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The Beginning of Thumbtack

SFilms was one of the first companies on Thumbtack.  I remember this new startup listings/lead service app that looked interesting.  I signed us up as a vendor.  But as I looked at it, it seemed more focused on B2C– plumbers, electricians and such.  Even though we had an account, I never really used it.

Then one day I was talking to another video professional in a different city and he told me he was getting a lot of leads through thumbtack.  I was puzzled– the only leads I seem to ever see were for people wanting a music video for $250.  He said that while yes, the majority of the bids were micro budget, by getting his foot in the door, he was able to find some good customers.  Okay, I decided, I’ll have to take a closer look.

Updating Our Profile

So I dived in.  I updated my business profile.  Worked on getting a review from an existing customer.  Set up the different industries and notification levels.  And I started getting email and push notifications for new jobs to bid on.  Event Video, wedding, under $500.  That’s not us.  And then some Corporate Video, Conference, under $500.  Closer.  But what if I could raise the dollar amount for jobs in which to get notified about?

So I did.  And in corporate video it worked.  But nothing I did would stop the event video wedding low budget emails and push notifications.  Nothing.  I had long since made sure I wasn’t even listed for that.  Didn’t matter.  Eventually, I don’t know if the bug was worked out, but 6 months later, I’m finally not getting all those.

The Thumbtack Process

Thumbtack’s SEO and SEM Push

thumbtack langing page corporate video dallasAnd let’s talk about the process.  A user searches for “corporate video company dallas” and thumbtack has aggressively gone after the SEO for these tags.  Kudos to them. So the user clicks on the thumbtack link which then takes them to fields to fill out.  What do you see?  A simple, clean window with a video production photo in the background, and a mention that there are XX number of professionals near you.  What’s your zip code?

So at this point, the user is still thinking that they’re searching for a video company.  But they’re not.  The user puts in her zip code.  Then a new screen with type of video you’re wanting.  Then another with other information.  All the while, the user is still thinking they’re just googling for “video companies in Dallas.”

dallas corporate video company

Eventually, maybe they fill out the few remaining screens and hit submit.  And now they’re getting five quotes.  Not what they thought they were getting in to.  No list of companies (look at the Thumbtack google listing– it reads “definitive list of Dallas’s video production.”  But you will never receive a list.  What you’ll get is the five fastest clickers in the area.

Because I get a ding on my phone. And email.  And I can read it and click to send in a bid.

Faster Clicker Wins

Actually no.  I can’t read it.  Because if I take the 8 seconds needed to read the bid and determine that this is the perfect fit for my company, I’m too late.  First five get to bid.  Doesn’t matter if they can do the job.  There is no vetting.   And for the jobs that fit us, we have to send in a quote in under 8 seconds.

Which BTW, the Apple Watch has dramatically increased our response time– I get the push there and can open and send pretty quickly.

Our Thumbtack Results

So what about the results?  We specialize in corporate video.  We shoot conferences and seminars all the time, with live on-site editing when needed.  We haven’t even gotten close.  And this might be part of the low bid wedding projects– corporate conferences are events.  So are weddings and birthday parties.  Thumbtack really needs to separate out B2C and B2B.

What about other corporate video jobs?  I tried my friend from another city’s advice and did a low ball for someone.  The problem with this strategy is that for some reason, the low ball clients end up being the highest maintenance.  And so you bid and do the job at break even or even a slight loss, but they’re not going to agree to up the budget on the next.  Just doesn’t work.

Two Jobs after Two Years

So to date? Two jobs.  This is after several years.  And lots of “credits” purchased (and they recently moved away from credits and just call it was it is “dollars.”)  Most people never even open up the quote.  That’s because when they filled out those fields, they didn’t really understand what they were doing.

And in fairness, let me mention one of those two jobs was exactly what we were looking for.  A corporate client needing event (tradeshow) shooting and onsite editing.  That was a win for both sides.  Unfortunately, this is an outlier.  Nothing else has even come close.  Thumbtack might say it’s my profile, or that I need more reviews.  I think the large number of unopened bids speaks to the fact many of these leads are simply not qualified by Thumbtack.  Sure, Thumbtack does refund you the money if someone doesn’t open the bid.  But what about those who gave a cursory open, but realized this thumbtack thing wasn’t what they were looking for.

To Thumbtack’s credit, there are situations that this service is great for.  I talked to one professional in another city looking for a local crew.  My rates were just too high, because she’s been getting a college student with a DSLR and that’s all she needed in these different cities.  Awesome.  Thumbtack works great for her.

Two Suggestions

I have two suggestions for Thumbtack.

  1. Find a better way for the bid process.  The five fastest clickers is no way to qualify vendors.  Either do away with the 5 quotes only rule or come up with a better way than a mad dash to submit in the few seconds after a job is posted.
  2. Qualify the Lead.  Let the user know what they’re getting into on the landing page.  Sure, you might not get as many, but the quality would increase, and that means something to your customers– Us.

Bottomline on Thumbtack

And I think this is the bottom line.  You need to have a “win” on both sides– the client and the vendor.  So that’s what Thumbtack is for– matching those who can do the video work for pennies on the dollar and still win, with clients that need a low cost solution.  If you seek a professional, skilled video company through Thumbtack, you’re going to get the five fastest responders, regardless of skill level, experience and quality.  Just fast on clicking.  You won’t be able to really do due diligence.

So google search for a video production company in the city you’re looking for and click on those companies and check out the website.  And watch their samples and portfolios.  Then contact the ones you like.  Unless you just need a warm body with any kind of camera.