By Jasnik Parmar, VP of Growth at LawnGuru.

As the on-demand economy expands across service industries, platforms of every kind inevitably run into the chicken or egg enigma: Successful marketplaces need enough customers (chickens) and providers (eggs) for everyone to prosper. This is especially true if you're going toe-to-toe with habituated traditional sales methods as we do in the outdoor service industry.

I want to share with you something that's part-story and part-rubric so that budding marketplaces can leverage our experience to better identify and tackle their own conundrums.

Start With Action

Progress consistently leads to inspiration and fosters understanding. While our team had varying perspectives on how to effectively grow our presence in new markets, we defaulted to action and got started with common sense priorities.

We quickly learned that parallel marketing to both providers and customers as a new market penetration strategy was not as efficient as we had predicted. So we went back to the drawing board armed with data and specific successful practices that we honed over an entire season and reframed the question, "What distinguishes our successes from our mediocre results?"

Guided by this new question, we drew on data such as lead-to-conversion times and job fulfillment versus cancellation ratios. We saw our success relied on just one thing: sufficient provider saturation. Having enough providers meant we could deliver on our commitment to our new users and current customers while providing social proof. Always ask questions like, "Is there something we are doing now that we can improve upon?" or "Is there anything we are doing that we shouldn't be?"

If you don't know what questions to ask, change your perspective and start with a SWOT analysis. You'll be able to zero in on your own critical mass.

Design an Accurate, Ideally Replicable Roadmap

Our company was built by lawn service providers who have a thorough understanding of the outdoor service industry. This hands-on experience was advantageous in allowing us to quickly focus our pre-season efforts on courting and retaining our independent providers. We concentrated on showcasing value.

First, we ensured user interface was simple to use by removing clutter and making pertinent information clear. Next, we integrated service requests using GPS software so that providers could easily accept jobs that fit seamlessly into their business routes. We also realized traditional lawn care companies consistently found themselves with less cash at the end of a work week than when they started.

By integrating electronic payments, we solved cash flow issues for providers and allowed them to receive payment immediately after service had been rendered -- limiting their accounts receivable headaches. Once you identify your customers' actual needs, you can determine your business's goals and the most efficient way to achieve them. Reaching those goals will naturally showcase value.

Rely on Your Experience

With clarity on whether your egg or chicken need to come first and value-informed priorities to get there, you're best able to test your roadmap's new set of assumptions. To evaluate your roadmap, trust your gut and real world experience and don't be afraid of trial by fire.

Our new assumptions aligned with reality. We know that providers already run successful businesses, so by providing them a way to increase cash flow and build clientele while eliminating the archaic "pay per lead" sales generator, we're able to capitalize on loyalty and maximize provider retention.

Drawing on past experience, we approach new markets with seemingly atypical requirements: We need a minimum of X providers before the season to enter a market of Y population, and have geared our provider penetration strategy to demonstrate our complementary perspective.

Now, we confidently mimic our successes and focus on improvements by listening to the people who actually use the platform: our customers and service providers.

Jasnik Parmar is VP of Growth at LawnGuru. He is directly responsible for success in marketing, users and providers in each LawnGuru market.

Published on: Mar 30, 2017