In our last blog, we shared many tips and some secrets on building a marketplace. We told you how to come up with a marketplace idea, validate it and fund your business. We also talked about choosing the best of technology to build your marketplace. Today, we will share how to market your marketplace. Sounds exciting? Let’s go.
So, what is marketing?
Well, there is a gamut of definitions, concepts, and misconceptions of marketing. You google a little and you will come across digital marketing, networking, community building, branding, Search Engine Optimisation, Influencer Marketing and what not.
We will not chart that course. Here in this blog, you will receive specific marketing solutions for your marketplace starting with 4 easy steps borrowed from marketing guru Seth Godin. Here they are-
Build an exceptional product: The first step is to invent a thing worth making, a story worth telling, a contribution worth talking about.
Make it a user-friendly solution: The second step is to design and build it in a way that people will actually benefit from and care about.
Prepare your story and spread the word: The third one is the one everyone gets all excited about. This is the step where you tell the story to the right people in the right way.
Be consistent with your efforts: The last step is so often overlooked: The part where you show up, regularly, consistently and generously, for years and years, to organize and lead and build confidence in the change you seek to make.
Enough of theory. Let’s understand the nuances of each factor from its’ core.
**Your product is your biggest marketing hack**
Whenever we come across any successful product, we go gaga over their marketing efforts.
Nike has spent xxxx on their advertisement.
Amazon has again pulled off another marketing success.
And so on and on…
Seldom we try to look back and find out where all this has started. Their damn good product. Take any successful marketplace examples today. All they started with a unique, exceptional, useful solution.
They invented a product, they offered a service worth trying, worth sharing, worth talking about.
People use them, they get benefited, they resolve their biggest problem, they feel happy and they share with their friends. A community gets developed and the product/service reaches out to more people.
Of course, they have put money in branding, worked out with many marketing strategies but they started by building a good product.
In the world of internet, today marketing is not just the copy, content or the social media hacks. Everything is marketing.
Now, your product is one of the greatest marketing hacks.
And when we are saying, your product is marketing. We are not just talking about building a damn good product but also treating customers wisely, help them with your best interest, support and might. Of course, every marketplace has to get new customers. At the same time, you have to focus your energy and resources on helping current vendors and customers get more out of your marketplace they have trusted.
Do you know the hidden hack here?
“If you take care of your product and the existing customers, they will take care of your new customers.”
Bottom line, start your marketplace marketing with your product. Build it with all the efforts, make it exceptional, resolve your target-audience pain and let your product do the major share of marketing.
**Is your marketplace solution user-friendly? **
You can have an exceptional marketplace idea. But, if you don’t make it easy to use for your vendors and customers, then you will have a tough time.
Take Uber for example. Their idea was fantastic and simple. But, product execution is also top-notch.
One who wants to book a ride
One who will drive the cab
Building a user-friendly solution, giving your users the confidence and the ease to resolve their specific solution is one of the challenges of the online marketplace.
As you are building an online marketplace, here how you are enabling the solution is very much important.
Your marketplace has to provide an easy solution to both the vendors and the customers. An easy solution to get their work done at your marketplace.
Vendors must be able to sell their products/services without much trouble. Your marketplace must provide all the solutions to them to create the best online shops inside your marketplace.
Customers too should be rewarded with all the best features to shop without much hassle.
The design may vary based on what you are selling and to whom are you selling. That’s okay. But, your marketplace must be easy to find out the products, service details.
The purchase route should not be cumbersome which means if someone has decided to buy some stuff, they should be given the features to make it happen.
Here is a list of features you must be aware of and make sure your marketplace is covering…
Comfortable and quick check-out pages
Product/Service description pages
Coupons and discounts
Promotional elements like banners and popups
Shipping and payment information
E-commerce shoppers are so fickle, so opinionated and full of options, they can quickly abandon the cart.
Here is a study that shows why people abandon cart other than because they aren’t ready to buy.
35%: Didn’t want to create an account
27%: The checkout process was too long or complicated
24%: Couldn’t see or calculate total order cost up-front
The above are just the tip of the iceberg. More your marketplace is mature, the more you need to create a user-friendly solution.
**Prepare your story and spread the word**
Now we will get into traditional marketing or let’s say widely popular marketing activities.
Building an exceptional product and making it user-friendly is a half baked task if your target audience does not know about this. Here, you have to prepare your story or the messages that will take your online marketplace to them.
To who? Here comes the puzzle. You are a middle man, have built a platform that will help vendors and customers to meet, do business or help each other to get certain things done.
You have to create your message smartly that resonates with both of them and they decide to come to your place. At the same time, your story has to resonate with the listener—tell them something they are waiting to hear and are open to believing.
Something like Airbnb. They have started with “Forget Hotels” in 2007 and quickly changed to
“Book rooms with locals, rather than hotels. Travel Like a Human”
They have kept on changing their messages and until they promise the big words
“Scaling human connection.”
You gotta say, this does sound awesome and triggers many thoughts.
The best thing is that they have supported their well defined and well-crafted message with their marketing content and social media campaigns.
Let’s start with the website which says…
“Book unique places to stay and things to do.”
The message is simple and has a direction. With Airbnb, you can rent a place, stay there. But that’s the half of the story. While staying there, you can also go to places and do things. Now, this is the trigger!
Airbnb has gone further and created social media campaigns to support their “Scaling human connection.” statement.
Let’s have a look.
A beautiful story of one of their hosts, Pat Coldir on the American Independence Day.
Another welcoming post by Airbnb sharing the story of Marko, an Airbnb host and his amazing love for the local community and the guests
A great post reminding the heart-melting message of Airbnb. The message thanks to their hosts and the traveling spirit of the guests also paying tribute to the “Human Connection”.
Hope, by now you have realised what do we mean by “ Prepare your story and spread the word”. Once you prepare your message, you have to keep sharing them.
Often, we get tangled into marketing jargons and gimmicks too much. We start concentrating on SEO, Social Media, Content Marketing, Influencer Marketing, Network Building etc. Maybe you need them, maybe you don’t need all of them together. Maybe just one or two pieces of them can do the magic of them. Maybe you can kick start a new marketing strategy.
But the secret sauce is your story. What are you saying to your audience and how are you saying!
The way Airbnb is doing. They have nailed their marketing messages so well. Now, they have the comfort and the flexibility to play around any social media they prefer.
**Be consistent with your efforts**
This one is easy to explain but tough to execute. Coming with a great product, retaining customers, making them happy, reaching out to the new customers are great, great start.
But, what if sales are a little disappointing and you start to feel the pressure. Will you be able to continue your marketing efforts? Will you be able to show up, regularly, consistently and generously, for years and years and sharing your message and convert attention into sales?
All big players are doing it correctly. Their marketing is a true effort and not some gimmick. They want to build their audience and serve them for long. Do you have the same intention?
If yes, here is a list of some handful strategies after a quick course marketing fundamentals.
**Solving the Chicken and Egg problem of marketplaces**
Most of your marketplace marketing exercise will be applied to resolve this puzzle.
Chicken and Egg problem is the age-old marketplace problem, just like it’s context.
It’s the conventional supply and demand issue. Look, your marketplace needs both the vendors and buyers. Now when you are marketing your marketplace or say, trying to gather more people there, who will you target first? Vendors will not be interested in your marketplace if there are no buyers and also the alternative options
Let’s see how the successful marketplaces have resolved this issue.
Build community— If you can establish a healthy and vibrant community on either side of the equation, you’ll end up with the potential for a great marketplace. A great example here is the Stack Overflow.
It’s a question and answer site for professional and enthusiast programmers. The platform has been embraced by both the parties, the ace programmers and the aspirational ones who are struggling with programming.
Offer Tools — If you can get a lot of people (Vendors) to use your free tools, then you’ll have a highly engaged user-base on one side of the equation. Amazon is known for its vendor friendliness. Their Seller University is a stellar hit among the vendors. Have a look –
Find physical aggregators: There are various aggregators in the real world. You have to be smart enough to find the opportunity to cash them in. College campuses work great for this. Word spreads lightning-fast and student labor is crazy cheap. Do you know dating app Tinder got their first set of users from college and high school circles? They acquired more than 10,000 new users by getting sorority girls and fraternity boys to sign up for the app.
The corporate community is also a great place to start with. Find large office buildings and convince the HR manager that your service is so cool that they should email the entire company about the offering. Now you have a trusted recommendation to try a service and you get free distribution to all employees. You may get onto the field and directly approach them or you can play with Facebook and LinkedIn ads.
Find an enterprise client: It’s an effective shortcut but has to be dedicated effort. Enterprise clients often have lots of money to spend on the demand side. Sweet. A single contract can get you off the ground and running and focusing all your efforts on building the supply side and more product.
Scrape listings: For example, scrape a whole bunch of real estate listings from Craigslist. Then put up a modified version of that listing on your website with a better UX. The problem is you can’t actually connect the supply and demand since you don’t own the supply yet. But you’ll get damn good conversion rates if you say, “Hey supplier, good news. I have a customer for you, you just need to sign up for free here.”
Do you know who has actually done it? Airbnb. They made great use of the Craigslist database and jump-started their marketplace journey with a bang. It’s a famous story. If interested, read here
Focus on geography: This is kind of obvious. See every local marketplace ever. Ola, Alibaba and maybe you are the next.
There are tons of marketplace success stories on cracking the Chicken and Egg puzzle. We have shared some of the basic rules here. They are inspiring and will guide to make a move and found your hack.
And 88% of consumers research products online. This is a massive opportunity to reach out to the audience and convert them. The art of conversion is a big subject and we are leaving that for another day. Today, let’s just focus on some quick SEO tips.
Building an SEO friendly marketplace: SEO is an abbreviation of Search Engine Optimisation. If you are new to this term, here is a no-nonsense explanation.
Today we search on the internet for different purposes. We need information or we want to buy something.
Now whenever we search on the internet, we come across results aka websites. If you have observed your search actions, you don’t go beyond page 1 or page 2. So, the websites which rank on the first page of Google or any other search engines have great advantages to reach out to their target customers and convert them.
The art of talking up your website/ digital storefront against your business-related search queries is called SEO or optimizing search engine for certain dividends.
Without an SEO friendly website, you can’t win the competitive SEO race. Here is a quick look-
Now, the question is what kind of searches are made on Google? If you are banking on Google and ready to practice some Search Engine Hacks or SEO, the searches must be aligned to your business.
We dig some data and found out that 35% of product searches start on Google.
Must be mobile-friendly. According to official Google statements, more than 81% of smartphone users access the Internet on their mobile devices
Your website should load quickly across all devices and browsers.
It has Unique titles and Descriptions for all pages
Well formatted URLs – URLs
It has unique content. Duplicate content is a curse for your marketplace
Includes images that are optimized for search engines
For example, a lot of your SEO success will depend on the product/service title and descriptions. Like, “polo t-shirts” or “running shoes”. Now if you don’t provide spaces and support to your vendors to add those descriptions, it will be tough for you to go further in the SEO game.
Once, your marketplace website is live and you are helping your vendors to make their product descriptions SEO optimized for better results, you can go for bigger success.
Here is a quick framework
Determine what customers are searching for in Google, as related to a problem that you are solving. An example: Cheap hotels for salesmen who are always in travel mode. Maybe your hotels have cost convenient laundry room, free meeting room to host their client, complimentary takeaway breakfast or brunch or anything that helps them. The more ideas you have about your customers, the better your chances of success.
Now some content marketing exercise. Publish an article on how you are solving a particular problem while demonstrating your product as the ideal solution. Maybe you/ your vendors are offering some attractive packages for the salesmen of big companies who are always on the fly.
Promote that article until it begins ranking on Google for the topic. You have to select the keywords that your target audience searches with. If we continue with the given example, it would be “Hotels near Airport” or “Hotel at ……….. (some specific place), “Hotels with takeaway breakfast for your salesmen”. The more you are targeted, the better the chances of results. While promoting, carefully select the channels. If it’s social media, the go-to platform would be LinkedIn and Instagram. But, don’t assume and choose after thorough research whether your audience is there or not.
Receive a perpetual stream of visitors from Google; all of whom may, potentially, become customers after reading about our product. If you can make that happen, enjoy word-of-mouth publicity, as your “educated” customers tell others how your product solved their problems.
Later, rinse and repeat the tactics and keep treating your audience with targeted, well-researched content.
**Afterword and further reading**
So far we have discussed the power of marketing doing in right away, not spamming your audience and building a community. The network effect is massive in the marketplace. If you have started marketing for your marketplace, you should start focusing on building your community rather than just running wild around conversion.
And when your marketplace has really started giving you good results, you would like to apply some growth hacks. Here is a list to start off-