The majority of work I did in my advertising days revolved around Business to Consumer campaigns (B2C). These days, about 30-40% of the startups I work with are Business to Business (B2B). A subclass of these are what you could call ‘marketplace’ services, that match businesses to consumers. While their overall business goals don’t differ too much, when considering their marketing goals, that’s when things tend to diverge a little.
In addition to consumer led marketing, they have the additional challenge of recruiting the vendors on their platforms. While it’s possible to utilise some techniques from the B2C world (eg; promotions, content marketing, and activations) they require more focus in defining very specific objectives and how they execute.
Here are 3 Malaysian examples of how some of these marketplace services recruited their vendors, what their goals were, and what we can learn from them.
Back during the early days of the taxi app industry in Malaysia, MyTeksi needed to gain the trust and support of the taxi drivers. Without a wide network of available drivers, it wouldn’t be possible to provide a good customer experience. The challenge with being a new player (and having a new system) was not only education and infrastructure, but not being seen as a threat.
What they did
At the time, not many players invested effort in really engaging with taxi drivers. MyTeksi took this opportunity to go out of their way to win their support. They hosted many fun micro events complete with a free shoulder massage for tired drivers, organised festive open houses with free food and even helped some with adopting the use of a smartphones.
What we can learn
Although marketed to the masses as a B2C service, to have it gain the love and support of the crowd meant having a superior experience. By investing in (especially underserved) partners, we can build a sustainable and solid foundation for the business in the long run. All they used were simple ideas that showed empathy and executed them consistently.
The food delivery industry was already pretty hot as these guys came in. What they needed was a strong portfolio of restaurants under their belt, so that customers have a wide selection when they use Makan2u’s service. The challenge is to be able to gain a wide network of restaurants quickly and effectively, with limited manpower.
What they did
The 2 founders could only do so many restaurant visits and calls, so they knew that they needed an effective sales force. Hiring permanent ones were out of the budget, so they borrowed a page from the multi-level-marketing (MLM) industry. They knew that many MLM sales guys were not only good, but they tended to sell multiple products/brands. They crafted a simple but rewarding sales system, and even put a fee for those that were keen to join. After hosting a few ‘make more money’ talks that recruited these agents, they had an effective sales force to help grow their network.
What we can learn
Without a wide range of restaurants, Makan2u would be dead in the water. They understood the value of a registered restaurant, and were willing to share that value with their new sales agents. The additional genius is that by attaching a ‘fee’ for them to join, they ensured a higher quality sales agent, rather than someone who was just dabbling for fun.
A wedding services directory
A friend of mine runs an online directory of wedding services. Essentially, would be newlyweds can find a range of specialised service providers that help couples with their weddings. They made money by charging a small fee for the listing, but it was a chicken and egg scenario where newlyweds wouldn’t visit the site unless there were vendors, and vendors wouldn’t pay for a listing without a strong visitor base.
What they did
While there was some initial sign ups from vendors, true growth only came when they deployed a smart technical solution. Firstly, they wrote a script that helped them scrape a large pool of email addresses of wedding service vendors. They then ran smart ads targeting potential newlyweds that were looking for wedding services. By engaging the ad, it triggered off a process where potential vendors were emailed with a real job request, with the catch that in order to engage with the client, they would have to register with the site.
What can we learn
There are plenty of ads out there, especially for e-commerce or deal sites where they advertise old or even fake promotions in order to get someone to click. The technique used by my friend produced real potential clients, and added immediate value to vendors. Using technology, we can get smarter with how we match make potential clients, and ensuring that tangible value is delivered.