Do you know what’s the worst fear of any creator- and business-focused marketplace? Your suppliers outgrowing your platform.
For most marketplaces, that’s simply not a problem. Not many drivers will close their Uber accounts and go solo. Even most landlords won’t pass on the short-term rental money to start renting out long-term and independently.
However, how does Etsy keep small businesses interested in listing on their marketplace once they reached a certain size? Why wouldn’t the people on Upwork start to go independent once they made a name for themselves? Well, many do, but for the others we have power tools.
How mentors turned into coaches
At MentorCruise, we faced this exact issue. When people would sign up to become a mentor on the side, they were in our target audience: industry professionals looking to mentor and make some extra income as a “side hustle”. As time went on, they made a name for themselves, started working with businesses and high-paying individuals (prosumers). The idea of becoming a full-time coach suddenly didn’t seem so bad.
But – the walls of MentorCruise were too narrow for that. We have/had caps on prices that weren’t particularly high in order to make them affordable. We put things into their frameworks and here and there had limited visibility on things like conversion rates and traffic.
So, what has to happen, happened. We had mentors leave our platform in order to pursue full-time or at least very serious coaching in the ways we never wanted to see them: without external social proof, at high hourly prices and limited insight into outcomes.
How you can empower power users instead of limiting them
The thing that has stung the most? These users were absolute power users, often were the top earners of their category and after leaving the platform, quickly gave up on those coaching endeavours. A great mentor/coach lost.
So this year we decided to go all-in for the creator economy and started empowering mentors to become bigger, better and more successful. That consisted of three parts.
Visibility & Transparency
You know what’s a bad feeling? Not knowing what’s going on and feeling like the floor is being pulled away under your feet. I guess that’s what many of our power users might have felt like when we decided to introduce algorithm changes or made new traffic sources available that they didn’t know about.
So, starting this year, we worked on that and it turned out great.
I can’t recall the last time one of our new features has gotten as much praise as our analytics dashboard. It gives quite a detailed view into how many times your profile pops up across the network, how many people click on your profile and how many people you end up converting.
As if that’s not enough, there are also fine controls to improve your profile. We show suggested tags to add to improve traffic and give a few suggestions on what to do to grow it even more.
Along the same lines is a big new analytics section on achievements and performance. It was mind-boggling to me to realize that our best mentor did not know they were the best. Now they have something to work towards!
This has been a blessing for power users! Many of them were able to debug their profiles, improve their service and take a few things away from it to become even better mentors.
All visibility and transparency does not have any value if you can’t do anything about changes. So for many parts around being a mentor, we created a lot more control.
For example, mentors now have a full view on their payment and payout statements, as well as control over the different subscribers they have. This was a luxury that was reserved to only some users and we extended it to everyone.
Furthermore, we gave people the tools to sell their own programs outside of our framework, especially when it comes to session. So while we take on the marketing for sessions like our “interview practice”, we now have entrepreneurs selling pitch competitions or even full advisorships. We have engineers selling pair programming sessions and workshops with designers. And all of that is self-serve, full control!
Finally, if you hit all parameters right, you have the luck of people growing on your platform. And yes, at some point there’s a big chance that people will outgrow your platform. The control you have is to build to the point where that happens.
Previously, with many limitations and framework-ized decisions, mentors would outgrow us quickly if they wanted to. Now, that looks a little bit different.
In fact, when we see mentors performing outstandingly, growing quickly and potentially outgrowing our platform, we can now offer them the “coaching” status. A SLA in return of being able to charge more and getting featured distribution!
Because – as a marketplace you most likely never want people to outgrow you, but you might hang on certain principles that just don’t allow you to scale to infinity.
For example, Airbnb started as a great platform for single-estate short-term landlords. Over time, it became more attractive for long-term rentals too. Then, with power user tools, multi-estate landlords became interested, up to the point where hotels and real estate companies are interested in listing on Airbnb too. But – for a multinational real estate empire, the competition is still too high, the demand outside the platform good enough and the fees too high, and that’s okay!
So we made a point to invest in our existing mentors and get them closer to their live as a “coach” while not hurting our core values: to be affordable, vetted and come with a big scoop of social proof.