Magic Metrics to Accelerate Marketplace Growth By 1000%
Running a successful Early Stage B2B Marketplace with Incremental Data-Driven Approach
There is no hard written rule towards Product Management, our priorities keep changing, our work practices ever-maturing and processes keep improving; hence we have to make it a point to constantly acquire new skills. This blog is about my own secret recipe from my experience of managing a B2B marketplace’s growth right from scratch to the current status of achieving a 10% market share.
Whats it takes to run a Product like a Marketplace?
Running a successful business out of a marketplace needs a Product Manager with multi-tasking skills. Unlike E-Commerce Stores, Marketplace has dozen variable factors.
I have been lucky enough to build & manage a B2B Marketplace for the eyewear segment right from Zero to 2000+ (Still Growing) Nationwide Retailers. We have had a whole bunch of un-organized business segments of Distributers, Retailers & Brands who used our platform to transact on a daily basis. Having seen all stages of usage cycles right from a change in customer behavior to our MRR hitting the top charts, I felt like a dream come true moment in the end. But for that to happen we indeed had the patience and right data to drive the perfect decisions.
Success happened, but not overnight it came with Discipline and Data Centric Approach
How to define the Early Stage of a marketplace?
It’s never about how old your product is in the market, but how good the product is, that defines your stage. The stage is never defined by a timeline from the product launch or number features or the number of users.
Definition of an early stage
Usually when Users of a new ( non-branded) marketplace don’t do anything other than just login to the application or just do online window shopping(since the trust is yet to be built). That’s how you define an early-stage
Usually, the early-stage product has
1.Very few people
2.Less time with
3. Heavy load of work
4. Sales expectations piling up from brands
5. Always Unclear in marketing strategy, and
6. Developers firefighting bugs.
7. Additionally, the backend process never seems right,
8. Customer complaints keep piling up,
9. The Support team need to work all the time handholding the users
It’s true that Marketplace Managers must have a real long term vision, but what’s more important in an early stage is to get the basics right and build a working product (ignore building an extraordinary experience for the users).
WHY YOU SHOULD SET DATA TRACKING PROCESS FIRST?
Most Product Managers think that the success of the product lies within the product metrics. But on early-stage Product Managers are like mini CEOs doing everything to make sure the product is successful. In that case, just tracking product metrics won't help. One needs to track a combination of data from all walks of the Marketplace in an incremental timeline and set a process for empowering the employees to utilize it. On looking back, data from each source was our only source of truth upon which we rode. Over a period of time, the process was subconsciously in our system which helped us make any rational scientific decisions.
The following are some of the top-level KPI Categories that we made on each progressing stage of the product:
Let’s see what metrics and how:
Product Quality KPI
We launched our beta on Jan 24, 2019. We had amazing responses from all retailers on the idea, so we started small with one distribution center and 10–15 retailers, testing how they are reacting to the idea with product in hand.
Like any other early-stage product, our development teams were loaded with work from all sides but the power of data-enabled, along with a bit of common sense, we prioritized on what to go first.
I always believe that if we can empower developers with the knowledge of either financial implications of what they are building or the ability to understand users pain (Empathy), then the system will work effectively automatically.
Testers did make the product very robust but, we never know what kind of bugs will popup in real-time for example, due to weak internet signal strength or different device models.
Operational & Pre Sales KPI
Post the successful beta launch, we made sure the product was bug-free and on Feb 18th, 2019 we launched our fully furnished MVP open to all our Retailers and Brands in a much more simpler way.
Now that we were open to all brands we thought it would be the right time to onboard and track all the digital inventories in a more efficient way.
My personal opinion is that, at a very early stage it is going to be similar to the Chicken or Egg problem. I remember spending a lot of our discussions on whether the retailers come for brands? or does the brand come when the retails are in? but its best to try it in the market and its always about balancing both. Retailers would want variety and brands would want to reach as many retailers as possible.
Tracking operational metrics helped us understand our own capability, bandwidth, better resource management, and arrive at our future hiring plans. By Feb 26th, 3 big opticals brands sales were accomplished and had them on board consequently, by March 1st we had around 30 retailers ordering at least once. Now that we are Product-Market fit we wanted to scale up in reaching out.
Now that the idea is evaluated, the product was stable on market and business had started making some micro commissions out of marketplace sales. We now started-off with our marketing plan right from March 20th.
Each Marketing strategy for every new business model is unique and so is it’s own Funnel. We followed the below funnel,
To onboard potential customers continuous retargeting, promoting and building trust is required. In our case, since our target was retailers, B2b marketing involved calling the customers on a regular basis. status.
We ignored any digital marketing or offline campaigns until we archive product-market fit.
Product Usage Metrics
Tracking Operational metrics made us iterate on our marketing plan each week with 4 different ideas and constant improvisation helped us reach a short goal of acquiring 300 and reaching 900 + retailers across the city. Our next focus was just focused on product experience.
This is where the Product Managers play come into place, so in reality between fixing bugs, adding feature requests and regression, a small development team will have very little time to implement the analytics tracking system. So in my view, incremental product tracking every week will help balance the roadmap.
Sales define everything, on early-stage weather its top line or bottom line, it is sales which finally is going to help you get the investors' nod their head. These are some of the sales metrics we captured and worked very hard on it accordingly.
Last but not least there can be no words or data to attribute the passion and dedication exhibited by our team towards our vision of organizing the eyewear market rather than disruption. I would take my time in thanking the whole team who not only worked hard but also smartly executed following the numbers rather than gut feel or hunch. Words like Passion, Hard work and Dedication would mean nothing if it’s not fueled by smart data, hope you were able to relate to us and take home something which you can implement in your product. Thanks for reading!