Former Co-founder and CEO of Quantifye, a marketplace connecting elite business experts with small and medium sized businesses. Deep experience in systems and design thinking, strategic decision and go-to-market strategies. Now addressing growth opportunities at Google. Mentor at Techstars.
Since I've successfully launched a marketplace and if I were to do it all over again, I would take a very methodical approach. My recommendation is the following:
1. Create an Opportunity Assessment. In other words, get your thoughts on paper about the opportunity. Start high-level doing secondary research. Determine your Total Available Market (TAM), your Serviceable Available Market (SAM) and your Service Obtainable Market (SOM). Make some assertions about pain points. Create customer personas.
2. Get out of the building. Talk to 10 prospects about their pain points and validate your assumptions about your customer persona.
3. Build a non-scalable MVP. Building a platform is a lot of work, money and effort. Before you go off to the races, see if you can service 10 customers manually.
4. Service those clients and account for your lessons learned. What did you learn in that process? Were you able to determine where the friction in your marketplace is (supply or demand side)? If you were to build a platform, what kind of prototype would you need to build? What features do your customers need to see?
5. Rinse and repeat with 20 additional customers.
6. Rinse and repeat with an additional 20 customers (total of 50).
If you go this route, I can guarantee you, you'll come out really know your customer and how your product/service needs to be developed. I hope this was helpful.
The best way to determine this is by asking your agents directly. Interview them (either via a survey tool or on the phone) and determine which method THEY would prefer and what THEY would pay for that value (in both scenarios). This will let your decisions be driven by data, while providing you the opportunity to be more precise with your pricing scenarios.
It depends. If your target audience doesn't require too much trust and they are willing to provide that information up front, then yes, ask for a phone number. To find out for sure, do one of the following two things:
*Get 100 (good sample size) sign-ups with email only and conduct a survey. In your survey, ask your audience if they would be willing to provide a phone number during their sign-ups. This way, you'll get it directly from the horse's mouth.
*Conduct a variant A/B testing. Ask for a phone number in your test group and see what the response rate is. The higher the response rate, the better the chances you can get the phone number.
So, start with the objective and work backwards by implementing one of the two aforementioned tactics.
In addition to advertising, the next two that jump right at me are transactional and subscription-based revenue models.
In terms of your second question, I think it's a very intriguing and out of the box thinking model. Marketplaces in general are very challenging to build traction on. Not only do you have to reach the point of liquidity (not to mention tipping) quickly, you have to do it while juggling other areas of your business. My recommendation is to not spend too much time in engineering your platform, you can simply tests out the concept by building some ad pages and see if there is demand. From there, just keep optimizing your funnel to see what's working and what's not.
In concept, I like your business model, but I do see some inherent challenges. Primarily, how do two people in your platform that are looking to barter, agree on equitable terms? If you're not using money as a common form of currency, what will you use in its place? How do you keep yourself from policing transactions when the value perception is intangible?
Because you're building a two-sided marketplace, your question would require validation of your hypothesis from your supply and demand base. Because there is a higher utility value and lower cost of customer acquisition with a subscription model, I would design around that payment model. So ask yourself (and your demand prospects) what subscription services would they value the most (create a list of top 5 to 10 services). Then, determine what just in time services would they value the most (again, creating a list of top 5 to 10). Build your supply based market around both subscription and just in time services. After you've done that, use an escrow payment model for JIT services.
Focus on one niche and find out what your audience values the most. Then, build content around using inbound marketing. Remember, SEO rules have changed. So you can't just take content from another site and republish on yours. You'll actually lose points doing this and your ratings will suffer.
Demand, hands down! Here is how I would do it:
1. Pick a niche service specialty. If you're just starting out, determine which service speciality can get you the most early traction through secondary research. Make sure your basic premise (macro-level thesis) is solid.
2. Create your customer persona
3. Validate that by speaking with 30 prospects (or a statistically significant sample size).
4. Pivot (if need be)
5. Build your supply and create liquidity
6. Generate transactions and ...
I can go on about this, but I'm sure it will be never ending. Happy to talk more about this, if it would help.