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:
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.
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.
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
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 https://mary-green.com/start