One of the most frequently asked questions in our recent Seller Feedback Survey was why we don’t operate on a subscription or commission basis.
It’s a good question…
And we agree that, superficially, those options might seem appealing.
But, as you’ll see here, they lead to a rigid service that’s unfair to you, your customers and your fellow Bark pros.
That’s why we believe our “per response” model provides the best of all possible worlds for everyone involved. It helps us provide our buyers with a great service, and it makes it easier for you to close the deal!
Plus, it lets us guarantee you’ll only pay for a lead when the buyer has read your response to their Bark and seen what you have to offer.
Here’s why we believe this is the right model for you:
What’s wrong with a subscription model?
Under a subscription approach, you’d pay a fixed monthly fee to use our service – something we’ve experimented with in the past.
The main advantage of this kind of model is that you know in advance how much you’ll be spending on leads each month, and are able to plan your budget accordingly.
But sadly, this leads to some nasty unforeseen consequences.
- | Bad for magicians, blacksmiths and chimney sweeps
First up, the subscription model unfairly penalizes pros working in niche categories. It means pros in popular niches tend to do well at the expense of other businesses.
We get many more Gardening, Photography, DJ and House Cleaning Barks than we do for Acupuncture, Magicians and Mechanical Bull Rental, for example.
Since the idea of Bark.com is to provide buyers with a “search engine for everything”, this goes against what we stand for.
We need people to feel they can turn to us for anything in order to promote repeat business. So we needed to create a service that works for the pros in all of our categories.
In this way, we believe we can generate more leads for everyone – including the pros in our most popular categories.
- | No good if you work out in the sticks
Similar problems arise for businesses based in rural areas.
If you cover a densely populated area – such as London, Manchester or Birmingham – your service area covers more people, which means more Barks for you.
But we offer a nationwide service that helps people find the pros they need no matter where they live in the UK.
And that means a subscription model is generally poorer value if you’re in the Highlands, Devon or anywhere with clean air and grassy fields.
Again, this would limit the growth of our service outside of major cities.
- | But also rubbish if you work in the city!
So, the only people who win under a subscription model are those of use who live and work in the city, right?
Not quite. These people receive loads of Barks for not much money, but that creates its own problem: competition.
Imagine for a moment you have a friend named Jeff.
Jeff is a photographer based in London. He’s paid his subscription for the month, so it’s now in his interests to respond to as many of the Barks that come his way as possible.
He finds he’s getting quite a lot, so he puts together a generic response, which he copies and pastes into every response to save time.
Now imagine every photographer in London is doing the same thing – what does that mean for our buyers?
To begin with they’d get bombarded with way more quotes than they wanted. At most they might choose one, and then they probably won’t use us again – bad for everyone.
To combat this, we could introduce a cap on the number of responses each buyer receives to five, or so. But how would that work?
If it’s “first come, first served” there’s no way to guarantee we’re sending our buyers the best possible pros. Sending them the five cheapest quotes would encourage a race to the bottom, limiting your potential profits. Giving priority to our seasoned pros would put off our newer ones.
In short, capping the total responses any one Bark can receive under the subscription model seems unfair to you and your fellow pros – but unless we did something like that, it would mean far too much competition in urban areas.
So, the subscription model doesn’t work for any of us…
But what about a
As far as we’re aware, absolutely no one in this industry operates like this. It just doesn’t work very well.
It would be great if you could simply take commission based on the confirmed work you you secure through our site.
But there isn’t any reliable way to do this without making it much harder for you to secure the business in the first place, which is something we absolutely want to avoid.
It should be easy for you to grow your customer base using the leads we send you from the Bark website.
But keeping track of the commission we’re owed would lead to draconian measures that would be unpleasant for everyone involved.
- | Pricing becomes a right pain
First, the process of closing a sale would likely get longer and more drawn out.
It would require more back-and-forth between you and all your potential clients. We’d need to know what commission to charge, so you’d need to agree all your prices up front in our Bark Messenger.
This also creates an incentive for pros to “lowball” their quote on Bark, to pay less commission, and then add on extras direct with the buyer at a later date.
All this has the potential to be off-putting for our buyers – especially, for Barks where you need more information from the buyer before you can provide them with an accurate quote.
Some jobs are tricky to explain unless you do it in person or over the phone, which brings me to our next problem.
- | Dodgy dealers ruin things for everyone
Our current business model is designed to make it as easy as possible for you to contact your potential clients. You can send them absolutely any contact information you like to help them get in touch.
If the best way to win their custom is by phone, that’s fine by us. If you prefer to interact by email or text, that’s fine too. And, of course, our Bark Messenger is tailor made to help you connect with potential customers.
But the commission model presents us with a problem:
Some sellers might simply ask their customers to call them for a quote and try to keep all the commission for themselves.
Now, we’re certainly not saying you’d do a thing like that. In fact, we’re sure you wouldn’t – but I hope you can appreciate the problem.
The upshot is that we’d need to redact your contact information from all the posts you send in the Bark messenger.
It would mean blocking out any phone numbers, email addresses, and website links you tried to include in messages to potential customers – something we absolutely don’t want to do.
We’d look bad, and it would be harder for you to convert the business.
And that’s not the only problem…
- | We don’t want to be chasing you
Imagine that Bark is operating on a commission basis and you’ve just closed a huge deal.
Let’s say you do loft conversions and you’ve just landed £30,000. Even if we only charged 3% commission, you’re looking at a £900 cut for us.
When would you like to send it over?
The simplest answer is for you to send it as soon as the deal is agreed. But then you could be out of pocket for days until the customer sends you their payment – maybe even weeks.
If the sale falls through for whatever reason, suddenly you’re £900 out of pocket. You might reasonably expect a refund, so we’d need to hire a team to handle these claims – adding to our overheads and driving up the commission we’d need to charge in the first place.
There’s a similar problem with sending the payment after you received your fee from the customer.
We’d need to hire a team to follow-up on all deals and make sure pros don’t forget to send it over. That would be expensive, thus driving up the commission we charge, and lots of hassle for you.
Besides all else, it’s not really what any of us here at Bark HQ signed up for – we want to help you grow your business, not chase you for money!
And that’s really the crux of the issue: the commission model is incompatible with what we’re trying to do here at Bark.
Remember, we are a search engine for everything – from lawn mowing to legal advice – and different pros generate differently sized commissions for their services.
We don’t want to chase thousands of London photographers to make sure they don’t forget to send the odd £10 here and there.
And we don’t want to focus our efforts on promoting big ticket items like construction work, when most of the people visiting our site are looking for things like Gardening, DJs and House Cleaning.
We want Bark to work for everyone who uses us…
And that’s why we decided to make using our site a simple as possible.
Why “keeping it simple” is best for everyone
We settled on our current “per response” model because we feel it strikes the best balance for everyone who uses Bark.
Buyers who use our site get a manageable number of responses to their Barks, and they can contain everything they need to hire the pro that’s reached out to them.
It helps us cover the entire country, without unfairly penalizing pros in rural areas or operating in ultra-niche businesses.
And it means you can use our service hassle-free, while still having a really strong chance of winning the business of the buyers you reply to.
- You can use Bark on an ad hoc basis to fill any holes that crop up in your schedule without worrying about whether you’re using it enough to justify the subscription
- If you use us more regularly, you can still benefit from a cheaper service by taking advantage of the discounts we offer on larger packs of Bark credits
- And, best of all, it lets us ensure we can cover 1000s of different categories, in 1000s of locations across the country and ensure that our Sellers only pay for what they use.
Decisions on pricing strategy are the subject of much debate at Bark HQ and are not taken lightly. We’ve considered every angle on this, and we hope you can see how we arrived at the business model we use today.
As far as we can see, this provides the best value for buyers and pros alike, while at the same time keeping the service quick and simple to use.
That said, we will only be successful if it works for everyone who uses Bark.com – so please feel free to share any feedback with our Customer Service Team by emailing email@example.com.
We look forward to hearing what you have to say.