@DefiningImagery, What do you think about this off platform communications tracking (texting. telephone. email)? This has my attention! I have been passive with all the TT nonsense but this is seriously questionable from our standpoint.
I'm not sure about what you're saying. As far as them charging when the client contacts, they've got to watch for various types of contact or they would only get paid when someone messages directly from the site. I think that's perfectly fair. What I did have a problem with, though, is that sometimes people call and don't leave a message. I don't know that a missed call was some spam telemarketer or a potential client. If it was a potential TT client, and I didn't actually speak with them or know that they called, then there shouldn't be a charge for that. I actually had that happen the other day. The guy called me twice, from 2 different phone numbers, and the next day, called me 2 more times. At no point did he actaully leave a message. I had no idea a client was calling. When I discovered this, and looked at my phone log, it turned out that only 3 of the 4 calls from this guy, registered on my cell phone call log. He actually called me from 4 different phones!!! When I saw this, I was upset because I didn't want to be charged for someone who never left a message to let me know I even missed the call! But it all turned out to be bogus anyway. My accout got marked as "not charged". When I attempted to call the 4 numbers which TT provided as the "call from" numbers, the first was a non-working number. The 2nd was a working line with a differnt persons name on the caller ID, and a woman answered and didn't know anyone by this "client's" name. The other one was also a non-working #, and the last one was a fax line that rang and rang, then disconnected.
@DefiningImageryYou have taught me something serious, here. I have been away from the Thumbtack platform so long that I do not even know how they work, now. I am still back in the days of when we bid on opportunities. I was not even aware they charged when a customer attempted contact. When I was bidding the customer could not make contact as they did not know any of the Pros nor how to reach them until they bid and the profile and contact info was then available. So I guess I have to re-think this issue to see where they are coming from on it.
In my obsolete TT world I would have a problem with TT tracking our phone calls, text messages, and emails. Hearing from you and realizing they charge based on customer contact (no longer just on bids) I can see why they think they need this.
But what you have told me that is serious is we may not be able to ever return to TT because of all the changes we do not understand and obviously a mismatch in concepts. I enjoyed bidding and winning customers and getting the shoots even though collectively they were never profitable for us when we analyzed all the expense incurred to participate vs the net income we generated from the platform. Now we can not bid because it requires setting budgets to bid. Our position at the time of this budget change was if we were not making money as it was we could not make that up with more volume that we could not control. Not to mention that our schedules were too busy to just arbitrarily bid without knowing our workload at the time of the bid. I think TT caters to Pros that need and want all the business they can get and we were experimenting with their platform to see if it could evolve into our primary marketing platform. If our schedules are stacked for two weeks, I do not want any more business as I could not service it properly and our quality would suffer. We offer a satisfaction guarantee on all shoots so we are super sensitive to the balance of the workload and our quality of performance. Photography, as you know, is labor intensive. It is not just the shoot time. That is only the "start" of the job and really the least amount of time consumption. After managing a 12 man staff and scaling back to 3 we do not want to expand and grow. Our blend is right for us and works well for our vertical market. I have a new website already developed specifically for our boudoir vertical market but have never uploaded it because we are concerned that we would be forced into a growth model if we increased our marketing effort. After shooting extensively and working "extremely" long hours since 1997 a growth model is not appealing. So after learning from you I can see the world we lived in with TT may be gone forever for us. They want us to be in growth mode and bid when they want us to bid with as much volume as they can generate for us.
I can now look at all of this with a different perspective.
What my original comments were referenceing were the threads in the conversation titled "Tracking Our off Platform Communications". This is a change in their Terms of Service Agreement. It does make more sense after hearing how customer contacts are made now. For us it is still too invasive. All of this new TT is too much for the simpicity of our model. I think we prefer bidding when we want to bid and using the TT platform to help with lead generation but not as our marketing arm. Thanks for your help in understanding the new TT !
Actually, you can do it the old way and bid as you want. I will never agree to the instant match system, and virtually all the people that are screaming their heads off are doing so because they are on instant match. That system is a horror and for a year before they launched it, I protested it because I saw all of these issues coming. Everything that everyone is screaming about is what I warned of. But, I see why they didn't listen to me then, because now that they've implemented it, they're not listening to thousands of screaming pros. I was not ignorant enough to be willing to hand over my credit card to let TT decide what to bid on for me, when for 4 years, 75% of all the requests that came through were garbage that I wasn't willing to bid on, and did not meet my criteria. If they couldnt' so something as simple as filter the requests down to the areas I actually service, how could I possibly trust them to not bid those areas? And if requests have obviously bogus names, like fictional characters, I'm sure not going to bid that - but instant match would!
So, yes, you can come back and do it like you were doing it, just run for the hills from Instant Mess! LOL! You are obviously a capable, intelligent, savvy business owner who is hands-on. A lot of the ones on IM are clueless amateurs who don't even comprehend Cost of Acquisition. my ROI net on a TT client is about 1 : 9.7, which is actually outstanding, and nearly double what would be considered a high number! But that's not going to happen with these amatuers handing over snapshots burned to disk same day. They're draining their accounts dry! If you don't have upsell on the other end, you're never going to survive on just sitting or event fees. But YOU can still use it because you know how to bid intelligently on requests you manually filter through. I still pass on 75% of the requests and only pay when they contact me. That's actually an excellent system and works great for me. The only issue is that I've had to cut sitting fees in half to compete with 14 others, instead of before with a max of 5. Usually I'd only have 2-3 others bidding against me and I had a much higher conversion rate. But now I'm still getting hired, and often at cut rate, but I increased my product pricing and added the premium albums and I'm still doing ok. I am working 12-18 hour days though, because the average customer spend needs to be higher. I do get the $1000 - $3500 sales but I need a higher percentage of them, so I can work more normal hours and earn more per hour. I would love it if they went back to the 5 bid max way of doing biz, but this year with my adapting to the new system, I've equaled what I've earned last year. It's a disappointment because its my first year without growth, but I didn't drop.
So, don't hesitate to jump back in if you're going to do it the sane, intelligent, old way.
Thank you for the information. When I have a few extra minutes I will chat with customer service again. The last 5 times I have thought about bidding I got the message that I had to set a budget to bid. So to get my dissapproval documented I contacted CS each time to verify that was actually a hard policy. Each time they confirmed that I had to set a budget to bid so I passed. I guess the pushback let them get some sanity in their policy.
I still have too many other issues that prevent our interest, "currently". The cost being the big one. If I knew we would get the booking for the $19.40 "minimum" cost to bid we could easily incumber the cost. But to bid five or more times to get a booking is prohibitive and atypical for our proven successes for as long as we have been professional photographers. We have intensionally priced ourselves below the competition. We offer more shoot time with "two" photographers, more finished images, more prints, a leather photo book (needed for beautiful boudoir), a couple of outfits, and a satisfaction guarantee on everything "always" (never had to use it). It actually is somewhat insulting to get 1 out of 5 or more bids when we almost always get what we bid otherwise (90%). We have had all 5 star reviews for years. To us a 5 star review is all that is acceptable and we would not understand anything less. If anything is not right we make it right. And we know and do not have to wait for a client to tell us. But as we discussed the real issue with us is what is the value when compared to our other methods of acquisition. Word of mouth is free marketing and TT (or any other service) can not compete with free as long as we have enough business. And again, we are so fortunate to be in this position where we no longer have to market. This is strictly due to our boudoir vertical and so many years of experience with a very satisfied customer base. Boudoir requires a very high level of client comfort with their photographers. We are a husband/wife team with different styles, equipment, and perspective that produces great results and client value. We are probably priced at 50% of what we could bill but we like offering a lot for the money. But what we like the most is when the client sees their prints for the first time. The most common response is "OMG Is that me"? How much is that worth? Everything can not always be about the money.
As for upsells we sell larger prints, more prints, marketing goodies, and sometimes more finished images or additional copies of the images. When hair and makeup becomes a rigid requirement (where we have to bring in a HMUA) the complexcity of the shoot increases significantly due to the extra person with schedules and timing, etc. We offer the basics of coaching the client how to get these great results without the additional expense of the HMUA. When shooting for a model that needs the extra glamour for a portfolio we draw from several makeup artists. Again efficiency keeps the typical client cost low when they are experiencing what is usually a once in a lifetime opportunity and uncharacteristic of their personality. They are usually interested in the shoot as a gift for their loved ones for a couple of hundred dollars. Sometimes the objective of the shoot is a compliment of before and after shots for weight loss programs or when medical applications are in the clients future. Many of our shoots are gifts for deployed spouses & significan others.
We still shoot our "high visibility" assignments where we do charge significantly more but this boudoir vertical is now our production. We do not have to travel, carry gear, and setup sets with all that involves.
Finally, we could not allow any third party organization to get into a position of control over our business decisions. We are old school and alwasy will be. We believe in providing excellent value and paying for services that benefit us. Thumbtack was on the cusp of providing that level of service a few years ago for us and I hope they can get back to a comparable or better model. It would be nice to bid and get the business and pay a reasonable amount to have the leads that translate into bookngs. But playing all these games are not even close to appealing and are now cost prohibitive based on "our" business model. Again if we were in an entry level of business development we may view it differently.
I am glad to see Thumbtack increaing their transparancy with this community forum. They can learn a lot if they listen. There has not been a reason for us to visit their platform but a handful of times in a year or longer. At least now there is a forum for us to communicate what provides us value and learn from other professionals like yourself. This will all settle itself over time to where TT provides good value to their Pros and have a tremendous business or not. I hope they can pull it off and realize "who" their client truly is. Who pays their bills!
Lastly, I am not in favor of TT monitoring our off platform communications. That is simply too invasive for us to embrace. I feel they have to have a model that ensures their payment for services are accomplished. But not by prying into private communications. From our positon after they provide the lead they should have their compensation and be finished unless their is some complication from the Customer or Pros standpoint. Then they must arbitrate the outcome.
Thank you for taking time to discuss everything. It has been a real pleasure talking with you and learning about your successes using the TT platform. That gives us hope!
I love all the medals, badges, etc. It makes me feel just like a kindergardener again! I received bunch too for one post I made a couple weeks ago. Then about a week later I received a message telling me the post was deleted because it violated their decency standards.
And what's with all the badges? This isn't a video game. Please stop with the badges - unless they lead to a business end.
My sentiments exactly! I receive all these badges, but NEVER hear back from reps(whether it be email, or private message) as to when my issues/concerns will be resolved, or reply to ALL of my questions that I feel need answering. What good are Badges? Like you said, it's not a video game unless it leads to business leads, and substantial business leads.