treeline - 10:38 pm on Jun 23, 2013 (gmt 0)
The key is does it work for consumers? Does it appeal to consumers? If the people buying things are there, the people selling things will want to be there. So if you can get a crowd of consumers (however big a crowd is locally) to repeatedly use your directory and tell their friends to as well, there's a success story coming.
People shop on Ebay and craigslist because almost everything is there. People sell there because there are lots of buyers and the fees are low to free.
I have a niche directory site that covers all sorts of industry-specific info. There is a section for selling an expensive product to consumers, organized into local regions like states or countries. One day I added a new company to the list. 3 minutes after I sent him the email, his phone rang. They gave him a credit card and bought. Less than 10 minutes from my email he's calling me so excited. It was a free listing, but right then I could have charged anything, and he'd have told his friends it's a deal.
I watch (and see the stats) a few sites that are classified ad sites for pricey used equipment not sold on ebay or craigslist. They are very very popular. Potential buyers check them every single day lest the sweet deal gets snatched up by someone else. Volume of listings is so important, their business model is to offer anyone free ads, then offer them a few enhancements if they want for a fee. Things like being at the top of the page, colored background, in a featured ads footer.
Lots of other people keep trying to copy their success. Just offering free ads and a spiffier design isn't good enough. Volume of listings to draw buyers, frequent updates. If one of these sites starts charging even a penny for every ad, sellers will post elsewhere and the traffic will shift there. Directories always have competition, and a lot of it is free, like Google.
Got to work once with a company called CityNameLocal.com which had the very enjoyable business model of hiring stunningly built 19 year old girls who owned very little clothing to go call on plumbers, electricians, accountants and other small businesses and sell listings. They made a lot of initial sales but consumers never saw the value for them, so nobody renewed. Gone in a year.
Focus on how to make it exciting for whoever is buying/consuming/paying what you're listing. If it's a local travel directory you better have all the key businesses: restaurants, hotels, museums, bike tours, etc. If you can get the travelling public frequenting your site, you'll find something to sell to local businesses.