I recently had a chance to talk with Marco Zappacosta, founder and CEO of Thumbtack, a newly launched online resource for trusted local businesses. Thumbtack facilitates an online marketplace for local services by offering consumers one place to easily find, compare and purchase local services, while also giving service providers verifiable reputation, transaction support, appointment management and marketing tools.
Thumbtack was launched as a way of allowing consumers to have a more transparent relationship with businesses by enabling them to not only find the resources or services they want but also providing them with testimonials and post-service consumer reviews, establishing trust in the service provider through a Department of Justice background and National Crime Check verification process as well as displaying a businesses’ professional affiliations/bonding/insurance coverage.
“Building trust is the key to matching small local businesses with buyers,” says Zappacosta. Trust not only in the service providers but trust that the site allows consumers the choice to pick the company that best fits their needs and comfort level. Unlike other sites that arbitrage leads by returning only selected businesses, Thumbtack seeks to make this process more transparent, empowering the consumer to make the choice instead. “Many pre-Internet companies have simply transferred their model online and did nothing to improve the consumer experience — we’ve endeavored to simplify that experience for both consumers and businesses of all sizes.”
Rather than focus on the top level service categories like ServiceMagic or even Redbeacon, Thumbtack is mining smaller local businesses that have a need for building leads and utilizing the business support offered by Thumbtack. One unique approach Zappacosta is employing is offering a free CRM tool to businesses so they can manage their client base, conduct e-mail marketing, and take advantage of all the services Thumbtack offers. The CRM tool offers small-business owners the ability to manage their customers and facilitate better communication to enhance repeat and referral business.
Asked what sets Thumbtack apart from similar small-business lead generation sites, Zappacosta pointed out that, “Thumbtack goes beyond lead generation to offer profile page creation, scheduling and booking, allowing consumers to post ‘want ads’ for all applicable providers to respond to, and will soon be adding the new PayPal API solution to allow for easier online transactions.” Another unique aspect of the site is that it allows businesses to map their trading area to better match the search queries of consumers coming to the site. Rather than provide all massage therapist listings in a town, the search results will only return those results in the person’s selected area, making the results more relevant and lowering the frustration level many experience when discovering a company will not travel to their location.
Thumbtack was recently recognized as one of the outstanding start-up sites by TheFunded.com, a private membership community of more than 12,500 CEOs, who use the site to research, rate, and review funding sources worldwide and to discuss operating challenges of growing a business. As Thumbtack moves from its alpha start-up phase into beta sometime in mid-November, we look forward to its progress and it will certainly be a company we will continue to watch.