Use These 9 Growth Hacks for Your Online Marketplace

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Written by Houston Golden
Founder & CEO, BAMF Media

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Want to create the next Uber?
How about the next Airbnb?
If you're in love with online marketplaces, then you're in luck.
As the former head of growth for one, I've learned most marketplaces work similarly in regards to ad copy, landing pages, personalization, and data.
To give you get a head start, here are nine tips that helped scale our marketplace from zero to over a million dollars ARR:

1. Use a Personalized Landing Page for Each City

If you're running ads, then personalization is key. If you're running ads to a city that means showing pictures of the city and mentioning the name multiple times. That's exactly what we did here.
We have a famous picture of Venice Beach in the background and mention "LA" or "Los Angeles" twice.
, Use These 9 Growth Hacks for Your Online Marketplace
We make sure to darken the background so people can focus on the call-to-action. This personalized landing page converts 11X better than the one that's not. Powerful.

2. Use Software to Personalize Your Website

What about the rest of your website?
How do you personalize it for different audiences? You can't show the same page to people in Chicago as you would San Francisco. That'd hurt your conversion rates.
The good news is you can personalize your website for the different cities based on the visitor's IP address. Many tools help you do this. Two renowned tools include Geo Targetly and RightMessage which can personalize any page based on your visitor's location.

3. Use the City Name and Picture in Your Ads

You want to keep all your paid media streamlined with the look and feel of your landing page. So if your landing page and homepage focus on Los Angeles, then make sure your ads have a picture of the city and the words "LA" or "Los Angeles." Ideally, you can throw in some humor as well. For example, this ad says "You won't find models here." Perfect humor for startup entrepreneurs.
, Use These 9 Growth Hacks for Your Online Marketplace
When driving traffic from paid ads targeting a hyper-local area, it's important to broaden your audience size. After all, the audience you're now marketing to will be much smaller than if you were targeting nationwide. If the audience is too small, you'll experience a high cost-per-click and cost-per-lead. To mitigate the cost, aim to keep your audience 40,000 people per a city.

4. Have a Strong Referral Program

Below is a referral program we implemented for our client, GirlCrew. It's critical to have a referral program present throughout the pages after the prospect becomes a lead. The reason is that marketplaces are community-based and referral programs work better when a community is one of the benefits of joining.
, Use These 9 Growth Hacks for Your Online Marketplace
It's important to make the rewards as clear as possible. In the picture above, you can see all the rewards and even get your referral link in the first fold. This means the visitor doesn't have to scroll in order to find out why they should be referring people. As a result, rather than losing a quarter of your traffic that won't scroll down to see the referral offer, they'll now see it.

5. Use Scarcity to Drive Acquisition

Scarcity offers drive more action when the benefit is community-based. Perfect for marketplaces.
A couple examples:
"Last five seats to join the community."
"We only accept 1/10 people."
There becomes a huge amount of FOMO.
Lines like the ones above drive action.
Play up scarcity in most of your copy to push people through your marketplace funnel.
Few marketplaces do this, but it makes a world of difference.

6. Have Several Traction Channels Before You Expand Cities

The number one killer of marketplaces is expanding to more cities too fast.
Resources become thin and each city is growing at snail's pace. Then a couple of traction channels stop working...and it's all over. If you're growing a marketplace, you need more than paid acquisition.
Smart marketplaces put an emphasis on other channels such as Instagram. When I was the head of growth for UpOut, I created an entirely automated Instagram strategy to drive us an additional $200K ARR for each city we were in.

, Use These 9 Growth Hacks for Your Online Marketplace

You can also try cold email.
One of my favorite tools for cold email is called Mailshake.

, Use These 9 Growth Hacks for Your Online Marketplace

It sends email at scale from Gmail accounts.
It has sequences, great opt-out functionality, syncs with Zapier, and much more.
The idea here is to test many avenues, then scale the ones that work.

7. Don't Be Afraid of Content Marketing

Founders of marketplaces get scared when they hear the words "Content Marketing."
To them, they feel it's a slow way to grow a business that needs to expand fast. This is not always true, especially in the more niche B2B marketplaces like law. In the picture below, notice how Raad Ahmed has written over 2,000 Quora answers about law to drive more people to his website., Use These 9 Growth Hacks for Your Online Marketplace
If you take a look at the data, it's working.
, Use These 9 Growth Hacks for Your Online Marketplace
Now this is a lot of work. I recommend outsourcing a writer to publish this content for you. The trick is to get one writer to ask SEO optimized questions and the other to answer. If you can do that, then you got a golden ticket to Quora content marketing.

8. Use Online Groups and Remarketing for Retention

Only half the battle is the acquisition.
The other half? Retention.
There are a couple of ways to increase retention besides email and SMS notifications when users take particular actions. These ways include following them, interacting with their content, and creating a Facebook Group.
As you notice below, Uber has a Facebook Group for each of their cities where they educate and update drivers. This helps keep the drivers active on their platform.
, Use These 9 Growth Hacks for Your Online Marketplace
Another way is to grab their user profile URLs from other platforms they're already active on. For example, if your customer base is active on LinkedIn, then ask a question in the funnel that grabs their LinkedIn profile URL. You can now create a tool that auto adds these people at scale with personalized messaging.
Here's an example tool we've created at BAMF Media.
, Use These 9 Growth Hacks for Your Online Marketplace
Imagine joining a marketplace, then getting a personalized message from the CEO on another platform with a simple thank-you message. The chances of you becoming a more active member increase dramatically.
Another way to decrease churn of new members is to remarket them in the funnel. This means encouraging people to take the next relevant action whether it's finishing setting up their profile or selecting the seller to buy from. Always remember, it's 10X cheaper to encourage a current member to take action, then acquiring a new one.

9. Implement Proper Tracking for Attribution

Before you expand cities, know that you need an excellent tracking and attribution process in place. I'm talking everything from proper UTM tagging, Google Analytics dashboards, SQL database, and Tableau set up. If you don't have proper attribution to scale, then your traction channels will turn into a mess. You need an expert handle on multi-attribution funnels.
Did they see a Facebook ad, then a piece of content, then a Google Ad before they converted?
You need to know the answers to these questions.
If you can't afford expensive software like Tableau, then use tools like Google Data Studio to showcase your acquisition data to your team. Here's an example of a Google AdWords report:
, Use These 9 Growth Hacks for Your Online Marketplace
When I was the head of growth for the marketplace, UpOut, we had a strong attribution process in place which allowed us to scale from zero to five cities fast. If you have excellent processes for one city, it'll likely scale across the next fifty.
That means any improvement has a 10X factor to the overall growth of the company. That's part of the fun in marketplace marketing.
Are you ready to scale your marketplace with a few of these growth hacks?]]>

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About the Author

The name’s Houston Golden. I’m the Founder & CEO of BAMF ― a company I’ve grown from $0 (yes, really) to well over $4M in revenue over a span of 3 years.
How did I do it? Well, it’s quite simple, really. I’ve helped hundreds of business owners and executives get major traction (because when they win, we win). I tell you how on this blog.
Growth hacking is a state of mind. Follow along as I explore and expose the unknown growth strategies and tactics that will change the way you think about marketing.

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