I will be targeting people in my city with Facebook ads and other online marketing services.

If someone from another city finds my website, should I still let them sign up?”

Alex Glenn
Alex Glenn, Founder at Chickenandegg.io (2015-present)

Great question!

Short answer, yes. But… hide them at first.

This is because you want and need to know where to turn next. Whether you offer an invite to join option for users outside your target audience, or allow them to create profiles you simply do not create main navigation links for, or include them in site search, you will benefit greatly from knowing your site is getting a lot of interest from those cities.

The main reasons to hide the user profiles who are not in your target launch or “proof of concept niche” is:

  1. User Experience is better when they only have to search by category or type, and not by location. UX is critical for your test market. You don’t have to have the best site or app, but you have to make it super simple and quick for your users to find what they are there for. The more cities, the more granular you will have to get with your UX design, site structure and landing pages. The point is, removing non-local profiles from the search and display is the way to go.
  2. You can take over localized keywords much easier. You can take this a step further by adding a local exact match keyword in your category page URL so that all of your user profiles show up as “.com/{{city}}-{{state}}-{{service-type}}/{{profile-name}}. This is a great strategy for taking over local search results. Just make sure you are asking your users to create more robust profiles and force them to use your top keywords by requiring a ‘profession’ or ‘service’ selection from a drop-down box.

But again, don’t prevent them from joining, or requesting an invite. If you do not have a valuable enough proposition or exciting PR campaign that encourages users from outside your launch/test market to “request an invite to join”, then you should block them from the funnel and site search (not google search). This will ensure you get the value of having those early adopters for when you enter the market, without affecting UX.


 In a web startup where you are connecting companies and people (Like, for example, Groupon, Kickstarter, Gilt Group, etc), how do you begin?

  • Companies want to see lots of users before they sign
  • Users won’t sign on unless there are participating companies making offers
Alex Glenn

Oh I love this question!

I’ve had a few glasses of wine, so excuse any grammar issues in my response…

So, you have a platform offering localized business services/products to customers, or you have people offering services to local customers.

In either case you need to know – who the F do you bring on first????

Great question.

The short answer is… both.

But, that’s not going to help you one bit.

What I would suggest is this;

  1. Unless you have a billion in the bank, start with a target segment that is capture-able with your pocketbook. This could mean local. This could mean a specific buyer persona… whatever. Just focus on the low-hanging fruit.
  2. Next, decide who in that segment is most “in need.” I mean to say, which side of your target market is struggling to find the best/cheapest/fastest/most of the other? When you find that, it will answer your question. But humor me by following along.
  3. So you have found your niche, and determined which side of the buying decision is most in need of the other. You have your answer. Now comes the tricky part… convincing them to join.

I talk about this on Solving the Chicken and Egg dilemma. in bulk. It’s a situation where you need customers to come back, and users to stay. That’s why they call it a ‘dilemma’.

I’ll give you this; MAKE SURE, UNDER NO OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES, YOU HAVE A ‘HOOK’ BEFORE YOU RECRUIT ANYONE. Meaning, you do not ever try to recruit suppliers based on the incentive of customers they can service or sell to, when you do not have those customers on the platform. This only leads to mass-attrition and a total waste of marketing dollars.

Instead, make sure to have a proper ‘hook’ in place before reaching out to, or marketing towards, your chickens. This can be a simple widget/tool, a bad ass newsletter, an affiliate relationship, or an influencer’s buy-in. But, what it cant’ be is a ‘CLAIM.’

Have something there before the push. That’s the takeaway.


“I love the clarity model, and I am curious how one can replicate this model elsewhere.


I would answer this in short by saying you don’t attract them simultaneously.

To elaborate;

The Chicken and Egg problem is solved (historically) by attracting and retaining the top providers of whatever service first. This, in turn, creates the – “have” to be there or at least submit proposals there, or risk paying more, getting less etc… – notion in the customer’s brain.

As for Clarity specifically, watch this video of Dan Martell (founder of Clarity.fm) telling the story of how they did it:

I have helped launch a few service-to-customer platforms in the last few years. So my related answers and advice are all outlined here:

I’d suggest finding a hook for the experts/service providers first and foremost. Boiling your platform down to a niche is best if you’re strapped for cash. And further pinpointing a localized or network-oriented market is a great strategy. Quora, for example, utilized their founders’ relationships with VC’s in Silicon Valley to gain their influencer early adopters. Thumbtack.com used a creative strategy of creating a tool for their service providers to use (for free) to help them with their craigslist ad posting needs. This added the stickiness they needed to keep those first service providers while they marketed to customers.

Alex Glenn

This is a good opportunity to share something MVP-tools. In other words, tools/saas/platforms/plugins etc… that allow you to launch and scale a marketplace for cheap.

  1. Your platform can begin and get very large running off WordPress now. This was not the case a few years ago. But, with services like WPEngine.com, and new dev teams churning out replicas of some of the largest marketplaces out there (see below), you can build your platform on WordPress. And if you’re not planning on hundreds of thousands of users (staying local and niche), stay on WordPress. This allows you to prove out your concept using cheap development costs, and as you’ll see below, some great looking UI’s:
    1. AirBnB theme (see it in action on our site here)
    2. Freelancer theme (see it in action here)
  2. DO NOT pay an iOS/Android developer to build your app until you are certain that you can (a) afford to keep up with the app store and app user needs (i.e. full-time app dev ops), and (b) know that it will add enough value to your brand to increase users and/or revenue. Instead of building that native app from scratch, spend $500 to have your web app converted to native code and submit to the app stores using gonative.io. I used John Snyder and his service to convert our web app to native code recently, and have never spent $500 better.
  3. For growth, make sure you have your email captures set up, tested, and linked to a nurturing campaign. For platforms that have few customers, hire tickets, and less transactions (i.e. any B2B platform or service-to-customer platform with higher costs) I suggest you use a CRM that allows for tracking and triggered email drip campaigns – AgileCRM is not only cheap (for all it offers), but it allows you to send your drip sequences through your gmail/google apps account so you can save money on and integration time on an ESP that does not give you drip campaigns or out of box solutions. Also, if you add this little snippet of .js to your site, you can get desktop notifications when users open/click your emails AND when they are browsing your site in real time (so long as they are also in your CRM). This is enormously beneficial to your conversion strategy. Your platform may not be quite valuable enough to all users who stop by right now, so get those emails and keep them in your funnel so you can convert them when you have something highly relevant (i.e. providers in their area) to offer. For low-ticket marketplaces or ecommerce, use Clevertap to track events and add triggered drip emails/push/sms + Sendgrid + Twillio (to send the emails and SMS alerts).

I don’t have the energy right now to touch on all of the wonderful growth/conversion tools you can use, so add me on Skype and ask me specifics there if you have follow-up questions: right2revenue

Take Care!

First, let’s clarify who you mean by “customers” – Marketplaces have two customer types. Depending on your business model, you may actually monetize both in different ways. Traditional P2P marketplaces offer a medium where a safe (and sometimes even insured) transaction can take please with ease. In return for providing this platform and intro, you take a share of each the transaction (either flat fee or percentage). So in this case, your “customers” are both user types. You require both parties to make money.

Marketplaces like Thumbtack are getting more creative with the way they charge and turning their suppliers into their customers by charging them a fee to reply to their potential customers quote requests through the platform. In this case, their customers are the service people. But they still require both sides to make their money (a bid solicitation step is necessary).

Regardless of your business model, if you are in fact a “marketplace”, and not the seller or customer yourself, then you will need to retain both user types.

Typical strategies for high retention rates are:

  1. Maintaining the “best” users – don’t let just anyone sell on your platform, vetting all registration attempts, requiring references, implementing review/rating policies (crowd source quality)…
  2. Offer insurance and guarantees – freelance platforms like Fiverr and Upwork do this very well. If you are not satisfied, you are not required to pay (unless you chose an hourly contract on upwork). So, therefore, the small fee to use these platforms, or a slight increase in rate, is worth it. This keeps customers coming back.
  3. Engagement campaigns using relevant retargeting – track what your customers buy, what content they view, who engages with what type of profile tags… using and event data provider like Clevertap and/or CRM like AgileCRM so you can supply relevant messaging back to your users based on what you know they need. A step further would be adding machine learning to the site so you can serve dynamic unique content to each user as they browse (check out boomtrain or getblueshift.com).
  4. Be the largest – If you have the most ______, users will always come back to you before going elsewhere. Have a team constantly recruiting or adding profiles to your platform. Keep your vetting systems in place, and only show the reviewed profiles to cold traffic, but have all of your profiles be searchable on a directory page.

In the end, a niche platform with the most and the best (and a good UX that works on mobile), will gain the search traffic and continue to grow.

Hope this helps.

Categories: Marketplace, Retention
“Eg. Etsy, what will stop buyers from buying directly from the sellers if they already know the sellers either from the details provided by Etsy or in the subsequent transactions.”

It’s very difficult for certain types of platforms (especially localized service professional-to-customer platforms) to accomplish “prevention” of leakage. But it’s doable.

If you are still early in this platform development, I would focus your resources on building out amazing UX and user insurances/guarantees instead of putting time/effort into prevention of T/C’s violators. This will help to ensure it is always in the best interest of the buyers to use your platform as an intermediary instead of even considering going direct.

Here are a few techniques to consider:

  1. Preventing ay connection of buyer and seller (via chat or otherwise) all together – I am exercising this tactic as we speak in our new platform. With very very large-ticket services, there is a lot of temptation for both parties to try and save themselves any margins by working directly with one another outside the platform. So instead of connecting them, use the “project manager” chat window. See Industrial Skilled Labor Pros, On-Demand – FactoryFix.com for a great example of this in action.
  2. Messaging screen crawlers – like the Fiverr example above, you can run these while your users chat with each other and respond to certain keywords like “email” and “payment” with warnings.
  3. Collect your fees from the providers before they even see any potential business (i.e. get connected to a customer) – This is actually a business model, but also works as a leakage-prevention tactic. It was perfected by Thumbtack. They require the service providers to pay a small fee (between $5–$20) to bid on the job. By placing the transaction ahead of the connection, they no longer need to worry about making their money off the top.

If you have any more questions, feel free to add me on Skype (right2revenue). I love discussing marketplace strategies with anyone interested.

Alex Glenn

If you have not yet startup, I would strongly suggest launching as the AirBnB WordPress theme SpotFinder.

I have used this theme to launch directories on sub-directories of my main domain in order to shoot up the SERP, but I have friends who have monetized this theme as is.

The greatest thing about it is, you can run a web scrape of a larger non-niche directory to grab every listing in your niche, then use the bulk-upload theme here to upload thousands of listings at once. It is a pain to format the .csv before upload, but you can either have your scrape set up to pull data in the same format, or you can have a VA format the giant .csv files to work with the bulk upload.

In either case, you can have an enormous niche directory in a matter of days.

I hope this helps.

I’m going to choose to interpret the word choice of “pattern” to mean systems/processes/UX/tech’

“What are the best systems…

“What are the best processes…

“What are the best UX designs…

“What are the best technologies…

…for matching offer and demand on an online marketplace?”

If I’m correct in your intended meaning, and though it is a loaded question, I would answer it like this:

Systems / Processes

Your marketplace marketing strategy creates demand by user demographics and possibly locations. Therefore, you must sync product with that incoming traffic. Platforms like Hired and Thumbtack launch in local markets to ensure they are able to meet the demand of their users because they know what/who that demand will be for. Make sure your product and marketing teams are spending a lot of time together during new market launch initiatives.

UX Design and URL Structure

User experience and SEO will both be crucial in your ability to match demand with your offer. First, set up your platforms’ main categories – products or services your marketplace offers, then regions you offer them. Your landing page URL structure should be: .com/category1/category2/location1/location2product-or-service-name

These will act as entry points for exact match keyword searches (i.e. “apartments for sale in Chicago” = “.com/apartments/2-bedroom/chicago/bucktown/123-fake-street”). This will allow search engines to easily determine what those pages are about, therefore ranking them higher, and allowing your platform to pull in more traffic for the products you are able to offer (not random search terms in areas your users do not service). As you offer more categories, your targeted search terms grow automatically.

As for UX restrictions on platforms unable to service more than one market or demo, you will want your main screen or index page to divert traffic accordingly. This can be done simply by splitting your main page into halves – one half is for the users you can cater to, the other half is for users you do not cater to, but will some day soon”
Left Side: “If you are in the midwest, and seeking a professional, start here!” (search bar or button)
Right Side: If you are outside the midwest, and seeking a professional, click here.” (button)

The right side (the users you cannot help at this point in time) will be sent to a landing page where they will read copy along the lines of “We are excited you’re here, but unfortunately you’re early. We will be expanding to your area soon so leave your email and location below so we can alert you when we expand to your city.” An email capture linked up to your CRM or drip provider can get them an email with ways they can help speed up your expansion to their area, some resource links, and social media pages to like…


In order to keep your offerings in line with demand, you can choose to use technology to keep UX customized. Depending on your budget, I recommend checking out the on-page machine learning and messaging systems of Boomtrain and BlueShift. Their tech will make sure the messages your customers receive, as well as the content they see on the page, matches their usage of your platform. If they continually come back for product/service X, they will see more content about that product/service in their inbox and on your home page each time they visit. This is done by tracking what content they view/click each time they come back, then serving similar content to them dynamically through email and web page sections.

A free event-tracking and messaging platform to check out is Clevertap.com. After an SDK and snippet integration, they will tell you everything your users are doing on your platform, and give you the dashboard to message buckets of users who perform certain events. So every day, you can find the ideal users you want, and message them new offers, content or ways to use your platform to keep them coming back. The event data you will gather will also ensure you make the appropriate product iterations as you scale.

A cheap and robust CRM to look at (if you are targeting B2B and large ticket sales, but do not have a big budget to buy saas) is AgileCRM. For less than $50 a month, you can track your users as they browse your site, open and click your messages, forward your emails… assign contacts to sales people, add tags to contacts as they perform certain actions, set up drip campaigns based on those actions, embed lead capture forms and run nurturing email campaigns to convert those people to users… It’s a great tool for platforms in the B2B space.

That’s about all I have. I hope it was helpful 🙂

 Veronika Stoma

Some possible options for you depending on your budget:

  • $100-$50K Off-the-shelf solution Nice solution to try your idea fast. Con: You don’t get the IP. Fast lead time. No lead time to learn marketplace development as it is already built and you are just using theirs.
  • $50K-200K Offshore MVP Development Low quality but unique. Use it only if your can’t fit your idea in off-the-shelf platform and make sure you get the IP. Ideally you have a separate team do your wireframes to mitigate being taken for a ride. SLOW lead time. 95% of time they will learn about marketplace development on your dime.
  • $200-500K a team of marketplace developers, like Campus On Fire that I work for. The best buy. High quality (AirBnb, WyzAnt, Fiverr, Handy, GrubHub, Getaround, TaskRabbit —YES, we are talking about that level of marketplace), IP & custom development with very fast lead time. Typically 2-3 months which is huge for this kind of build. They only do marketplace development so they are leveraging that knowledge to speed things up.
  • $500K-2M+ USA-based full-time development team The best but most expensive options. Build your own team and keep all know-hows in house. SLOW lead time and you risk not putting together right team. Good chance they will learn marketplace development on your dime.

Focus on building supply first (not demand).

Marketplaces are really tough to start because you need to get traction both on the supply side and the demand side at the exact same time. And that is really hard to do — especially if you have less than $50 million in the bank.

One smart way to build a marketplace is to try to “hack” either the demand or the supply side first (generally, it is easier to hack the supply side). For instance, when Amazon.com started, they got a catalog with most of the top book titles and just put it online. Then, when someone ordered a book, Amazon would order the book from the catalog, get the book, and then re-ship the book to the eventual customer. Of course, this is not the most efficient process in the world but by hacking the supply-side, Amazon became the largest book store overnight.

My last company, LiveRamp, started as a B2B marketplace. We hacked the supply initially by paying for it (even when we did not have demand) initially. It was a big bet that was very risky (and hard to do if the company is not well capitalized). We’re doing something similar at SafeGraph today.

Most people think demand is much more important than supply in marketplaces. While that intuitively makes sense, it is generally wrong. The supply can generate demand just as much as the demand can generate supply — especially in a growing market. And supply can be much easier to hack (or outright pay for).

Category: Launch
 Alex Glenn

Trim the fat, Capture emails, Set up a nurture sequence and feedback loop. Then, start to scale and go get some more money 🙂

One mistake most will make at this exact stage is to add features to their platform they believe their new paying customers will also enjoy using. The reason this is not always a great first response is because adding takes resources and focus away from why those customers bought in the first place.

What should you do?

First. Get rid of the fluff – pages users don’t visit, emails users don’t open or click, forms people never leave their info on… Keep the landing pages that convert, send out more of the types of emails people are clicking, and consider live chat in place of contact forms. One of the best funnels I’ve ever tested started with a simple landing page offering a brief description of the service, next to it was an email only capture form to get started, below that was a row of logos of some involved brands. That’s it. Before you consider what to add, first remove what you know is not helping.

I recommend first setting up tracking for user activity before they join (attribution analytics), and within your platform – where are they spending time before and after the goods/services exchange (event and conversion data). You probably have Google analytics added, but dig deeper into attribution using UTM parameters on all of your inbound links. If you’re using ads, make sure your pixels are set on each page of the conversion funnel.

For event attribution, check out CleverTap – Mobile App Analytics, User Engagement Platform – this requires a simple SDK for mobile and script for web, but it will give you actionable data and event-based messaging (email, sms, push) capabilities to your new audience. And it’s free up to 20M events/mo I believe.
If your platform offers larger-ticket goods/services or SaaS with a longer sales cycle than simple ecommerce, I recommend setting up AgrileCRM – CRM Software, Sales and Marketing Automation – this CRM is cheap, and will allow you to track users as they engage with content in emails or on your site in real time. And set up triggered messaging sequences to get them through your funnels at a higher conversion rate.

Second. Make sure you are capturing emails quickly and efficiently. Your offering has traction, but you aren’t sure about retention yet. You may start to see high dropoff (or low percentages of repeat purchase) and quickly realize the value proposition proposed in site copy does not match what’s delivered. In that case, you may decide to tone down sales copy, and focus the landing pages on building lists of interested potential users while you better the platform or service.

Third. Get a great nurturing sequence into an email drip for those who do leave an email, but do not buy/convert right then. Remember, you have caught these people at some point, but that point may not be the best time for them. They may be a customer soon, but not right now. So you want to have a few-week-long nurturing sequence setup to make sure they remember you when that real need surfaces. The AgileCRM or CleverTap products mentioned above both offer a triggered drip option.

Forth. Setup a feedback loop. You want to know why those initial customers bought, and hopefully gleam some evidence from those who did not. Feedback loops can be crucial at this point to ensure you do not spend resources on activities that do not better your platform for users now (not to imply your changes or additions do not better the platform, only that they are not a priority).

Fifth. Now that you have a well-greased conversion machine, you can pour some gas on your fire, scale your user-base a few X’s, and prove your revenue model outright. Get positive unit economics flowing prove those first users can be replicated with paid traffic that pays for itself.

Sixth. Finally, go get some more money. Although bootstrapping is possible and noble, there are 100 more entrepreneurs like you (some with deeper pockets) just waiting for you to show them it’s possible.

I hope this helped.

Alex Glenn

Boy does this question get asked a lot in my profession… See FAQs for more you may need answers for…

In short, you have the chicken/egg dilemma and the solution is unique to every platform. The two common answers are:

  1. IF you have built a large team and an expensive platform ready to generate and respond to inbound marketing efforts (leads/projects/inquiries/bids etc…), and have inpatient investors or a show run-rate, then you have no choice but to generate business/sales/revenue by leading with your customers.
    1. Create a fast and efficient process for marketing your new business leads to as many “pro’s” as possible to build immediate value for them to consider joining. As an example, if you offer SAT prep for local students, take your customer need requests, and put those everywhere – job boards, social media, craigslist, even email them out to local tutors… with a link to your signup page to “apply now.” Have a slick funnel with auto-responders ready to convert/retain these tutor applicants that click through to apply. Of course you can only hire one, but in the vetting process, you should be able to generate 10+ quality tutor profiles on your platform based off interest in that one job. Rinse and repeat.
    2. I’d also take this a step further and post offers on job boards to join your tutoring service without any specific job in question. These won’t get as much attention as a real live listing, but you can generate signups on an ongoing basis this way.
  2. IF you have a low burn rate, thin team of product and marketing guys, without much pressure to generate revenue now, you have some freedom to double-down on your network-building efforts.
    1. Focus on one area and/or niche (like Martin Jones mentioned). This will allow you to also perfect your funnels and A/B test some messaging.
    2. Consider investing in a simple software/tool that can be used now by your pro’s. Thumbtack generated thousands of professional-signups by creating a tool that helped them save time posting on craigslist. If you can be creative, and develop something that offers value even gets pros to continue coming back to use the tool, you will be able to retain those who do use it while you’re generating the customer users. A simpler option to this is creating excel templates/worksheets used and searched often by the pro’s in your target market, and allowing users to download them free in return for an email. This is easy, and get’s you targeted emails so you can convert them as you have more jobs/customers flowing. Here’s a great example of this tactic being used for a manufacturing platform.

If you have any more questions, feel free to ask me anytime 🙂

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