What is the best advice for someone who is just starting an online marketplace?

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 drop-off (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. Set up a feedback loop. You want to know why those initial customers bought and hopefully glean 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.

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