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Marketplace Best Practices
July 4, 2024

Marketplace Marketing: Top Strategies For Promoting Your Online Platform

Nicole Kahansky
Nicole Kahansky

So, you’ve built a beautiful, fully functional marketplace platform with a handful of eager, carefully vetted vendors, but instead of a buying frenzy, your sales have been less than impressive. Buyers aren’t flocking in and vendors are losing confidence in your marketplace. Where did you go wrong?

The problem may be in your early marketplace marketing efforts. Operators need to focus on both ensuring reliable supply and generating demand, building strong connections with buyers and vendors before, during, and after their launch. How you market to these groups requires careful, strategic planning.

This article covers 6 strategies to help get your marketplace marketing off the ground, including:

But first, you need to set the ground work.

3 Steps before you start marketing your marketplace

Get to know your ideal customer 

Before you can begin marketplace marketing, you have to get to know — like really get to know — the few buyers and vendors you have or identify the buyers and vendors you’d like to have. A great first step to understand who you’re talking to is building out personas.

Buyer and vendor personas are archetypes of your target markets. They should include:

A demographic profile: “Who” are your customer target markets and vendors? Learn about their age, sex, profession, income, and education.

A psychographic profile: “Why” do they buy or sell? Psychographics represent your ideal buyer’s and vendor’s personality, values, lifestyle, interests, and attitudes.

Behavior and habits: “What” do they do based on their psychographics? Learn about their motivations and buying/selling habits.

To start, you can make assumptions about what you believe will speak to your prospects, but don’t get attached to them. Instead, listen to, and actively seek out, user feedback to know what resonates and what needs to change.

Establish key messaging and marketplace branding

Once you’re clear on personas, the next step is to establish key messages and marketplace branding that will resonate with your targets. 

Laying out your marketplace’s key marketing messages is essential for several reasons:

  1. They serve as the foundation for your marketing efforts
  2. They enable consistency across the organization
  3. They help effectively position your marketplace 

It’s helpful to store your marketplace’s key messages in an accessible document that covers:

  • One-paragraph and one-sentence descriptions of your marketplace
  • The key messages you want your teams to focus on
  • Any facts and numbers that your teams should have readily available

Brand guidelines also important to make sure all of your marketing information is presented consistently. A brand guidelines document is a rulebook that your marketers and content creators will use when developing the assets and messaging you send out, including things like your company’s voice and tone, official company colors and fonts, etc.

Define your goals

Finally, you’ll need to define what success looks like in your marketplace marketing strategy, and then break that down into manageable goals. What do you want to measure? How will you know when you’re 10% versus 50% of the way there?

Marketplace marketing goals can take on many forms, including metrics like:

  • Funding milestones
  • New customers
  • New suppliers
  • Website traffic
  • Revenue
  • Brand awareness thresholds, such as:
    • Impressions
    • Engagement
    • Branded searches

Once your goals are in place, you’re ready to start marketing in earnest. With continued focus and persistence, momentum will build and progress will accelerate in a flywheel effect, eventually leading to breakthrough success.

Marketplace marketing strategies

1. Leverage existing communities

There’s a ton of value in finding groups of users who are all facing a problem your marketplace might solve. Think Reddit groups, Facebook groups, forums, events, etc. 

That’s exactly what Nicole Murphy did when launching here marketplace, Tall Size: 

Murphy advises: “Try to find those micro-communities of people and use those to your advantage in the early days,” she says. “I think as you grow, you'll be able to create your own community that you can tap into. But those existing communities were huge for us for getting our business off the ground.”

An important thing to keep in mind when marketing through existing communities (and in general) is that you need to:

  1. Listen: Don’t go in there with full force. It’s an opportunity to listen to the needs of the community and meaningfully engage in conversation.
  2. Provide value: What are you giving to them? Educational content and resources can go a long way in building trust. An exclusive discount also helps!

2. Develop engaging content (aka content marketing)

Content marketing is the creation of online materials like blogs, podcasts, byline articles, videos, and social media posts. Content marketing aims to indirectly stimulate awareness of your marketplace by creating a broader conversation about the challenges your marketplace solves.

Content is meant to be thought-provoking and educational, so you’re free to cut the sales shtick. Think about telling your marketplace origin story, sharing your entrepreneurial journey, and describing how you became an expert in the problem your marketplace helps solve.

If you operated a used clothing marketplace, you might write about the environmental toll of fast fashion. If you run a take-out marketplace, you might write about the best burgers in your delivery area.

A solid content marketing strategy might include: starting or attending industry podcasts, contributing to publications, or starting your own blog to share your expertise.


A key part of content marketing is search engine optimization (SEO). In a nutshell, SEO drives more organic search traffic to your marketplace by helping search engines understand that your website is relevant to a particular query. If it’s working well, when a buyer types in a relevant query, search engines present your marketplace as the answer.

To improve your SEO:

  • Keywords: Add keywords to your product descriptions, product titles, webpage URLs, and meta descriptions. For help identifying the right keywords, try using tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs.
  • Internal linking: Linking to pages or articles within your own website is helpful for improving user navigation and for search engines to better understand the structure of your site. 
  • External linking: Getting links from other reputable sites improves your site’s authority and credibility. 

3. Use social media

On the topic of content marketing, don’t discount the power of social media marketing; even a small following can help your marketplace build awareness and brand loyalty. 

Create a company profile and leverage founders’ accounts on platforms like Instagram, X, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, and YouTube. However, don’t spread yourself too thin. Prioritize the platforms that match the personas you already created.

Tip: Always make sure that these profiles align with your brand guidelines!

4. Pay for ads

Paid ads are a marketing model where you pay to have ads for your marketplace shown on specific digital or physical places. You can pay to have your ads published on:

  • Social media channels like Meta, LinkedIn, X, etc.
  • Google ads/search
  • Direct mail
  • Traditional venues such as TV, billboards, and other outdoor displays

Paying for ads is more expensive than organic advertising, but it’s a good option when you want quick results and have enough room in your budget. Paid ads are also great if you want to experiment with and optimize your outreach strategy, as they’re more measurable than organic advertising and you can make granular changes to the specific groups you’re targeting.

5. Collaborate with partners

Partnerships are another great way to market your marketplace and they come in all different shapes and sizes.  At the end of the day, the defining feature of a partnership is that both parties get value from it.

Some of the most common and fruitful partnership structures for marketplaces include:

  • Influencers: Individuals with a significant following on social media who promote your platform to their audience.
  • Affiliates: Organizations or individuals who market your platform on their own channels and receive a commission on sales.
  • Adjacent, non-competitive companies: Businesses that offer complementary products to what you offer on your marketplace, helping both of you reach a broader audience.
  • Referral programs: Rewards offered to existing customers for successfully referring new customers to your marketplace.
  • Suppliers: Vendors who nudge their existing customer base to your marketplace or advertise your marketplace as a source for complementary products.

Make suppliers your hype squad

If you’ve rolled out the red carpet for your vendors — as we laid out in How to Get Vendors to Join Your Multi-Vendor Marketplace — it’s time to capitalize on that synergy by asking them to promote their shop on your marketplace. Here are a few ways you can help vendors help you with your marketplace marketing:

  • ‍Marketing materials: Signage, place cards, and store front stickers that vendors can display in their physical space. ‍
  • Social media materials: Digital materials, like a promo video, curated images, and copy.
  • Promo codes: A code that vendors can pass on to their customers and their networks (at your expense!)

Remember: Your success is also their success.

6. Create buzz with public relations (PR)

Public relations (PR) is a great way to market your marketplace. In a nutshell, PR entails strategic communications to help influence and engage with the public. And, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t need to be expensive. It can be simple and scrappy if you’re willing to put in the time. 

A big part of PR is securing media coverage. Here’s a step-by-step of how to get earned media coverage for your marketplace. 

  1. Write a press release (if it makes sense): Press releases only make sense if you have a big, news-worthy announcement. For example, your marketplace launch is a great time to write a press release.
  2. Share the press release: You can share the press release on your company website, the wire, social media, etc. 
  3. Find relevant media contacts: Make a list of media outlets, and contacts at the outlets, to reach out to about your story. 
  4. Send them a relevant pitch through email: Write a pitch that’s personalized to each contact and attach your press release (if you have one) for more details. Remember to keep it short, clear, and personalized. Emphasize why they should care and what you’re offering (for example, is there a spokesperson they can interview?)
  5. Follow-up: Lastly, don’t be afraid to follow-up!

Consider hiring a PR agent

If your own approach to media outreach isn’t getting you very far, you may prefer to invest in a good PR agent to do it on your behalf. Their expertise and contact list can make all the difference.

Yannis Moati, the founder and CEO of Hotels By Day, went from having very little traction with media to landing The Tonight Show with the help of an agent.

“That was a big spike,” he says. “We had constant press coming in, and that led us to being invited to Shark Tank. It also was a turnaround for the company, not just being invited, but also being covered.”

Ready to learn more about marketing your marketplace?

At Nautical, we offer an intensive Marketplace Bootcamp series for operators that will help you identify your marketplace goals, secure funding, navigate relationships with vendors, and choose your ideal tech stack. Sign up for free. 

Ready to Get Started?

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