I recently finished building a web application that relies on connecting 2 separate parties. An analogous concept would be a job site connecting Employers with Job Seekers. It would be free for the "Job Seekers" and "Employers" would be charged a small fee for posting a listing.
Assuming that the idea is viable - I am wondering how to get past the catch-22 of: no Job Seeker would use the site without any listings, and no Employer would likely post anything without seeing activity (e.g. other posts). My ideas ranged from opening the site up in Beta and providing free use to Employers, to mailing out promo codes to employers, to stating that the first X posts are free. But none of these seem to incentivize Employers to actually post anything!
My question is - are there any books / sites / references on ideas that I can use in this situation? Clearly this is one of the challenges with this type of business - any advice on how to get those first early adopters to use it would be appreciated!
Without knowing your exact business domain I would...
If there are competing services you can troll their business postings and contact those people to post or your job board. Or ask them if they would like you to do it and you'll do it for free for them if they give you the go ahead. Make it really easy for them.
Then once you have job postings you need to find where the users hang out and start getting them to check out the site.
no Job Seeker would use the site without any listings, and no Employer would likely post anything without seeing activityWell, that's exactly why you should NOT have built this application without any experience bringing it to the market in the first place.
You can try (1), but it could be pretty hard and expensive. I'd definitely go with (2).
It sounds like a chicken and egg problem but it's not really. With the chicken and egg you don't know what came first, with yours we know.
You can't get job seekers before you have ads, you can get job advertisers before you have job seekers (it's just tough to incentivise it). With that in mind, the answer is clear... get Job Advertisers. Once you have these you can then get the job seekers.
As for how to get the job advertisers, there are many good suggestions in these answers already. The only other one I would add is possibly just scouring other job sites and adding the job ads to your site yourself. Obviously check that this doesn't cause any legal problem, but this way the only limit to number of jobs you start with is how much time you can spend doing it.
I would also recommend visiting job fairs and offering the service for free to the hiring parties. I think the best progression is to first get as many users as you can to join the site first via friends, family and aquaintances so there is at least a small userbase for the hiring companies to see. Then present the service at the fair as a new or beta service so they understand reason for the small userbase. You may also want to let the potential employees at the fair know of the new service so they can join, possibly marketing the small userbase as a greater opportunity to be seen.
Edit: I would also recommend starting locally/closest major city and building traction there so you can consolidate the user resources and build something useful. Branching out from there will be much easier than attempting several regions at once. Approaching businesses in person can also be useful, especially in industries with high turnaround and easy access like food service and retail.
I would start with a public beta for friends and family. If you also use social media you can generate lots of interest via your immediate friends. This may give you the initial injection of content you need but if not look at affiliations, other sites on the web that have a relationship to yours, contact the owners, ask them if they would publicise your site for what ever reward they have in mind.
After affiliations look at your competition, in the case of a job site call the advertisers on the largest competing job site and offer to list there jobs for free.
Lastly try pay per click and advertising, although this could be costly f you lack content.
getting the ball rolling should be the easy part, you are new, you shouldn't have large overheads and you can offer as much free work/services as it takes.
The hard part is keeping the momentum as you build size and overheads.
Its always the chicken and the egg problem.
Who comes first. I would say, while Job sites can be the first product built as shown from Monster or Career Builder, I now think the market is flooded with job sites.
I now think you need to have solid content first and then build a job board for that content. You need to draw in the people first before asking them to post jobs. Are there any partnerships you can make with other websites that specialize in that market? Ask them to use your software as a job board for that site?
This is a serious problem... if you don't have any "employers", then your site has no credibility with "employees".
And, if you don't have any "employees", then your site has no credibility with "employers"...
At this stage, there's no way to attract paying "employers": but it will be difficult or impossible to attract "employers" even by offering a free service (if they can't see the point)! This matches what you have observed.
I'd characterise this as a data problem. As long as your site has no data, nobody will contribute new data.
This leads to a further, more serious problem : as long as you have no users, you can't tell whether your site is not attracting users because you don't have any users, or because people wouldn't be attracted anyway. Therefore, you can't test and improve (iterate) your product. Even if you do try to work on it, it won't be obvious what to improve - you'll be putting in a lot of wasted effort.
Since you've not given a specific description of your site, it's hard to figure out how to bridge the data gap.
You have to solve the problem of each side of the equation.
How can you get "employees" to post the required data? How can you get "employers" to post the required data? This is for you to decide. But, if you can crack one side well, the other side will naturally follow them.
Obviously, the "employees" will only post the data if they observe some chance to get a job.
Is there some other way you can help them achieve this goal in exchange for this data? It's not obvious that there is a directly relevant service, but... maybe, by acting as a central repository to submit their data easily to competing sites? Maybe, by offering some related service such as resume checking?
But, in the end, this seems like it might be a poor business model. I would advise you to move away from this model with prejudice. You will most likely benefit a lot more from "pivoting" your website to offer a service which is less reliant on existing data and more attractive to early adopters - then you can start to improve your offering and grow your user base organically. Use what you have learned, in building this app, to come up with an alternative that starts working for customers without needing to be huge before it starts.
OK, going with job sites. I'll crawl other job sites, take stackoverflow jobs, for example. I'd then contact the HR depts of the posters and offer them free listing. This isn't a pure chicken and egg problem, since a certain amount of smooth talking might persuade employers to list. The other way around is never going to be possible.