Torchlite’s Marketplace of Freelancers Tackles the Minefield of Tech Solutions

First seen on Forbes.com – June 15, 2017

Since the rise of the Internet, marketing has come a long way from the days of television ads and product catalogs. Marketers can now reach consumers through a multitude of online channels and at lower costs than ever before. This means marketers must also be proficient on a wide variety of digital platforms in order to maximize their returns on each channel.

“Nearly 5,000 marketing tech companies exist today. That’s 5,000 widgets, whatsits and plugins you can buy,” said Leigh Hamer, Senior Director of Professional Services for Torchlite Marketing.

Torchlite’s solution to the dizzying number of marketing tools available today is to leverage another technology-driven trend: the rise of the freelance workforce.

With a mission to be a “trusted advocate” for marketers at companies both large and small, the Torchlite platform houses a network of skilled contractors (known as “Torchliters”) to guide clients through this minefield of marketing tech solutions.

Torchlite just closed a $2 million seed round and added two tech veterans to its Board of Directors, paving the way for the growth of its cutting-edge platform.

In many cases, Torchliters fully integrate themselves into a client’s team, becoming a key resource for reaching customers across numerous digital marketing channels such as email, social media, paid advertising, SEO, content creation and more.

A Smarter Marketplace for Marketers

The shape of the U.S. labor market is definitely trending in Torchlite’s favor: by some estimates, half of the workforce will be freelancers in three years. Torchlite’s unique platform allows marketers to benefit from the best aspects of marketing technology and contracted freelancers while avoiding the pitfalls of each.

The Torchlite marketplace includes expert users of the many tools and applications that power digital marketing, eliminating the need for a company to hire and train in-house marketers. On the talent side, every Torchliter is thoroughly vetted, ensuring that companies don’t accidentally hire an unqualified, unprofessional contractor.

“These are the best marketers talking to your in-house marketing team. They’re telling you which marketing tech is the best solution for you, and then they’re actually implementing it,” Hamer said.

In addition to the online marketplace, the Torchlite platform includes a central dashboard where marketers can create campaigns and tasks, manage the Torchliters assigned to their team and view analytics for all of their initiatives.

Overcoming Traditional Agency Pitfalls

Torchlite offers a smart solution to big problems in digital marketing, but the business isn’t without potential flaws. Client retention could be an issue, as many marketing agencies have churn rates higher than 60%. Torchlite seems have retention under control, though, as Hamer reported the company’s churn rate is below 15%. This is likely because Torchliters tend to function as long-term extensions to a client’s marketing team, as opposed to single-job contractors.

Pricing could be another source of friction. Clients pay a monthly fee to use the platform on top of wages paid directly to the contractors they hire, which means long-term clients are paying a lot of extra fees they could potentially avoid by hiring freelancers from another source. It will be essential to Torchlite’s success to continually add value for clients that justifies the additional costs.

One element of Torchlite’s appeal is the friendly culture and emphasis on delivering a personal touch for each client. The vetting process for Torchliters ensures their personalities match the company’s brand, and engagement managers work hard to keep them in sync with the culture. These measures currently appear to be a strong selling point for Torchlite, and hopefully they’ll scale successfully as more clients and Torchliters join the platform.

Powering the Future of Digital Marketing

Torchlite, an Indianapolis-based startup, surpassed $2 million annual recurring revenue within its first year of operation and was nominated this year for a “Scale-Up of the Year” award from local tech organization TechPoint. Now in its third year, Torchlite is also in the midst of adding 140 new in-house employees to facilitate further growth.

The team reached this point with only a small amount of initial seed funding from angel investors. Torchlite’s impressive client base—including high-profile brands like Jiffy Lube, NAPA Balkamp and an undisclosed global pharmaceutical company—have provided for its daily operating costs until now, and the seed round Torchlite just closed should fuel its plans for expansion.

“The best marketers are going from in-house to ‘my house,’ and companies need access to those people. From Torchlite’s perspective, we’re looking at an immense opportunity,” Hamer said.

Matt Hunckler is the founder of Verge, a community of tech entrepreneurs and investors. Learn how to grow your business by signing up for his newsletter here.