When you hear the word “marketplace,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?For many of us, the first thought would be Amazon: the online retail giant that essentially has a 25-year head start on any sellers who haven’t broken into ecommerce yet.What is a marketplace?An online marketplace is a type of e-commerce site where product or service information is provided by multiple third parties, while transactions are usually processed by the marketplace operator. There are several different types within this space, but in the interest of our audience’s specific needs we’ll be focusing on vertical marketplaces: online platforms where vendors “sell their goods and services specific to an industry, profession, trade or a particular group of customers with specialized needs.”The “age of Amazon” and the widespread adoption of marketplace sites have completely revolutionized how consumers shop for a plethora of reasons.First, the matter of endless choice and easy access: rather than looking at individual websites for each seller a consumer is considering, they can easily browse a vast array of options—and often will come across sellers they may not have heard of previously.This in turn makes side-by-side comparison much simpler, giving more power to consumers and requiring sellers to improve their points of competitive differentiation.Another way marketplace sites are shaking things up? Reviews. 88 percent of consumers pre-research online before buying, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.This is another of the biggest ways that buyer power has increased in recent years: people can now easily find out exactly what past customers think of a specific product or company. There’s no hiding behind general lack of awareness. When a customer searches for what you’re selling on a marketplace site, they will see your offering—and any reviews you’ve received—juxtaposed with your competitors and their own ratings.It’s clear that marketplace sites are changing how anyone with a product or service sells to customers—but how is this relevant to accounting and tax professionals, and what should you do about it?Why marketplaces matter for the accounting & tax industryIt’s not just retailers with physical products who should be investing time and resources into improving their presence on marketplace sites. This is hugely relevant for service providers as well—accountants and tax pros included! Here’s a few reasons why you should care about online marketplaces:1. They increase convenience on all sides – These sites don’t only help customers to save the hassle of looking all over the internet for what they need; they also offer you, the seller, an easy way to present your offerings across various sites and improve your chances of being seen by prospects.2. They demand accountability and pressure pros to improve – Like it or not, your prospective clients are out there searching for whatever type of professional they need, and they almost certainly will come across any reviews that have been left for you—good or bad. It’s important to prioritize your online reputation, including on marketplace sites, since it’s almost inevitable that people will see what others have said about you.3. They show much more than just price comparisons – Many pros worry about having their name listed next to competitors and fear that prospects will view their services as a commodity and choose a provider based solely on price. This is not the case. In all our years of experience, we’ve continued to see value-based pricing work extremely well for our professionals. When you showcase your glowing reputation online, you will not only bring in a higher volume of clients, you’ll also be able to increase your prices by proving your value.4. They’re not going anywhere – Online marketplaces were born out of changing customer demands for more convenience and choice, and those demands continue to increase. According to the Internet Retailer Top 100 Online Marketplaces ranking from February 2018, 39 of the 100 top marketplaces launched just between the years of 2010 and 2015. As we continue moving further into the digital age, there is no chance that the market will change back to the old ways of operating in silos where only your physical location and word-of-mouth reputation mattered.Marketplaces are the future, and the sooner your practice can hop on board, the sooner you can take advantage of the impressive referral pipeline they can create.Which marketplaces should I use, and where do I start?We can’t speak for others, but we can tell you that our online marketplaces—TaxBuzz and CountingWorks—are extremely easy to use and optimized to bring you more leads. Oh, and they’re free. Here’s a snapshot:TaxBuzz – We started the TaxBuzz online marketplace back in November of 2014 to help match up taxpayers and small business owners with top-rated tax and accounting professionals. With over 6 million users to date, we have facilitated almost 85,000 matches between prospects and our subscribers. Our top professional on the site had over 250 qualified prospects delivered to them last year—all because they put in the effort to have a high-quality, optimized TaxBuzz profile for their practice.CountingWorks – We recently launched a new marketplace designed for gig and practicing accounting firms to match up with qualified businesses who need their help. As the industry continues to trend more and more toward technology-driven engagements, we recognized a need for a marketplace that would focus specifically on services like cloud accounting and bookkeeping, virtual CFO services, flex and temp accounting, and more.Now, the key to unleashing the full potential of these marketplace sites is optimizing your profiles for maximum impact. Below are some tips on how to make the most of it (these come from TaxBuzz, but the lessons can be applied to any marketplace):1. Act fast – leads don't like to waitWhenever a prospect reaches out to you, always give them a call (or at least send them a message) as quickly as possible. Our research has shown that job wins often start with a prompt phone call. Even a study from Harvard Business agrees, citing: "Companies that try to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving queries are nearly seven times as likely to have meaningful conversations with key decision makers" compared to those who try to contact even an hour later.2. Update that profileRemember – part of the design of TaxBuzz puts you in competition with other professionals. If you really want to get a leg up, be sure to update your profile photo with a high-quality picture AND get reviews from previous clients. Reviews are the modern-day word-of-mouth – people put just as much trust in reviews as they do recommendations from friends and family members. Professionals who are able to amass a large number of five-star reviews tend to do very, very well on TaxBuzz.3. Ask for that appointmentMany people don't realize that meeting in person makes you as much as four times more likely to win a job, further proving the old saying of "you can only make one first impression, so you'd better make it a good one." Always include your online appointment link in a follow-up email for the best results.4. The TaxBuzz Verified BadgeAgain – trust is such an essential part of what we do here at TaxBuzz. We screen all of our top-rated professionals very, very carefully before they can earn the TaxBuzz Verified badge – which serves to add an additional level of validation to help people know that they're making the right choice. Ultimately, remember that using TaxBuzz is just like asking a neighbor for a recommendation. Except TaxBuzz is actually better because instead of just asking one person, you are polling every neighbor in your community, analyzing their feedback, and exhaustively researching work histories and credentials. You make a decision only after you've done a level of research that would have essentially been impossible even five years ago.This badge is the silver bullet you've been looking for to convert more referrals than ever, regardless of where they're coming from.5. Never give upGetting into contact with taxpayers and small business owners can often be a lot easier said than done. However, the one thing you should NOT do is give up. A number of studies have shown that "one-call closes" are actually a lot less common than you think. As a general rule of thumb, it's best to expect at least three tries to successfully connect.Leads can often come back into your life days or even weeks after initial contact – but remember, until you hear someone literally say the word "no," you're still in the game. Think about using a nurture campaign to help automate the process of following up leads via email and when all else fails, keep trying.Times are changing in the tax and accounting industry—and across the internet in general—and optimizing your profiles on marketplace sites (like TaxBuzz and CountingWorks) is key to establishing a strong digital footprint.And, as we’ve mentioned before, a solid online presence is sure to attract more qualified leads to your practice.If you have any questions regarding marketplace sites or how to improve your practice’s digital footprint, contact us today at 1-800-442-2477 x3 or set up some time to speak with one of our digital marketing experts. To claim your listings on each of our marketplace sites, visit www.TaxBuzz.com and www.CountingWorks.com.