I recently was invited to participate in a panel discussion for the online service directory, Thumbtack. They brought together over 600 of their employees from around the US to congregate in Denver for their camp-themed conference right after Labor Day. Suffice it to say, it was a great experience but I did try to sum it up in a Facebook post…
And watching this video back a month later definitely made me laugh just as much as I did in the moment.
While the name of the company definitely fits the brand, I felt compelled to do a little research before writing this blog about the origins of the “thumbtack”. Bet you didn’t know it was invented in 1904 as a drawing aid by a German clockmaker named Johann Kirsten. Kirsten simply flattened the top of a pushpin, which had been invented four years earlier as a tool for marking maps. The reason for naming them thumbtacks as opposed to index or any other finger tack? Generally speaking, our thumbs are the strongest finger and therefore it stands to reason that we should use it to perform the task of “tacking” something.
And then I delved into the use of the word thumb in various phrases and “rule of thumb” immediately came to mind. According to The Phrase Finder, it means “an of estimation made according to a rough and ready practical rule, not based on science or exact measurement”. If ever there was a definition of what it is like to be a professional organizer, this is it. Seriously, it’s not an exact science by any stretch of the imagination. We do follow a process but it is rarely a linear one from start to finish. Most of the time we are dealing with such unique and, yes, challenging situations that we have to deviate, punt, whatever you want to call it in order to get to the finish line.
Meanwhile, there’s also this explanation for the phrase…
Sigh…why does so much of our history stem from men dominating women in ways that are just so unbelievably wrong?
Anyway, when I made the decision to go all in with It’s Just Stuff two years ago in a way I never had before, I knew that beyond finally creating a website, implementing backend systems, training a team of amazing project helpers and upping my social media game, I had to generate leads the quote-unquote “new fashioned-way”...online. It didn’t mean that I was abandoning my long-held belief that networking in person really does work. I just knew I wouldn’t be able to commit to as much of it moving forward…or at least not for the first year or two while growing and expanding this business. I needed to be “in the trenches” most days, working on projects of all shapes and sizes. Besides, the pandemic pretty much limited my ability to go to a lot of events through the remainder of 2020 and into most of 2021.
After some degree of research, I dipped my toes into the online lead-generating world and, well, let’s just say that I’m glad I stayed in the shallow end of the proverbial pool at that time and didn’t go too far into the deep end. That said, I set up profiles on Yelp, Task Rabbit, Home Advisor, and a couple of other platforms but got very few actual inquiries. And the ones I did never amounted to being hired. I was obviously frustrated after a few months and decided to suspend getting paid leads. I felt busy enough and was going to focus back on referrals from my networking connections, especially Realtors and Senior Care Managers. They were my bread and butter at that point and still remain a big part of my referral network without having to invest as much time into maintaining those relationships now that we have gotten to know, like, and trust one another. I think I have proven myself to be reliable and someone that can get the job done with an attention for detail and efficiency for each and every client.
And then one day I was scrolling through Facebook and came across an ad for Thumbtack. I had never heard of it before but figured I would, at the very least, set up a profile and be able to view what they refer to as “opportunities” as opposed to direct leads. You don’t pay for the opportunity unless the customer responds to you. A direct lead you pay a certain amount depending on what Thumbtack’s algorithm determines on any given day.
The downside to opportunities?
You aren’t one of the first to actually see the inquiry so the chance of getting the job is statistically less likely.
But I could see how many other pros had already responded and when the inquiry was originally submitted. I created a boilerplate response and twice a day (first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening) sent out that response to every “opportunity” that seemed like a good match. And while this may seem like a real crapshoot I should probably point out that I do pride myself on writing great introductory messages. It just comes to me naturally although I have credited my father many times for my “gift of gab” and my grandmother for my willingness to “show up” in life so it is also a skill that was clearly nurtured from a young age.
I can point to countless times in my life when I essentially got what I wanted or needed because of my ability to communicate with integrity and authenticity. School elections, college acceptances, jobs, even romantic relationships…yes romantic relationships…all happened as a result of the initial impression I made on people through written words. I once had a potential employer tell me she cried after reading my cover letter. She said it conveyed so much passion but equally important there were no grammatical errors. I got the job and to this day it remains one of the best ones I ever had the pleasure to accept and perform.
So what does any of this have to do with being a professional organizer?
Well, it probably has more to do with just being a professional period.
But for the sake of this blog, I am going to argue that I think if you are going to claim to be an organizer you better be, you know, organized. Lead generation takes a lot of organizational skills. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum and you need to make sure you are committed to the amount of follow-up you need to do for each and every inquiry. Some people just aren’t able or willing to make that kind of commitment and, you know what? That really is ok. I always tell any prospective client that what I do is my “superpower” so if they find themselves spinning in the middle of a room trying to figure out where to begin any organizing project, it really may be best to hire a professional to coach and guide them along the way so they can continue to focus on their superpowers.
But I digress…
After having some initial success with obtaining business through Thumbtack’s opportunity program, I decided to set up a weekly budget that ostensibly should have generated about 4-5 leads a week. I figured that was a good place to start and see whether it would bring in that much business. In a matter of a few weeks, I was not only converting every lead to actually being hired but those leads cost less than 3% of the revenue from each job won. That is a very respectable number I am told. Trust me…I am not a statistician or financial analyst but that does seem like a very small price to pay for a rather substantial amount of revenue and I happily accept it as a “cost of doing business”.
So once the proof was in the pudding with Thumbtack, I increased my weekly budget several more times over the course of a few months and have pretty much left it at that dollar amount for the better part of the past two years. I could increase it but my calendar is already blocked off at least 3-4 weeks in advance and my current team members are as busy as they want/need to be as 1099 contractors. More importantly, I have close to 50 5-star reviews on my Thumbtack profile and they are now generating leads outside of Thumbtack all because of how my ranking on their platform pushes my SEO higher on Google.
Here are just a few of the many reviews we've proudly received on Thumbtack...
Thumbtack’s CEO himself, Marco Zappacosta, made it very clear in his keynote address that they are committed to really helping pros get bookings. And while I did sign an NDA as a participant at the conference and cannot share any of the specific details about the improvements they are continuing to make for both a better pro and customer experience, I can share what Kevin Eddingfield of Mighty Plumbing and Heating, the only other pro that was invited to be on the panel said. He attributes most of his rapid trajectory over the past 3 years to his "partnership" with Thumbtack. I mean, he went from one truck and a few employees, to dozens of each and is now generating over $6M a year in revenue. It should only happen to all entrepreneurs with a great vision and a lot of energy right?
Thumbtack is more than just another lead-generating platform. They truly want to be our partner in growing and succeeding. I’m sure other similar platforms want to claim that but my experience was the opposite. They took my money and ran without providing any support.
And no, Thumbtack is not paying me to say any of this.
Well, they aren’t paying me with money but indirectly I have benefited from my partnership with them, just like Kevin, in more ways than I could have ever imagined. In addition to the recent conference participation, they have…
…included me in a video that was presented at a company-wide meeting the definition of “home” and “community”
…highlighted It’s Just Stuff on their social media accounts
…invited me to be on an online panel about women in business during International Women’s History Month.
…and most recently asked if I could be interviewed anytime in the future for media opportunities that want to share how Thumbtack helps pros like me.
As I alluded to earlier, all of the above has dramatically improved It’s Just Stuff’s SEO essentially for free. I am still paying for leads and still have to hustle really hard to maintain my top pro status with them but getting to the first page of Google normally is no easy task without paying a lot of money to someone that knows how to get a business to the first page of Google and maintain that ranking as they constantly change their algorithms. When I mentioned this fact during the panel discussion here in Denver at their conference, the audience cheered and applauded not only to acknowledge my company’s rapid ascent on their platform but also to give themselves a pat on the back for creating and maintaining such a robust platform.
These are a few of the very proud Thumbtack employees I met at "Camp Thumbtack". There is no doubt in my mind that they love their jobs and adhere to Thumbtack's core values.
Bottom line, my "rule of thumb" will continue to use Thumbtack as the ONLY paid lead generating I feel I need to do. I honestly don’t know where my business would be today had I not taken a chance with them two years ago. What I do know, though, is I am ready to expand to a few other Thumbtack markets in other states. It is going to be a bit of a juggling act for sure but I know Thumbtack will have my back so to speak and help me navigate 3 or 4 new profiles and calendars.
So watch out California, Arizona, Utah, and Michigan…It's Just Stuff is coming for you…with a great deal of compassion and a touch of ruthlessness too because, as I always say, there really is no point in hiring any professional organizer if you aren’t willing to allow for a little tough love during the process.
Be well, be safe and always be kind,