Most people stopped using the Yellow Pages to find a tradesman a decade ago. Since then, the number of websites looking to help consumers connect with the right plumber or electrician has grown exponentially, but the battle is now on between apps looking to corner the tradie market. Despite the competition, Melbourne startup Mr Tradie believes it has the tools to do it.
Founder Ishan Dan said the idea for the app came from a conversation he had at the pub with his friends, one a plumber and the other a builder. Both were having trouble getting their businesses off the ground.
“I asked them what their marketing strategy was and how they were attracting business. Both looked me rather stunned and said, we don’t really use marketing, we rely on word of mouth. That was my lightbulb moment,” he said.
“It dawned on me that while most tradies have learned the basics of business and their trade, they weren’t employing effective marketing strategies such as a website, SEO and proper use of digital marketing to expand their business and gain leads.”
The first step for tradies is to register their business on the app. They can then wait for customers to contact them directly to request a quote or by sending a job callout. The tradie then has 24 hours to respond to the job request. A feature to come in the app’s next update will allow tradies to browse a job board of callouts that were not accepted by others in the 24 hour window.
Customers can browse businesses by trade, with search results showing the closest businesses to their GPS location, with their feedback score also listed. Once a tradie has been selected, the user answers three questions – what do you need done, where do you need it done, and when do you need it done – and can take three pictures of the required job; this information is then sent to the tradie via a push notification. For those less picky, the job callout feature sends a callout to the five tradies and posts the callout on the job board.
Free to download for consumers, listing on the app will cost a tradie $10 per month, or $100 per year through a one-off payment.
“There are platforms that charge tradies every time they receive a quote, regardless of whether the tradie gets the job or not. One of the many complaints I hear from frustrated tradies is when they receive invoices at the end of each month for a heap of job quotes they’ve received, but never actually carried out the work.”
Bars and pubs have been fertile ground for Dan, who found investment through an old work connection turned successful entrepreneur after bumping into him at a bar a few years ago, when Mr Tradie was still just an idea.
“He was impressed by the idea and absolutely loved it. We didn’t cross paths again until early this year when he asked me how the idea was progressing. So I brought him up to speed and told him the iPhone app had just launched, but needed an Android version and a marketing strategy,” Dan said.
The connection, who was involved in the ASX listing of Rewardle, has invested $100,000 in the startup.
Despite finding investment relatively easily, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Dan; what he thought was a six month job took the developer two years to complete. That said, he’s quite content with the result.
Dan is not daunted by the competition in the market – namely popular platforms hipages and Oneflare, which has 70,000 registered tradies and attracts 1.3 unique visitors a month.
“If you look at tradie apps on the market at the moment, they’re merely extensions of a website. They are simple, boring, and limited in functionality. Some are just the Yellow Pages dressed up. Mr Tradie is more than that. It has been built from the ground up and isn’t an extension of a website. Like Uber, it has full GPS, maps, Facebook and push notification integration that will enhance the user experience.”
With the iOS app already out, Dan is aiming for an October release of the Android version, with a major update coming for the platform soon after.
He said, “Over the next 12 months our aim is to capture the Melbourne tradies market and possibly Sydney. We’re aiming to have 5,000-10,000 tradies on board by this time next year, and to have the app being used by consumers in both states. It’s a big ask, but I think it’s possible.”