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6 Lead-Generation Platforms for Local Businesses

More than a quarter of consumers say they use the internet to find local businesses every day, and yet a whopping 29% of small businesses still don’t have websites. That figure jumps even higher in the home services industry, where many professionals—like house cleaners, contractors, and plumbers—are in business for themselves, with little to no time available to handle digital marketing tasks.

When word of mouth alone isn’t enough to keep their schedules full, these professionals are increasingly relying on lead-generation platforms. Platforms like Thumbtack and TaskRabbit connect consumers to qualified businesspeople, using location technology and online payment systems to streamline the process. In exchange for the service, businesses typically agree to pay a referral fee or a percentage of the total revenue generated by customers referred through those platforms.

Here are six examples of lead-generation platforms that small businesses are using right now.

1) Thumbtack
It’s been almost 10 years since Thumbtack first entered the lead-generation market. In that time, the company has grown to become one of the largest players in the industry. The platform is used by consumers to find local professionals for nearly any task. Consumers can filter search results based on any number of factors and contact professionals through the web-based platform. Thumbtack’s local professionals only pay when they’re contacted or hired by leads, and they have the freedom to accept or decline any job. Thumbtack also provides its business clients with information on how they compare to other professionals in their areas, in terms of prices and number of gigs. Because the pricing structure with Thumbtack can be complex, professionals need to contact the company directly to find out how much they will spend on individual project bids.

2) TaskRabbit
TaskRabbit’s business model has evolved since the company was founded in 2008. Today, the company calls itself an online marketplace, matching freelance labor with local demand. TaskRabbit’s service professionals—called “Taskers”—are less specialized than those on other platforms, usually handling everyday tasks like cleaning, moving, and handyman work. The platform notifies Taskers when potential jobs are nearby, and gives them the ability to select the jobs they want to complete through a mobile application. TaskRabbit charges Taskers a 15% service fee from the total price paid for each task. Customers can also leave tips for Taskers through the online platform. Unlike a number of other platforms, TaskRabbit does offer in-person onboarding sessions in selected cities.

3) Pro Referral
Developed by Redbeacon in 2008, the platform now known as Pro Referral was acquired by Home Depot in 2012. That connection to Home Depot means that service professionals who use Pro Referral get some benefits when they shop for their projects at Home Depot’s retail stores. Contractors and other home improvement pros using Pro Referral’s lead generation platform post profiles with photos of past work, which potential customers can browse. Contractors can also sign up to receive project leads, which they can reach out to themselves. Leads are paid for through a points-based system. The more contractors spend at Home Depot, the more points they receive to spend on new leads.

4) Bidvine
Bidvine takes a more generalized approach than some of the other lead generation solutions on this list, offering a platform that can be used by solo-preneurs and small businesses in hundreds of industries. Consumers enter basic information about what they need—for example, a piano teacher or a handyman—and Bidvine sends those requests to local pros. Those pros have the option to bid on a job or pass. Pros pay Bidvine a fee for each job they bid on. The fee varies depending on the work and competition in the local area. Communication with potential customers happens through the Bidvine platform, and a robust reviews system helps users decide which pros to pick for each job.

5) Zaarly
An established player in the lead generation market, Zaarly bills itself as a proximity-based, real-time, buyer-powered platform. In layman’s terms, that means consumers in local markets can hire service providers to complete all sorts of tasks. Zaarly offers consumers a number of protections against scams or poor work, by guaranteeing all projects that were setup through its platform. Zaarly’s service providers are vetted by the company, including undergoing background checks and insurance verification. Rather than charging for leads, as most other platforms do, Zaarly charges businesses a 10% transaction fee at the end of each finished project. That means businesses don’t pay for leads that don’t pan out. The platform also provides its business users with tools to keep their customers organized and track revenue.

6) LeadsForward
LeadsForward is a lead generation tool for contractors and home service professionals. LeadsForward handles more of the heavy lifting than some other platforms, nurturing leads and helping its business users convert those leads to paying customers. LeadsForward attracts those local leads largely through custom websites, online ads, social media, and email marketing, and it continues to tweak the messaging of individual campaigns and website layouts based on ongoing analytics. The company says it works with contractors to turn leads into paying customers through its own customer acquisition techniques, and it only charges contractors once leads have become paying customers.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

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