The London-based startup ClickMechanic connects car owners to mobile mechanics all over the UK. They tackle common problems of the automotive repair industry and aim to make car repair a consumer-friendly and transparent service. We talked to Andrew Jervis, the co-founder of ClickMechanic, about the early days of the company and how they scaled the business.
How did you get your first 100 clients/users?
Being a two-sided marketplace, we needed to recruit mechanics, but we also needed car owners who wanted to fix their car. Fortunately for us, there were thousands of people every day searching the internet for mechanics who could fix their car, so armed with a £100 AdWords voucher and a half decent looking site we were able to entice users to place a booking with us. Acquiring mechanics was a lot harder. With no track record or brand name to depend on, Mechanics were very sceptical, and it took a lot of persuasion to entice the mechanics onto the network in the early days. However, once we nailed our pitch we were flying and managed to get a lot more on the platform
How long did it take?
Being big believers in lean startup methodology we had our first bookings and mechanics on the platform within 2 weeks of starting ClickMechanic. We just rolled up our sleeves made a minimum viable product and got on with it.
Were there any major roadblocks you had to overcome?
Plenty. We had to learn how to properly use and optimise AdWords. We had to persuade mechanics that we were legitimate partners for them to grow their business. On top of this our real-time quoting engine depended on using multiple data points to create real-time quotes. We, therefore, had to persuade our data partner who was used to dealing with big blue chip clients with tens of thousands of pounds of charge out rates that we were going to be the next big thing and they should give us their data for a fraction of the price.
How did you manage to scale?
We now have thousands of customers, most of whom are going to be coming back again. This has been incredibly important to scaling – loyal customers coming back through the door for little or no cost increase your capacity to hire new people, increase your marketing budget and accelerate the rate at which you improve your product. A consumer journey doesn’t begin when they land on your site or end once they’ve paid. Their experience of the brand from the first interaction is important, and payment should never be the final goodbye!
What three major challenges did you have with scaling?
One key challenge for a car repair that it is, for the most part, quite an unpredictable service. Two customers might on paper look identical (same car, same demographics, etc.) but one could be back the next week with a new issue whereas the other may not need their car repaired for another year. There are a couple of ways to tackle this. For our new customer acquisition Search is incredibly important, as the intent is so obvious, in a way other channels are not. The other is to make sure that we continue to communicate with our customer’s in-between these times they are in need of car repair.
Another challenge has been making sure we keep the mix of channels healthy. Inevitably some marketing channels are more expensive than others. Take for instance SEO and Paid Search. The tricky thing is, Paid Search shows instant impact whereas SEO takes time usually weeks before the benefit starts showing. In a world of always on reporting and big growth targets, it can be easy to over-index your time on these expensive channels and neglect the others. This is why overall cost per acquisition is such an important metric for us. Keeping this metric low means that we know that the scalability is sustainable, and unit economics remain looking peachy.
What tips do you have for people who are trying to scale?
Understand your product! What works for one company may not work for others – so jumping on some e-Marketing blog and finding the post with the most audacious figures is unlikely to work. What works for car repair, might not work for retail due to the drastically different lengths of the consumer life cycles; understanding this will help you work out which tactics are best to help achieve your overall goals.
Editor’s update: Click mechanic has recently raised $1 million and is expanding heavily. (1 April 2017)