How I would grow Thumbtack’s Customer Side of the Marketplace — Product Spec

Background

Thumbtack, an online marketplace connecting people to local service providers, is by far one of the best sustainable businesses for the future. After reading a few articles about the gig economy, I came to realize that skilled professionals who offer specific services will be triumphant because the focus will not be on low wage workers. Now, as the title reads, my main goal is to find out ways to improve growth on the customer side of Thumbtack. Let’s brainstorm and prioritize ideas based on high-low impact.

Brainstorming Session

Brainstorming Ideas for Growth
Prioritizing Growth Ideas from High to Low

Now, after experimenting with Thumbtack’s product flow and brainstorming potential ideas for growth, I believe their next steps should be to build out a customized email referral system. Why? Currently, Thumbtack offers a referral program to bring in professionals so it brings more suppliers to the marketplace. Of course, in every marketplace, both sides (customer and professionals) need to scale together; so, my referral implementation will help balance the marketplace.

After talking with a Live Agent at Thumbtack, they do not have a mechanism for customer sharing yet. Thus a golden opportunity has presented itself.

Angela revealed that no such program exists yet.

Main Goal

Implementation of a customized double-sided email referral system after each completed job

  • Customized coupon code based on name/unique identifier
  • Double-Sided meaning existing and the new customers are rewarded

Current Competitors

Task Rabbit — Task Rabbit, an online and mobile marketplace that connects neighbors to achieve results through action, was born. They have implemented a referral program for their professionals, none for customers.

Angie’s List — Angie’s List, Inc. provides consumer reviews of local services across the U.S. and parts of Canada. When a new member joins Angie’s List based on referral, they get Tootsie Rolls and wax lips. Huh?

Home Advisor — Home Advisor has connected more than 30 million homeowners to the company’s network of over 85,000 home service and improvement professionals in more than 500 categories. HomeAdvisor affliate program is their equivalent of referral marketing, no double-sided referral email system.

CraigsList — Craigslist is a supremely popular listings site. Craiglist covers more than 700 local sites in 70 countries. No referral marketing, mostly word of mouth.

Metrics

I am solely focused on the metrics of growing the customer side. Thumbtack.com does not provide public metrics on their business/website so we will dig up the information using SimilarWeb.com for data. As predicted, Thumbtack spends a majority of budget on ad dollars for SEO: 38% direct, 37% search, 13% refferal, 10% email. With the new customer referral program, we can lower CAC and increase email traffic to Thumbtack.

Let’s increase Email to 20%
That’s a big budget, is there a better way.

Success Metrics To Measure for this Feature

  1. % increase of customers sending the referral email to friends (boost traffic to website from email)
  2. % increase of new converted customers after receiving personal referral from a friend

Overall Company KPIs to hit

  1. Increase % growth in Number of Weekly Quote Requests from referrals (existing customers have increased money to spend as well as new customers; professionals will submit more quotes leading to increased credit spending(revenue driver)
  2. Increase % growth in Active Professionals in the past 90 days (professionals will be able to secure more jobs increasing supplier retention)
  3. ALWAYS HIT 3+ QUOTAS PER REQUEST

User Stories

User Story#1: As a customer, I want to refer a friend to Thumbtack so I can get rewarded.

  1. The Customer must be a registered user of Thumbtack.
  2. The Customer must have purchased a job/gig in Thumbtack.
  3. The Customer receives acknowledgment through email about recent completed job w/unique referral code.
  4. The Customer can email the code to friends to signup for the service.

User Story#2: As a prospective customer, I want to sign up to Thumbtack so I can get rewarded from my friend’s referral.

  1. The prospective customer receives email from Thumbtack.
  2. The prospective customer knows the friend sent the email (picture and name included with easy coupon code)
  3. The prospective customer signs up for the service.
  4. The prospective customer is registered, requests a quote for her business.
  5. The customer buys a service, and gets the discount from the referral code. The friend also gets money credited to their account.

User Interaction

From the user stories, we can map out how the customer referral works to decrease CAC and increase LTV of a customer.

User Flow of the Email Referral System

Email Mock-ups

In order to get the best sense of whether referrals will work, I prepared mock-ups to test current email templates over the the new referral based email templates. I used the service UsabilityHub to get real-time feedback from 25 participants.

Test#1: Compare current email follow-up with my referral.

Description

In this test, I ask 25 participants to measure which email they are most likely to share as a result of using Thumbtack. I also ask their intentions for sharing.

Mock-up of Customer Email

Left image is the original email Thumbtack sends, Right image is the customized referral email I designed.

Results

Question#1 After using Thumbtack, which email format (#1 or #2) are you more likely to share with a friend?
18/25 participants prefer the referral email.
Questions#2 Why would you share it? Why wouldn’t you?
A list of reasons why they would share it.
Questions#3 Is using Thumbtack something you would normally tell others about?

Results of the experiment can be found here https://usabilityhub.com/tests/9bb39c05a4bd/results/7878f1af335b

Recommendation — The results clearly show that a double sided email referral system will benefit customers at Thumbtack (The right image is the best one)

Mock-up of Referred Friend Email

The mock-up is designed to reach our success metric: Increase % growth of new customers from referrals. The referral code is personalized so that it is easy to remember and input. The email has a personal landing page with an inviter’s name and photo (similar to Airbnb) which demonstrates trust. Lastly, the wording makes the potential customer feel special that they are receiving a token from a friend.

Timeline & Release Planning

Phase 0: Validation

  1. Identify the highest NPS customers using Thumbtack
  2. Identify the users that complete satisfaction surveys from emails. They are more likely to take action.
  3. Collect metrics from email engagement: check click-through rates, redirects to social media, or if they click a deep-link back to the app.

Phase 1: Stepped Phases

  1. For every completed gig, the customer email should contain a referral link. Create a simple unique permalink that makes it easy to track marketing channels.
  2. Create a dashboard in the back-end to track from where the most referrals are coming.
  3. Adjust the process based on metrics: A/B Tests, customer feedback, and surveys.

Phase 2: Release Phase

  1. Engage/Recruit High NPS Influencers — make them feel part of the product’s success
  2. Blog Post — “Introducing Referrals for Thumbtack Customers”, post on PandoDaily, Techcrunch, Wired
  3. Weekly Thumbtack Email List — ~100k+ subscribers
  4. Google AdWords — Send an advertisement about the new initiative
  5. Social Media Accounts — Facebook Postings, other accounts have negligible effects

Phase 3: Rollout and A/B Testing

  1. Drive 10% of the High NPS users cohort to multiple tools (Facebook, Medium, Twitter, Instagram)
  2. Test Email Formats that convert from images, pictures, messaging
  3. Gradually increase the cohort to Medium NPS users

In summary,

a double-sided email referral system would grow the customer side with lower customer acquisition costs. The main benefits include a great follow-up experience when a service has been completed, thus higher chance of referral. Secondly, high NPS customers will lead to higher conversions so find them and treat them well. Thirdly, adding more customers will convert more professionals to sell, and improve supplier retention.

***I don’t work for or represent Thumbtack. I’m a product guy who likes the vision at Thumbtack. You can reach me at @ivantr0n, www.ivantron.com, or just comment below :)***

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