Thumbtack could be your ticket to more leads.

Founded in 2009, Thumbtack is an online marketplace for service-oriented businesses. We likened it to a hip, sleeker version of Angie’s List when we first introduced the platform here.

(To learn how to set up your own Thumbtack account, check this article out too.)

One of our wonderful friends, Denise Morris is the Vice President of Local Operations for Buzz Franchise Brands (BFB), an organization that helps drive new business to franchises by pulling from a variety of different resources, like Thumbtack.

She talked with us about the benefits and pitfalls of using Thumbtack and with the help of her office manager Brittany Willman, who manages the Thumbtack accounts on a daily basis, she was able to tell us just how the process works.

Currently, BFB works with three different brands: Home Clean Heroes (HCH), which is a cleaning company, a pool repair and maintenance franchise named Pool Scouts, and a mosquito control company called Mosquito Joe, or MoJo.

BFB started using Thumbtack to garner more leads for HCH in May and Denise says she’s been pleasantly surprised with the results.

I talked to Denise and Brittany at the end of October and in the two to three months prior, Thumbtack sent out about 1,100 quotes to interested customers. About 50-60 of those quotes, 5-6%, turned into full-fledged customers by way of the Thumbtack process. Denise estimates that leads cost them an average of $17-20 per customer. Not bad! Especially if those leads turn into lifelong clients or even year-long clients.

Even more encouraging, Brittany says that most people don’t even go through the whole Thumbtack process. Instead, they just discover them on Thumbtack, get a quote, and call Brittany directly. She estimates about 70-80% of those quoted end up choosing that route.

When asked how easy it is to use, Brittany said,

“It’s not hard at all.”

How Thumbtack Works

When the platform first got started, it ran on a credit system. Users could buy credits for $1.67 each and then use the credits to pay for leads, enabling them to maintain some sort of budgetary limit. Now, however, businesses set a weekly budget allocated specifically for leads. For HCH, BFB sets aside $150 a week for leads. If they hit that cap, Thumbtack will notify Brittany of a new inquiry and she can decide whether or not they want to pay out more than their weekly budget.

Here’s how things work from start to finish:

ThumbtackStep 1: Free quotes baby! A customer looking for, say, home cleaning services inputs their needs into the Thumbtack platform. Thumbtack then brings up a short list of businesses that they think will best fit the customer’s needs. They pick the brand or brands they’re interested in and request a quote. Thumbtack responds with an automated message created by the business that includes a quote. If the customer doesn’t respond, Thumbtack will send a follow-up message to see if they want to move forward. As of now, the business hasn’t been charged anything.


ThumbtackStep 2: Yay or nay? If the customer chooses to continue, a dialogue is opened up between them and the business to hash out details of service, their needs, cost and so on. This is when the fees kick in.


Thumbtack charges per point of communication. So the more back and forth messaging that goes on the higher the price.


ThumbtackStep 3: Close it for life! After messaging back and forth, a customer can okay the job. After that, Thumbtack is out of the picture and it’s up to the business to maintain a relationship with that customer.


Challenges Using Thumbtack

For the most part, Thumbtack has been a useful tool, especially for HCH, but it seems some businesses have their own challenges on the site. For example, Thumbtack may not be the first place people go for swimming pool maintenance and repair. When I searched for caterers in the Denver area, the site said there were some 117 providers I could potentially choose from. Granted, after letting them know specifically what I was looking for, the list would be narrowed down. On the other hand, pool service and repair didn’t come up with any number of providers. I got a note that said, “We’ll find some for you.” I think that says one of two things: either people don’t use Thumbtack for pool repair or it’s an unsaturated market.

Denise said (perhaps pun intended),

“We’re just getting our feet wet on the Pool Scouts side as far as pool cleaning and have learned that people do reach out on Thumbtack for minor repairs and things like that.”

As for Mosquito Joe (MoJo), they started using it late in the season so they weren’t able to give it a good chance.

They have noticed some challenges, though. The way businesses are categorized can make getting leads for MoJo a little challenging. MoJo does strictly mosquito control and is generally lumped into pest control on Thumbtack. However, it seems that the pest control category isn’t getting much traffic from Thumbtack, let alone mosquito control businesses. They are working with Thumbtack to see if they can open up a mosquito control business category.

Another pitfall is something not unique to Thumbtack but the nature of the beast when it comes to digital conversations. Brittany gets Thumbtack notifications about customers on her phone. Whether she responds on her phone or waits to get to a computer, her conversations with potential customers are limited to topics like how many rooms they have in their house, how many need to be cleaned, if they want any bathrooms cleaned, square footage of the house, etc. Thumbtack also provides customers with prepared responses ready to be delivered to a business with a single click, further limiting the conversation on the business’s side. The digital conversation makes it difficult for Brittany to gauge what the customer is thinking or feeling and how to best understand their needs, which can make it difficult for her to land a sale.

Get on Board!

Any platform is going to have its pitfalls, but Thumbtack seems to be working for the most part. Also, it’s still in its infancy, only eight years old. It’s got a lot of growing to do and kinks to work out. Nevertheless, it seems to be worthy of a test as it’s proving to be a fine place to generate leads at a reasonable, self-moderating cost. Like the Thumbtack site itself says, “Consider it done.”


Matthew Van Deventer

Matthew Van Deventer is a content creator for WebPunch. As a dealer of words he dabbles in journalism and loves a good story, whatever the medium. Matthew lives outside of Denver, CO with his wife, daughter, and pup, Chewy.