach you all about what they learned in self-publishing it.

 

19. Share the importance of your employees.

 

 

By showing how much your company values employees and welcomes them, you build loyalty and a long list of possible people to hire from. Customers think “if they value their employees, they’ll value their customers.”

 

Another time I saw Drift taking public notice of their employees was when someone posted on Linkedin asking “Who are some of the best demand marketers?” And, David Cancel tagged in Dave Gerhardt (the CEO took notice of the CMO).

 

20. Being socially active can be good for your business. 

Don’t say you can’t help your business grow from social media. These guys are all over Twitter and LinkedIn, as themselves, David and Dave, and as the company itself. They tweet, respond, converse, reply to retweets, etc. They truly understand the exponential affect of things that don’t scale.

 

21. Startup people love podcasts. 

I’m not a podcast listener, but you can’t ignore how many people are talking about this podcast, and the vast amount of information they share. Drift is showing us all, even in a crowded space you can stand out. 

22. Interviewing guests brings on more exposure… 

Through the podcast, whenever Drift interviews someone new they are setting up another opportunity for exposure. Since they have so many listeners guests want to appear, and many probably share the experience with their followers giving Drift exposure to new sets of followers, and helping them grow their listening and email lists even more.

23. When you add new features, market them.

For SaaS companies, the road to product success is never ending. Drift seems to constantly be working on new features, like Driftbot. When you have a new tool or feature, you have more to value to offer. Each time you release a new feature like this, work out a marketing plan for it.

24. Guest blogging and appearance still work. 

Look at blog posts in the industry, other podcasts, interview opportunities, they are on new sites, shows, and blogs regularly. That exposure gives right back to their company.

This just reminds us that we shouldn’t over-analyze what any one opportunity will do for you. Just keep giving to the people you are trying to help, and success will come of it. Each piece of their SaaS marketing plan adds a piece to the puzzle, and over time the picture all comes together.

25. Have a personality, already. 

When you talk to anyone that represents Drift you’ll notice one thing: It’s a real person. When Dave G responds to a tweet, he simply chats. When you finally sign up for Drift, you get simple emails from Dave G welcoming you, and asking you to have a conversation with him. Anyone I’ve talked to there is personable, approachable, and wants to build relationships.

26. There is money in the list. 

In addition to all of the content marketing they are doing, they also have an email newsletter. We all know, the money is in the list, this may or may not be why they are doing it, but if you pay attention to social media, people like this newsletter and have a lot to say about it.

27. How to use testimonials intelligently.

Sprinkled throughout Drift’s marketing you’ll find testimonials and quotes from clients. These are used in retweets and on the site. It’s a simple way to show off how much people like a product without sounding boastful. People are far more likely to listen to a recommendation from someone else than to the company trying to sell them something, use your testimonials wisely.

28. Making Videos People Love to Watch

In all honesty, they probably learned a lot about making fun videos by watching Rand at Moz, but that doesn’t mean they don’t pull them off nicely. As part of their content marketing strategy Drift includes videos, and in the one screenshot above they are discussing the Lead Response Survey they ran, lots of great information.

29. Onboarding & Retention

As you can see in the bottom right corner of my screen I signed up for Drift. I wanted to see how easy it was to use, and figured why not since it’s free to start with? It really was incredibly easy to use, and to set up with Slack (still free). I actually enjoyed the emails I received from Dave welcoming me to Drift, they were short, simple, and looked like personal messages.

I want to thank Drift for being such a great example of SaaS marketing. I hope people learn a lot from watching them. If you enjoyed this teardown/analysis of their marketing get my conversion and homepage checklists by signing up for my newsletter, or contact me to get a teardown for your company.

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Choosing Marketing Activities for Your Startup

Choosing Marketing Activities for Your Startup

Have your startup been focused on sales? Is it time to jump into marketing, but you aren’t sure where to start? This post is for you…

How Do I Begin Marketing My Startup?

Secretly, for most companies, the answer is this: The founder(s) liked something they’ve seen elsewhere, or a competitor is beating them in a specific activity.

Few companies make this decision based on research, or any variables we will discuss below.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve met multiple companies who want to be the HubSpot of Cold Emailing, Big Data, Remote Work and more.

Instead, companies should base their marketing journey on the following variables.

Budget- It’s foolish to consider a plan without a budget. You simply must know how much you can spend in time or money, from the beginning.

Budget Considerations

  • Entire department allocation
  • Project number of team members and their costs
  • Tools & technologies needed
  • All expenditures you may incur

Write a Budget Estimate for Each Marketing Activity

There are two ways to do this. Take your entire budget allocation and start subtracting the most important expenses, and with the remainder choose activities based expected cost. OR add your expected costs together, while keeping your total budget in mind.

Timeline- How quickly do you need results?

Pay Per Click (Adwords, Facebook Ads) return results quickly, so adjustments can be made, and results scaled, while content and SEO take months to see results.

Talent- Who will work on your campaigns?

Do you already have team members who will contribute? Some CEOs create their own content, and happen to be very successful with it, like Steli Efti, Alex Turnbull, or Neil Patel.

With no in-house help, you’ll have to hire or outsource. Keep costs in mind, including posting the position, interviewing (it takes your time), on-boarding, and of course, replacing if necessary.

Market- What do you know about your potential buyers?

You want to know who exactly you are targeting, how much it costs to do that on different platforms, and how difficult it is to break into that market.

Check into prices for PPC, Facebook Ads, newsletter promotions, etc. Then check for content saturation, and the proposed difficulty of search keywords.

With those three things in mind, start considering the following activities or avenues of marketing.

Earned Media

Email marketing– Often combined with another activities email should always be a part of marketing’s role. Email can be costly to build a list, but with proper nurturing the list should provide ROI for years to come.

  • Talent level- average
  • Time investment- average
  • Cost investment- medium
  • ROI timeline- average

Social media– Considered free, social media is time intensive, but can deliver ROI if properly used for immediate traffic, research, and networking.

  • Talent level- average
  • Time investment- high
  • Cost investment- low
  • ROI timeline- varies but can be immediate

Content, Content, Content

Content marketing– will require thousands upfront for a complete system of blog posts, landing pages, downloads, emails, and content promotion.

Though blogging could be started on a shoestring budget, some assets need to already exist (landing pages, emails, etc).

Keep in mind that a content marketer for a full-time position will cost close to $100k for the first year with benefits, taxes, signing bonus, etc. If only one person is hired for all of the work of a content marketing system, it will take months to get everything in place, and then months to see a return (3–6).

  • Talent level- high
  • Time investment- extensive
  • Cost investment- low
  • ROI timeline- long

Blogging– If you don’t go with a full content marketing system, and you only work on blogging, your budget can be much lower, especially if someone on the existing team is doing the writing.

Consistency is an absolute must here, you will need content promotion, this is where earned media pays off.

As an aside, I charge $300 or $.25 per word for blog posts that are outsourced to me, so keep in mind the outsourcing budget when blogging.

  • Talent level- average
  • Time investment- high
  • Cost investment- low
  • ROI timeline- long

Search and Google

Search engine marketing– Adwords is still effective, if you have the budget to court your market. It can be an expensive investment though, even when it does return on investment quickly. To further your return be sure to collect email addresses, and nurture leads.

  • Talent level- expert
  • Time investment- average
  • Cost investment- very high
  • ROI timeline- immediate

Search optimization– search traffic from Google is often considered the top converting traffic. But, it is also some of the most difficult traffic to get. It can take months to start seeing a return from SEO investments, even with an expert on the team.

  • Talent level- expert
  • Time investment- high
  • Cost investment- low (except for time)
  • ROI timeline- long

Facebook advertising– A great selection because of the preciseness of targeting for demographics.

Facebook gives you complete control over showing your ad. At the same time though, it’s important to have additional tactics in place, to get the highest ROI possible (namely email).

  • Talent level- average
  • Time investment- very low
  • Cost investment- high
  • ROI timeline- immediate

Events– Another way to get leads and network with your industry is events.

Relationships can lead to life long business partnerships, streams of revenue, and referrals. On the other hand, events are very expensive (a write off) and require an impressive follow up system to reap the rewards.

  • Talent level- average
  • Time investment- low if you are not hosting
  • Cost investment- very high
  • ROI timeline- fast

Considerations for Every Marketing Budget

Measure Everything– you need analytics, metrics, and stats to know how well campaigns perform. Your marketing budget must include the tools, talent, and reporting time to show your team and the rest of the company.

Optimize for Growth– even if you start with all best practices, you’ll need to experiment to see if they work best for your startup. Include resources to make testing a part of your marketing plan, it will serve to improve ROI.

Go Mobile– our ever evolving world is using more mobile devices to access the Internet, and your company needs to deliver to these people too. This could mean responsive websites, mobile apps, or web apps. It also means a lot of cost.

Design for Users– an interface that is designed to help users reach success with your product is a foundational piece of your marketing plans. Word of mouth is still one of the most effective types of marketing today.

Branding/ Message– every person on your team should understand the message, mission, and image your brand wants to portray. Every marketing decision should reflect these branding elements.

Automation– tools like Zapier and HubSpot are moving marketing and entire businesses further ahead in productivity than any point in history. Continuously consider the opportunities available, and implement where you can.

Outsourcing– it’s rare to find a company that doesn’t need to outsource for some tasks, and it makes sense.

Outsourcing to experts helps cut costs by allowing you to pay for the work only, no on-boarding, benefits, lost time, etc. Until you can justify the costs of a full-time employee, use outsourcing for tasks like design, copy, etc.

Be Flexible & Stay Organized

Once you’ve considered all of your options, put together a few marketing plans that fit your budget. Make decisions based on research, talent, and affordability, not because you like what someone else is doing.

For what it’s worth, many startups begin with sales, move to Facebook ads for quick results, and then to content, for longer returns and results.

Disclaimer– This post is written based on my experience working with growth teams, in marketing positions, and as a freelancer for startups and SaaS companies. Hope it helps.