Posts by "JR Farr"

How to build a Marketplace Business – #marketplace #001

I’m constantly seeing new and exciting marketplace businesses pop up. In all niches. Legal, design, real estate, travel, the list goes on. A lot of the new, hopeful startups are positioned as “The next Uber of…”. That’s great but there’s no question that building a marketplace is hard work. When I think back on when I first started building marketplaces I remember all the obstacles and questions I had.

Where do you start first?

How do you gain traction?

Do you focus on the consumers or suppliers first?

With that being said, I’ve been thinking of sharing what I’ve learned along the way. I wanted to share my experience in building marketplaces. For one, anyone looking to start down this path I’m sure would have loved this content. Secondly, I’m finding as I write my thoughts down, I’m finding new inspiration and clarity in what I’m working on.

The good and the bad of Marketplaces.

The bad. There’s a reason why most marketplace ideas never take off.  It takes patience, timing, a good platform and creative thinking. You have to build trust in two audiences and you ultimately serve two masters.

The good. There’s also a reason once they reach a critical point they are hard to break down. It’s an entire ecosystem that doesn’t just crumble over night. Look at one of the first – Craigslist. It’s atrocious to look at but there’s an ecosystem there that’s living and breathing.

Why listen to me?

If I’m being honest, I’m a jack of all trades and master at none. From design, front end dev, marketing, conversion testing, product management, etc. I have a tendency to want to execute on all fronts so I’m never slowed down. With that being said, this series isn’t meant to show you how to literally build the tech for starting a marketplace. Or how this design layout is going to triple your business overnight. It’s just not that easy. I’m going to share real examples, trial and error and experiences I had whilst building a marketplace business.

When it comes to marketplaces though, I have found a way make my own luck and I would say I’ve been successful in my attempts with start-ups and new ventures without raising millions in VC money. For the last 10+ years of my professional life, I’ve built (with a team) several marketplace businesses, including MOJO Marketplace, which today boasts over 5 million users. The two I have built were both acquired. Plus, this is free advice so if you don’t like it, I get it.

I’m going to talk about a few key things in this series that could increase your chances of having a successful marketplace.

Marketplace building series…

This will be an ongoing series but I’ll keep an update list of the series below to summarize the series.

  • What platform to build on top of?
  • Chicken or the Egg
  • Defining your MVP for launch
  • Features vs Value
  • 6 ways to create quick traction with your marketplace
  • And more…

Interested?

If you are, hop on the email list below so you don’t miss a post!

My entrepreneur path so far.

The title of this post is all summed up in the video at the end but before we get there I want to share a few thoughts on why this video is important to me.

I spent a lot time during last years Holiday to reflect on my personal career journey. As I thought about who I was, where I’ve been, what I’ve accomplished it made me want to essentially “find my voice” again.

I’ve been so heads down for the last 4 years of my life.Reflecting on what’s next.

I’ve been quiet. Just working, grinding and hustling. I’ve also been failing, losing and learning.

This year I’ve been focused on a few things. A big part of that focus this year will be on producing content. Sharing advice, thought leadership and more of what’s next for my journey. I’ve been producing more content on this site as of late and it feels damn good to get my thoughts down. I plan to continue that trend. I’ve quietly been working on a series around building a successful marketplace that I think people will really find some good value from.

Additionally, I’ve been producing massive amounts of content on the MOJO Marketplace blog. There’s going to be a lot more where this came from when it comes to MOJO.

In addition to writing content for MOJO, there’s close to 10 videos about to drop for a new series titled “#theprep” which will catapult me into a brand new YouTube show called “The Climb” It will be my show for the entrepreneurs and the doers out there. #seriousteaser

A reflection on my journey here.

As I’ve been working on producing more and more content it’s been a long process. You have to be creative with your thinking on what to produce next. During this whole process and working with Colby from Steadfast Films, I feel like I’m starting to find my niche of where I can produce the most valuable content. It also helps have a dope videographer. With his talents we were able to create a pretty amazing reflection of my journey so far.

If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t want to share this. It took a few close friends (thanks Tim) to push me over the edge to just push out content. I didn’t realize how much I was letting the thought of failure and what people might think outweigh the value this could bring. Especially for anyone looking for a little bit of inspiration.

Expect more from where this video below came from. I’ve got a lot more coming. I’ll continue to work my ass off, stay humble and remember in time it all pays off.

Naive is the new black.

Back when I started my first business I was ignorant. I was innocent. More than anything, I was naive.

I didn’t know much of anything because I hadn’t been smacked in the face by the market yet. Just like most of us when we start out, you just don’t know what you don’t know. Along the way you find out this idea of yours is harder than you thought. No one cares that you launched your product. It’s a different story trying to get people to pull out their wallet. Driving sales and revenue takes hard work, patience and determination.

The worst part is, all the cynical bastards love to rub it in your face.

Today I realized something. After being smacked in the face over and over. Being told no again and again. Falling short on my revenue projections. And a million other failures on top of that, I haven’t changed. I’ve realized my biggest strength after all of it is staying naive. I still believe I can change whatever world I’m in and I’m 100% serious when I say that. If anything, I have more confidence and belief I can do even more now after going through all of that. I won’t let the scars change who I was when I first started.

Call me crazy but I prefer to be called naive.

Rethinking the 1 on 1 meeting.

If you work at any place with a team, manage a team or if you run a company I’m going to assume you’ve had a 1 on 1. I’m going to assume you dread them. I’m going to assume when you walk out you’re even less motivated because of how pointless it was. And I’m also going to assume they go something like this.

“Are we still doing this 1 on 1?”

“Oh yes, let’s do that. I was looking forward to zoning out for the next 15-30 minutes.”

“Ok so here’s the agenda. I did x,y,z and we grew X and we’re going to focus on this next week to make sure we’re on pace for our targets.”

And blah, blah, blah. And more blah.

Traditional 1 on 1’s are archaic.

Why are we doing this? It’s just another meeting to throw on the calendar. Let’s waste more time talking about what you did in the past and want to do in the future. There’s nothing real happening. It’s all wasted energy that could have been used on executing something meaningful.

And worst of all, both of you didn’t get anything valuable out of it and even if you did, the value wasn’t equal.

I’m here to ask you to stop. Please.

We live in a world now where reviewing your “weekly progress” can be sent in a short email. Status updates on a project are sent in automated reports from your project management software. Sharing a google doc outlining your quarterly plan for the future can be collaborated at the same time and in real time.

All of this can make the age old 1 on 1 become extinct.

Connect personally. Close the gap. Get to what’s important.

That’s exactly what I do in my 1 on 1’s. My goal is to close the gap.

I want to share what I do with my company, MOJO Marketplace. When it reached a point where I felt like I couldn’t have my hands in everything I started something called “MOJO Minutes“.

Essentially, every month I have 10-15 minutes scheduled with every MOJO employee. Yes, everyone. Sometimes it’s in my office, a couch or a walk to grab coffee but I try to keep my calendar open for things that are important and to me my employees are the most important before anything else.

The MOJO Minutes looks something like this if it’s their first one.

“The stage is yours. I want to spend the next 10-15 minutes getting to know “Mike”. I want to know what makes you tick. Let’s get to know each other personally, what do you need from me and what are we not talking about that we should be at MOJO.”

The goal here is simple. I want to connect personally, close the gap between the two of us and get to what’s important.

What happens next is where the real magic lies.

I keep mentioning “close the gap”. This is the most important part.

During traditional 1 on 1’s there’s no substance. There’s no connection. You’re creating “YES” women and men. They are just wanting to please you, take notes of what you want and get out alive. You never get to the juicy parts of what’s on their mind.

In short, your employees are your soldiers, usually on the front lines and they can give you the feedback to make the slight adjustments to stay successful. The problem with your agenda driving 1-1 is you’re widening the gap between you and your most important part of your company. Your employees.

By getting to know each other personally, you create a connection that brings you closer together. You’re closing the gap. You start to learn what motivates them. What their strengths are. More importantly, with a connection the questions start coming out as you gain trust and they become comfortable with you.

“I’m concerned about this issue, can I share what’s going on?”

“Why do we focus on X?”

“Do you want us working on this or that?”

“Do you need anything from me?”

You’ve connected personally and closed the gap on figuring them out and vice versa. They start figuring out what’s important to you as they feel more comfortable asking questions. You’re getting to what’s important.

There can be value in 1 on 1’s.

I’m not proposing if you have a company of 500 employees you need to personally meet with everyone. You can teach this method of 1 on 1’s with your leaders to get more out of your employees. Connect personally, close the gap and get to what’s important.

Drop the agenda. Lose the status quo. If you’re managing people and you implement this strategy it can make your team feel like they have a sense of purpose, feel respected, feel acknowledged and more motivated then when they walked in. You will have effectively closed the gap and in return you’ll both reap the benefits.

Let’s not make Google Material the next Twitter Bootstrap

I’ve been having some passionate conversations about “floating action buttons” which were introduced with Google material design.

New MOJO services dashboard

Partly because the past 7-8 months we’ve been working towards launching what we’re calling V2 of MOJO Marketplace. With our existing product being more of an integration we haven’t focused as much as we wanted on our actual brand and product – MOJOMarketplace.com. My mind has been focused on crafting the perfect product for our users. Being a two-sided marketplaces where you’re trying to please both buyers & sellers, the task is even harder.

In my opinion, our creative team has found the perfect balance in utilizing material design into our new interface but that didn’t come without some heated conversations about design direction. More sneak peeks at Dribbble.

Google Material isn’t one size fits all.

I cringe at the site of floating action buttons being used in all types of applications and use cases. Over the past 2 years after the Google introduced material design, it’s definitely been a breath of fresh air but this has to stop before it turns into a hot mess.

Don’t get me wrong. I love material design. In fact, it’s amazing. It’s perfectly executed and thought through by it’s creators. It’s because of how much I love what material design is doing for the web that I would hate to see it become the next Twitter Bootstrap.

 

The FAB is FAB, just not all the time.

Let me explain. I’m not here to preach design principles, I’m here to make sure we’re designing responsibly if you will. I want to challenge the makers, the designers and the doers to think before your FAB. Just because we let Google do all the hard work and layout some beautiful design guide doesn’t give us the right to misuse it. Take time to read through the goals of material design.

For starters lets not have more than one FAB per screen. Again, if you take time to read through it all, it’s very well documented.

Usage: Only one floating action button is recommended per screen to represent the most common action.

FAB’s for days

Consumption vs. Action

Lately I’ve been talking more about this concept a lot with my product & creative teams. I would argue with all the other 80/20 rules out there that same ratio has to be relevant when it comes to your users interacting with your product. 80% of the time users are consuming something while 20% of the time their taking action. Honestly, as I’m writing this, it could be 90/10.

When you’re designing your product or application think about the behavior on the screen. What is the user REALLY going to be doing inside your product? I’d bet they’re consuming more than they’re taking action.

Mobile vs. Web

This is where I feel like things are really starting to get out of hand. We’re taking these design principles from Google Material and polluting them into everyday web application.

Seriously why? I don’t get it.

Unless you’re InVision where you’re primary users are the designers pushing the web forward you have no business messing with FAB’s all over your web product.

Let’s just talk about Google themselves for second while we’re on this subject.

Let’s take one of their most popular products, Gmail.

I use Gmail everyday. While I’m working on my laptop I opt to use the web interface from Gmail. On my phone I use the Gmail app as well. With that being said, the experience from the web to mobile is drastically different.

Gmail web interface

Web app for Gmail

Gmail mobile interface

Mobile App for Gmail

I’m sure you can instantly see the difference. There’s no need to add a FAB on their web application because they understand the context of their users. If you’re using Gmail on the web,  you’re using the product a lot differently compared to when you’re using it on the go.

But what about Inbox by Gmail

Inbox by Gmail

Inbox by Gmail

Why the difference?

To recap, now we’re comparing Gmail Web App, Gmail Mobile App and Inbox by Gmail.

Could it be that they haven’t gotten around to implementing material design into their Gmail web app interface? I highly doubt it. Could it be that they don’t want to mess up a good thing they’ve got going on already? Not the case most likely.

My gut tells me Google created Inbox as a way to test everything they’ve learned from Gmail for their personal power users. It’s not all about Google Material design. It’s a whole concept on cleaning up the noise that email brings to each of us every day.

I truly think a company like Google understands their users, how they are consuming vs. taking action and they understand the context of users intentions.

Design responsibly & harness design trends

You know how marketers ruin everything? They ruined email, they ruined SEO, they ruined paid search, they ruined social media and will most likely ruin the next thing. Let’s try to not ruin these design trends by using them without context, without understanding their purpose or why they were created.

Think before you FAB and design responsibly.