GigSalad is the largest, most diverse marketplace for booking bands, performers, speakers and services for events, parties, and gatherings of all types and sizes. With millions of users across the U.S. and Canada, GigSalad.com provides an easy and secure way for event planners to book ...
GigSalad co-founder and CEO Mark Steiner owes much of his ethos to being a lifelong learner as well as a former actor, talent agent, and New Yorker. He came to tech from the industry he wanted to disrupt--and kept his heartfelt commitment to those his business serves. With traffic of over a million users per month, GigSalad matches 80,000 musicians, inspirational speakers, comedians, clowns, bagpipers—you name it—with a million event planners for near-frictionless entertainment booking.
“We’ve grown every year, every quarter, and every month,” enthuses Steiner. In fact, GigSalad was recognized among the 2015 Inc. 5000, a list of the fastest-growing private companies in America, and was ranked 682nd for its 664% growth that year.
To achieve this growth, Steiner challenges himself and his staff to be as “shrewd as a serpent and innocent as a dove.” To Steiner, that means embracing every person along the way with good humor and personal engagement (the dove part), while working hard and takings risks, hammering away at maximizing GigSalad’s visibility, keeping a sharp eye out for new ways to build relationships and revenue (where the serpent comes in).
Steiner breaks down the specific values and approaches that have propelled GigSalad to generate over $10 million in bookings so far.
Know Your Industry First, Build Your Platform Next
Steiner and his team avoided many of the pitfalls of tech startups by knowing the industry they longed to disrupt, inside and out. Steiner was an actor and a talent agent before he was an online entrepreneur, and that experience reverberates in every aspect of GigSalad’s structure and management.
“Being a veteran in the industry, I’m aware of the many obstacles that arise for performers,” says Steiner. “I’ve lived them. Ultimately, my goal has just been to help artists make a living doing what they love. And by connecting them event planners in search of entertainment, we’re able to help create these extraordinary experiences for everyone involved.”
This means ensuring talent providers get paid transparently and swiftly, that talent buyers have ways to evaluate exactly what they’ll be getting, and that the process is as seamless and simple as possible. “It’s a big change,” Steiner comments, “from some of the past ways in this business.”
Attract Eyeballs with Laughs
GigSalad’s potential customer is anyone out to create and share extraordinary experiences, be they brides-to-be or cruise directors. Conscious of this broad base and that “people need to see our logo seven times,” Steiner has found fun but effective ways to bring the logo to potential event planners: He had a van wrapped in GigSalad’s logo with a hilarious graphic showing a cast of caricature entertainers that appear to be passengers. People laughed, took photos, and booked through GigSalad.
Then he wrapped a trailer. Musicians yelled, “Yeah! We know GigSalad,” flashed the thumbs up, and signed up for GigSalad. So he wrapped a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van. “Whether those vehicles are out on backwoods country byways or parked outside a wedding planners’ convention,” he said, “they are doing their jobs. We consider everybody a potential customer.”
Tiers Help Users and Services Grow Together
Steiner discourages a “one-size-fits-all” customer service model. Offering tiered memberships has won GigSalad revenue and ensured member satisfaction. Beginners and dabblers can join the roster for free and receive a small suite of benefits. For higher visibility, web links, more photos, phone support, and uploaded audio/video files, members pay for “Pro” memberships. For a little more, “Featured” members get top visibility.
“Some people need more services than others,” explained Steiner. “If you’re a musician wanting 50 pictures and listings in 15 searchable categories, you’re motivated to buy a membership. But if you’re a face painter needing only three photos and fitting into only two categories, we’re happy to offer our free membership. We give performers flexibility, so they can make a greater investment when they are ready.” Those who do, who opt for a “Featured” membership report that that investment is easy to make back in successful gigs. And as the members’ careers expand, so does GigSalad.
Keep Innovating, Even When Things are Great
In the face of steady growth, Steiner still insists on improvements, refinements, helpful changes. Considering what artists and performers actually need to boost their careers, GigSalad created a booking platform to generate contracts, collect deposits, and distribute payments for a 4% booking fee—a very modest rate by industry standards. “The local talent didn’t use contracts,” said Steiner. “They’d say, ‘We put you on our calendar. We’ll see you in a year and a half’ with nothing on paper.”
In another push to serve artists better, GigSalad adopted Bold, a powerful payment tool used by marketplaces like Airbnb and Saucey, making GigSalad’s payout process the fastest in the industry. About 31% of members have now opted in to using the Bold payment tool, with members increasingly turning to the option.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel, but Roll it in New Directions
Customer reviews are integral parts of any online marketplace. “I don’t buy anything online unless I look at what other people have said about it,” commented Steiner. “So of course we’ve built that in.” GigSalad performers can easily request reviews from their clients, and the feedback is displayed in their GigSalad profile for other potential buyers. Steiner chose a classic five-star rating scale, remarking, “We didn’t think we needed to reinvent the wheel just to be quirky. People know what five stars mean.”
But while they may follow online conventions, reviews do more on GigSalad than simply guide potential event planners’ decisions.They also help GigSalad entertainers improve their creative and business sides. GigSalad offers phone support to members, and GigSalad staff go out of their way to advise acts that need polishing. “We want to boost careers,” stated Steiner. “We’ll recommend best practices for honing their talent, communicating clearly, creating client relationships, and ensuring prompt responses to quote inquiries.”
Be Contagiously Positive
“Customer Happiness Agents” are GigSalad’s front line. They are trained to help customers and members with anything they need, before they know they need it. They’re also a main conduit for that all-important customer feedback. Steiner seeks employees who “know when to be austere and when to be absurd, who are confident in their talents and humble about their inevitable deficiencies.”
Always aspirational and easily engaged, Steiner’s biggest challenge is carefully channeling his own optimism—balancing that pristine enthusiasm with careful shrewdness. “It takes a great amount of discipline to not get sidetracked by big ideas that would exhaust our resources,” he warned. Steiner believes incremental growth and prudent enhancements are the right way to build a business.
But none of this can be achieved without that exuberant urge to rush ahead and try something zany. It’s the tension between the two that makes GigSalad stand out among entertainment-related tech companies.
GigSalad is the largest and most diverse marketplace for booking bands, performers, speakers and services for events, parties, and productions of all types and sizes. With millions of users across the U.S. and Canada, it connects event planners and party throwers with over 80,000 talented professionals for hire, making it simple to search and book on all devices.