Angie Hicks: Success in Consumer Reviews with Angie’s List

If you need a contractor to remodel your kitchen, how can you make sure that you won’t be cheated and that the contractor you will get will actually deliver? You can, of course, ask your friends and family. Or check online to find reviews for contractors in your area.

One such site is Angie’s List, co-founded by Angie Hicks. The site, which bears Angie’s name, aggregates consumer reviews of local service companies. Users can read about other customer reviews of service professionals such as plumbers, contractors, doctors, landscapers and other businesses.

How Angie’s List Was Born

New York Times  calls the business model of Angie’s List as “trying to capture word-of-mouth wisdom, catalog it and disseminate it online.” What sets Angie’s List apart though is that it is a paid subscription-based website. You need to pay to be able to read and write reviews about companies.

Hicks got the idea when business partner Bill Oesterle, her mentor from her time as a college intern at a venture capital firm, had trouble finding a contractor for his home. The pair figured there should be a better way for consumers to share information. They went on to found Angie’s List together in 1995.

Angie’s List first featured a print magazine and a call in service, with Angie going door to door in Columbus, Ohio to collect consumer reviews from friends and neighbors, market the business, and sign up members. That first year, Angie’s List enlisted 1,000 members.

Angie Hicks, co-founder of consumer review Angie's ListGrowth of Angie’s List

Growth of Angie’s List was strategic and slow in the early days. When members wanted to access the company’s database for information about local service providers, they called Hicks directly.In its second year, Angie’s List acquired the Indianapolis-based company, Unified Neighbors, on which it had based its own business model. They then went on to open one new market roughly every year. In 1999, the business partners then decided to take this “ask-your-neighbor” approach to a higher level, and started the website Angie’s List to provide reliable, unbiased ratings and reviews on local services on the Web.

In March 2008, Angie’s List expanded from its traditional categories that focused on home, lawn, auto and personal services, and began offering ratings on health care providers including doctors and dentists. Hicks firmly believe in listening to customes, and this expansion was driven by demand from the membership.

Today, the company covers more than 200 markets, and has roughly 750,000 members. The business has received more than $50 million in investment capital from several sources, and it was named to the Inc. 500, Inc. magazine’s list of the fastest growing privately held companies in the nation for three consecutive years in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

With Hicks as the Chief Marketing Officer, Angie’s List today is recognized as one of the best consumer Web sites in the nation, offering ratings and reviews on more than 400 different categories of services.

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